Tag: user experience

Design Thinking Series, Part 2: Design Thinking Workshop

Posted by on August 08, 2019

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“Everyone can—and does—design. We all design when we plan for something new to happen, whether that might be a new version of a recipe, a new arrangement of the living room furniture, or a new lay tour of a personal web page. So design thinking is something inherent within human cognition; it is a key part of what makes us human.”

—— Nigel Cross
Design Studies at The Open University, UK

 

Design thinking has been around for decades, used to create innovative new products even before Tim Berners Lee wrote the first Web page. The design agency IDEO is often credited with coining the term in the late 1970s to  better describe their human centered approach to problem solving.

However, design thinking has been increasingly adopted over the last ten years by digital designers applied to software and web design. This philosophy helps them bring a fresh breath of innovative thinking to the profession by engaging the people who know the most about what a product’s needs are— the people who will be using it— in the design process.

Design thinking collects a variety of approaches, exercises, and tools, into a unified process that places humans at the center of all decisions made. The process involves research and rapid ideation (a fancy term for idea generation) combined with telling compelling stories about how the product will be used and then prototyping and testing the ideas.

Simply thinking about the single interface or interaction point with a product is not enough. Instead, design thinking considers the users experience with not only products but with your organization as a whole over-time to design products that fit the user’s needs.

One important thing to understand about Design Thinking, though, is that it does not work to immediately find “a solution”. Instead the process works to understand what is needed, what a successful outcome will look like, and to ask the right questions before even thinking about the solution. This means stepping back from our assumptions and preconceptions about what can be done and instead considering what should be done.

Workshop Overview

The workshop is for people who may not consider themselves a “designer” but want to participate in the creative process to impact the final solution design and experience with guidance from design thinking experts. Thus, the team members in the workshop may often complain, “But I’m not a designer!” at first. The point of the workshop is not to put the burden of design on them, but instead to allow them to work with trained designers to help bring out their own natural abilities for solving problems that only they, as the user, may fully understand.

The workshop goals are to:

  • Discover needs and optimal outcomes for the product.

  •  Define the triggers and expected outcomes for users.

  •  Ideate to flush-out ways to help users meet their expectations.

  •  Tell stories that describe the solutions.

  • Refine the solutions into job stories that will serve as project requirements.

Once completed the designers build on the results from the workshop to create a working prototype that can then be tested and refined with feedback from the workshop teams towards developing the final product.

Workshop Roles & Responsibilities

Facilitators

Facilitators coordinate the workshop and ensure that the teams stay on track. There is a master facilitator, overseeing the entire workshop, with each team having an individual facilitator leading their efforts.

Workshop Teams

The workshop team should be a combination of subject matter experts recruited from power users, new users, and reluctant users who can help guide the workshop towards the solutions that work best for the overall. Each team will be made up of 3-6 (not including the group facilitator) people which will participate in the same workshop but may tackle a different aspect of the solution.

Set the Stage

Before the workshop begins, the workshop master facilitator needs to have the right challenge and the right teams. Working with the client, they will choose the issue to be tackled on during the workshop, recruit the workshop teams, and make sure to gather all materials needed to conduct the workshop.

Design Thinking Workshop —
Define, Generate Ideas, & Tell Stories

This two day session will involve a number of activities to help the team define the needs and big ideas that they are attempting to find solutions for. The bulk of the time will be spent in group activities with workshop teams.

  • To define the solution, they use well tested design thinking processes to come to the big ideas to be achieved for the users.

  • Next, the teams create an initial round of job stories to be considered.

  • Brainstorming ideas (ideation) goes hand in hand with telling stories to communicate how those ideas will work.

  • Once ideas are generated, the teams begin to flush them out using a variety of techniques to describe how the ideas they generated will work in context to the big ideas and job  stories.

This is not a simple linear process, however. The workshop will constantly iterate back around to creating new big ideas and job stories as they come up.

Job Stories

The results of the workshop are specific job stories that define how the product should work, and can be quickly turned into a prototype to be tested with users.

Prototype & Test

Once the issues are well researched and defined with stories that communicate how the solution will work, Rivet Logic will build those ideas into a testable prototype.

  • The prototype is where we begin to design what the final solution looks and feels (visual design) and how it will work (experience).

