Why Lean UX Might Just Rock Your World

I was standing at the front of a training room at about 2 pm a week ago in Chicago. The room was on the 5th floor of a building in downtown Chicago. It wasn’t a very inspiring room. The windows looked out at another tall office building, so there was no natural light in the room at all. It looked like it was nighttime all the time. The ventilation system was loud and actually made the ceiling projector vibrate which made the slides at the froRock Your Worldnt of the room vibrate. The fluorescent lights were harsh. The workshop participants were sharing the results of the case study exercise I had just asked them to do. And that’s when the magic happened.

There were 5 teams, and each team had come up with plans and designs that were unlike any I’d seen in any class I’ve taught. We’re talking about DECADES of teaching, and hundreds, if not thousands of designs I’ve seen come out of classes and workshops. But these were on another level. These design solutions, these ideas, were the stuff of documentary films about the design process and how incredible ideas get started. These ideas were special. To be honest I was stunned. In fact the whole room got very quiet. I think we all realized that we had just experienced a transformative moment together.

Now I’m not particularly shy or humble. I’ll be the first one to tell you that I’m a great teacher and that my workshops are special. But this wasn’t just great or special. This was life- changing. I knew it wasn’t just me. And yes, it was a great group of people in the room, but it wasn’t just them. It was the process.

The workshop was “The Lean UX Workshop”. We’d spent the day learning and trying out Lean UX concepts like hypothesis testing, experiments, minimal viable products, pivots, collaboration, Get Out Of The Building, Build, Test, Learn, and all the other Lean ideas. And this exercise that was blowing me away was the last exercise of the day… the culmination of everything we’d learned.  A chance to put it all into action.

Here’s my theory on why the Lean concepts caused break-through designs and solutions in the workshop:

  • Approaching design and user experience solutions from the lens of testing hypotheses meant that people were asking the right questions. It’s not the answer that is important, it’s the question that’s important. Asking the right questions led to totally different, insightful and innovative solutions.
  • Doing design as part of an experiment — Build, Test, Learn —  and then deciding whether or not to pivot, was freeing and empowering. These were not just people in a workshop following instructions. These people felt bold, they felt powerful. They took their ideas and ran with them. They were confident.
  • Designing and solving problems in the experimental mode of Lean UX makes people fearless because it breaks the connection between design and ego. You are experimenting with a design idea in order to see if the hypothesis is true. You aren’t married to the hypothesis and so you aren’t married to the design. It’s not YOUR design, it’s the design that tests the hypothesis. The hypothesis might be wrong or right. It may be neither and may lead to another hypothesis. But you don’t have to worry about your design being accepted or not accepted, because that’s not the outcome anymore.
  • Lean UX elevates the UX practitioner to a UX Strategist — the level they should be working at. When you do Lean UX you aren’t creating the user interface for a screen or page. You aren’t designing a form. Well, you might be doing those things as part of your hypothesis testing, but what you are REALLY doing is solving design problems. You are crafting a user experience based on data.

I was a fan of Lean UX before the Workshop. After my experience last week I’m more than a fan. I’m an evangelist.

Lean UX, carried out with true and basic Lean concepts, is pretty powerful stuff! It’s the best thing since sliced bread!

What do you think? Have you experienced any of this with Lean UX?

P.S. If you want to see if we can repeat the experience, come join me for the next one. I have 30 open spots for the next Lean UX Workshop in Cleveland. And I’m looking for organizations to host the workshop in other cities. Let me know if you want in on this next round and/or if you can host a workshop.

P.P.S.S. Thanks for letting me rave!

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in design, Lean UX, user experience

The 4 Magic Questions To Ask Before You Design Anything

Magic Want

I’ll go so far as to say that if you don’t know the answers to these four questions before you design, then your design will be, at best, mediocre, and possibly a disaster.

Designing anything — websites, software, apps, TV ads, physical spaces, documents – is tough. It takes art and science. Most design principles don’t work in all situations. Designers end up saying “it depends” a lot.

But these four magic questions ALWAYS apply. I ask these questions of my clients every time I design a product, or evaluate a product. Interestingly, although these are basic questions and not really hard to ask, it’s often the case that my clients don’t know or aren’t sure, or aren’t in agreement on the answers.

