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Ground Hog Day UX Crazy Style

ux crazy people

The UX Crazies are so focused on the UI they completely miss the point.

This year UX has really grown up. We have had convergence, gamification, tablets, internet TV, handheld scanners (and all manner of devices) and now we are truly in the Pervasive UX territory.

The UX community has really come together and it is all about collaboration and working towards a UX Manifesto as well as better credentials and education.

The Creative Age has started and with it Disruption.

Even after a year full of progress and it can still seem like you are right back where you started from. In my case it is dealing with those old, wacky UX Crazies again.

UI is not UX.

This relentless focus on the end deliverables and confusing it with UI completely misses the point.

One of the biggest challenges is changing the misconception in organisations that  User Experience [UX] is about producing a user interface [UI]. It is not. It is a “value proposition”. It is far greater than the sum of the deliverables.

You cannot tell what good is by merely looking at something. It must be tested and measured. UX is not a form page or a single web page. You cannot compare web pages to illustrate what good UX is. That is only the UI.

This misunderstanding has come from the roots of UX. Most UX people started out as Information Architects (others designers or developers) where we created deliverables such as site maps, wireframes, usability test reports, prototypes and personas. This was one “cog in the machine” and the next step was handing these off to designers & developers to complete the process.

We have done a great job at selling in the need for these IA deliverables. These deliverables are still  relevant to communicating the user experience  but this is also where the problem lies. It is no longer about the deliverables. The old notions of IA/UI development are now way past their sell by date. It is about the total user experience and having measurable results.

The User Centric nature of User Experience provides companies with a view from the outside looking in. Almost all the other rolls BAs, developers, clients, technical architects are looking at the internal workings.

The Pillars of the User Experience

  • User Experience Strategy: This is not the same as digital strategy as user experiences are more pervasive
  • User Experience Research
  • User Experience Design: This includes emotional factors, brand experiences, creative and conceptual models
  • User Experience Architecture

 

I have left UX Development off the list as development happens in the delivery cycle. It is of course important to consider and make sure sure there are inputs from development just as you would the technical architecture, business strategy, digital strategy, business analysis and the market forces.

The UX  is about getting to a UX  road map to then inform the development team who will be responsible for taking the vision and developing the user interfaces for the various devices.

The upfront UX needs to be thoroughly thought out and also light weight in terms of the amount of  to avoid being Big Design Up Front or BDUF if working in Agile.

 

UX development has had a big change too and the main one is that it is not about HTML and building webpages. The world has moved on. Development is about having specialists that know how to transform the UX blue print into code for the various devices – browsers, tablets, mobile, handheld PDAs and so on.

The UX  is about getting to a UX  road map to then inform the development team who will be responsible for taking the vision and developing the user interfaces for the various devices.

Developing experiences that are appropriate for various types of media and platforms needs to be done by specialists who’s day job it is to program and write development code. This may be multiple developers who have device specializations. It is not a roll for a UX designer who dabbles in a bit of code. The experience will always be compromised by the person who’s job it is to deliver the code.

This may not even be about devices. It could also be back end technologies or CMS systems. There are many incidents where the UX was changed or had to be compromised because the people implementing it did not have the necessary skills or experience. It is important to have the experts brought in at the beginning and to keep continuity by continuing to provide guidance and steer the project.

Explore and constantly evolve the target audience

This is about getting to know the intended users but also looking  at potential influencers. Too often the focus is just on the primary consumer of the product or service. In fashion for example because brands tend to be aspirational the wider community have a lot of influence. Therefore you need to include non-consumers in your target audience such as the bloggers, journalists, fashion students etc. Ideally delivering a brand experience should be consistent. This is also the shift towards pervasive UX in which I used an example of my hotel stay. My experience changed when I was no longer a buyer.

User Experience is about building the values of the brand into the entire experience. The whole design experience is about creating a language to deliver the brand message in an engaging and purposeful way. It is not about window dressing.

Dream big. Imagine all the possibilities

UX is about the divergence and convergence of concepts (ideas, principals, goals, aspirations), framework (IA, structures, mental models, scenarios) and the high level design (emotional factors, persuasion, personality, branding, visuals).


Mind the Gap. UX needs to build a bridge between what the system and business must deliver and what the end user expects.

Goals Concept

UX considers the goals, aspirations, dreams ambiltions and the purpose of the end user or consumer

There are consequences for poor UX. On internally facing IT systems the consequences are often ignored because they require work to figure out how bad the damage is.  Having users spend extra minutes or making repeated errors while trying to complete tasks is not seen as a big problem. However if some one were to say calculate that total and say that it was costing the company over a £1 million in lost revenue a year then it would be a huge problem.

Pervasive design is about looking at the entire journey of the end user and helping to uncover unmet needs as well potential business opportunities.