  • Prototype development will also be vetted by developers and business owners to ensure viability and feasibility.

  • To ensure the solution is on the right course, it is vital to test our prototype—along with any assumptions we’ve made—and then continue testing through the build process to make sure that it is working as intended.

Next Steps

Once the design satisfies client needs after an iterative process of testing and revision, work begins on moving from design into development. This is not simply preparing documents to hand off to development, but involves having design working closely with development to ensure that the solution is realized as envisioned, the highest usability standards are maintained and that the client is fully satisfied. This might involve additional testing of the solution while in production and beta testing.

 

Interested in conducting a design thinking workshop? Contact Rivet Logic to learn more!

Design Thinking Series, Part 1: Why Digital Transformation Projects Fail

Posted by on July 09, 2019

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…if you can’t get the sum of the parts to be greater than the cost you’re going to fail and I think a large part of that 84 percent that fail it’s because they’re not prepared to change behavior. They think they can have strategy and technology and it just doesn’t get them there fast enough or in a good enough way.

— Michael Gale
Forbes Magazine,
“Why 84% Of Companies Fail At Digital Transformation”

Digital Transformation is growing is priority for most businesses, small and large. Virtually every company in the Forbes Global 2000 company list is on some sort of journey towards evolving their workplace in response to changes  in the way people interact with technology. While a few of these companies are reaping the rewards of embracing a growth mindset towards technology, many are struggling to make it happen or simply not seeing any benefits.

According to Michael Gale, a digital transformation expert, “Some are getting it right and others struggle.  Basically, one in eight got it right and then there were ranges of failure where more than 50 percent just didn’t go right at all.”

Part of the problem, though, is that it takes more than shoe-horning new technology onto old models and processes to create a successful digital transition. To find the right solution requires companies to dig deep into not just the “how” but the “why” they do things. Rather than trying to find the answers, businesses need to make sure they are asking the right questions first. That’s where Design Thinking comes in.

Why Digital Transformations Flounder or Fail

A staggering 84% of digital transformation projects fail, according to Michael Glaze who has been studying the topic for several years. According to a HarveyNash/KPMG survey, only 18% of CIOs said that their Digital Transformations were “very effective.” A less than 1 in 5 success rate would not lead to much enthusiasm or confidence if you are considering such a project.SOURCE: Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey 2017, Navigating Uncertainty, Pg. 26<br /><br /><br /><br />

SOURCE: Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey 2017, Navigating Uncertainty, Pg. 26

The exact cause of each failure is unique, but the reasons at the heart of all of these failures is lack of awareness of the challenges to be faced and the inability to shift focus as new challenges present themselves.This happens because many organizations still not only use, but think in terms of a long term waterfall methodology, where solutions are created early on and expected to be executed despite changing realities during the design and development.

This not only invariably leads to the dreaded scope creep, where timelines and budgets are crushed, it also means that as new research, and new information becomes available, it is often too late to integrate that knowledge into the final solution.

How Projects Succeed

Although there are a lot of factors that can cause projects as large and complicated as a Digital Transformation initiative to fail, there are several best practices we can bring to bear. These do not necessarily remove the problems, but will help to recognize and recover from them more quickly.

  1. Clearly define audience needs and what success will look like for them. It’s easy to believe that you understand your target audience and what they are looking for. You don’t. Even if you are a part of that target audience, you are likely only one of many. It’s important to get out and talk to them whenever and wherever they will be using the solutions you are trying to create.

  2. Clearly define what success looks like to the business and what is the value. All too often directions are given from high levels in the company without a full understanding of what is being asked. Try to work with the decision makers to understand what they think the optimal outcome for the project is and what value they hope to derive, and educate them on the realities of what they are asking for.

  3. Clearly define the technologies to be deployed. It is important to not let the technology dictate solutions, however, it is a reality that it does direct what is possible. It is vital that all parties including designers) understand the limitations and strengths of whatever technologies will be used.

  4. Make audience involvement and testing a part of the process, not an afterthought. Although this might sound like a rehashing  of tip #1, we often forget about the people we’re actually creating for. It’s important to constantly get reality checks from your audience to make sure you are headed in the right direction.

  5. Design & Development in Steps. As mentioned, waterfall just doesn’t cut it anymore. Instead, both development and design must create in iterative steps, allowing them to bring in new insights and information to the solutions as they work.

