User Experience practice is about innovating and finding solutions to real-world problems. Which means we need to find problems, then validate them first before trying to fix them. So how do we go about doing all this? Read on…
I’ve been asked to explain a “GoodUX Process” numerous times over the years in consulting. Customers want a formula per se that can solve all their design problems. But unfortunately, it doesn’t exist and there is no set UX process that applies to all.
Every organisation and its problems are unique. They all require different sets of UX activities to determine a positive outcome.
However, there are some general guidelines on:
What type of UX artefacts can we deliver?
Who do we engage and collaborate with?
What kind of UX activities / workshops can we suggest?
To answer the above, I put together a general UX design process with the help of my colleagues a few years back. So here it goes.
Agile is here to stay. Corporates love it, start-ups embrace it and developers live by it. So there is no denying that Agile is going nowhere and we have to work with it. For a number of years, I’ve tried to align User Experience practices with Agile methods and haven’t met with great success every time.
But nevertheless, there are a lot of lessons that I’ve learnt during the process and I’m going to share 7 tips that always worked for me.
Create a shared vision early on
Get all the decision makers (Dev leads, Project managers and Project sponsors) in one room. Get a whiteboard and discuss why are we developing this product? What problems are we trying to solve? Once you have an overall theme, ask more specific questions such as how many app downloads are we targeting in the first week?
This workshop will give you a snapshot of a shared vision and common goals of the organisation. During every checkpoint of this project, this shared vision will serve as a guide, helping teams prioritise user stories and make the right trade-offs along the way.
Engage stakeholders wherever possible
Regardless of how many people in your team are in agreement, most of the times the decision makers are the Project Sponsors or Division Managers. You do not want them to appear randomly during sprint 3 planning and poop on it.
I highly recommend cultivating strong relationships with these stakeholders early on in the project. Invite them to all UX workshops, and if they can’t/don’t attend, find a way to communicate the summary of the meeting in an engaging way (not an email with a PDF attachment). I use to put together a Keynote slide and have it ready on my iPad for a quick 5-minute summary.
Work at least one sprint ahead of the Dev team
The chances of getting everything from research, wireframes, designs and development done for a single card – in one sprint is implausible.
You’ll struggle to get everything going at the same time. When you are designing, the developers are counting sheep because they are waiting on you to give them something to work with. You don’t want to be the reason behind the declining burn chart. Always be at least one sprint (if not two sprints) ahead of the development team. Sometimes it takes longer to research and validate design decisions, but if you are a sprint ahead – you are not holding up the developers, and you have ample time to respond to design challenges.
Foster a collaborative culture
Needless to say – Collaborate as much as you can. Try to get the team involved (just the people sitting around you is fine) for even small things such a changing a button’s colour. It makes them feel important; makes them feel good and fosters a culture of collaboration.
If you don’t collaborate with the team on small (or big) things, don’t expect them to tell you everything either. Your opinion might not be very valuable in most of the Dev discussions such whether to use ReactJS or Angular, but knowing that the Devs are going to use a certain JS Library – will definitely help you in (one or the other way) planning future sprints.
Follow an Iterative Design Process
DO NOT design mock-ups, to begin with. I know all the customers want to see something real that they can sell to their bosses. But the pretty design approach falls on its face every time. I want my customers to detach themselves from aesthetics and focus on structure and interaction first. Once we have worked out the hardware, then we can look at building the software.
Try Iterative Design Process. Sketch on the whiteboard, get the stakeholders to put a vision on paper and come up with a structure first. Then iterate. Here is my design process:
Low fidelity wireframes (on white board / PC)
Interactive wireframes – B/W (on PC)
Draft Designs – in Colour
Pass onto the build team.
Do a round of user testing with at least 5 people
User testing is not expensive, it does not take days or weeks, and you don’t have to talk to 25 people.
There is a lot of research on how testing only 5 users is highly effective and valuable to product development. Pick users from different demographic, put an interactive wireframe together and run it past them for about 30 – 45 minutes. After 3 users, you’ll start noticing common themes appearing. And after 5, you’ll have enough pointers to take back to the team for another round of iteration. Repeat this process every two to four sprints.
Hold a brief stand-up meeting every day
Hold a stand-up meeting first thing in the morning. The aim is to keep everyone updated on progress, recognise blockers and pick-up new cards. This ensures all the team members are on the same page and are working towards a common goal.
