This is a slightly belated post. I left the final day at UX London, headed straight to the hotel and was back on the train to Sheffield within 45 minutes thoroughly exhausted following 3 days of blowing my mind with a huge amount of knowledge and experience. I fully intended to write up my day 3 notes that evening but as you can imagine, getting home at 9pm on a Friday evening, and writing a valuable blog post was never going to happen.
So, here are my thoughts from day three that come with the added advantage of 12 weeks musing over the 2 workshops.
The morning workshop I chose to attend was ‘The UX of User Stories’ hosted by Anders Ramsay who’s keynote on Day 1 was the most relevant to me - hence it generating the majority of the notes in my earlier post from day 1.
The summary of the workshop included “There are few better entry points for UX Designers into the agile universe than User Stories”. This intrigued me as Project Manager running agile projects and needing to engage our UX Design Team into the project at the earliest opportunity. Traditionally, my understanding of stories has very much been that they are led by a Business Analyst creating and owning the stories, which has worked really well, but I definitely see the need for the UX Designer to be an integral part of defining the user stories and turning them into a realistic user journey that can be implemented.
“Stories are a to-do list for a set of users”.
In the workshop we started by looking at one of the problems with User Stories - that they are traditionally generated by asking the user ‘What do you want us to build?’ - this gives you a user solution that is optimised from a development perspective. What we should be doing is asking the user ‘What is the underlying problem or goal that you are trying to achieve?’ - this way, you will get much more of an emotional and contextual answer.
This is something that we have been feeding into our initial workshops with clients when they provide sketchy briefs and business requirements documents that are very much trying to suggest a solution rather than the problem. Only last week, @keeftango and I attended and ran a workshop that was all about defining the problem - the client had provided a Business Requirements Document that included requirements like - “Ability to be able to upload a news feed to the site.” - Now we could take that and create a solution to be able to upload a news feed but in the context of the project, we really needed to understand what the problem is that they are trying to solve by uploading news feeds.
The remainder of the workshop consisted of us working in groups, trying out a number of techniques for developing User Stories. Below is a list of the ones we covered. I will be looking at them in more detail to see how they could add value to the projects I am running.
- Experience Mapping - Aimed at establishing the users goals - what they are trying to achieve starting with the whole experience from the start of their journey to the task they are there to perform.
- Pair Interviews - Observing 2 users interview each other - this is an alternative to interviewing them directly - leaving you with more time to capture the users aims and frustrations.
- Agile Personas - When writing up the personas, focus on what differentiates them from an ‘average’ user.
- Relating Personas to Stories - Use the personas when writing the stories - instead of ‘As a user…’ go with ‘As John…’ - this will help focus the stories on the users, and not the functionality. The functionality will come later when the stories are broken down.
The last one gives stories that are heavily focused on the users. So, how do you convert these stories into tangible functionality that the development team can start to work with? The answer is Sketching.
Taking each of the stories and working with key stakeholders to sketch out the different ideas for how the interface should achieve the story will drive out the functionality. The stories can then be broken out into detailed functional requirements. At this point, it is extremely useful to involve the development team, as well as the client. With these parties present, the ideas generated can not only be understood by them but can also be validated against the clients scope and have technical due diligence applied.
This is actually a technique that @keeftango has been running with on a major project that I am managing. We started with a set of user stories which we have split out into phases / sprints that each start with a sketching workshop that includes the client sponsor, and the technical architects for two 3rd party technical development teams. This has proved invaluable in order to generate the ideas and direction that we are then using to develop a fully working prototype. I will post more on this as the project progresses but so far, we are reaping the benefits of going through this process and we have an extremely happy client who is now fully engaged with the process.
After lunch - the final workshop of the conference. This one was a choice based on a recommendation. As soon as we saw the programme for the 3 days, @belaybunny and @keeftango both pointed Leisa Reichelt’s workshop out as the one to go to. It was titled ‘Strategic User Experience’.
Straight away, Leisa started by ensuring we were all clear of the difference between ‘Strategic User Experience’ and ‘User Experience Strategy’…
User Experience Strategy = Thinking and talking about UX
Strategic User Experience = Creating a better environment for doing better UX
Leisa talked about how most organisations waste time talking about UX and not doing UX. The process should be bottom up, not top down. This is something that I have definitely seen a swing in over the past 3 months at work - having put in months of hard work selling our User Experience led approach to projects, we are now practising UX techniques on a daily basis, refining and learning as we do. This is feeding through the whole company with more and more projects taking a UX led approach.
Unfortunately, I missed most of the remainder of the workshop due to an emergency at work that needed to be sorted before the weekend - so I was in and out without really getting back into it. I did however take away a number of things to look into / read:
- Simon Sinek - http://www.startwithwhy.com/
- Peter Drucker - http://druckerphilosophy.com ‘The customer defines the business’
- Gamestorming - http://www.gogamestorm.com/ - This is a book I have already read and put into practice - highly recommended if you need to facilitate the process of defining things like requirements, aims and stakeholders for a project.
- The KJ Method for prioritisation - http://www.uie.com/articles/kj_technique/
So there it is, my round up of UX London 2012 - hope it has provided some insightful thoughts and pointers for any of you also finding your feet with UX. As promised throughout, I will keep updating this blog with my thoughts and experiences.
