Today was only a short day at #UXLondon as I had to head out for the afternoon and to be in a pitch with @belaybunny - but today was the start of the 2 days of practical workshops.
Out of a choice of:
- Introduction to Axure - Fred Beecher
- Methods of design synthesis - Jon Kolko
- Content Strategy will save UX - Kristina Halvorson
- The UX Team of One Bootcamp - Leah Buley
I chose to attend the ‘The UX Team of One Bootcamp’ workshop. I was slightly torn between this and Kirstina Halvorson’s Content Strategy workshop but having read the introduction in the programme where Leah mentions that we would learn ’ Soft skills for gaining buy-in, conquering conflict and communicating your work’ I thought that this would probably be the most relevant to what I am aiming to achieve as a UX Project Manager.
One of the key things that I want to achieve in my challenge to become a UX Project Manager is to support the UX Design Team in communicating the value of their work and evangelise their work both internally and externally with clients. So this part of the workshop in particular had me sold.
As per my day 1 post, I will spend more time at a later date to get down some specifics from the workshop but for now I am just getting down the key activities and my thoughts on where they were relevant to me and project management.
The premise of the workshop was that UX Designers and professionals do not always (very rarely in my experience) get the chance to practice their trade to their full potential due to the obvious constraints on a project - time, money and resources (or people as I like to call them) and often find themselves to be the only UX person on the job. A situation that Leah is very familiar with. Therefore they have to adapt and be flexible to produce a product that delivers the best user experience possible within these constraints - and they will do this, honestly, they are not the ‘perfectionistic-have-to-do-everything-otherwise-there’s-no-point’ bunch that some people will have you believe.
We then looked at some techniques that can help.
First up was Project Briefs - I guess as the name suggests, they should be brief and to the point. I know that in some particularly complex and technical projects, the brief has to be as thorough as possible to make sure the whole picture is known from the start but at the very least they should clearly explain WHY they need a solution, WHAT they need the solution to do and the PRINCIPLES that the project should follow.
One really interesting idea that I had when thinking about this is that when we get a new brief for a project, whether it be a large document or a 5 minute phone call, we could very quickly draw up a one page brief of our own with they key requirements, the background/business case for the project and a couple of visuals/sketches and present that to the client to validate our understanding of the project in a succinct and quick fashion. Along with this, we could suggest that the first step we take is to have a workshop (not meeting) such as the ‘Ideation Clearing House’ that Anders Ramsay talked about and I posted about yesterday.
This is something I will be trying out very soon and I will post about what happens and any lessons I learn - good or bad.
This also led to a comment from Leah that @keeftango tweeted earlier today:
“When you first meet a client, don’t tell them abut UX, understand the problem and show them UX in practice”
This struck a chord with me - clients will surely understand UX more when they actively participate in it, not when you try to explain what it is and what they get for their money.
We then did a group activity which involved an envelope full of different UX techniques on cards and a short brief for a fictional project. As a small group of 3, we laid out each of the techniques that we would ideally use to understand the problem and then design and refine a solution. We were also encouraged to introduce any of our own techniques that would also benefit the process. The whole group then discussed the varying solutions that each group had come up with. This discussion raised a couple of important points:
- Don’t be afraid to ask the question up front of whether we should be doing a project or whether there is already a solution out there that can solve the problem. We do this a lot when it comes to technical requirements such as creating a CMS but much less so for a design project.
- When having to cut down on the number of UX processes and techniques you can fit within the project constraints, a good way to communicate with the client is to clearly explain the risks of not doing something rather than just the benefit of doing it - this could be a really powerful way to help communicate the value of taking a UX approach.
- As early in the process as possible, document and circulate any assumptions in order to validate your initial thoughts - to me, this would fit well with our project brief and would then be supported by the Ideation Clearing House approach.
- Loosely related to the risk point above - when designing a suitable UX process for a project that you know may be questioned, you could give the client more than one approach and clearly show the trade-off of choosing one over the other.
After a short break, we started to look at what enticed me into the workshop in the first place - ‘Selling UX’.
Leah talked through the different types of people (personas if you will) who UX designers often have to sell UX to and gave an insight into what methods can help to convince them of the value of UX.
1. People who don’t understand UX:
Have a couple of quick ‘elevator pitch’ style explanations in your back pocket that can help you succinctly explain what UX is. Everyone in the company would benefit from knowing and understanding these so that they can answer the question.
2. People who try to minimise the breadth of UX:
For example I know clients that think UX is just creating wireframes before building a website. A good way to explain to them is to use famous examples like Apple (famous for their huge investment in UX Product Design). I think using other examples away from technology and websites would also make a big impact such as a restaurant waiter remembering what each person ordered and placing their meals before them without interrupting their evening by loudly asking who ordered what (something I experienced recently and until it happened, I’d never actually thought about how much of a nicer and a surprising experience that was).
3. People who are concerned about how much money and time UX costs:
Leah suggested that a good way to approach this may be to take that person out for an informal chat over a drink and start to talk about the different ways that UX can help define and solve a problem. Again, I think in this situation, drawing on other real life and non technology related examples would really help drive home the value of investing in UX. Leah also mentioned the classic of talking about how much more expensive it is to find out that your product is not usable once it has been launched compared to finding this out early on when all you have produced is a number of lo-fi prototypes.
4. People who need real ROI figures to believe in UX:
This is where analytical data and previous KPI measurements can work and put their mind at rest. Only this afternoon @belaybunny and I were asked what % uplift in conversions we would expect from applying a user centred design to an online transaction user journey. Being armed with the metrics and ROI figures from previous projects would have been perfect to field this question quickly - we didn’t have them to hand but explained that we can show them where we made a difference in other related projects rather than trying to commit to something that we can’t possibly forecast at such an early stage (our first meeting with the client).
In my mind, all of this is something that is pivotal to engaging clients in a UX led project - being able to eloquently and confidently explain the value of UX with relevant examples and where possible actual statistics to back it up. This would also engage other colleagues who may be responsible for selling UX and give them the ammunition to start clients thinking that this might actually be a worthy investment.
On the back of this we did an exercise in pairs where we had a number of difficult questions to ask. Person 1 asked the question and person 2 had to answer. Person 1 then fed back:
- What the liked about the response
- What they would have expected in the response
- What they would like person 1 to do differently if they were to respond again.
It was really interesting to hear how other people would answer the same question and led me to an idea that I will be discussing with the UX Team in the near future about generating a set of FAQs about UX that we could use to help during the selling process - it needs thought but I may be onto something.
The final activity was an individual one. We were asked to take 3 minutes to quickly get down a list of 3 things that you want to be doing in your career in 5 years time relating to UX. I will reveal my 3 shortly.