However, be mindful of the time since some discussions are lengthier and may need to be taken offline. We generally time-box stand-ups for 15 minutes.
Customer Experience Management is bloody challenging. Delivering a consistent (and pleasurable) experience across dozens of channels requires well-defined CX practices that are deeply ingrained within the organisational culture.
Forrester first published CXM maturity framework in 2011 which defines the CX practices that every firm needs to master. Naturally, a lot of companies jumped on board with this framework. For some, it had been hugely successful, and for others — not so much.
Now after 5 years, Forrester has published an updated CX Index which is based on interviews with many (19) companies, new research, and lessons that they’ve learned from helping clients over time. In this post, I will be discussing the updated CXM framework and the six competencies required for a strong CX management.
84% of brands got “OK” scores or worse from customers, which is a clear sign that their current approach to CXM needs work. —Forrester’s CX Index, Q3 2015
No surprises here — the better we understand our customers, the better we can adapt to the changing landscape. Gaining insight into what customers are thinking, feeling, and doing will keep us one step ahead of our competition.
In the last five years, more and more companies have ramped up their UX capabilities to help them understand their target audience. Activities such as ethnographic studies, behavioural research and user interviews provide deep insights on how customers engage with our brand.
While working with YellowPages, we would not release a product (or iteration) without doing multiple rounds of user interviews and usability testing. Believe it or not, it saves a lot of time and re-work in future.
Mature companies focus on what’s utmost important for their brand success. They don’t try to manage every nook and cranny of every customer interaction. Instead, they concentrate on the parts of CX that are critical to the business.
And this is where prioritisation comes in handy. Make a list of all the potential CX challenges and give it a ranking of severity. Tackle the ones that are on top of the list and make your way down. For example, human resources technology firm Aon focuses CX efforts on its self-service portal, in part because 90% of interactions happen there. But high usage isn’t the only reason that the portal gets top prioritisation. Good portal experiences satisfy two of the company’s three constituencies — end users (the client’s employees) and HR technology buyers. Users get the services they need, and buyers rest easy knowing that benefits issues aren’t distracting employees.
There is a reason why even banks such as CBA and ANZ are focusing and investing more on human-centered design practices. There is no doubt that the first layer of customer interaction with your brand needs to be impressive and engaging.
The only way you can achieve that in today’s design-agnostic economy is by understanding what role design plays in people’ lives and how can we leverage that to create an experience that not only meets but exceeds their expectations.
Marriott Group (of hotels) uses human-centered design to expand high-level concepts like “lively social spaces” into CX blueprints that employees and partners can actually execute.Designers ground their work in primary research, like the 300-guest diary study that digital teams used to figure out which “mobile moments” to include in an app redesign. The Marriott Innovation Lab gives employees a place to prototype and test new experiences to reimagine the hotel lobby as a mobile-enabled social hub instead of just a place that guests pass through to get to their room.
Helmuth von Moltke, a famous 19th century Prussian army field marshal, observed that “no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy.” As the same is so often true with CX designs, mature companies make sure that customers experience what designers intend them to.
That’s why Travelodge created one-page guides that explain the “right” way to do things like cook breakfast or clean a room. Each guide uses simple drawings, which it patterns after directions for assembling Ikea furniture, to explain the process. According to Andrew Archibald, director of CX, “Anyone can pick it up, even if they’ve never worked here before, and follow most of the documentation.” Regular guest feedback reports tell managers how well they’re hitting the mark. If data signals a failure to deliver CX as it’s designed, hotel employees own the issue. But if guests complain even when staff executed well, the problem lies in the design, which the centralised CX team takes ownership for fixing.
Customer perception metrics are the cornerstone of mature brands’ CX measurement programs. In 2012, CIBC chose Net Promoter Score (NPS) as its high-level CX metric for all client-facing areas of the bank, including branches, contact centres, and other teams like fraud and collection.