User Experience Practitioners perform user research to get into the mind of end user (and consumers).  The primary purpose is to ensure the proposed solution is fit for purpose and will meet the user needs for usability. That is a given now. What is not widely subscribed to is that this research can be used to gain competitor advantage and also exploit new opportunities that may come as a result.  User research is a lot more than validating user experiences for usability and informing design decisions.  User Research when combined with prototyping can be the new R&D department or create a road map of future business opportunities.

This is about designing a user experience across all touch points of the brand or product.

Pervasive UX goes further than the screens it is the complete end to end journey – which may include multiple devices and tasks. Whether you call this service design or process re-engineering it is core part of creating the UX.

“Every design decision… contributes to the behaviour of the masses, and helps define the culture of our society. This describes an enormous opportunity for designers, one that is rarely realized. We are, quite literally, building the culture around us; arguably, our effect is larger and more immediate than even policy decisions of our own government. We are responsible for both the positive and negative repercussions of our design decisions, and these decisions have monumental repercussions.”  Joh Kolko

Aligning the needs of the user to the functional system and influencing the priority of requirements

With an understanding of the pain points of users and what they need and desire you can assign these values and align them to the plan for the roll out of features. Too often it overlooks how simple it is to add value and make improvements and avoid costly features that users do not need or want. When the business goals and the user goals are merged  along with the “workstack” it provides a much more joined up approach to delivery and the team is working as one and not at cross purposes.

Providing general consulting skills on user behaviours

UX practitioners are constantly keeping up to date with latest trends in online and digital behavior on everything from devices to the latest big thing like Pinterest. This knowledge can be used stimulate and generate ideas to better engage with end users.

So where do we go from here

This is about continuing to share knowledge and collaborate. As Daniel Pink says there has never been a better time to be a designer or creative thinker.

Pervasive design is about the bigger picture not the small stuff.

It would be great to get past Ground Hog Day and say good-bye to the UX Crazies once and for all. However that is looking more and more unlikely as I have witnessed a entrenched reluctance to join the party.

At least I have a big UX network to help me keep my sanity and tonight I am very much looking forward to discussing Pervasive UX tonight with Brian Hoadley.

The UX Crazies can stay forever in ground hog day. Time to leave them in a trail of dust.

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It’s a Dev Tool, No It’s a Design Tool, No It’s a Moose.

Jeremy Keith of Clearleft

Jeremy Keith of Clearleft

I love Adobe. Let me say that up front. Adobe has been very good to me. Oh yes. Adobe and Apple issues aside with the whole flash thing, I remember what is was like to use a tool dipped in ink to draw a straight line. White out was my best friend for making crop marks. I had the typographer’s phone number memorized. He knew how to read my scamps and hand drawn text and know exactly what font to use and would get the kerning right.

Adobe and Apple liberated me. So you can imagine how I jumped at the chance to go to tonight’s Adobe HTML 5 Camp aimed at developers with the odd designer taking an interest.

They could not have picked a better or worse (depending on your point of view) presenter. Jeremy Keith of Clearleft. The man needs no introduction. Everyone knows Clearleft love their code so much their cleaning staff could probably give a lot of devs a run for their money.

So to make a long story short, Jeremy goes nuts on a long rant. He goes on this long tirade of how Adobe Muse is insulting to both designers and developers. He does not stop and he goes on to call it WYSISWTF! [if you need me to translate – you should not be reading this article]

wysiswtf

Uh oh! He had a point I suppose.

The most infuriating thing is that Muse pays absolutely no respect to the discipline of design. We are not some bastard child of print.  Tweet from Goodonpaper

From there (a good start in my eyes) the event just seemed to get better, with some great talks by Greg Rewis, Sam Dutton & Mark Anders. Adobe Edge looks promising if a little rough on the eyes. Intuitive – not really. The new CS5 Dreaweaver tutorial was basic but good.  I am not a developer and I tend to downplay what dev skills I have just so I can avoid getting my hands dirty on a 6 month development gig. I can code CSS and HTML mark-up, but I mainly keep my skills up only to give me an deep understanding and allow me to help me in design/UX. This is an advantage for me. I am a fully paid up member the “you cannot have too much information” club. Knowing the code structure and keeping up to date can only help.

Cue dark and scary music. Last session of the day and the Adobe product evangelist walks on the stage.