This last tip is crucial. For developers the iterative step-by-step method is the Agile process using development sprints. Designers have, by and large, been reluctant to enter into a sprint based process, although iteration is a cornerstone of design.

Over the last few years designers have been increasingly embracing the concept of Design Thinking along with the even more recent concept of design sprints. Although still gaining support, success stories of a proper Design Thinking approach are winning converts.

Enter Design Thinking

Design thinking, to be reductively simple, means “thinking like a designer” in order to develop solutions. According to Thomas Lockwood in his introduction to Design Thinking: Integrating Innovation, Customer Experience, and Brand Value, the value in design thinking is that: “By thinking like designers—being able to see the details as well as zoom out to the big picture—we can really add value by challenging the status quo.”

Design Thinking reverses the way many people approach problem solving, allowing them to discover more innovative solutions than they might normally come to. Rather than starting with requirements and features and finding a solution, we start with the user needs and desired outcome (the big picture) and work to find the best way(s) to make that happen by asking the right questions, the first of which is “Is it worth it?”.

This approach  brings together what is desirable from the audience’s (user, customer, partner, employee, etc.)  point of view with what is viable for the business and technologically feasible. It also means engaging people who aren’t trained to design,  but who have to live with the results of the designs, to use creative tools to innovate solutions for a wide range of challenges.

Lockwood lists three primary tenets for design thinking in his introduction:

  1. Develop a deep understanding of the audience based on fieldwork research.

  2. Collaborate with the audience through the formation of multidisciplinary teams.

  3. Accelerate learning through visualization, hands-on experimentalism, and creating quick prototypes, which are made as simple as possible in order to get usable feedback.

However, in our experience designing digital products, we have found that — while excellent for thinking about visual and some interactive issues — current design thinking methodologies leave out how that design fits into the longer term narrative for the audience.  So we add a fourth point:

  1. Follow the rhythm and flow of the audience and how their needs and goals change both in context and over time.

Ok, enough theory, let’s talk practical application. To apply the design thinking process, we make use of two main activities: Design Thinking Workshops and Design Sprints.

Design Thinking Workshops

The Design Thinking workshop is used to kick-off the design phase of a project. This is a process of applying human centered design principles, focusing on deconstructing the problem and then reconstructing it for the solution. To be effective, this means embracing a Lean UX philosophy and creating functional prototypes to quickly iterate the best solutions within the time, budget, and technical limitations.

Design Sprints

Design sprints — developed by Google Ventures (gv.com) — have been applied to help companies from start-ups to Fortune 500s to quickly and accurately prototype and test user experience concepts which can then be developed into final working products.

A single sprint is not meant to design an entire site, section, or even page, but instead to examine the user’s process and how it can be improved within the system.

Using Design Sprints allows iterative improvements without locking into a set roadmap that might need to change in order to meet shifting conditions and priorities. Instead, we define the goal for that month’s design sprint, pulling from a backlog of requests and work to resolve that particular task. As new requests come in, they can be added to the backlog, and then considered for the next sprint, allowing ongoing refinements.

How Design Thinking can Accelerate a Digital Transformation Initiative

The Design Thinking process is a tool that can be applied to any project to address many of the reasons Digital Transformation projects fail.

  1. Audience involvement is integral to developing ideas that are turned into  features. Not only is there regular testing of the product with the people who will be using it, they are also invited in to help brainstorm possible solutions. This ensures that their needs and expected outcomes are met.

  2. Business and tech needs are brought in early. Confirming that the product is both viable from a business standpoint and feasible from a technology  standpoint are constant considerations during the process.

  3. It is an iterative process that can work in close conjunction with an Agile process. Unlike in a waterfall methodology, foundational work on the design is done early, but full design implementations are done in sprints, with feedback from development to constantly refine and improve solutions.

Design thinking is not a magic bullet that can fix everything or prevent all issues from arising. What it does provide, however, is a methodology to better adjust and react to changing priorities and realities during product development. This ensures that whatever challenges you face, you are better able to handle them without derailing the entire project.

Contact Rivet Logic to learn more about how we can help you with your digital transformation initiatives!