Continuously monitoring these scores lets CIBC leaders know that their CX efforts are working — NPS is up 5 to 10 points or more in every area that adopted it. BMO Bank of Montreal, a CIBC competitor, also uses NPS as its main CX metric. BMO leaders recently added four new CX metrics to the mix to measure each pillar of the bank’s CX vision. For example, the ideal BMO CX calls for employees to proactively reach out to customers with relevant offers, like a checking account that’s a better fit for their needs or a mortgage refinance with a lower interest rate. Surveys ask customers how proactive they feel that employees have been, with responses rolled up into a “proactivity score” on a weekly dashboard that managers at the company, region, and branch level track.
In mature companies, employees manage CX because it’s the right thing to do, not just because their boss tells them to do so. Customer-centric behaviours are ingrained into culture alongside traits like empathy, trust, fairness, and cooperation. And executives work hard to make sure that it stays that way.
For example, HubSpot’s “culture code” aligns job applicants and employees around core beliefs like, “Solve for the customer — not just their happiness, but their success,” and, “You shouldn’t penalise the many for the mistakes of the few”. A newly appointed vice president of culture and experience makes sure that the code doesn’t fade into obscurity as the company grows but keeps driving who and how HubSpot hires, how people work, and how managers evaluate performance.
Customer experience management is a blend of discipline and empathy. High levels of CX discipline and empathy creates mature CX driven organisation. Another key area to focus on is to find existing pockets of maturity and build on them, instead of trying to find what’s missing.
User Experience is a means to drive product innovation and differentiation. When implemented successfully, UX contributes to a number of critical business key performance indicators including customer engagement, retention, and loyalty.
Over the last two decades, most of the fortune 500 companies have come to the realisation that UX is an integral part of their business success. In his 2016 Design In Tech report, John Maeda suggests:
A good User Experience matters a lot, because we experience digital products a lot
Furthermore, the report (illustration below) uncovers that:
89% of companies believe that customer experience will be their primary basis for competition —Gartner
81% of executives surveyed place the personalised experience in their top three priorities for their organisation — Accenture
90% of executives surveyed agreed that customer experience and engagement are objectives of their corporation’s digital strategy — MIT Sloan/Deloitte
Customers are 6 times more likely to buy with a positive emotional experience, 12 times more likely to recommend the company, and 5 times more likely to forgive a mistake — Temkin Group
UX improves the overall customer experience
UX is a critical part of CX. Although UX is integrated within business units such as Marketing or IT in most organisations — it is highly responsible for, and can have a massive impact on how users engage and interact with the products they sell.
Xero (accounting software) is a great example of how an accounting software can be delightful to use. Xero started with their users in mind and crafted an experience which takes away the boredom of accounting online. In a recent start-up meeting, Philip Fierlinger — Head of Design at Xero said:
Xero is a UI company and beautiful accounting software applies to the entire experience — things happen exactly how you hoped they would. Design is center, the start of everything we do. Design must pervade every part of our culture.
UX harbours and promotes innovation
The backbone of User experience design is — collaboration. The aim is to get everybody involved in a common place; get them to brainstorm, ideate, sketch, estimate effort and propose solutions collectively. And once a solution is reached, it is rapidly prototyped in low-fidelity and tested to assess the viability before investing more time and resources.
This kind of a Build-Measure-Learn process helps in coming up with heaps of solutions in a short amount of time which not only saves a lot of money but also harbours innovation.
UX delivers real value to users
User Experiences dives deep into understanding users by asking them the right questions, discovering their pain points and observing their behaviour. UX activities such as Personas, Journey Maps, Ethnographic Studies, One-on-one Interviews and Qualitative Research gives us a direct insight into how people use (our) products and services.
This kind of data is not only useful in understanding what people desire, it also helps us in crafting products that deliver real value.
Aaron Walter — Head of Design at MailChimp is renowned for his work on Emotional Designelements of user experience. He says:
Designing software that’s just usable is like a chef creating food that’s just edible. People are attracted to more than just the practical. We want the things we interact with to appeal to our emotions.
UX directly contributes to business success
In the growing world of technology, the first measure of business success is how well your digital landscape is laid out. Even before a customer thinks of buying your product, he goes through a round of reading online reviews, checking your website, trying Apps and assessing your brand’s social media presence.
This is a time where we have to be constantly paying attention to our digital UX strategy since it has a direct impact on our business revenue. My wife doesn’t even want to try a product if she has heard a few negative comments about it; whether it be word-of-mouth or online.
A classic example I can always relate to is of Apple Inc. and how their brilliant UX campaigns for iPod andiPhone contributed to the overall company success.
