Senior Experience Strategist Shannon Graf and User Experience Researcher Cason Swindle provide a look at the work of projekt202's Experience Strategy and Insight (ESI) team.
By Kelly Moran
Principal Experience Researcher, projekt202
Originally published in Medium
Why do we need to observe people to learn from them? Why does a product owner need to observe her end users to discover problems? Why should a business observe its customers to uncover needs?
Can’t we just ask?
Observation is a critical part of the process of understanding people — whether they be users, customers, clients, or even friends or family. You need to experience a person’s context, with them, to really get what’s important.
Imagine aliens came down for a visit. If they asked you to tell them about your day, what would you say? You would likely start off in vaguely chronological order and tell them you wake up, get out of bed, wash up and get dressed. You might mention breakfast and, if it’s important to you, you’ll note the nutritional makeup of that meal. Then you’ll move on to the things you do after leaving your house — get in the car, buckle up, drop off children (please note that they’re yours), drive to work. You may remember now that you think they should know you locked your doors and set the security alarm. It would go something like that.
Think a little about what else you might tell them. I’ll wait.
Did you remember to include breathing? You do it all day long. It’s so much a part of your existence that you don’t usually think about. What happens when the aliens go back home and build you a habitat that doesn’t include air? In my industry, we call that a usability problem.
Whose fault would that problem be? Should you have been responsible for providing an exhaustive list of your daily needs and habits? Or should those expecting you to thrive in this new experience have been more involved in collecting the necessary data to make adoption easier?
You can’t expect people to tell you everything they need. If you ask, they’ll give you aspirational answers or focus on the things they really care about; like the kids, or the food, or the safety measures. In-context observation is what I (and many others) do to discover unarticulated and implicit needs — those things that are as natural to the user population as breathing. We want to see people filling their lungs in exasperation, or huffing out in relief. Hear the hiss of a startled response, or the sigh of contentment. We are literally looking for air.
And that’s why we can’t just ask.
projekt202's Senior UX Designer Chelsea Maxwell and Vice President of Customer Experience Jeremy Johnson share their expertise in an illuminating new episode of "Expose UX," a TV show devoted to identifying user experience (UX) issues and solutions.
The latest episode shines a spotlight on Openbrite, whose modular LEDgoes products allow businesses to create programmable LED marquee displays of any size, shape, color and speed. However, its creators are struggling to clearly pinpoint their key audiences.
Along with fellow UX expert James Helms, Chelsea and Jeremy open up with their own bright advice on the importance of targeting exact users. Watch the new episode now.
An entire industry has grown up around agile methods for software development, but isn't there something better, something beyond agile?
In this podcast with projekt202's Chief Technology Officer, Rob Pierry discusses key aspects that make cross-functional teams effective and how moving beyond agile can have a profound impact on a company's success.
Some of projekt202's Thought Leaders -- representing key areas such as User Experience (UX) Design, Technology, and Experience Strategy, among many others -- broadcast their expertise in solving complex challenges facing today's businesses. Their presentations were recorded this week as part of projekt202's new Thought Leadership series. The videos showcase the experts behind projekt202's methodology and holistic approach to experience-driven application development.
Learn more about what we do at projekt202.
In the world of UX design, what are three key areas primed for real change?
In this podcast with projekt202′s Vice President of User Experience, Mike Blakesley looks at the present and future states of the industry, and discusses significant UX opportunities to leverage in the remainder of the year and into the next.
"I have seen myself grow into a management position where I can mentor others."
If you're looking for a range of opportunities, you'll find them at projekt202, says Creative Director, UX Mike Townson:
Over the four years I have worked at projekt202, I've learned a lot, thanks to the ability to work on multiple client projects in many different industries. I have been involved in rigorous research activities and design sessions of complex software systems, educated Fortune 50 companies on the value of research and UX to get the job done right the first time, and worked alongside brilliant development teams, watching my designs come to fruition.
Along with all those opportunities, I have had the chance to move to another city and start a new life in a new office, yet with the same great company.