Here are the 4 magic questions:

1. Who is the target audience? This thing you are designing — who is it that is most often  going to use it? Who is it that you really want to use it? Everyone thinks they know who the target audience is until you ask the question. Then you and everyone else find out that the team doesn’t agree on the target audience. If you don’t know who you are designing for, then what is it you are designing?

2. What does the target audience want to do? Recently I want to the Healthcare.gov website. This is the website you go to get sign up for healthcare insurance in the USA. I had two basic things I wanted to do at the website:

a) My family has been getting health insurance through my husband’s employer, but they’ve announced that they are no longer going to provide insurance, and that everyone will have to go to the “exchanges” and purchase their own insurance. So one of the things that I wanted to do at Healthcare.gov was see what my options might be for insurance, and what it was likely to cost.  You can’t do that at the website. You can find out if you are eligible, based on income, for subsidies. You can read about what to do to “get ready” so that you can apply on November 15 when applications open up. But you can’t input a few basic pieces of data and get an estimate of cost or see what types of policies are available.

b) I have my own business, so the other option I am considering is offering health insurance to my employees. I am wondering if that would be a good option, and then I’d be covered, right? Would it cover my family too? These are the questions I had about employers buying insurance through the “exchange”.  Guess what. You can’t get information on employer plans at the website either. Or if it’s there it’s really well hidden!

Maybe I’m just an outlier. Maybe there aren’t very many people who want to do these two tasks at the Healthcare.gov website. It’s possible. Maybe I’m not the target audience. If we asked the Healthcare.gov design team what the target audience wants to do at the website I wonder what would they say?

3. What does the product owner want the target audience to do? This is not always the same as what the target audience wants to do. I may want to use the pharmacy app to see if there are drug interactions for prescription medication and the pharmacy company may want me to notice the store specials and come into the store. I may want to look up information on climate change and the website owner whose site I go to may want me to sign up for the newsletter. I may want to communicate with my friends and the product owner may want me to sign up for a premium account.

Some designers get stuck on taking only the target audience’s point of view.  You need both. It’s ok for the product owner to want the product to be used in a certain way; to want the target audience to take a certain action. After all, they are committing a lot of money and resources to building this product. And it’s likely for a reason other than or in addition to, fulfilling the target audience’s desires and wishes.  There’s likely to be a business/organization goal too. Does the design team know what that is? If they don’t, how can they be sure to design to match the business/organization goal as well as do what the target audience is hoping for?

4. What is the target action at this particular point? At every point, at every interaction moment, on every page, on every screen,  there is a target action that you want the target audience to take. Does the designer know what that target action is? If not, then how does the designer know what to design? Is the goal to have the target audience click on the Add To Cart button? Is it to share information with a friend? Is it to fill out a form and press the  “Sign Me Up” button? Is it to play a video? Is it to click for more information? Is it to pick up a product to try out in the store? If you want people to take a specific action then you have to design with that action in mind. If there is no action in mind then what is the designer doing?

When clients bring me in I always ask these four magic questions, and I’m often surprised how often the answers aren’t clear, or the team doesn’t agree, or no one has really thought about it.

Ask the 4 magic questions. Know the answers. And then your designers can design or re-design a GREAT product!

What do you think? Do you ask/answer these 4 questions before design? Do you find that your team/stakeholders/clients know the answers when you do? Are there are questions that you consider the “magic” critical questions to ask and answer?

If you haven’t already, be sure to check out our white paper Why Re-designs Fail.

Tagged with: , , ,
Posted in design, interaction design, user experience

Top 10 Skills and Knowledge Set Every User Experience (UX) Professional Needs

Top 10The user experience (UX) of your products is only as good as the knowledge and skills of your UX staff.

​As organizations realize how important the user experience is to the success of their products, UX teams are expanding. People come to role of UX from more and more diverse backgrounds. Some UX staff used to be web designers. Others used to be visual designers. Others used to be usability testers. The plus side of this is that you may find yourself with a team that has a wide variety of skills. That sounds like an advantage, and it is. But it has a down side too. As the diversity of your team increases, it’s possible that particular individuals may have gaps in their skill-set. And the team loses a sense that there is a core set of skills and knowledge that everyone possesses.