User Experience is a vital part of your business success and a key market differentiator. It is about creating products and services that are useful, usable, and delightful.
A user will always have an experience whether you design for it or not. A negative user experience can cost you sales, retention, loyalty, market share, and brand value.
I was in a design meet-up a couple of weeks ago where I heard someone saying this – CX is the same as UX. And to my surprise, there were about a dozen of people who nodded (in agreement) to this statement. Now, this is where I lose my fuse!
As design professionals, it’s imperative for us to learn the difference between Customer Experience and User Experience.
User Experience is everything that affects a user’s behaviour and interaction with a product or service. It all about how the user feels, understands and perceives a product.
UX is measured with metrics like success rate, error rate, abandonment rate, time to completion of tasks.
Customer Experience — is the sum of all experiences a customer has with a brand, over the duration of their relationship with them.
CX is measured in overall experience, likelihood to use again, and recommend to others. CX is the big picture and UX is a part of it.
Ok, definitions aside, let’s consider John’s example — who wants to open a bank account. If I had to explain his journey in bullet points, it would look like below:
John just found his first job and he wants to open a new bank account.
After talking to his colleague, John discovers that Commonwealth Bank is quite good.
So John decides to walk into one of their branches during lunch hours to open an account.
When John gets there, he sees a large queue upfront. They were short-staffed. John sighs.
John waited nearly forty minutes for his turn. Halfway through the application process, he realises that he doesn’t have an ID with him.
The bank staff was not happy to accept any other kinds of ID, but the driving license.
John was unhappy and he had to come back the next day to finish the application.
Once John’s bank account was operational, he started downloading the banking app on his smartphone.
The banking app was very quick, intuitive and easy to setup. John was delighted.
Now John uses the banking app to pay for his lunch. He doesn’t need to carry his wallet every day. John loves it.
John’s user journey above has a few CX and UX touch points. Can you identify them?
CX covers everything from John’s first interaction with the bank through to using the banking App to pay for his lunch. It’s the overall experience with the bank. While UX is a small part of the large canvas.
As illustrated below, every organisation has various departments and UX teams are integrated within them. Which means if a UX team does great work, it necessarily doesn’t improve the overall Customer Experience.
In John’s example, he had a great experience with the banking App, but he had a poor experience with the bank itself. Thus, for John to have a great Customer Experience, the bank needs to improve on every front — (a) hire more staff to minimise queues during busy hours, (b) validate IDs within 48 hours or so, (c) provide good customer service, (d) and have a great mobile App.
UX is really a component of CX, and it plays an important role in the overall success of a product and the reputation of the brand. Failures in either area can lead to a bad customer experience overall. If we begin with the customer in mind, we can get both the UX and CX right.
How often are you asked to jump straight into design without doing any research? Well, it happens to me quite often. Reason – lack of time or budget.
No matter how tight the budget or timeline is, I always recommend to do some research beforehand. And if “how to do it in a cheap and efficient way?” your question, then here is how:
I stumbled upon Kano model in my MBA book – an incredible technique used by many businesses to discover, classify and integrate consumer needs into the products and services they offer. Since then I’ve used and abused this model for various projects while working for agencies. I’m not going to cite examples from any of the projects, but explain how this model works.
Kano model in User Experience
An effective way of connecting the dots between businesses and consumers, is by understanding their ever increasing needs and market study. Kano model can be used:
To understand current market needs
To analyse competitors’ offerings
To drive innovation and product strategy
To prioritise urgent requirements
This model classifies 3 types of needs that influence decision making and customer satisfaction.
1. Performance needs
Performance needs can either satisfy or dissatisfy a consumer depending on how well they are executed. These needs are consciously evaluated by the consumer and helps them to decide what to buy. If the organisation invests poorly in a product, consumers will be dissatisfied and not buy it.
For example, let’s take the battery life of a cell phone. If the battery life is 3 hours – consumer is dissatisfied, battery life is 5 hours – neutral, and if battery life is 7 hours – consumer is satisfied.
2. Basic needs
These needs are what a consumer considers as standard – taken for granted. Unless violated, no conscious thought is given. Their presence don’t add to the consumer’s satisfaction, however their absence causes extreme dissatisfaction.
