The hard truth. There is no one way to do this work.
I’ve talked with and interviewed countless design and experience leads across a variety of companies in multiple industries. The common thread amongst them is that there is no one way to get to the result you are striving for. Team structures are different. Titles and roles are different. And each approaches the challenge differently as the maturity of their work place allows. A design thinking approach is best and sought after by those I’ve spoken with, but how that materializes (and when) is different for all.
As I continue my work I keep experimenting with new ways to prove (or disprove) a hypothesis the team has come up with. Keeping it fun, engaging and as educational for the organization is how I prefer to work. Not all projects are the same. Below I’ve outlined foundational elements and a few approaches I’ve taken with different projects. I’m aware however that the process that works best for me and my team will continue to evolve and mature based on the variables at play.
The best thing a company can do is to talk to their customers. you ≠ user is hard to grasp at times. I strongly believe in talking to users and make sure as many stakeholders I can get to participate do at some level. If they can not be there in person, we record and present back to the team once analysis has been conducted. Here, myself and some colleagues are doing some field testing while we had users on location. They were onsite for an E-LEAGUE gaming tournament. Participants were vetted prior to the test and then walked through a scripted task aimed at testing features on the responsive site. The learnings were then applied to the site and better engagement was created.
FRAMING/Reframing INSIGHTs & DeFINEment
More times than not you have a member within a business unit approach the team with an “idea”. Sometimes the idea is well crafted, well thought out and clearly presented with a strong vision behind it. Other times it’s vague, undeveloped and more of a feeling based on a subject matter expert’s opinion. For the moments when ideas, where ever they come from, are lacking in clarity or haven’t been thoroughly thought through its usually worth asking more questions.
“How Might We” exercises are a good way to do this.
Finding the moments users interact with your products/services is going to be key to designing for that interaction. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to find the best locations and times to interact with users based on their lifestyle. Mapping a users interactions with the business into a journey map is one of the the best ways to understand this. Sometimes you find them at the right time, sometimes you don’t. It’s always in flux. Applying research and reviewing empathy map results (what they hear, see, feel, think) during different phases of interactions with your brand gets you closer and allows you to see any missed opportunities for exploration. Identifying where the pain and joy is with the brand allows for making more enjoyable moments and better business/customer interactions. Here is an example of a specific journey map used for a casual golf fan using the PGA Championship digital products.
For my process here, and depending on the project, I’ll typically take the stories I hear from users and/or subject matter experts and try and make sense of it on a white board. Solo or with others. It’s a flexible exercise. Ideas come in waves and I need to spread out as wide as possible. It’s the messy part of my work. As I’m doing this I keep in mind the various users, the product we are working on, the business requirements and the available technology. I like doing this in a public area (as public as the project allows) to use as reference prior to collaborating with more of the larger team. This allows us to get what was heard out and use as a starting point when sharing with the team. Now there are many ways to go about distilling this information, but I’ve typically had small UX teams and this is how I’d prepare for larger talks with the stakeholders involved. From here I usually facilitate additional sessions with the larger team to see if we are aligned on features we have in mind and what the user is expecting. Crazy eights, Lightning Decision Jams, Design Studios etc.. or if the project allows, full on Design Sprints.
PROTOTYPE / TEST
We are now equipped with an understanding of the user. We understand our business needs (hopefully) and we have a few concepts in hand. We are now ready to test our hypothesis with prototypes in hand. These test can happen a number of ways. Some methods I’ve employed are in-person behavioral studies, focus groups, remotely moderated sessions, remotely self guided sessions and even guerrilla testing. I’ve done this in lab environments and have been flown to different markets as well to get specific regional preferences using these methods.
Deploy / Review Analytics / Refine
Fingers crossed, the team is working in an agile environment on a balanced team (dev/ux design/product). I find this the best when