So I’ve put together my “Top 10 List” of skills and knowledge that I think UX professionals should know and be able to do.

I’m aware that publishing a list of the “Top 10 Skills and Knowledge Set Every User Experience (UX) Professional Needs,” could be controversial. Your top 10 list, therefore, may not be exactly the same as this one, but let’s see how many you agree with:

Note:

  • The list is not in any particular order.
  • I have not included “soft” skills, such as communicating clearly, making powerful team presentations, or effectively managing projects. These are critical to success, but not as specific to UX, so I’ll cover them in another blog post.

So here’s my list:

  1. Psychology – including cognitive, social, perceptual, and the new work on unconscious mental processing
  2. User Testing – basic user testing planning and conducting
  3. User Research – more than user testing, including interviews, task flow analysis, personas, scenarios, wants and needs
  4. Principles of Usability – how to make a product easy to learn and use
  5. Principles of Engagement  – how to make a product engaging and persuasive
  6. Lean UX Design – lean start-up methods for doing UX
  7. Conceptual Modeling – making transparent all the macro decisions you make before you even start sketches pages and screens, such as information architecture, navigation design, object/action decisions
  8. Iterative Design – how to design collaboratively with others, including storyboards, sketches, wireframes, and prototypes
  9. Interaction Design  – how to make the best decisions about micro-level interaction design
  10. Current Trends – knowing what the current trends are – Parallex scrolling?  Flat design?

If you’d like more details on each of the 10 items, then check out the whitepaper: Top 10 Skills and Knowledge Set Every UX Professional Needs.

What do you think? Do you agree? What would you add or take away from the list?

 

Tagged with: , , , , , ,
Posted in user experience

Why Re-Designs Fail

Sign that says FAILYour product (website, software, app, device) is seriously under-performing and it’s time to fix it. You’ve lined up the resources, and freed up the budget. You’re about to spend a HUGE amount of time, money, and resources. It’s going to fix all the problems, right? And the new product will bring you the business/conversions/numbers you are looking for, right? It better, because it’s going to take a monumental effort and cash to tackle this.

What if it doesn’t live up to expectations. What if the new product doesn’t fix the old problems. What if the new product creates new problems. These are headaches you don’t want.

So how can you prevent spending time and money? How can you be sure that the new product will get you the returns you are looking for? Here are the top 5 reasons I’ve seen that cause product re-designs to fail.

  1. Your re-design is based on opinion not fact – You’ve made a lot of assumptions about your target audience and what they want/need to do with your product, but they are assumptions and they haven’t been tested or verified.
  2. Your re-design is based on data, but wrong conclusions – You didn’t just work from assumptions, you actually did collect data, but your interpretation of the data was in-accurate and so your re-design decisions lead you astray.
  3. Not enough collaboration – Your re-design decisions are based on accurate data, and your interpretation of the data is sound, but you didn’t involve your stakeholders and your development team in the design. When it’s time to implement the design you get a lot of pushback, and your design changes don’t see the light of day.
  4. Designs are implemented without testing – Your re-design decisions are based on data, and you implemented them, but you didn’t test the re-design. If you had prototyped and tested the re-designed product you could have tested all of your assumptions and design decisions, and corrected the ones that didn’t work out as expected before finalizing the new product.
  5. Technology takes over – You are doing so well. You gather data, design based on the data, prototype, test, and iterate. But after the iteration of the prototype the implementation team swoops in, and the technology decisions take over the design decisions.

If you can avoid these 5 problems then your re-design will get you the conversions you are looking forward. Watch out, though, because if you can’t avoid these problems then you are likely throwing your time and money down the drain.

What do you think? Have you encountered these problems in any of your re-designs? Do you think these are the most important 5?

If you’d like more detail on these 5 problems and what to do about them, then download the whitepaper Why Re-Designs Fail.

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in design

Are You Addicted To Texting?

One of my early blog posts was about dopamine, and since then our smartphones have become even more capable of triggering a “dopamine loop.” So I thought I would re-visit the topic. Especially because I just did an animated video on the topic for the Brain Signal youtube channel:

It’s all about dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical that is found all through our body. In our brains dopamine is involved in a lot of our behavior, including thinking, moving, sleeping, mood, attention, motivation, seeking and reward.