For example – Restrooms in a shopping centre – It is usually taken for granted that there would a restroom somewhere in the shopping centre. While the presence of a restroom may not increase your satisfaction level, the absence would make you extremely dissatisfied.
3. Delighter/Excitement needs
These needs are often called USPs (Unique selling propositions) or UVPs and are the ‘wow’ factors that differentiate one business from another. These are the type of needs a consumer doesn’t realise they want until they experience it. The presence of these needs excites the consumer, though the absence has no effect whatsoever – because they never expected it in the first place.
For example – Free lunch at hotels. Although a free lunch is not expected while staying at a hotel, it can be a game-changer. The consumer will not only be delighted with the experience, he will become an advocate.
These delighters play at an emotional level and is proven highly effective in attaining consumer satisfaction.
It has been observed that over time the consumer satisfaction level shifts from delighters to performance needs, and then to basic needs. For example – today high speed internet has become a basic/standard need in hotels, whereas a few years ago it used to be a delighter.
Action Plan: How to use Kano?
What’s next? Here is the action plan to get the Kano model working for you.
Step 1 : Make a list of Basic, Performance and Exciter needs for your business
You can use various research methodologies to collate this list. Some of the examples are Customer Feedback, Competitor Analysis, Market Study and Pain-storming (Brainstorming the pain points). This data will provide you a clear vision of your priorities and help drive innovation.
Step 2 : Survey consumers on each classification
Depending on your budget, select a representative panel of users. Generally 8-10 users are adequate. Survey them through a series of both functional and dysfunctional questions (this is very important). I’ve mostly seen functional questions being asked in all user testing sessions. To better understand a consumer’s decision-making-process ask them a dysfunctional question (example below) and record their responses.
Step 3 : Analyse responses to determine consumer needs
Analyse responses for each classification. The responses will fall in 6 possible categories (see below). This data will help in understanding the consumer’s needs better than they understand it themselves.
Step 4 : Communicate change & evaluate
Now you should have a list of what your consumers really love and hate about your product. This is when product development ideas should be communicated to the appropriate stakeholders. Remember that every UX process needs constant evaluation and improvement. Today’s innovation will be tomorrow’s basic need.
Share your thoughts with me
Do you have specific models or principles you follow when considering consumer satisfaction? What are they? Share your techniques with me.
What is it that makes us advocates of the products we love? Why are we loyal to a few bunch of apps and websites? When I connected the dots, I realised that all the things I love in my life has one thing in common – emotional attachment.
What is emotional design?
Emotional design is a technique of infusing the elements of emotion into product design. It aims to evoke positive emotions and engagement with consumers.
But before we dive deep, we need to understand where emotional design sits in the ecosystem.
One thing I learnt from my experience was – a product needs to be useful first, then usable and finally delightful. The elements of emotion sits in the delightful phase of product design. There is no point trying to make an emotional connection, when the product doesn’t solve any problem, or lacks basic functionality. A beautiful curved teapot will have no value, if its lid fell-off while pouring tea.
The elements of emotional design
We generally focus on larger and more obvious things while designing, like functions, colours, navigation, images etc. But what makes a difference – are the small things, the finer details that trigger an emotional response. Let’s look at how it works. Emotional design can be achieved by using the following techniques:
Humour is the best medicine. Everyone likes a laugh. Carefully using humour to convey a message is the easiest way of communication.
Bose used numerous print ads like this for their noise cancelling headphones
Another brilliant ad by Chupa Chups for their sugar-free lolly range
MailChimp uses humour in a great way to keep the users entertained
Another emotional strategy is personalisation. I love when something responds to me without my having to disclose personal information. I love it when I can relate products to real-life things.
Google automatically detects my IP and gives me an option to translate the text to my local language
One can relate better with Forever New’s human-like mannequins vs. plain old others
A very important part of communication I find is – Intonation. Using an appropriate tone of voice can make your messaging far more positive and engaging.
One of the best Quit Smoking ad I’ve seen which focuses only on the positive aspects of quitting instead of showing mouth ulcers and blocked lungs
MailChimp’s funny and friendly way of displaying 404 error pages
Passion is essential. It shows your spirit, respect and love for what you do. And there is no better way of expressing it like what UCB and Nike does.