One of the things I have learned through my four-year career is that "you won't know the answer unless you ask" and "you can always learn something new."
Ready for something new? See our opportunities in Seattle, Austin and Dallas.
In a brand-new episode of "Expose UX," a TV show devoted to identifying user experience (UX) issues and solutions, projekt202's Vice President of Customer Experience Jeremy Johnson deals expert advice to a North Texas startup.
The latest episode highlights UrComped, a platform that connects casino players to loyalty rewards. UrComped's creators realize it's a safe bet that they need solid information architecture to help people learn about rewards they wouldn't have otherwise discovered.
What inside tips and winning strategies will the three-of-a-kind panel of UX experts -- Jeremy Johnson, Adam Polansky and Elisa Miller -- raise with the UrComped team? For the payoff, watch the new episode now.
"I knew that moving to projekt202 was the right move for my career. What I didn't know at the time, though, was how impactful the job was going to be for me."
projekt202 has been a moving experience for Senior UX Designer Jerehmie Cannon.
Jerehmie headed in a new direction -- northwest, to be exact -- with the opening of projekt202's Seattle office in 2013.
"The relocation was great and everyone in the Seattle office -- four people at the time -- really went out of their way to make sure I was set up with everything I needed on a personal level," he said. "The move to Seattle was seamless and now I'm fortunate enough to learn how to grow a fledgling office."
On the professional level, too, Jerehmie said projekt202 has provided him with exciting new challenges and opportunities:
I've gone from being a Senior Designer with basic delivery responsibilities to completely owning projects from start to finish.
projekt202 is great about figuring out where people fit best. Our leadership has a knack for asking and inferring what each of us really want out of our careers. They foster an environment that is flexible enough to let us figure our own way.
I have been fortunate enough to work with huge clients, but the level of talent at projekt202 is so high that I'm constantly challenged to be a better designer, consultant and professional.
Ready to make the next move in your career? Find your opportunity to join us in Seattle, Austin or Dallas.
"It's going to tie directly back to what we're designing, building, taking into market and driving revenue streams with."
How are companies missing out if they fail to employ user-experience (UX) strategies and what impact does this approach have on their bottom lines?
In this conversation with projekt202's Chairman and CEO, David Lancashire shares the real-world ROI of user experience, his advice to skeptics about embracing UX, and his predictions on the resources that companies will invest in and adopt in coming years.
What was your user experience "aha!" moment? That was the question put to North Texas technology leaders, including projekt202 Chairman and CEO David Lancashire, at Celebrate UX on May 12. The networking event for Dallas' technology, design and business communities was hosted by producers of the TV show "Expose UX."
David shared his UX story of meeting projekt202 Co-Founder Peter Eckert.
"Peter talked about the programmatic methodology he'd been working on since 2003, a repeatable framework to gain customer and user understanding to capture their wants, needs, aspirations and even their emotional connection points. It was the reality of delivering a great user experience," David recalled. "This framework for gaining real customer insights was a breath of fresh air."
It was so refreshing, in fact, that David bought projekt202. The trustworthy methodology developed by Peter -- now the company's Chief Experience Office -- is used by projekt202 today to help companies and organizations deliver better digital experiences for people everywhere.
Along with David, executives from AIGA Dallas, Launch DFW, Women Who Code Dallas, Big Design Events and the Dallas Entrepreneur Center discussed their key moments of UX enlightenment.
Compelling user-experience stories also liven up "Expose UX." In each episode, startups make their best product pitches to a panel of local UX experts; panelists have included projekt202's Vice President of Customer Experience Jeremy Johnson and Senior UX Designer Chelsea Maxwell. Participants receive useful feedback and, if their pitches are strong enough, a variety of prizes. As one producer described the show, "It's 'Shark Tank' for design."
The Celebrate UX event in Dallas was the kick-off to the "Expose UX" Kickstarter tour, as well. The TV crew will travel to 25 U.S. cities to showcase its program and, no doubt, capture more UX "aha!" moments along the way.
