Friday, November 16, 2012

unConference Session: Solution Design: The Hidden Side of UX

Joe Baz – Above the Fold  @joebaz & Richard Branfield – Fresh Tilled Toil @freshtilledsoil

Richard Branfield (@freshtilledsoil) and Joe Baz (@joebaz)
This conversation covered a lot of ground around UX (user experience) and UI (user interface). Ready? Let’s go:

How do you know what to put into a UX?
Two schools of thought:
1. Data research – personal development & user testing
2. Steve Jobs  screw the customer; I know what I want to build

The truth is something in between and varies by project. Apple does do a lot of research and testing.

Behavioral research, customer/user interviews: The goal is to get past the lies people tell. Learn to identify and get past the red herrings. For example, one assignment involved a platform that matches people with personal trainers. The story users told started out as, “I want to get fit, healthy, etc.” The truth turned out to be, “I’m lonely and need a companion, support, and encouragement.”

Use the “5 whys” Approach – Pretend you’re a five-year-old. When someone answers your question, ask, “Why?” When they answer that why, ask again, “Why?” Keep going until you get to the truth (or they punch you out).

Remember that people need different experiences based on their needs and mindset. Not everyone wants one-click. It works for Amazon, but you don’t want it for filing your taxes.

Research vs. Intuition – either way, you have to look at facts. The design solution – need to see how things are performing. Usability testing – see how it’s being used. 

UX Design Approach 
User/Persona Development
Behavior Studies (BJ FOGG)

There is no “best practice” methodology – just get your ideas out of your head so you can get people talking and dig down to the depth of the real user experience.

Team Conflict:
Engineers vs “witch doctor” of UX – how do you keep the peace and get things done?

Look at the hard data of what the customers want. Make UX a first-class citizen. (Google and Apple are doing this – raising the bar.) You need to find ways to negotiate and integrate all the team members. Coach the unfamiliar through the process and educate them on and benefits, but back up your “opinions” with data so you don’t get into the "he said/she said" situation.

Meet as a group, but also meet one-on-one – you can get a lot more information and also reach solutions more quickly and give everyone a chance to contribute to the final solution. Ask the questions and drill-down one issue at a time. Then bring everything back to the larger group.

·    -Identify the problem
·    -Clearly state the hypothesis
·    -Validate the hypothesis 

·         UX – user experience (process or solution) – strategy  (ex: 1-click process)
·         UI – user interface (navigation, visual elements) – execution (ex: 1-click button)

How do you meet customer requirements across redesign of entire product?
Companies that are lacking in user experience strategy have to start there – step back and first say, “What are we trying to do here? What’s the vision for the company?” This requires gathering within the context of the bigger picture – you need to know what the point is.

Depending on the stage of the idea or feature, you could get feedback from existing customers OR if at an earlier stage (hardly any customers) – go with the hypothesis-driven approach. Don’t just blindly follow a competitor. You don’t know if they are doing it right – it's better to talk to customers. That’s a culture you want to encourage and nurture.

Everyone on your team can contribute to the UX effort.

Cloud & SaaS – now since they are experiential in nature, does that add more value to UX?
In the 90's you built from the bottom up: exp infrastructure (data base, app, and then UI design)
NOW experience leads the way. You can build in the cloud where most of the infrastructure exists, and you can focus on the experience and then figure out what platform you want to put it on. This is an executive function (vs. marketing) – it’s a “What are we trying to create?” question.

Mobile: How do you strike a balance between using current interaction methods and doing something new?
Use MAYA – Most Advanced Yet Acceptable.

People have certain expectations as a foundation of the experience. You need to find out what your audience’s basic expectations are and then you can push the needle just a little bit (UI, new process, etc). Maybe just test with a small segment of a customer base before a full release.

Just because it’s new doesn't mean it’s better. You need to make sure the UX has depth and isn’t just a surface treatment. The expectation set by the visual layer must be met by the functional experience that lives beneath that.

Note: the people who make quantum leaps based on “instincts” usually have great market knowledge – they’ve put in their 10K hours and their “intuition” is actually based on experience.

Prototype approach – just build something and get it out so you can collect user data. Use paper and pen!
Apps: Balsalmiq, Mockups, POP App Factory, Omnigraffle, Keynote (with Keynotopia),
Show the sketches or prototypes to customers. Be the computer, and have customers tap where they want to go and show them the next screen. You get much better feedback if you actually show them vs. just describing it. Walk-throughs are very valuable. Get your proof points.

How do you know when you have to update?
Ask yourself – have you solved the problem? You have an inventory of identified problems and then monitor whether you’ve solved them. If and when you get by that stage and you’ve proven your hypotheses, now look at how to optimize (via split testing, etc) based on customer satisfaction, revenue, profitability, etc.
Listen to your customers – always. If you hear the same complaints over and over – you need to optimize.

Use Google Analytics to see what parts of the app people are using.
·     Watch behaviors not page views. Take advantage of GA custom variables – segment the audience. Buyer or admin might have different experience than lower level users. If bugs go unreported, that’s an indication that no one is using that feature.

We're still designing UX as desktop first and later mobile, tablet, etc. Will we ever get to a point where all versions of UX are designed simultaneously?
As we replace OS software with Web software it will become more consistent. The experiences and expectations will change with the environment from large screen to smartphone, etc.

Responsive design: Desktops/laptops vs. tablets vs. phones
It used to always start with desktop and then a mobile. Now, within the code, we can create a separate but consistent experience that accommodates the display screen. The browser triggers which version gets used. Once code base that accommodates not only re-sizing, but re-flowing information, only showing certain information, etc.

Get out of the mindset of delivering pages, but delivering content “pieces” and web services – optimize for the user need.

Sometimes start with mobile and then scale up – mobile approach is more effective and efficient. It gets you focused on what you really need vs. "everything but the kitchen sink."

UX/UI Resources:

Remember to be cautious about best practices – focus on your audience. Differentiate your UX so that you can stand out in the market. 

Jamie Wallace helps clients create resonant brands, standout content, and loyalty-inspiring customer experiences aSuddenly Marketing. And, she makes sure they have fun doing it.
Twitter: @suddenlyjamie

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