Dopamine causes us to want, desire, seek out, and search. Researchers used to think that dopamine was the “pleasure” chemical. But Kent Berridge’s work at the University of Michigan distinguishes between dopamine, the “wanting” system, and the opioid system as the “liking” system. The wanting system propels us to action and the liking system makes us feel satisfied, so we pause our seeking. The wanting system is stronger than the liking system. We seek more than we are satisfied.

Dopamine induces a loop — it starts us seeking, then we get rewarded for the seeking which makes us seek more. Which is what I think happens when we respond to texts, or emails. The result is that we can’t stop looking at email, texting, or checking our cell phones to see if we have a message or a new text.

The theoroy of classical conditioning in psychology tells us that we can become conditioned to respond to auditory or visual cues that a reward has, or is going to, arrive. Our smartphones beep and flash and show little icons when we have messages or texts, all adding to the addictive effect. Between classical conditioning and dopamine it can feel like you are addicted!

What do you think? Do you have a hard time not checking your phone when you hear that special tone?

Tagged with: , , ,
Posted in brain, social media

Apply For A Free Engagement Audit And Re-Design

Starting in a few weeks I will  (again) be  teaching a semester course at the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point, on “Designing for Engagement” in the Web and Digital Media Development department. In the class we use “real life” case studies as the students learn how to evaluate a product for usability and engagement, and then do a re-design.

The students are mainly juniors and seniors. They are quite talented, and they work really hard.

If you have a project/product that you would like evaluated or re-designed to be more usable and more engaging, you can apply for us to use your product as a case study. There is no fee. It’s all FREE.

Here is what we are looking for:

A product/project that is a website, app, or other digital product

It has to e an existing product or at least a prototype. We aren’t able to design from scratch.

The product has to be something that is relatively easy for the students and I to learn about. In other words, your app that programs pacemakers in the operating room is probably not going to work.

You or a member of your team, have to be available in the October/November/Early December time frame via email and conference call so that the students can communicate with you about the project. Typically there are a few emails at the start, perhaps one conference call, and then the end result is your re-design and a video explaining it.

If you are interested, here’s what you need to submit to me via email (send to susan@theteamw.com:

Your Name:

Your Contact Info:

Brief Description of the product/website/app etc:

Brief Description of your usability and engagement challenges:

Instructions of how we can access the product

Who the product is for/users/visitors/intended audience:

What the users/visitors/intended audience want to do with the product:

What YOU want them to do with the product:

 

Let me know if you have questions, and thanks in advance for submitting your product for a possible evaluation and design

 

 

 

Tagged with: , , ,
Posted in design

Ten User Testing Bad Habits

User testing is a great way to get feedback from actual users/customers about your product. Whether you are new to user testing, or a seasoned testing professional, you want to get the most out of your user testing research. It’s easy to fall into some bad habits though, that will either make your testing time consuming, ineffective, or expensive. So here are 10 bad habits to watch out for when you are doing user testing:

#10 Skip the pilot
A pilot test is a user test you run before you run your “real” test. You run a pilot test so that you can try out your prototype and your instructions – it’s a trial run for everything. Then you can make any changes necessary before you run your “real” test. Sometimes your pilots go without a hitch and then it can be easy to say the next time, “Oh, maybe I’ll skip the pilot”. Don’t skip the pilot! Otherwise you may have to redo the whole test. Pilots are fast and inexpensive and worth it to do.

#9 Draw conclusions from early and insufficient data
People get excited when results start coming in, but don’t start changing things after 1 or 2 participants. You’ve got to wait to see what everyone does or doesn’t do before you start making decisions. And watch out for the confirmation bias – deciding that you know what’s going on after 2 participants and then ignoring other data that comes in later.

#8 Test too many people
If you are used to quantitative measures you might be used to running studies with large numbers of people. But user testing is often qualitative rather than quantitative (there are exceptions). If you aren’t running statistical analyses, so you don’t need lots of people. 7 to 10 people (per cell, see #7 below) will get you the data you need most of the time.