"I believe that form also needs to follow empathy. We need to truly understand the things that people try to accomplish in their daily lives, how they do it, where they struggle ... and have that empathy on the deepest level for their situation. Once we understand what they truly need, then everything comes together."
In this podcast with projekt202's Co-Founder and Chief Experience Officer (CXO), Peter Eckert sheds light on his company's origins, the principle of "form follows empathy" and his predictions about the evolution toward a global, connected Experience of Things.
Follow Peter Eckert on Twitter: @petroid
"It is changing the industry ... This approach has at times been called 'design thinking.' At projekt202, we like to call it also 'experience thinking,' because it really is all about people's experiences."
"Understanding those elements," she says, "is what helps us design, create and envision experiences that people really value and can connect with emotionally."
Follow Aliza Gold on Twitter: @alizagold
Fast-growing projekt202 has announced senior leadership promotions on its Austin team.
Co-Founder and Chief Experience Officer Peter Eckert will take on added responsibilities as projekt202 Ambassador, increasing his industry outreach to actively promote the company's programmatic, observation-based methodology. Peter will drive strategic guidance for clients and present his renowned, industry-defining insights on national and international tech stages.
Recognizing the robust opportunities available for innovation, the April event brought together forward-thinking experts to prescribe tech solutions for the health care industry.
projekt202's Amber Lindholm, Director of Experience Strategy and Insight, served as featured speaker and judge, along with leaders from athenahealth, Dell Medical School and Patient IO.
With $6,000 in prize money at stake, teams strategized and made health care tech pitches to the judging panel.
Winning teams were Hemolabs for best overall health care technology solution, DxMachina for best use of athenahealth API and Remedi for the best inpatient solution.
North Texas business leaders recently got a taste of what's possible in delivering improved customer experiences.
The projekt202 team shared customer experience (CX) insights at an invitation-only breakfast, held May 3 at the scenic Four Seasons Resort and Club in Irving.
Chairman and CEO David Lancashire and Vice President of Customer Experience Jeremy Johnson discussed projekt202's observation-based methodology for helping companies understand and deliver solutions their customers genuinely want and need.
To illustrate the importance of fully knowing an organization's audience, time was blocked out for a brief but creative exercise. Using Legos, teams were tasked with building prototypes for package-delivery vehicles.
Without a clear and complete picture of customers' and users' specific requirements, however, teams assembled a variety of vehicles, ranging from trucks and vans to airplanes and drones.
The constructive activity shed light on the basic understanding -- or, in many cases, misunderstanding -- that companies have of their users.
David said that most organizations fall somewhere on a broad spectrum of understanding their customers' needs, wants and emotional connection points. Customers are hungry for better, more fulfilling experiences, which can only be created through deeper, lasting insights.
This methodology is further outlined in the new book, "Designing Software for People: Application Development in the Experience Age." The book marks the latest chapter in projekt202's work to help businesses and their customers realize the full potential of technology.
Challenge: A retailer’s mobile presence didn’t pack the punch of its in-store experience
A nationwide retail chain couldn’t contain itself any longer: it realized that its mobile app was boxing the retailer into a corner. Customers were hampered by the app’s lack of responsive enhancements for phones and tablets, text that appeared too small and difficult to read, and navigation that was incompatible with touch devices. The retailer needed to shelve the cluttered app and, in its place, provide customers with a responsive and consistent user experience across all platforms.
Recommendation: Organize a full mobile redesign and updates to key features
projekt202’s team of designers and developers wireframed each section of the client’s existing mobile app. A visual design was presented to the retailer in the form of clickable prototypes, the frames of reference for projekt202’s developers to build the application. Developers also improved the app’s default font size to make text more legible, increased the size of the navigation buttons and redesigned menus for touch devices.
The projekt202 team made updates to the shopping section, where all filters, categories and product detail pages were overhauled to be more user-friendly. In addition, the wish list feature was redesigned so consumers could readily and conveniently access their favorite or saved items from any device.
