Archive for the ‘Collaboration’ Category

Design practice makes perfect

Saturday, June 14th, 2014

Evidence gained from research is powerful. It can persuade the most stubborn board members if presented in a way where decisions can be made based on facts. Data is also very easy to understand from different perspectives, it is the tangible, cold hard numbers that make it easy for decision makers to trust and react upon.

Ethnographic studies and user testing also give a qualified set of opinions to go on – who would argue with the voice of the customer? Especially if the risk of ignoring opinions only get amplified through social networks. For business, the value of UCD can be seen in exploring hypotheses backed up by quantitative and qualitative research.

Making from gathering

However the disconnect between design research and design practice is a problem and a difficulty in the discipline of UX that needs to be addressed if the profession is not to descend into the deliverables business. Production of meaningless documentation is a trap that consultancies fall into to boost their role in a project. There are various companies who base their business around user testing or research through ethnography. It’s a viable way to make money but unfortunately business value may not be derived from their results if their client does not have synthesisers on hand to interpret and take action on results.

The synthesis between analysing research and creating design is critical in terms of the quality of the execution and also the efficiency (in time and cost) of getting there. The effectiveness of the synthesizing of the research data is down to the experience of the designer, their toolbox and design environment. Whether a company either has the internal culture or the right design agency will affect these results.

There is another reason that design will always trump research. Research is based in the past, on findings that have been retrieved from the wild at a specific point in time. Design is practiced in the present but the aim is to deliver solutions for the future. Therefore innovation exists in the practical activity of design, or the making of the solution. It needs to be seen as the most important activity within the field of UX, not downplayed but championed.

Remember UX is User Centred Design

A problem with UX is that so much emphasis has been placed on the tools, that the art of producing great designs is becoming lost amongst the user tests and evaluations. For prospective clients and other domains this focus on the human condition seems too academic or removed from their reality. However the target audience’s reality is essential to deliver the right experience that we wish to give to a prospective customer. They are the change agents that we depend upon to push through what we design.

But efficiency can only really be achieved with experienced designers well versed in UCD techniques. To know the difference of being led-by and being informed by the user (and acting on that decision through design work) is core to providing value to any business. They seek innovation execution through designers but they will also find designers will automatically tackle business problems through their design work.

Analysis should never start as an activity without sufficient levels of translation and comprehension from the designers who will create the end product. The optimal method is for designers to conduct the research, and experience the needs and want of a user first-hand and then to make the solution. No matter what size an organisation, it should facilitate this type of working practice. Lack of communication at critical points in a project will result in a failure for the user and the business.

Listen, think, build

Optimization, concept creation and execution on innovative ideas can all be handled and explored by key members of UX design teams. Considered product development with an investment in research and the design tools to be innovative, creates real business value.

Design thinking is one thing but design doing is a far more powerful act for business. A necessary part of this act is to gain real insights from user (or customer) research but then go into rapid production with the ability to iterate the design as the product is being built.

The real benefit of research and design is the ability to create innovative solutions for the companies by being able to act upon the research – innovation happens because there is an ability to follow through with idea generation. The effectiveness in executing is as essential for innovative companies as their ability to ship products.

The iterative nature of design and the need to collaborate with many different disciplines also ensures practical application. Holistic solutions can only occur with a team with a broad skillset, and an eye on the bigger picture.

But most importantly designers need to be researchers who have empathetic understanding of the human condition before they open their toolbox.

Reaching for innovation

If you are in a design process where this doesn’t occur ask yourself could it? What is stopping your organisation from designing this way and do you feel secure that your current approach is the best way?

If you are a client or product owner you can ask these questions to gauge how your agency or internal team may reach that innovative solution you are searching for.

1. How is the agency or team organised and how do they produce work? A collaborative physical environment and multi-disciplinary teams are essential to allow your ambitions to fulfilled.
2. Are the people you meet those who will make your product or service solution?
3. Do they have a codified method for the work they do which they can candidly talk about without the need of a slide deck?
4. Are they credible and authoritative in what they say?



Getting UX Integrated

Monday, June 21st, 2010

The purpose of UXBASIS is not only to be a set of methods for UX practitioners but it is also a way of introducing UX to the wider organisation. The talk I gave last month to a group of Danish web product managers was focused on not only the tools we use in UX but how they themselves can successfully integrate UX into their organisation.

The audience represented those who really are empowered to change the user experience daily – the product and web development managers. In the presentation I highlight several ways to create change and use approaches to help give a different perspective to their task in hand.

So much of what they deal with, the political and organisational challenges as well as resource issues and technological constraints, we only observe as UX people. The real-life of producing and implementing what we draft is something that as UX people we need to be more mindful of. After the implementation of the ideas, these people are the ones who must ensure business runs as usual and goals are met.

The presentation is an introduction and also a practical approach to get UX integrated with 5 tips to help UX become a reality in the team and the business.

Holistic concept models: an ROI blueprint

Sunday, November 30th, 2008


process    I read a post recently that illustrated how concept models are rarely used in the right way and are often  misunderstood. Are they really worth doing at all?


Now seems a good  time to expand on the tool that Dan Brown has popularised through his book Communicating Design. Not as simply a stand alone tool but one that can provide a blueprint for giving solid ROI on design, analytics and testing.


IA collaboration – two heads can be better

Saturday, March 1st, 2008


IAcollab   Two months ago I wrote about a case study, how it was implemented and what the results were. I thought I would go into the detail of the information architecture and how collaboration with my colleague helped us reach a successful conclusion to the project.


I was extremely fortunate to be working alongside a taxonomist, Rachel Hammond. We were sat beside each other and interacted continuously on the same project daily. This made for an extremely good collaborative working environment.


Collaborate or feel the consequences

Wednesday, March 21st, 2007

After reading this article I was somewhat saddened and the also transported back to a time 7 years ago when I was a lowly web designer working for an information architect who headed up our design team.

She was of the opinion that the surface design was all we were good for, our thoughts concerning interaction of the user with the interface was little more than icing on the cake that she had lovingly baked. She was frustrating, she ring-fenced her domain, no colleague or client could get into her information utopia. Don´t get me wrong, we respected and admired her courage and stubbornness. She usually got her way but she never got user centred design.

Back in the room….yes 7 years on and the old problems seem to still be there. There appears to be a disconnect in IA from a UCD approach. Even in the Polar Bear book we have overtones of how UCD is the poor relation to information organisation. I would like to propose we drop this outlook and the reasons are clear. As more people with different ideas contribute to the information mix we will have to embrace the user, put them at the centre of everything we do and allow their behaviour to permeate through our taxonomies. Let our taxonomies become Persona led and multi-faceted.

Just as IA is reaching its highest point it is in danger of falling flat on its face. I emplore it as a discipline to embrace interaction and interface design. Collaboration is the key to its success as we are on the threshold of implementing processes that are solid and enduring.