#7 Too many cells
A cell is the smallest unit of categorization for a user test. Let’s say that you want to run your test on men and women, and you want to be able to draw conclusions about differences in men and women. That means you have 2 cells – one for men and one for women and you need to run 7 people per cell. Now you already have 14 people. Next you decide to add young people versus older people, so now you have 4 cells of 7 each. Then you add people who are current customers vs. not current customers…. You can see that this is headed to too many people. The mistake here is a misunderstanding between cells and variation. I can have just one cell of 10 people, and within that cell I can make sure that I have some men, some women, some older people, some younger people – they only have to be a separate cell if I am going to draw conclusions about the variables. If I just want variation, but don’t need conclusions about the variability, then I don’t need all these cells.

#6 Do a data dump
When you conduct a user testing study you are familiar with everything, the instructions, the tasks, the results, and you may not realize that if you just hand the data and the video recordings to someone else they may be overwhelmed. You need to summarize the results, draw conclusions, and present a cohesive summary to your team and stakeholders, not just hand them a lot of data.

#5 Too much stock in after-test surveys
People have bad memories, and they also tend to over-inflate ratings on a survey. Watch out for putting too much stock in a survey that you give them after the task portion of the test.

#4 Test too late
Don’t wait till the product is designed to test. You can test wireframes, prototypes, and even sketches.

#3 Skip over surprises
Some of the best data from user testing comes not from the tasks themselves, but the places that people wander off, or the off-hand comments they make about something you weren’t even officially testing. Don’t ignore these surprises. They can be extremely valuable.

#2 Draw conclusions not supported by the data
You have to interpret the data, but watch out for drawing conclusions (usually with your pet theories) that really aren’t supported from the data.

#1 Skip the highlights video
A picture is worth 1000 words and a video is worth even more. These days highlight videos (made up of video clips) are easy to assemble using tools (for example usertesting.com). Highlight videos are much more persuasive than you just saying what happened. Make a habit of creating video clips the first time you watch the videos. Then you don’t have to go through them again to create a highlights video.

What do you think? Do you have any bad habits to add to the list?

————

If you are interested in learning more about user testing consider these two courses:

User Testing: The What Why and How as an in-person workshop I’m teaching it in San Francisco on July 31, 2014

and

an online video course on User Testing.

 

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in usability testing, user testing

How To Be A Great Presenter

We’re bringing our How To Be A Great Presenter class to Chicago on October 21, 2014. Want to know if this course is right for you or someone you know? Here’s a short video that gives you a sneak peek at the course.

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in presentations

How Do You Design Something So It Is Engaging?

We’re bringing our Design For Engagement class to San Francisco on July 30, 2014, and to Chicago on October 22, 2014. If you’re not sure what Design For Engagement is all about, here’s a short video that explains what it means to design for engagement, why care about engagement, and gives you a sneak peek at the course.

Bring your whole team! Some seats are still available.

Tagged with: , , , ,
Posted in courses, design, user experience

User Testing In The Spotlight

With Lean UX all the rage (deservedly in my opinion — see my recent slideshare on Lean UX), user testing (an important part of the Lean UX process) is getting even more popular. If you need to convince someone(s) in your organization that user testing is important — well, not just important but CRITICAL — try this video below.  It’s an introduction video to my User Testing course. And if you are interested in the course I’ll be teaching it in San Francisco on July 31, 2014. Bring the whole team! If you are already convinced about how important usability testing is, then stay tuned for an upcoming blog post on Bad Usability Testing Habits To Avoid.

 

Tagged with: , , ,
Posted in courses, usability testing, user testing

Subscribe to the Newsletter

News & research on human behavior: Subscribe to the FREE Brain Lady newsletter.



Welcome to The Brain Lady Blog

I'm a Ph.D. psychologist and I write and videoblog about how to apply psychology and brain science research to understand how people think, work, and behave. For more information about me and about the Weinschenk Institute, check out the the Team W website.

Susan Weinschenk, Ph.D.
The "Brain Lady"

Connect

  • RSS Feed
  • Twitter
  • YouTube
  • Facebook
  • Google+

Subscribe To The Brain Lady’s YouTube Channel

Check out the NEW BrainSignal Youtube Channel

Archives

Categories

Contact Us

The Team W
Weinschenk Institute, LLC
625 N. 4th Avenue
Edgar, WI 54426
USA
info@theteamw.com

Susan
Email Susan
@thebrainlady
847.909.5946

Guthrie Weinschenk
Email Guthrie