United Colors Of Benetton nails it when it comes to show what they value and are passionate about
Nike is passionate about the true spirit of sportsmanship; and they show it in their ads instead of showing what technology they used in making their shoes
05. Surprise and anticipation
This is nothing new. We, humans are wired to like surprises. We wait eagerly for new things, just as hundreds of people waited outside Apple stores for the new iPhone.
Hundreds wait to buy the new Apple iPhone 5
Oasis Bakery gives you a buzzer which rings when your food is ready. Now I can relax on my chair and wait for the buzz
06. Easter eggs
Google has been doing this for a while now. I love it when I find hidden things. It gives me joy to see something totally unexpected.
Google’s Atari breakout – turns your good old boring image search into a classic game
How Siri feels about the movie ‘Blade Runner’
07. Telling a story
Storytelling is older than my grandma and we all know it works. It grips attention and keeps you engaged.
Ben The Bodyguard – promotes its features by story telling
Story Of Send – by Google, shows and amazing interactive journey of how wmails are sent via their servers
08. Making the experience fun
A bit of fun is always exciting. It soothes your mind and lets you enjoy freely.
Entertainment – Garduno’s restaurant in New Mexico lure their customers through music and a bit of fun
Recently I was served this coffee at a local coffee shop! It’s nothing new, but definitely brought a smile on my face
09. Using reward system
Another great emotional element is – reward. Rewards make us feel proud and happy for our achievements. Numerous brands use reward-system as an incentive to promote their presence.
Telstra’s member exclusive $10 movie tickets
Great incentive – The Iconic offers a chance to win $1000 for participating in their contest
Surprise reward – Hoyts Cinemas awards a FREE movie ticket on your B’day! What else can you ask for…
A bit of theory
Whether we realise or not, emotion plays a very important role in our daily lives. We make many decisions based on our emotions and are wired to search for patterns from our past experiences.
How is that? When we recognise familiar patterns around us, our brain produces a pleasure inducing neurochemical – Dopamine. When we act on these patterns successfully, we get an extra boost of this pleasing chemical, making us feel happy about what we did. And over time, this ‘happy’ feeling registers a pattern in our sub-conscious mind and help us in deciding what’s good and what’s not.
User Experience is everything that affects a user’s behaviour and interaction with a product or service. It’s about how a person feels, understands, and perceives a product.
Many people confuse User Experience with aesthetics of a product. User Experience Design – rather than focusing just on visual or technical aspects, largely deals with the psychology and behaviour of people.
Also, UX is an umbrella term which comprises of four major disciplines:
When someone refers to themselves as UX designers, it usually means they have a good understanding of all the four disciplines and are experts at probably a couple of them. I’m yet to come across someone who is an expert in all the four disciplines.
As in my situation, I have a solid understanding of Information Architecture and User research, but my expertise lies in Interaction and Visual design space.
So what does a UX Designer do?
Depends on (a) what the project requires? and (b) where the UX designer’s strengths lie. Since I’ve got a better grasp on Interaction and Visual design, my core work consists of:
Field research and competitor analysis
Discovering pain points and utopia
Concept design in Photoshop
User testing (A/B testing, face-to-face)
Also, depending on the scope of the project – there are a plethora of other activities from diary studies to Storytelling that UX designers do.
Answering the misconceptions
UX design = Graphic design
User experience is an umbrella term which encompasses four core disciplines (read above). UXD is about identifying a problem and solving it, and as you can imagine – it takes a lot more than graphic design.
Although graphic design is vital to UX, it is only a small piece of the puzzle. UX aims to improve the overall usability and experience of a product, not just its aesthetics.
UX design is all about the users
Although UXD focuses a lot on learning and observing user’s behaviour, its main aim is to bridge the gap between business and consumers. Without understanding users, a business cannot tailor products to suit their target audience.
Involving user experience designers largely improves the product development cycle by getting designers, developers and other stakeholders on a shared path at a very early stage.
UX design is a quick-fix
It’s the same as calling in a property inspector after building a house to check the soil quality.
Involving a UX designer just before the product launch is probably going to open a can of worms rather than fixing last-minute problems quickly.
Ideally, user experience designers should be a part of the project from its inception. Every product (website, apps, software, and iPhone) design needs research, benchmarking, usability analysis and a good understanding of the market and target audience before it is developed.