projekt202 Co-Founder and Chief Experience Officer Peter Eckert reflects on 13 years of building better digital experiences for people everywhere.
How would you like to know what your customers really want and value, and what motivates them to actively engage with your products and services? projekt202's Vice President of Experience Strategy and Insight Aliza Gold discusses the use of experience strategy to discover patterns and themes that provide deeper, more valuable insights into customers' needs and motivations.
Understanding your customers is more than just good business. In today's competitive environment, it can be the deciding factor in whether your company sinks or soars. projekt202 Chairman and CEO David Lancashire recently discussed the ways companies can fully leverage user experience (UX) strategies and shared his predictions of what's on the UX horizon.
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.
In this conversation with the Co-Founder and Chief Experience Officer (CXO) of projekt202, Peter Eckert looks at his company's origins and what lies ahead for companies striving to deliver the best possible customer experiences.
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.
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 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.
"Engagement. Opportunities. Advancement. Those are three motivational differences that set projekt202 apart."
These significant characteristics have made projekt202 the employer of choice for Solutions Architect Reggie Samuel and our team of talented, dedicated professionals. Reggie shared the ways that projekt202 stands out:
In my nearly three years with projekt202, I have experienced unique opportunities that have grown me professionally and personally. Beginning as a Senior Developer and having since been promoted to Architect, where I now manage a small group of Developers, I have had the opportunity to hone my communication skills and succinctly relate our vision to my team.
projekt202 has a well-laid-out roadmap for its employees to develop their skill sets and build knowledge for career advancement, be engaged in the work they perform, and receive incentives for outstanding employee performance.
Map out your career as part of the projekt202 team. See our current opportunities in Seattle, Austin and Dallas.
"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.
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.
The projekt202 team went back to school recently to coach the next class of UX designers. The UX Club at The University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) hosted projekt202 for an interactive Design Research Workshop on March 31. Senior UX Designer Chelsea Maxwell, Experience Researcher Nick Ansel, Talent Coordinator Jessica Hart and Vice President of Customer Experience Jeremy Johnson shared their expertise in conducting research and the many ways it informs the design process.
The collaborative session helped UTD students investigate and answer research-driven questions such as: Who are the customers and users of our technology? What do they actually need? What methods help reveal those needs? How does research fit into the design process?
In one exercise, students were asked to "design a hat" with no other guidance or restrictions. The attendees' heady imaginations were brimming with creations of all shapes, sizes, colors and purposes.
To top things off, however, few of the designs could really meet a specific user's needs. This was an important and enlightening "aha!" moment: students realized that without research to guide design, they were simply throwing out prototypes to see what might work.
At another point in the workshop, students interviewed Nick about his daily trip to work, then watched a video of his actual commute.
There were notable differences between the interview and the real-world observations. Like many users in similar interview situations, Nick didn't mention details that would be critical in solving commuting-related problems. By simple observation, however, these factors were easily discovered.
Using their interview and observational notes, UX Club members performed Affinity Diagramming to develop high-level insights that would inform their designs. They then wireframed creative and innovative mobile apps to make workday trips easier and more efficient for frustrated commuters.
"It was a treat helping students bring theory into practice," Nick said. "It’s great to see such curious and passionate students make the most out of their interest in UX. It reassures me of the bright future ahead for the experience design community."
A bright, experience-driven future is a large part of the mission of the UX Club. It envisions the reality of its students playing crucial roles in Dallas design.
The student professional club actively works to increase awareness of user-centered design. To understand and create well-designed experiences, the UX Club provides its members with opportunities -- such as the projekt202 Design Research Workshop -- to network with industry leaders around Dallas-Fort Worth.
As Chelsea explained to the group, projekt202's methodology and best practices are easily applied to the students' coursework and personal projects, enabling them to strengthen their portfolios and experience.
"What's really awesome is that schools are starting to catch up with what is going on in the industry," she said. "Previously, in regards to technology, what schools were teaching and what skills were needed by employers were miles apart. We're starting to see that change -- for example, with the UX Club and courses offered in design."
