Principal Experience Researcher Kelly Moran takes an informative and engaging look at bringing ethnographic research into software design.
Human data, combined with analytic data, is essential to building customer-centric experiences, applications and culture. To do it well, you need to really understand your target and the people whose behavior you’d like to affect. Human data is about customers’ emotions, aspirations, motivations and goals. Layering this human data with quantitative data enables us to develop an experience-based differentiation for our service or product.
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.
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.
"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.
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: 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.