BigWP Americas 2020
I recently had the pleasure of giving a talk for the BigWP event in May of 2020. This was the first year they held it online as a virtual event. Usually the event is live from San Francisco or New York. Thank you so much everyone for having me. I welcome questions or conversations after the event so please do reach out anytime!
Link to slides
Exposure is key to evidence-based decision making for product teams. Why speculate about the people we are building and designing for? Our teams need a deep understanding of their needs and their environments.
One big challenge we all have is balancing stakeholder goals with user’s needs and this is often one of the first UX problems, we need to solve for.
What is great UX at scale?
Great UX means serving those stakeholder goals and user’s needs simultaneously. How do we do it? Through strategic research.
One thing we know for sure is that good user experience, equals good business 1,000% of the time. Every dollar invested is 1,000% return on investment.
It’s a great quote from Jacob Nielsen of the Nielsen Norman Group. Here are two more links for you.
What is the value and impact of our work, when we embed research and usability exposure?
For our product teams:
- We avoid feature bloat.
- We create delightful experiences while solving problems we were not aware existed
- One source of truth for all.
- We can be proactive with problem-solving, rather than reactive
- We unlock what users really want
- We improve the usability of our work generally
Embedded research and design provide an impact and value for stakeholders too:
- Free up internal resources
- Improve onboarding and conversion rates
- Sleep better at night knowing you have happy customers
- Unlock ways to upgrade sales, find reoccurring sales, or new business opportunities
- Impress your friends and colleagues
- Everyone will thank you for the work you are doing.
There are many different research methods and tactics, right at our fingertips. For this talk, I’ll shed some light on just one of our favorite tactics, the semi-structured informal study. I’ll also share a great common sense formula we learned from Jared Spool for all members of a product team.
We are all making design decisions, and we want to empower our teams with an evidence-based decision making resources through our research. Just enough research is key, and a semi-structured informal research study is lean and flexible. It’s great to use at any stage of a project. It features prepared questions and tasks. Furthermore, a facilitator can spend more or less time on an interview question, if they’re gaining useful insights and it pairs nicely with some exposure or observable usability testing.
We are not testing users. We are testing our software.
We always want to expose our software to users with a method that will deliver the most impact for our efforts. We are not testing users. We are testing our software. For example, let’s review some insights from some recent work at XWP Unsplash has a new VIP plugin for WordPress adding the entire searchable Unsplash image library to the WordPress dashboard.
It’s located right where editors need it to be. They can easily and freely publish beautiful, performant, and high-quality content directly from the media library. The Unsplash plugin is currently (May 21,2020)in an alpha state and we are launching an Early Access Program as we speak. This project was kicked off with a useful informal semi-structured research study. The Work clearly unlocked critical user journeys through publishing media and much more.
When we embed this kind of design research into our workflows, the deliverables are extremely useful too. What gains are created? Well, this work provides useful iterative ways to build and ship user-centric product solutions. By focusing on the critical user journey we were also able to provide solutions for both the classic editor, and the transformative block editor experiences.
These deliverables are great for facilitating important conversations
Here’s an example of a deliverable.
This is a journey map we drafted in an early phase of engagement with Google’s AMP Project. These deliverables are great for facilitating important conversations with engineering teams and stakeholders alike. Flow diagrams are also very useful for helping teams to remove unnecessary complexities in their customer communication channels and onboarding flows – because we’ve done just enough or the right research. We can make an impact on behalf of both our users/customers as well as for stakeholders. Marketing directors and their teams benefit hugely from this tactical work.
How do we do it?
Each study has a set of primary research questions that our teams need to unlock answers for. Additionally, there are two parts to a semi-structured study. The interview, and the exposure. It’s good to note that fully remote teams can also employ this research method to surface any evidence of existing friction and to gain usability insights. The study should include flexible probing and unbiased questions and should be used early and reoccurring as needed in project work.
Part One: Interviews
It’s amazing how often teams lack awareness about who they’re designing and building for and in what environments or circumstances they are using (or trying to use) our products!
We start by identifying personas or user groups, and the scenarios for our teams before writing any guidelines. We always include feedback from stakeholders as well. Often they have questions or need insights regarding customer motivations, needs, and behaviors too.
Part Two: Exposure and observable sessions
Again, we are not testing users we are testing our software. Often, Our goal is to shorten tool time and increase goal time while surfacing the evidence of friction in their current experience. We carefully select the tasks, needed for validation or for new insights in terms of usability.
Next, we synthesize and analyze the data from our recorded sessions. Then we present our findings to teams so we can prioritize our work together and make evidence-based decisions for the project. Often a slide deck is created and issues and roadmaps get adjustments.
The exposure formula
High-performance teams working at scale benefit from this practice and formula. This is a key takeaway for product teams and stakeholders alike. (From UIE and Jared Spool’s teachings and we love it!)
Every member of the product team dedicates two hours of direct exposure with users, every six weeks. What does this mean? This means actively observing through screen sharing, or when possible sitting with people in real-time so users can show how they work to accomplish tasks using our software. We need to be able to ask them questions and observe them working as they talk us through to truly understand how usable our work is.
Although XWP and UXATT have both been fully remote companies since their inceptions. In the past our teams have conducted these informal research studies at conferences and using screen sharing, recorded video sessions. At XWP we kicked off the Unsplash project with a series of sessions at WordCampUS to help us understand users behaviors and needs clearly. This field research tactic helped us to unlock important critical user journeys as people publish media in their different scenarios.
Work smarter, not harder. We all recognize bad user experience immediately. However, when UX is working well for us we hardly notice our tools and simply accomplish our goals with ease. When our experiences friction-free the UX can be invisible. But that does not mean it’s not valuable!
UX is a user-centric approach to designing and building products
UX is embedded in every experience and interaction we share as humans
UX is a shared responsibility to ensure we create secure performant and accessible awesomeness for the world.
Thank you for the opportunity to share some UX strategies and tactics.
I love this stuff!