Jessica said, "It was exciting to watch them take in our methods -- interviewing, affinity diagramming, wireframing -- and contribute their own ideas to solve real-world problems in innovative ways. The big takeaway of the evening for them was that observing users is absolutely crucial to strong design."
With a passion for changing the experiences people have with all aspects of technology, the projekt202 team members appreciated the opportunity to share their professional insights.
"Working with such a bright and curious group is always rewarding. It keeps me sharp while also nurturing the profession with critical knowledge-sharing activities," Nick said. "I was honored to share what makes projekt202 such a great place to practice my craft: the culture, the work and a focus on bettering experiences everywhere."
projekt202 sincerely thanks the members of the UX Club, and the students and faculty of The University of Texas at Dallas.
Photos courtesy of Jessica Hart, Jeremy Johnson and the UX Club at UT Dallas
Challenge: We need to disrupt the ERP market … starting with our own software
An operational technology distributor decided to change how enterprise resource planning (ERP) software is built and used in the marketplace. Over the course of the global company’s growth, its existing ERP software had fossilized into a cumbersome, difficult obstacle. Inconsistent user experiences began negatively affecting sales as more niche-focused competitive threats emerged, increasing pressure on the firm’s R&D.
Recommendations: New personas facilitate better communication and awareness
Observing over 200 core ERP users across 12 countries in more than 60 enterprise environments provided projekt202’s Experience Strategy and Insight and UX team with a wealth of key insights. For instance, while most users had difficulty learning and using the software, the two largest issues were process awareness and communication. Most enterprises using ERP solutions also experienced inefficient use, long training times and high staff turnover.
From this comprehensive data, projekt202 created eight company-wide personas to emphasize users’ needs. Workflow models for each gave teams more insight into persona needs. New navigation frameworks were validated with users before core development and platform planning began. Tools and concepts were created for communication and process awareness. projekt202 also created and presented design guidelines, principles and themes to the client's R&D team.
Results: Improved UX leads to greater demand and renewed customer loyalty
The client saw improved demand for its existing and in-development ERP solutions. Reduced needs for training, call center activity, and help and documentation validated improved user experiences. Improvements led to increased customer loyalty.
Tools built for the new ERP solution became omnipresent across the client platform. The R&D team was trained on projekt202's methodology, now an essential part of the team’s strategy. Interactive design resources and pattern libraries are used throughout the organization to drive marketing efforts and further increase growth.
More than five years later, projekt202 continues its successful design and development partnership that grew out of this initial project.
Challenge: Applications are running into language barriers
One of the world’s top technology and hardware development companies needed consistency across its enterprise suite of over 80 applications. A streamlined enterprise design language, uniform navigation and standard product guidelines were essential.
Recommendation: Create language and workflow consistency
With its experience-driven design research methodology, projekt202 was asked to improve key workflows for high-revenue products and establish a design-thinking approach within the enterprise organization.
To gain insights into core users, projekt202’s team observed IT administrators, revealing that more than half of the applications were controlled by third-party development teams. In addition, many products had overlaps in functionality.
projekt202 also conducted a visual design exploration that would become the foundation for the company’s enterprise design language. This created a new look and feel to apply to an initial set of core products, showcasing their scalability and flexibility.
Results: Uniform language delivers pronounced revenue increases and brand reception
Applying its synthesized data from direct user observations, projekt202 built a new navigation across large portions of the application suite. The team also created an online repository to facilitate the new enterprise design language and its patterns. With these guidelines, the client established requirements for all third-party teams, which formed a more streamlined, cohesive and integrated suite of applications.
As a result of projekt202’s work:
- The client’s software as a service (SaaS) revenue has grown dramatically, along with its Net Promoter Score (NPS), a valuable indicator of business performance and brand experience
- The company bulked up its internal user experience (UX) team from three members to more than 30
- Employees have access to continuing education on experience-driven design and UX classes, taught by 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.