As UX designers, we’re often involved in project planning. I am happy to be able to write ‘often’ — it wasn’t always the case in the past. We used to say that we were ‘missing the seat at the table’. Now, when we’re in that seat, we need to know what to do. That’s why I’d like to talk about starting UX projects today. What to do? What to consider? Let’s look at some basics.
First things first
The easiest way to think about this is to ask a few questions. Here’s what I often ask myself and my colleagues when the wheel starts to spin. This list isn’t exhaustive, but it includes questions I always ask.
- What is the rationale for delivering a product or a service in question? We need to make sure that there is actual demand for what we want to bring to life. And that demand can only be validated by looking at the needs and problems of people — our customers. Replace ‘customers’ with ‘citizens’ if you’re employed in a public sector or other non-profit organisation.
- Who are our users? How can we find them and ask them about their problems and needs? Here’s a tip: asking for problems doesn’t mean forcing our ideas and approach upon people. It’s better to identify what works for them and empower them with the support of our solution. That’s a huge mind shift from traditional UX and service design, where we mostly overburden people with things we believe they need. You’ll hear more on that from me in the future.
- What are our desired business (or organisational) outcomes? Why are we doing this and how are we going to measure the success?
- What similar services or products are on the market and how do we know that they aren’t good enough? Is there a gap that we can fill with our new idea?
- What resources do we have available? It might be difficult to conceive a large-scale service if we don’t have the skills or support of our peers. It’s important to remember that design is everyone’s responsibility — and not just UX designers. We are not magicians (contrary to popular belief).
- What are the ethical considerations? What groups might we marginalise by not making our product inclusive and accessible? How can we address that? Whilst it’s difficult to create a product that works for everyone, we need to be aware of our actions. Is there anything we should point out to our stakeholders to help them make the right decision?
- What biases are we working against? Are we in a position of privilege? For example, are we in danger of creating a product that supports one view (i.e. a perspective of a white-educated-European-male)? How can we open ourselves up to diversity?
- What technologies are we planning to use, and how well are these suited towards meeting our goals? Just because someone has sold our bosses a licence for Microsoft SharePoint doesn’t mean that we have to use it to run a small blog. A ReactNative app might be a good cost-saver, but is it going to give people a good experience? What solution would best satisfy both users and the business? These questions are for the stakeholders, and there will be battles to be won here, so be prepared.
- How can we run the research in a way that doesn’t overburden our organisation? What are our goals and questions we want to ask end-users? Here’s another tip: just because it’s often best to plan and conduct a super-professional study, it doesn’t mean that you have to do it. Agility over processes, and function over form. The best way is simply to open a conversation with your customers and keep it open. If your workplace isn’t great at that, it’s your job to raise your concerns and to offer a solution.
- Was there ever a piece of research run on this before we stepped in? You’d be surprised how much useful information you can find in the marketing department, or at a call centre. Reach for it — your colleagues know your customers. However, remember that no one knows your users better than they do. To assume otherwise could become catastrophic. You have to talk to your end-users. That is your priority. It might be easier if another department at your company did this before. If not — read point nine.
How to do it?
- Include all colleagues involved in building the product. Make sure that you have access to those who make strategic decisions. They might tell you it’s not their job to discuss small things like these. Feel free to remind them that these ‘small things’ might decide about someone’s experience. Satisfaction from that experience will translate itself to revenue.
- Run a workshop (not another boring business meeting that everyone’s tired of) to align them. Consider your stakeholders to be your ‘users’. Make them collaborate, not interrogate them.
- Escape formality as much as you can, but keep communicating using the language of your peers, not yours. Our UX ling is full of jargon and barely anyone from outside of our world understands it.
- Insist from the beginning on including a diverse group of end-users in the ideation process. I cannot stress that enough. ‘Diverse’ is the keyword here.
Check it yourself.
Do what you can. This recipe works for me, but you might need to alter it to your needs and the environment of your workplace. Any questions? Write a comment here or on LinkedIn.
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