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.
This gives me a very timely opportunity to immerse myself in the world of UX, speak with other UX professionals who face the same challenges as us and listen to some of the industries best known speakers.
The conference consists of 1 day of talks followed by 2 days of practical workshops.
Today there were 6 keynote talks and 3 lightening talks covering various topics that are relevant right now.
I intend to write up a more detailed review of some of the talks but below is a simplistic summary of the talks, any key things that I took from them and my initial thoughts around how they fit in with my work.
BILL BUXTON - Microsoft Research - www.billbuxton.com
ON LONG NOSES, SAMPLING, SYNTHESIS, DESIGN & INNOVATION
Bill talked at length about the process of creativity and his belief that the idea of innovation coming from that ‘lightbulb moment’ is a myth and that in fact most ideas that are now £1bn pound businesses have evolved from ideas that are 20 years old.
Bill used a number of examples including the first generation iPod with the click wheel, which had taken a design lead from Dieter Rams T3 that was in circulation back in 1958.
My initial thoughts are that we shouldn’t be afraid to look back for inspiration whether it be a design pattern or a process and that there are good ideas from the past that may not have been a huge success originally but with some refinement they could be.
ANDERS RAMSAY - www.designingwithagile.com
Anders likened the approaches to UX projects as either being a relay race (where the UX Designer completes their work and hands over the baton to the developers until it is passed on and eventually crosses the finish line) or a rugby match (where the team members constantly work together to get the project over the line). I thought that this was a really clear metaphor to explain the differences between a Waterfall and an Agile approach. I’m sure I will be using this in the future.
The other thing that I really picked up on was where Anders explained a technique called ‘Ideation Clearing House’ where the project team and the client get together, the client explains their vision or problem and then hands over to the project team who then spend up to an hour getting down their ideas and sketches using a number of other techniques with the aim of ‘Capturing the imagined final product’.
This is something that I will definitely be pursuing more and looking to introduce very early on when engaging with a prospect or client on a new project. With some thought and good facilitation, this could go a long way to replacing the dry business development meetings where we constantly ask questions and then go away and write them up in a proposal back to the client hoping that we have understood their answers.
Not only would this allow both the client and us (the project team) to drive out a shared visual representation of what the product will eventually be (roughly) at the outset, but will also engage the client in a collaborative workshop at the very beginning where they will see an immediate benefit to involving the UX designers at the start of a project.
I am sure I will post about this in the very near future once I have considered it in more detail and spoken to some of my colleagues.
LUKE WROBLEWSKI - lukew.com
ORGANISING MOBILE WEB EXPERIENCES
Luke talked briefly about the ‘Mobile First’ approach and then about the reasons why people use mobile web. These included:
- Localised need
Mobile design should consider these when creating apps or mobile websites to ensure that the user can achieve what they want quickly - “they don’t want to be waiting while they wait”.
Showing a number of examples from Flickr to the old LinkedIn app, Luke talked about designing for content first and navigation second. The comparison of the old and new LinkedIn iPhone app really shows the huge change that they have gone through which now focuses and delivers the content first before then offering links through to more detailed content.
Another great example was the comparison of the Flickr mobile website and the Instagram iPhone app. Definitely worth a look as it becomes really clear when you see them side by side.
KRISTINA HALVORSON - Brain Traffic
A CONTENT STRATEGY ROADMAP
Kristina talked through what a Content Strategy looks like and ran through a practical example of how a Copywriter can become a Content Wrangler and should be an integral part of the project team from the beginning and not an afterthought.
Content Strategy is again something that I will post about in more detail once the week is over and I have attended one of the workshops on Content Strategy but my initial thought is that we need to have people with an in depth understanding that a Content Strategy is vital to deliver successful web projects, who will be engaging with clients from the start to ensure that the client also understands how much thought should go into the content, not just the look and feel - after all, users visit websites to consume content, not look at the pretty colours.
MOBILE & UX: INSIDE THE EYE OF THE PERFECT STORM
Jared started by showing a number of poorly executed mobile experiences - this was in relation to Sturgeons Law that 90% of everything is crap - we have the choice to be part of the 10% that is not crap.
He then talked about how we should be designing for experiences and not features - typically ideas and designs evolve from the introduction of the technology, to the abundance of features that are possible through to the experience of the users. We should be starting to design for the experience.
Jared then went onto talk about the Kano Model that I will post about in more detail later.
To finish, Jared went through a whole list of responsibilities and processes that fall under ‘Experience Design’ concluding that as this list grows, the number of UX Designers on projects is getting smaller - this is a balance that needs to shift if we are truly going to deliver a project or product that is designed for the experience and not just the features.
Each of the talks covered a real life experience and lessons learned. I will cover these in more detail later.
JON KOLKO - www.jonkolko.com
THE NEXT STEP FOR DESIGN: SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP
The final talk of the day was a great way to conclude day 1. Jon talked in depth about how UX Designers should really consider what they are designing and building.
Jon gave a couple of great examples of projects that he has been involved in where his students have looked at real life issues such as the homeless and starting with the simple process of talking to them face to face, they have been able to launch two social driven projects that are actually helping people to improve their quality of life. I will also write up the specifics of these examples as they are truly inspiring.
That’s Day 1 - Let’s see what Day 2 brings.