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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.

digital leap

Digital Leaps Forward & The Department of Disruption

 

This year on Leap Day I will be giving a talk on the future of User Experience at LBi. LBi certainly knows their stuff and has put together a fantastic panel. I feel very privileged and honored to be a part of it.

Digital Leaps Forward – What is next in Experience Design

Please come along. It is going to be a fantastic day!

The Department of Disruption

The move to federated platforms, multiple devices, open data and the web of things has created the perfect storm. We must be able to face challenges that we can’t even imagine yet. How do you get a single view of the end user or customer when they are no longer limited to web pages or the devices that we design for? We often talk about trends like Social Media or Gamification as though they happen in isolation while at the same time telling our clients not to let their internal structures operate as silos. Who owns the user experience when it there is no overall authority across all the user touch points of a multi-channel system design?

It is an understatement to say that convergence between computers and consumer electronics is escalating, creating challenges and opportunities for both businesses and consumers. New devices that operate using gestures and augmented reality glasses are not pipe dreams of the future they are happening now. User Experience is moving from a tactical discipline about ensuring usability, into a strategic discipline about creating move pervasive experiences and creating, evaluating, researching and prototyping new business models.

think outside the box in vintage wood type

What Good Looks Like

 

I have been spending a lot of time lately thinking and discussing with other UXers about where UX is going and how the lines are getting more blurred as UX becomes more pervasive. At the same time I still get dragged into the “UX 101” conversations that should have ended 10 years ago with people who profess to be experts.

The easy answer is that UX is was born about 15 years ago out of the user centred design processes. It was first applied in usability, user research and information architecture. UX now includes design and development skills sets as well as strategy. The principals and core objectives of UX however, have not changed. They have matured. UX is now a huge industry and widely understood. Clients themselves are very sophisticated.

Most people in UX know this and have a common understanding and know what good UX is. I see myself as a UX person first. Whatever deliverable I am producing (IA, strategy or design) I think about the person who is going to be using the end product or system.

What good looks like is the outcome. No one can hold up a sample and say this is good without explaining the thinking the decisions that have gone into it and why these were made and how they came to those conclusions.

To the casual observer a design or an information architecture can look good. Great even. This is why understanding what user experience is and being able to explain and measure it is the only way to avoid costly mistakes or interfaces that do not work.

As an example:

A lot of people think Microsoft does not create great experiences. They proudly share their insanity in a blog post. This has to be the top retweet for the UX community today. Most people thought it was a joke but here is the story about the “streamlined UI” from Seldo.

Orange text may look good to some people but it is not usable by everyone. Yellow on green is even worse. Some usability issues like those are easy once you know them and the reasons why. Skills like developing a taxonomy or using categorization become second nature. All of that falls in the realm of knowing what is best practice. Developing that knowledge is fundamental but that is just the foundation. It takes time and a lot of experience to become proficient in user experience. Picking up the tools and the skills are the easy part. The hardest part is keeping up and staying current.

UX design differs from non UX design by bringing a wisdom and depth of knowledge of what users want from the design as well as understanding persuasion. In some cases every element on the page has a rational that is based on user research and rigorous measuring for effectiveness.

It is not about memorizing or copying. The bar keeps getting higher and this is user driven. What matters most is understanding and studying user behaviour. Think how people do things and what their need state is as well as frame of mind and other considerations. Constant research and measuring the user experience are the only way to ensure a positive outcome.

This is why deep understanding of social media and mobile applications needs to be a part of the UX thinking. Keeping on the edge and looking into the future is the only way to keep up.

A lack of this understanding can make people defensive and get them to promote individual specialties at the expensive of others, often demonstrating a narrow mindedness that is counterproductive.

Good UX does not come in a box.