The making of a UX talk
A few months ago I was invited to speak at this year’s Apps World in London.
The conference is largely planned for an audience of developers so I wanted to make sure my speech, as a User Experience designer, would somehow inspire them.
I’ve been working with development teams for a while and I know how demanding they are. Plus, we all heard the story about how designers and developers don’t get along and so I wanted to get over that.
Data. Shouldn’t all our decisions be based on data?
As a User Experience designer, I spend a lot of time looking at data and what our end-users need (or think they need).
So, to make sure I was on the right track with my thinking, I put together an online survey that I could share with developers to find out about their teams, the struggles of working with the creative team and what would make this talk worthwhile to attend.
Typeform. A quick and easy tool to build an online survey.
I’ve written a post about Usability Testing Tools for Quick and Early Feedback for Envato Tuts+ and come across this tool. I was immediately looking forward to trying it (some advertisement goodness going on!) and so I did when I had the chance.
Typeform has a basic free plan that is incredibly easy to use and will help you get some good insights to inform your decisions.
I started by thinking about what I wanted to learn with the survey.
I usually speak to designers and I knew I wanted to cover topics like ‘The importance of UX’; ‘How can we make sure we allow time to think about the User Experience’; but I also wanted to make sure I’d do it in a way it could engage the audience in the conversation.
So I put together a list of questions and it took me less than 10 minutes to create the form. The learning curve to use the tool is so little that by the first 2 minutes I was already considering upgrading to PRO 🙂
Can you spare 5 minutes of your time?
I’ve shared the survey with my developer friends, I’ve shared it on Twitter, Facebook and at work. I’ve asked everyone to share it with their friends and colleagues. After two weeks, I had a good set of responses to look at and map out.
‘Are you actively part of a Scrum team?’
To begin with, I wanted to understand what percentage of developers were embedded in a scrum team — I was trying to assess if they were working agile or waterfall (my assumption was that if they were working waterfall it’d be more likely they did it in silos).
64% of the respondents are embedded in a Scrum team but 28% of them don’t work with a User Experience designer.
As a developer, which difficulties (if any) do you usually face when working with the creative team?
Development not being involved in key decisions, inconsistencies in the designs, dealing with big egos…
“By the time development starts, the creative spark has often left, and the creatives see the detailed questions and challenges as a burden”
“The most problematic difficulties arise when the designs are either not available when starting work or when there are inconsistencies in designs”
The majority of the creative teams with whom the respondents work with don’t involve them in key decisions — like, for example, sketching ideas to get to a solution.
So I started putting together my slides.
The importance of shared understanding
A large percentage of the respondents showed frustration when dealing with the creative team, so I thought this would be a great opportunity to reinforce the importance of shared understanding, and how we can bring our skills together to deliver a great User Experience.
Scrum. Refining the process.
My team works under Scrum. This methodology allows us to refine the process along the way. It encourages us to be transparent to each other which helps (a lot!) identify issues sooner.
I encourage them to be collaborative (always!) and supportive. I believe that a team that works well together should stay and grow together!
This is a group exercise I absolutely love. It was introduced to me by my colleague Nirish (he worked at Webcredible, the company that came up with this brilliant idea) and now I use it to raise awareness for the importance of shared understanding.
What you do is you have a paper divided into 8 squares. The top squares have their sides cut so they can be folded. You write a simple sentence in the top left corner and pass it along to the person on your right.
This person will draw whatever they read in that sentence, fold the square with the sentence (so it’s hidden) and pass it along to the person on their right. And so on.
When the paper comes back to you, you’ll see, the message got lost! If not entirely, at least some bits.
You were sharing a document. You weren’t communicating, no one was looking at your body movement, no one heard your tone of voice — the message got lost. No shared understanding.
Make sure you have time to think about the User Experience!
We are all responsible for delivering a great Experience to our users.That said, there are loads of opportunities to work collaboratively during the course of a project:
Vision and initial Research
By the time the business (and the Product Owner) comes up with the initial vision, the entire team needs to be involved and should start discussing the whats and whys. It’s absolutely important that as a team we understand what we’re aiming to achieve, why we want to achieve it and what we’ll be doing to make it happen.
Also, it’s good to participate in initial research sessions (Focus groups, surveys, Personas creation, etc.) to build empathy with our audience and understand their limitations and motivations.
The team should be involved in writing assumptions and initial user stories so by the time they need to start coming up with solutions everyone is on the same page.
Designers should take part in planning sessions and work towards a sprint goal. It’s ok to do JUST ENOUGH design in early stages to test and iterate as much as possible. In the meantime, the development team should have a good understanding of what they’re about to build and can kick off with analysis and more complex infrastructure sprints.
Sketching and Prototyping
If you’ve read some of my previous articles, you know I’m always keen on involving the whole team in sketching sessions. Not only development but also stakeholders. Sketching together means we’ll come up with better solutions that immediately have buy-in from everyone in the room.
You can read about how to set up a sketching session here.
This is the most important bit — I’ve read this quote somewhere in the past and I absolutely agree with it:
“The best design decisions are still just assumptions until you validate them with your end users”
Testing with your end-users can actually save the Business a lot of money and will avoid the development team having to go back (which we know, rarely happens, and we end up having to live with the fact that we launched a product that doesn’t work).
It’s absolutely rewarding to design a product that users will love and visit often. Make sure you’re delivering a great User Experience by allowing time to user test your product while you’re still designing it.
The Conference was held at the ExCel in London. There were around 5 streams of talks (Coding workshops, UX/UI Design, Bot World, etc.) and lots of stands.
VR (Virtual reality) stole the show — I’m always amazed with the state of things — evolution amazes me. I’ve run by a car exhibitor where there were NO CARS. Just a seat and a VR kit. The woman trying the VR was completely immersed in the experience — can’t wait for IKEA to build our dream kitchen and get us to experience it before even buying it.
Nervousness and relief. And all the good feedback.
It’s nerve-wracking trying to be somehow inspirational. And it’s a relief when you say ‘Thank you’ and get really interesting questions. It really feels great when you’re on your way home and start getting feedback.
You go from saying that this is not for you to saying you could do this more often. And it definitely helps me learn, and improve.