by Rick Damaso
Let’s face it. We have become a “Google it” society. We can answer almost any question in .00012 seconds (according to Google’s search results page) and get a pretty accurate response. So, before attending the LeanUX15 conference in Brooklyn, NY, I wondered what would Google’s response be for UX’s impact on modern day Systems Development Life Cycles (SDLCs)? Was it even possible to wrap terms like DevOps, Kanban, Lean or Agile into a neat package with a UX bow on top?
More importantly though, does this matter? Or were these terms just the buzzwords from the “The Valley” that larger companies all around were simply talking about emulating? Do new philosophies really only announce themselves when blue chip companies start adapting them?
To say it depends is a boring answer. But, of course, it depends. As a researcher, however, I wanted a straight and narrow answer.
I thought it would be prudent to first set the stage. Here are some quick snippets of what a quick Google Search will give you relating to these new SDLCs and UX.
Agile- Developers focus on sustainable development. Sustainability is about good estimation, effective branching strategies for managing code, automated testing to protect quality, and continuous deployment to get fast feedback from users.
DevOps- DevOps is a software development method that emphasizes communication, collaboration (information sharing and web service usage), integration, automation, and measurement of cooperation between software developers and other IT professionals.
Kanban- Technique for managing a software development process in a highly efficient way. Producing software is a creative activity and therefore different to mass-production (Kanbans’s roots are in auto manufacturing) allowing us to apply the underlying mechanism for managing “production lines”.
Lean UX- Lean UX is a set of principles that may be used to guide you to better, more desirable solutions for users. It’s not a process in which each tool is rigidly applied. Instead a group of ideals and principles to guide you in the design process.
So, that makes sense. If I was a designer sitting in a room with other designers, communication and putting this philosophy in practice shouldn’t be that difficult in theory. But, when you take these practices out of Silicon Valley and introduce it to the landscape of companies like Microsoft or Spotify with teams of designers on separate continents, it can make your head spin. How could you package what looks and feels like a startup mentality and scale it up effectively?
LeanUX15 took this challenge head on during a four day event in Brooklyn, NY. This conference was not all that different from any other, unless you consider flamingo colored windbreakers and Paul Bunion beards different. But, all “hipster” jokes aside, the usual laid-back vibes you find in the heart of Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood was noticeably different. Product managers, Lead Designers, Software Engineers and representatives from some of the world’s most iconic brands were buzzing with excitement on bringing these results driven practices to companies everywhere.
As UX researchers, we encounter organizations along all stages of the UX maturity cycle and work on projects from formative to summative stages, so I was pleased to hear that UX research is taking a prominent role in these SDLCs. As opposed to traditional validation testing, we were now seeing rapid production of software married with UX researchers, architects and designers alike.
So what does this force us to do? To borrow from one of the themes of the conference, it means we are now in the age of Designing for Service, Not Just Software.
Here are some quick hits as to how UX is impacting development and strategic vision:
- Visualize your work, in knowledge clusters. Ideas are then disseminated to users as solutions in terms of their problems.
- With a UX lens, setting realistic Work In Progress limits for each stage of production is critical. Accounting for time slots within stages for user testing as opposed to piecing it together at the end.
- Manage flow to clearly identify bottlenecks and accurate metrics. When infusing UX research into your design process, you are hedging against expensive “revamps” at the tail end of your SDLC.
- Make Policies Explicit. Stick to your design, research and implementation policies! However, the #1 policy should always be, “If one of your policies does not work, change it”. By first following your process and analyzing what is wrong, you will be in a much better position to fix it.
- Implement Feedback Loops. Communicating accurate measurement with your target market is key. Measurements need to be relevant to the timing of your project, not “at the end of each quarter” or when “you have time for it”.
- Empowering yourself and your team to think- you are allowed to think and change processes. These SDLCs are not recipes, instead they are thought of as disciplines. Every question you ask yourself must be phrased as, “is this a driving force to consider design for servicing users or just designing software?”
The message for us as researchers when entering a new frontier of rapid development and testing can be wrapped up with a quote by Prof. Barbara Adam:
“The message for research is unambiguously clear: learning is a process with a history and a future; it is thus not containable within observable moments. It entails a joining of life-worlds, a drawing on collective and individual past knowledge as well as projected vision, all of which are brought to bear on the interactive present.”
by Kelly Nercess
Ever think about the interactions you have with a company? How each precise moment may seem tailored to your needs and catered towards the experience you are looking for? In the UX industry there is a technique used to ensure this end result and it’s called alignment diagrams. I had the opportunity to read a very interesting article on the idea of alignment diagrams and how they serve a perpetual purpose among the growth of companies. , written by James Kalbach & Pul Kahn, shared their discoveries on the business process and provided advice to take full advantage of each customer touch point.
