What I Do
Using design thinking as an effective means of problem solving, I have been able to apply this approach to service propositions. Looking at the multiple touch points a customer interacts within a service which are often not just confined to digital interactions to create a cohesive experience.
As part of a successful team, it is important that UX collaborates with the wider members. As a UXer, I like to share my research findings with the wider team so that they know the challenges we face, can gain a shared vision of what success should look like and also to encourage team ownership of the final solution. In my experience, a team that is transparent and open not only works quicker towards end results but is allowing a more creative space for everyone to generate great ideas and possible solutions.
One of the methods I most often use to allow cross disciplinary collaboration is to run workshops. Many of the workshops I use are from the Gamestorming website and book. These include the 5-Whys to gain a deeper understanding of the root problem and Empathy Maps to try and empathize with users, stakeholders and clients when we have no direct means of engagement.
I am always looking at new methods to work collaboratively or new workshops to run that have a clear and tangible outcome. More recently, I have been looking into tools in how this could be possible with remote colleagues, using tools such as Google Hangout and Google Docs.
As part of my UX tool kit, wireframing is the means in which I am able to communicate designs to other designers, clients, developers, engineers or stakeholders. I am able to create a range of differing types and fidelity that hopefully matches the end requirement for that deliverable. Often, I sketch UI lo-fi designs on Post-Its so we can quickly map a user journey and iterate quickly. Sometimes I would use software such as Balsamiq for more detailed fidelity that can be used to explain a basic layout to a developer or stakeholder. When the deliverable requires a little more fidelity, I usually turn to Illustrator to design detailed layouts which some clients prefer to see.
When facing any design project, it is important we understand the problems and issues we are trying to solve. I don’t like to treat this as a block at the beginning of a project, but one that runs concurrently with the project. Once we understand these, we are able to apply metrics to any possible solution we proposing.
As part of this research work, I am able to provide a varying range of documentation to be circulate around the wider team, key stakeholders, clients and project sponsors. Deliverables include personas, heuristic evaluation, usability reports, site maps and user journey mapping.
During my career, I have had a lot of exposure to usability testing – conducted by myself, colleagues and usability agencies. I feel very comfortable running my own tests both on a one-to-one guerrilla test and within a formal lab environment that allows the wider team to watch and observe. I am able to detach myself emotionally from my own designs to allow for a fair test. In my opinion, I feel it is important to test often (even with a few participants) so that our design decisions and assumptions are in a constant validation loop.
Have also been part of large scale testing projects where I have given feedback and opinion on external projects. These being for mobile, tablet and desktop experiences, often where these experience are connected to multiple devices.
I am keen to push the projects I am working on to work responsively, either with the current design implementation or at least responsive ready. At a time when there are still many unanswered questions surrounding best practice in the responsive area, I feel passionately at looking at a single design fits all devices, rather than an individual designs for mobile, tablet and desktop (and now IpTV).
As part of finding the problems we are trying to solve through design, we must validate our ideas as early and quickly possible. I am a keen prototyper, from paper walk-through and clickable PDF and Axure to HTML prototyping. Depending on the solution we are proposing will inform on the appropriate means to validate with.
I find it also useful to prototype to demonstrate a complex idea or run through as a collaborative exercise, where everyone can add new ideas to the prototype in real-time. Saving on time going backwards and forwards via email.
The key use of prototypes for me is part of the validation process, most notably as part of a usability test. We are able to use these to validate design decisions made as well end-user presumptions.
To help visualise the vision of a product and the context it will be used, I like to present these as storyboards. This helps not only new people in project understand the direction and vision, but also acts a focal point for all project members for the shared understanding.
Working With Agile Teams
As with any design team, working with Agile can be challenging but equally rewarding. With the fast pace nature of sprint deliverables combined with the space required to understand user goals, I have evolved a method of creating sprint level wireframes based on story prioritisation as well as a vision set of wireframes that is tackling the wider proposition.
I find having the sprint deliverables more focused to the feature being developed and a wider ‘sprint 0’ set that are evolving constantly helps the wider team understand the wider context of that feature as well acting as a buffer between design & development.
As well as working well with Agile development teams, I believe we have been able to evolve this practice into more Lean practices. In essence, where are able to work in smaller batch sizes based on assumptions where we can use various validation types to understand if we have reached the most suitable solution. This allows us to not only bring design and development closer but also brings constant user feedback loops firmly into the overall process.
In addition to this, we are looking at better means of deliverables that enable the team to work more responsively to new experiment data. This includes pairing a designer with a developer to have a shared online design component as opposed to visual or wireframe designs for every sprint and/or release. It also encourages a more collaborative approach where silos are broken down, this making the overall process generally faster paced and open.
Analytics provide us with powerful insights into user behaviours. It is also a powerful way of using quantitative research in order to find out what is currently working and what is not. Often I use analytics for these insights that qualitative research can not expose. It is also an excellent method to benchmark designs against performance KPIs and applying a metric to both user and business goals.
User Interface / Visual Design
I am also a keen UI / visual designer as well as UX. Feel very comfortable to act to do this part of the design process as I come from a visual background. It is important that I separate the natural agendas of UI and UX design, but feel comfortable I am able to do this well