Human centred design is the backbone of any good product or service. As designers, our job is to step into other people’s shoes in order to solve problems from their point of view. But how do you empathize when designing a B2B product for professional work, far from your own experience and knowledge? This article can be helpful for designers that want to step up their game and back their decisions with validated solid insights.
Don’t rely on your intuition alone
Experienced designers tend to have a strong intuition of how things should work. But this great attribute can distract us from the core of the experience, which as said above, is solving a problem for other people. When making big changes in a product or creating a new product, we must have the customer’s voice in mind. The problem is, most designers will agree with the importance of research and empathy, but when it comes down to it, this part of the process is often neglected. Maybe it’s not a built-in step in the design process in your organization, or perhaps users are hard to reach. We usually have tight deadlines, and spending precious time on a task that doesn’t bring immediate and tangible results is hard to justify.
I’m not preaching this from on high. Believe me, I have had my share of end-to-end “pixel perfect” design with zero user feedback throughout my career.
Let me share with you my design process in past time as a junior designer. I had all the requirements outlined and a general idea of the weak areas in the UI that needed my attention. I would dive right into designing a detailed UI: simplifying complex tools, removing unnecessary options, grouping actions into logical menus — essentially a revamp of the entire tool. The result would be enhanced capabilities for the product with a great experience and a beautiful UI.
Brilliant, right? Well, not quite.
The real question was: Would these new capabilities solve any real pain-points for the customers? Would customers see these enhancements as improvements, thus use the product more and with better ease? As a junior designer — I never asked these questions, and that’s a pretty big risk, isn’t it?
The Magic of Co-Creation
Thankfully, there’s a really cool solution for this challenge: Co-Creation Sessions or in other words, bringing the users into the design process. Unike an interview, a survey or a usability testing — co-creation is not just listening to customers, they are active participants of the creation process.
At Augury, we develop our own IoT devices that “listen” to the signals made by industrial machines in order to detect malfunctions before they occur. We collect vibration, ultrasound, temperature and magnetic data from the equipment and send it to be processed by our machine learning algorithms. By doing so, we are able to deliver real-time and actionable diagnostics to the maintenance and reliability professionals who keep watch of industrial machines. Our platform needs to speak the language of Vibration Analysts, Reliability Engineers, Branch Managers and Field Technicians alike.
I am definitely not the typical user for the Augury platform. Luckily, we have several skilled Vibration Analysts on the team who are super knowledgeable and love collaborating to improve our product. It’s a no-brainer to set up a co-creation workshop with internal users with whom I can speak freely.
The Magic in Action — A Real Life Use Case
Let me walk you through how this works. Recently, we had a major release of one of our products at Augury that required us to make some changes to our platform. I gathered into a room two analysts, one product manager, one product designer (me), a pack of post-its and a whiteboard, and we got to co-creating.
The discussion was navigated by our product manager and myself, asking questions of the Vibration Analysts and digesting their input. The analysts described their workflow as I simultaneously summarized their experiences into a step-by-step user journey using color coded post-its on the glass wall. It was incredible to see the ideas that came out with all those great minds in a room, looking at the user journey mapped out on a wall in a beautiful rainbow of process, pain-points, and fresh ideas.
What made this a fruitful workshop was the flowing and open conversation. We weren’t trying to simply complete a task or follow a rigid form. The analysts spoke freely, and since there were two of us from the product side, one could lead and facilitate the discussion while the other was visually summarizing it without interfering with the dynamics. On a side note, the post-it journey map is a tangible output and very handy to use, unlike all those requirement documents that often remain untouched in the virtual clutter.
“How Might We” questions drive innovative solutions
Mapping the customer journey is a critical part of the process, but it doesn’t end there. You’ve got your team already wearing their creative hats, so you may as well keep the momentum going.
At this point in our workshop, we had identified problem areas in the customer journey. But acknowledging the pain points is only half the battle. We took each of our insight statements and reframed them into “How Might We” questions to turn those challenges into opportunities for design. The Vibration Analysts approached the whiteboard and enthusiastically sketched their ideas. We continued to ask more questions, gradually refining the solution until we were all happy with the result.
The outcome was magical. We not only solved pressing issues that needed immediate remedies, but also laid foundations for future enhancements. The product was created for vibration analysts by vibration analysts. Now all that was left was to slice the vision into milestones, prioritize and execute.
Co- creation magic: TL;DR
Here’s the bottom line: The magic of Co-Creation is moving from a firm-centric to a people-centric mindset. You literally design concepts in collaboration with your end-users. You gain valuable insight into all facets of your solution, validate your assumptions and avoid wasted time on extraneous elements. As a bonus, you get your users’ buy-in, and if they’re part of a community, you also win word of mouth growth!
That’s the secret of a successful “intuitive” product design. All this in just a couple of fun and productive hours.
If you want to become a co-creator, we’re hiring product designers! Apply here