When developing IT products, problem solving is often the top motivation. Developers identify a problem and provide a solution. Unfortunately, without considering the user experience during the design phase, finished products often fail.
Look at what happened with the iPod versus the Microsoft equivalent, Zune. One outsold the competition by more than 18,000 percent. Both products were pocket-sized portable music players with a fairly simple interface. The iPod simply did a better job of integrating intuitive usage, making it a more popular product.
By prioritizing user experience (UX) design over hardware, Apple launched a product that killed the competition in the marketplace.
Overcoming resistance to good UX design practices
The challenge with UX design is often getting buy-in at the top level of an enterprise. You say you want to delight the customer by providing a seamless experience with usability testing, iterative design, and feedback. What the CEO hears might be something along the lines of delayed projects, pushed deadlines, missed metrics, and dreaded cost overruns.
So how do you demonstrate the value in human-centric design? John Whalen, a cognitive scientist, recommends using the right vocabulary to push past the initial hesitance. Essentially, point to the numbers.
“UX brings between $2 and $100 in return, and IBM plans a 1:10 return for usability testing,” according to Alex Avissar Tim, a UX Architect at Citi.
In one Human Factors International video, Dr. Susan Weinschenk points out that “at least 50 percent of a programmers’ time during the project is spent doing rework that is avoidable.”
When faced with statements such as, “I know you have a process, but you see, John, we already know what users want and what we want to build. Let’s save some time and show you,” redirect to the benefits of UX design and point to the cost savings. Once you have top-level buy-in, you can engage in the broad strokes required for a human-first design process.
The lean startup design process
Amee Mungo and Scott Childs use a five-step design sprint to get from concept to product. Why? First to market wins. A faster product development cycle often means better market share, but only if the product works for the consumer. Each of the five days is entirely devoted to one of the steps in the design process.
1. Understand the problem.
2. Collaborate design.
3. Design and prototype.
4. Test and learn.
5. Iterate and refine.
This lean UX design method works by getting together the right people at the right time to make a difference. During the sprint, one of the most critical aspects is an all-hands atmosphere. Everyone in the room must fully engage on the project in front of them. When that happens, the result can be almost magical.
Day 1: Understand the problem.
During the first day, you work with the largest group to really drill down on the problem being solved. Explore the customer and their existing journey, and identify the most common pain points. Start broad and work your way to specific solutions. Working with a big group is helpful for getting the most complete definition of the problem facing customers. End day one with clear consensus and agreement around the problem that will be attacked the rest of the sprint.
Day 2: Collaborate design.
The next step, collaborative design, works on the actual design. You’ll want to talk about the user journey and how different functions flow from one to the next. You’ll prioritize features and get together a working map of your finished product. For this day, you want a group of less than ten. For a startup, different areas of the company can be represented including product development, legal, marketing, sales, customer service and both front line and C-level faces. But for an enterprise it should be more tech, product and designed focused.
Day 3: Design and prototype.
Day three begins the actual creation of the product. You want a prototype up and running and, based on the UI, hammered out on day two. The prototype needs to follow the design map and get polished for research.
Day 4: Test and learn.
With a prototype in hand, day four starts with research. Real people are the key to real responses. Sure, you can start testing in a lab environment, but to really get into the daily use of the product, you need to get it into the hands of real users. Go out, show off the prototype, and gather data.
Day 5: Iterate and refine.
On the final day of the design sprint, you take that first iteration and refine it based on what you learned during testing.
Narrowing your design focus
During the sprint, it’s important to remember the goal behind your product statement. Keep the four questions that should drive your product statement front and center.
–What problem are you solving?
–Who are you trying to help?
–How will you help?
–What exactly will you help customers do?
If you can keep the project focus narrow while simultaneously appealing to your core group, you are much more likely to turn out a finished product that adds value.
Keys to successful UX design
UX design doesn’t have to take months and a large chunk of the budget line. You can design on a dime, as they say in home decor, while still turning out well-developed and human-centric products.
Avoid information silos and never design in a vacuum. More heads translate into a user experience that’s intuitive to the highest population group. Life is gritty and full of chaos. Get your product and ideas out to real live customers early and often to get to know what customers really want. Successfully leveraging these lean concepts and strategies can help your company hit the ground running with every new product idea.