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.

5 Myths of Lean UX

Today I gave a webinar on the topic of 5 Myths of Lean UX. I’ve created a slideshare from the webinar. If you are interested in what Lean UX is and isn’t, then you might want to check out the slideshare.



If you’d like more information on Lean UX check out our Lean UX one day workshop.

Obstacles To User Experience Success

Have you ever been the User Experience point person on a product team and found yourself explaining over and over again what it is you are actually doing? Working with a team that doesn’t “get” user experience is one of the obstacles to creating a great user experience.

I talk about that obstacle plus a few more, as well as what to do about them, in this video. It’s one lesson in my latest course course called “An Introduction To User Experience”. And the entire course is FREE.

Even if you are an experienced UX professional you might enjoy this video and the whole course.

In the video I talk about three obstacles:

  • Working with a team that doesn’t “get” what UX is
  • Being a UX team of One
  • Not having a high level advocate in the organization

What do you think? Have you experienced these obstacles? More? Others?

If you know someone who needs to learn about UX, what it is and why it’s important, point them to the free course on our TeamW Courses page!

Is UX a “Rose by any other name?”

roseI’m going to be somewhat honest here: I’m no “spring chicken”. I don’t know if I’m prepared to tell you exactly how old I am, but here’s a story that will give you some hints: When I was in graduate school I had to file a formal appeal with the dean of the graduate school in order to get approval to create and submit my dissertation on a computer rather than typing on a typewriter. That hadn’t been done before and they weren’t sure it would be allowed (they did allow it).

Suffice it to say that I’ve had a long career in my “field”. But even after all this time I, and many others, are still struggling with what the field is, what it is called, and how to describe what we do. You’d think we’d have had it figured out by now, but we apparently haven’t.

So what is it that I do anyway? I use psychology and brain science to predict and direct behavior. A lot of my history has to do with designing the interactions between people and technology. Because I’ve been in the field so long I pre-date the term “user experience”. In fact, I pre-date many terms, including: usability, user friendly, user-centered design. The term I, and many others, tend  to use most often is “user experience” but many object to the term “user”.  And ask 10 “user experience professionals” what they do and they will tell you 10 different things.

Jim Jacoby has a post at the admci website with a great video of Peter Merholz speaking at a conference about what user experience really is, and what the work really is. I don’t agree with everything Peter says, but it is a thought-provoking video, and it got me thinking not only what user experience people do, but about the term “user experience”.

I’d like to use a different term to describe what I do, but I’m not sure what that would be.

Customer experience doesn’t work because a lot of the experiences I am designing aren’t for customers. They might be for employees, or visitors. Is a museum visitor really a “customer”? I know the employees at Wal-Mart aren’t “customers”. And people going to their government website to do self-service are not really customers either. I’ve designed for all of these audiences, so “customer” doesn’t really work.

Then I thought perhaps I’d just describe it as “Experience Design” or “Behavioral Design”. But that brings us into the thorny area of what “design” means. Is it visual design? Interaction design? And sometimes I’m not even designing. I’m evaluating, or strategizing what the experience should or should not be. But the terms “Experience Strategy” or “Behavorial Strategy” seem just as bad as “User Experience”.

A rose by any other name is still a rose?

What do you think? How do you describe and name it?



What’s The Best Way To Train User Experience Professionals?


Woman standing in front of a blackboard with question marks

What’s the best way to get knowledge and skills to be a user experience professional? Can you learn it all on the job? Is there a role for education and classes? If there is, what kind of classes?

Should you try and get a college degree? (There are very few undergraduate schools, that actually have a degree in user experience. Some have some classes, and maybe a concentration, but few have a degree. Should you get an undergraduate degree in something else — anything related — and then get a master’s in HCI (Human-Computer Interaction).

What about short courses? Should you take a week or two of training from a vendor? Or take some online training classes?

I’ve been thinking about this question for many years. I’ve offered “industry training” (i.e., a week-long class), and I’ve offered mentoring programs. I recently taught a semester long class as an Adjunct Professor at University of Wisconsin. And the Weinschenk Institute has online video courses you can take to learn about user experience and user-centered-design topics.

So when my colleague Jim Jacoby (founder of Manifest Digital in Chicago) told me the other day that his new venture was The School for Digital Craftsmanship, I asked him to tell me more. And then after he told me about the user experience/user-centered design “school” he has started, I suggested we do a podcast interview about it.

Below you will find the 23 minute podcast interview.

You can listen to the podcast by clicking on this link

Here are some of the topics we cover:

  • How a shortage of user experience/user-centered design professionals in his agency led him to start the School for Digital Craftsmanship
  • The idea of a “trade” school education for the field, that combines classroom study with practical experience
  • The first flagship courses that start this July (2013). They are 10 weeks long and meet a few nights a week, starting in Chicago and St. Louis.
  • What the application process is like, and what the experience will be like to attend.

As of this writing there are 12 spots still open for the classes starting in July, so if you are interested go to the School’s website: admci.org for more information.

What do you think? What’s the best way for people to get the education they need to do UX/UCD work?



5 Favorite Tips From Famous UX Experts

31--2I attended and spoke at the Virtual conference from Rosenfeld Media today “31 Awesomely Practical UX Tips”.  Each speaker presented their favorite user experience tips. I took one tip from each of the speakers as my favorite. Here they are:

Steve Krug — Test your competition/comparables. Before you choose a design path or design idea, find someone else who is doing it and run a user test of their site/app/product. That way you can see what works and what doesn’t before you even start your design.