Results: Exceeding the goal for reaching shoppers on mobile devices, with a mention in Forbes for Best Mobile Site Performance
A primary goal for the retailer was to boost the percentage of customers shopping from mobile devices, which previously stood at a rate of 0.1 to 0.375 percent. After projekt202 wrapped up its responsive redesign, the conversion rate surpassed that goal, rising to 0.45 percent. The increased rate of conversion meant more value to the retailer’s bottom line and the overall result was an accessible, better-organized and more user-friendly shopping experience.
In addition, Forbes cited the retailer for having the best mobile site performance, with a high score of 88 out of 100. These findings were based on a survey of 300 websites and mobile sites during the hectic holiday season. Companies were scored against 200 best practices, with criteria that included social media integration, contextual help including live chat and mobile optimization.
Challenge: An unreliable workforce design needs to be terminated
A global workforce management company was laboring under outdated, convoluted technology. Its primary management resource had grown inconsistent, unreliable and difficult to use. The organization needed to improve customer interactions, keep competitors at bay, and create a new user-centered design and development process internally.
Recommendations: A redesign, UX support and a demo that silences the competition
projekt202 identified pressures from key competitors, documented users’ frustrations and perceptions, and interviewed stakeholders to capture the vision of the organization. Based on its analysis, the projekt202 team recommended a user-friendly redesign of the client’s 900-screen legacy application; hiring dedicated user experience (UX) staff; and unveiling an impressive demo at industry trade shows to spark word-of-mouth and sales.
Results: Superior user experience delivers over $1 billion in sales
When presented at an industry conference, a new dashboard solution based on projekt202’s design research caused an immediate sensation. Sales demand doubled as customers eagerly anticipated its release to market. Development strategy and priorities reflected the huge interest generated by the prototype’s unveiling.
In addition, persona-specific roadmaps for the legacy application were produced and validated, and mobile tools supporting key workflows across all personas were established and released. A consistent new visual design language was built across all applications and products. Design guidelines, principles and themes were created, along with interactive design and pattern libraries. To reinforce the company’s tech foundation, projekt202 helped grow the client’s UX team to more than 20 employees.
As a result of this collaboration, the workforce management company saw sales skyrocket from $240 million to over $1 billion.
The sales and marketing divisions continue to rely on projekt202-constructed resources. Providing this superior user experience has led to a sustained design and development partnership between the client and projekt202.
Challenge: Taking stock of the ways customers actually use trading platforms
A leading investment and banking firm wanted to create a new standard for high-end trading by making its existing platform more user-friendly and engaging, allowing customers to become better investors.
Recommendation: Bank on a customized solution to make users feel powerful (especially in front of their spouses)
By observing the ways people researched and chose investments using resources from the client and its competitors, projekt202’s researchers gained several interesting insights. Customers wanted to feel powerful and in control by having the ability to customize the system to suit their needs.
In particular, men wanted the trading platform to look complex, sophisticated and important so they could impress their spouses. This vital emotional factor – which would have been overlooked by standard market research – was discovered through projekt202’s unique, contextually-relevant observations.
Based on these user insights, projekt202 recommended a new infrastructure that supported a customized trading solution to fit customers’ practical and emotional expectations. It needed to balance stability, familiarity, flexibility and reliability; maintain current customers’ loyalty; and add new generational users.
Results: Gaining an outstanding 97% adoption rate
projekt202 worked with the client’s development teams to create multiple concepts for the application’s UI framework. A fresh look emerged to complement the newly-designed tools. Throughout development, projekt202 and the client worked together to integrate controls and tighten layout and interactions.
This partnership created a world-class application that was stable, secure, efficient and fast.
The application was built to:
- understand the complex work of trading
- support users by giving them a market-wide perspective
- guide their decisions in making solid investments
The innovative application achieved a 97% adoption rate in the client’s first quarter. It was also recognized in the trade media and by renowned industry analyst firm Gartner for its outstanding, forward-thinking design, development and adoption.