  • PowerPoint agenda…uhuming and hawing – not a great intro
  • PowerPoint bullets and all about Adobe Muse
  • Demo slow to load
  • Uninspiring demo
  • Kept saying “job done” and silly phrases
  • Sounded like more more Moose than Muse

 

I really felt sorry for the presenter but it was a car crash from start to finish. Over 60% of the audience walked out. I was one of the last to walk out. Only because I was sitting in the middle and needed the people to one side of me to empty out first. Plus I did try to be polite. I wanted to hear the end wrap up but as it also was running over… well it made sense… 😉

Everything was aweful. Here was Adobe with a chance to end on a high note and prove that Jeremy Keith guy wrong and they failed. It was PowerPoint bullet points. The actual demo was terrible and with a design so dreadful it made the banner Mark Ander did worthy of a Webby award. But I digress.

The one thing I left with was that Adobe Muse is neither for designers or developers and is in fact a Moose. A Moose aimed at designers.

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UX and the Agile Process


One of the questions asked is how UX fits into an Agile Methodology and the simple answer is that it does not automatically slot in. That is because Agile is not a design methodology, it is for development. It is not more useful for UX than it is a process for doing business strategy.

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How do you make room for innovation in a factory.


The Agile process clashes with the UX method to create the user experience before construction begins. To the Agile community this can sound like “Big Design Up Front (BDUF).

Jakob Nielsen suggests that the problem has its roots in the fact that Agile was conceived of by programmers as a way of improving the development process. He has said

“mainly addresses the implementation side of system development. As a result, it often overlooks interaction design and usability, which are left to happen as a side effect of the coding.”

Agile and UX can work together with the right planning

The values of working the Agile way:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

The values of Agile are not too dissimilar to UX. UX is fairly a collaborative approach with end uses and stakeholders to visually capture the requirements by producing mock-ups. The end result is usually a key screen prototype with design style guides. The principal is that these are are both lightweight and easily refined as new ideas are introduced.

There is significant differentiation between small incremental projects and large-scale web or software development projects.

UX and Agile in small incremental projects

In small incremental projects a lean UX can work by having smaller UCD orientated cycles a sprint ahead of build or in some cases working with each other to solve nitty problems. These would be aligned to the work stack with a planning meeting at the beginning of each sprint to align the teams.

UX and Agile in larger complex projects

In a larger more complex projects there needs to be a lot more planning with the UX and it is essential the conceptual design is done up front. Conceptual models are not iterative yet they under pin the entire user experience in order to support the mental models of the users.

The gap between what the solution delivers and what end users expect can have catastrophic consequences on a business or brand. The team there for has a duty to ensure they fully understand the needs of the business as well end users so that the end solution is not compromised.

Creating engaging and innovative user experiences requires creativity. We need to allow for creative sessions and thinking so that ideas can be generated to support the brand proposition. Using a divergent and convergent process gives the conceptual phase of design focus and structure.

 

Managing the divergence and convergence when  to find solutions as well ensuring there is a resolution. The conceptual design phase broken into 3 steps.

Trying to capture a complete, accurate and exhaustive list of requirements is impossible. This almost never creates a usable and desirable solution. Without a prototype or model to view people find it difficult to imaging the outcome in order to evaluate the solution. This requires several iterations to get the degree of fidelity and definition.

You cannot refactor the UI as easily as you refactor code. When you change the UI you are changing the way people interact with the program, and you need to think about the impact the changes will have. It’s easy to create confusion, annoyance, and what psychologists call proactive interference (the prior experience with the UI making it hard for the user to learn a new way of doing things). All in all, making UI changes after release is generally unadvisable, so it pays to get the conceptual design right at the beginning. – Dr. Charles B. Kreitzberg

UX Conceptual Design Process

Click to view full steps

Not having a conceptual design up front is a big risk. The end result may be a poor user experience that requires a complete rethink of the user interface after launch. This may also impact how the system functions as the processes may need to be re-engineered and additional functionality to be implemented in order to create a more holistic user experience. In a consumer facing web environment the  impact to users by having a poor product may adversely effect their perception of the brand and have a determental knock on effect to the business.

The good news is that the UX process of  using as UCD methodology is not a full recipe where all the steps must be followed. Not all UX tasks need to be done. It depends on the project and putting the outcome first. It is about getting enough of an understanding to make a start and then continuing to plan, analyse and design.

To avoid the trap of BDUF it is important in the planning to agree the level of what will be delivered in the first “cut” of the detailed design. This should be the key pages of the system and over all structure. Each area can be further broken into chunks by functional themes. On that should be avoided is a page by page approach as this can create inconsistencies as tasks get split.

Using the user stories and creating a map is very similar to the walking skeleton used by Agile. However it is more visual can be used as a base line as well.

An advantage of having a conceptual UX design up front is that with the UX/Design specifications  they can be given to offshore build teams or multiple and less expensive resources for production.  These detailed design can then be done in smaller light weight sprints and concurrently if required. Ideally they could still be working to a sprint ahead.

The trick to making UX and Agile work is to focus on the individuals and interactions and not the process.