There are three major design avenues that play a component in the user/customer process, those being: Information Architecture (IA), User Experience Design (UXD), and Service Design (SD). Along with these visual techniques to map out the strategic thinking to guarantee customer satisfaction, the idea of alignment diagrams allows a business to visually map out the touch points they have with a customer throughout the business process. Alignment diagrams are created to allow for a structure to reveal the customer touch points and give constructive insights to where the design and business process needs to be altered in order to optimize the experience.
There are two very important components to a successful alignment diagram, the customer behavior and the business process. Common visualizations that are used in the UX industry include: site maps, overview diagrams, workflows, customer journeys and service blueprints. These visualizations are gathered from a number of data collection methods, including: ethnographic observation, user interviews and card sorting. All of these methods play a unique role in gathering insights towards a positive user experience.
“The business focuses on maximizing a target market’s profits and potential for growth. Customer-centered design focuses on maximizing the value of a product or service to the customer” writes Kalbach & Kahn. The idea is to be able to pinpoint the location in the business process where there is an overlap between the consumer and the company. This maximizes the value for both parties and allows for a hyper focus on that exact moment of intersection. Decreasing the noise between the customer interactions and keeping the experience seamless proves to not only be beneficial towards the customer but also increase value for the business. Once the business understands customer perception and loyalty they can begin to align their business goals. Kalbach & Kahn also note, “Mapping the steps in a production and consumption process is the best way to see opportunities for improvement.”
Several other design techniques come into play when mapping out the steps of the business process. Using a service blueprint to help structure the customer journey is the best way for a designer to visually see where the issues occur. Furthermore, mental model diagrams allow you to visualize where your business strategy aligns with the current user experience. Journey maps play a large role in the experience design, allowing to fully map out the beginning to end. This will include the first time a potential customer researches the company to the point where they decide to make the purchase. All these interactions reiterate the idea of ‘touch points’, providing an opportunity to reconstruct that interaction to a more positive one. The journey map defines the customer perception of the company and illustrates the amount of time invested in to their ‘relationship’ with a business. Each touch point may be different for each customer. Someone who tends to spend more time researching the internet prior to a purchase will need a more personalized experience tailored to their specific needs. Someone who skips the research portion and spends an extensive amount of time interacting directly with the company versus purely researching it.
By using these techniques, specifically alignment diagrams, benefits both sides of the transaction – the customer and the business. The PJIM article’s closing statement says, “These visualizations reveal value that can not only aid in the creation of products and services, but also improve changes in the business strategy as well.” The important takeaway is to consider all aspects of the relationship between a business and customer. By leveraging these diagrams, you can discover opportunities that increase your customer loyalty and benefit your business strategy.
Last week a gift arrived at our doorstep. Wooden martini glasses. Impressed, excited (to drink a martini from a beautiful wooden glass!), and a tad confused we opened the envelope. It read: “Happy 5th Anniversary, Key Lime Interactive. May we someday have an opportunity to send you a gift of gold.”
One of our very first customers recalled the fact that 5 years ago this month Key Lime Interactive was born and in celebration sent us a gift for our traditional “Wooden” Anniversary.
5 years. Half a decade. How it flew! We’ve seen significant growth in revenue, clients and industries served, team members, in the beautiful growing families of team members, in office space, geographical reach, in available tools, in demanded products. It’s been quite a journey and we’re still looking forward so intently that we nearly missed our own birthday!
- Revenue: 10x what it was in 2009.
- Clients: We once had a small list of a few Fortune 5000 folks, today we’ve worked with 56 different clients (and this doesn’t count the wonderful clients that we interact with via our agency relationships, thanks agency friends!), 40% are Fortune 500!
- 10% of our clients have integrated us into their organization and hold retainers with KLI; we just adore our clients.
- We’ve opened an official office in NYC, based on the demand of said client base and the KLI talent we have in the Northeast.
- We’ve begun hiring West coast talent to cater to our clients in the bay area; that’s been working out just perfectly. We’re continuing to hire – interested?
- We joined the UXFellows and are pleased that 1/3 of our work supports global research needs.