Whitney Quesenbery — Many of the best designs we all use started out as products designed for accessibility, for example, rolling mail carts for postal delivery people (started off being used by women since it wasn’t believed they could carry a heavy load) and Good Grips tools from OXO (started as special tools for people with arthritis, but now they are just known as well-designed tools).

Jeffrey Eisenberg — Instead of designing to fit your selling process and selling cycle, design instead to fit the customer’s BUYING process and buying cycle. These are not the same thing.

Aaron Walter — Stop designing in Photoshop. Use something like Bootstrap where you can see what things really look like and you can concentrate on the “system” not the “page”.

Luke Wroblewski — 75% of people using smartphone apps are using one thumb — Have you designed for one thumb use?

It was a GREAT day of learning. It was hard to just pick one from each!


Photography And The User Experience: A Podcast With James Chudley

Photo of The Brain Lady with James Chudley
James Chudley and The Brain Lady in Bristol UK for the podcast interview

What is the role of photography in the user experience of websites? James Chudley and I explore this topic in a podcast. James is the (co)-author of Smashing UX Design, a new book coming out in June of 2012.

You can listen to the podcast by clicking on this link. It’s approximiately 30 minutes in length.

James and I recorded the podcast in person, at his office in Bristol, UK. In the podcast we talk about the role that photography plays in the user experience of a website. One of my favorite discussions in the podcast is how to incorporate photos into the user experience process, and about the role that the UX person could or should have when choosing photographs for a website.

In addition to the book, James also runs a great blog:

http://www.photoux.co.uk on the same topic. His twitter is @chudders

Listen to the podcast, check out the blog and the book, and let us know via comments what you think. Who chooses the photographs for the websites and projects you work on? How much time are you giving to the photos you choose?

Here’s a link for the book at Amazon:



Do You Know The Trust Quotient of Your Organization?

Avis Button: We Try HarderLast week I gave the keynote talk at the Big D conference in Dallas Texas. (It’s a great conference and I suggest you check it out next year.) The conference was Friday and Saturday, although I could only go to the very beginning of day 2. I had to leave in the morning to go to the airport and catch my flight home.

Problem #1: I’m one of these “nervous” travelers, so I always make sure to leave plenty of time to get to the airport. I left the conference building on the deserted campus of Southern Methodist University, and walked to the parking garage where my Avis rental car was parked. As I went to get in I saw that I had a flat tire — completely flat. The question now was, could I deal with the flat tire and still get to the airport on time?

Thus began an hour and one half long very frustrating journey into voice interface hell. I called the number on my Avis paperwork, and went from voice tree to voice tree to voice tree. I was trying to get help with the tire, as well as find out if I could leave the car and get a cab to the airport. I would try one branch of the voice tree be on hold for 15 minutes. I would call another branch and talk to someone who would transfer me back to the same place I had been 30 minutes ago. I made at least 15 different phone calls and talked to at least 12 different people.

I will admit that there were times when I was sobbing into the phone, and although a few of the people on the other end sounded sympathetic, there appeared to be no way they could help me. At one point I decided to change the tire myself and just drive to the airport, but then discovered that, although there was a spare tire and a jack, there were no other tools (lug wrench?) in the trunk.

After 90 minutes of this, I did manage to talk to someone who was going to come tow the car. I gave him directions to where it was, hoped he’d be able to find it, left the keys in the car, and called my hotel (that I had already checked out of) and asked them to send a taxi. The taxi driver obliged my request to drive really fast, and I even made my plane home. I have no idea if Avis ever got the car. I sure hope they did! Of course I have not heard from them.

Apple vs. Avis: Let’s contrast that experience with what happened when I discovered that I had a large crack in my beloved iPad screen. I’ve had the iPad for a few weeks now, and am definitely attached to it. Imagine my dismay upon discovering a huge crack. I called Apple (I always buy apple care for my apple products) and was transferred to a person in about 2 minutes. He actually wasn’t sure what to do (said it was the first time anyone had called in with a cracked screen to him). After first asking if the crack was sharp and would hurt me (it wasn’t, but I appreciated his concern), he asked if they could call me back. Which of course they promptly did. We then discussed options (go to a store, but there is no store near me, or send it in by fedex, or have them send me a new one and then I send it in etc), I picked an option, and the whole thing was taken care of in a matter of minutes.

I know that an iPad is not the same as a rental car. But the real difference here is that Apple wants to take care of problems and has created a support system to do so, and Avis has not. I pay to have “apple care” and they do care. Apple has put the customer/user experience high up on their list of priorites. Avis, on the other hand,  is a confused conglomeration of support around the world. I’d pay extra to have “avis care” but there is no such option. At this point, the slogan, “we try harder” is merely a slogan without any teeth behind it.

Apple will continue to get my business. Avis will not. Assuming I rent a vehicle once a month for $250 each time, that’s about $3000 a year. Over a 10 year period that’s $30,000. You’d think that Avis would not want to lose $30k of business from a single customer.

It’s all about the customer experience. It’s all about what happens when something goes wrong. Things always go wrong. Have you researched your company? What happens when something goes wrong for your customers? Have you experienced what it’s like from their point of view? Have you put time and attention on customer care when there are problems? Your true business is not just the product or service that customers initially come to you for. It’s the relationship you have with them. It’s when things go wrong that you find out who your friends really are. And it’s when things go wrong that you find out which businesses you want to continue to have relationships with. People make decisions about what companies to work with, and they make those decisions largely unconsciously. They will decide to work with companies they trust. How you handle problems and mistakes has a huge impact on trust.

What is the trust quotient of your organization?


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