Stacks vs. Suites: Moving Away From Consolidation

Posted by on January 16, 2019

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It wasn’t long ago that businesses were focusing on consolidating all of their technology into single suite systems. Unfortunately, a one-size-fits-all product solution can rarely service all of an organization’s needs equally. While the simplicity of a single service is quite compelling, it cannot functionally compete with the customization, efficiency, and specialization of a well-integrated stack.

A Conventional Approach to Software Consolidation

Conventional approaches to software have recently tilted towards finding consolidated suites that can do everything for an organization. Enterprise resource planning, inventory management, customer relationship management, and other discrete and disparate products have been folded into singular systems for this reason.

The perceived advantages of this type of system are clear. A consolidated software system is seen as being easier to maintain as well as more cost-effective. From the software provider’s perspective, each vendor is able to capture more value for a customer. IT departments have preferred managing and maintaining a single system, and the belief has been that this type of system tends to be more secure as there are fewer opportunities for gaps.

The Failings of a Consolidated Approach

While consolidated approaches work effectively in theory, in practice they have often led to a “Jack of all trades, master of none” situation. When a single tool is not sufficient for a company’s day-to-day operations, they find themselves adding tools regardless. Once these tools are added, the company has already begun to create a stack — they just have not acknowledged the stack in a way that it can be properly integrated or maintained.

Using a consolidated approach can ultimately lead to an organization using a variety of tools that are ill-suited to their organization’s use, while pursuing a more simplified system. Ultimately this leads to issues in efficiency, and prompts many employees, customers, and vendors to self-service their IT needs and install their own sets of tools.

Developing a Digital Experience Stack

Organizations are now increasingly moving away from a consolidated approach and towards building a well-integrated stack. A well-integrated stack creates a custom workflow for an organization with the tools that the organization needs, but there are challenges present. In order to work effectively, the components of the stack must be fully explored, and the whole system has to be designed to work well together.

Enterprise content management (ECM) solutions and portals become exceptionally important when building out a digital experience stack, as they create central hubs through which the organization can manage its communications and authentication.

When creating a digital experience stack, the organization can no longer rely upon a consolidated system to funnel users into an easy-to-use experience. Instead, it must use a central hub in order to consolidate the information users need.

With the right solution, a digital experience stack can still provide an experience to the user that appears to be consolidated and well-integrated, while delivering a customized and effective experience.

Shifting an Organization from Suite to Stack

Shifting an organization’s infrastructure can appear to be a daunting task, and many organizations find themselves working with managed partners or experts in order to facilitate this shift. When it comes to a switch from a suite-based infrastructure to a stack-based infrastructure, an organization may begin by identifying its current pain points and the solution that it needs.

Developing out a DX stack is like building an ecosystem. An organization can start with its most basic tools such as its accounting, inventory management, and employee portals, building out the tools that it needs to be integrated with its infrastructure. However, it’s vital for the purposes of the user experience that all of these systems be properly integrated together.

Correct integration creates a seamless experience on the user’s behalf, with data being shared and synced from system to system, a singular location for files and documents, and an intuitive and easy-to-use interface. From an IT standpoint, an integrated DX stack must be easy to manage and maintain, with as much automated as possible.

Ultimately, many organizations have found themselves dissatisfied with their consolidated suites, as consolidated suites provide a one-size-fits-all solution that rarely has the advantages of distinct and discrete tools.

By building their own DX stacks, organizations can improve user experience and utility, gaining the best solutions for each task. However, they also need to be conscientious about the increased needs of a DX stack, in terms of integration, management, and maintenance.

Digital Experience Platform Trends in 2018

Posted by on January 02, 2018

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The digital experience has changed a lot throughout 2017 and it’s going to continue growing and expanding in 2018. Here are just a few of the trends that companies can expect — and that they should consider following.

The Digital Experience Will Become More Important

Digital Experience Platforms (DXP) are no longer optional, especially for large companies and companies with broad demographic reach. Once only seen in the largest of corporations, digital experience platforms are now filtering down to small-to-midsized businesses that need to remain competitive within their market spaces.

Throughout the last few years, user experience and customer journeys have become key. But many companies have not yet moved over to a unified digital experience. Digital experience platforms are going to become more popular and more important, as businesses work towards developing their strategies and making use of the large volumes of data they have collected.

An Increased Focus on Micro-Interactions

Micro-interactions make it easier to track buyers across their journey. By incentivizing customer progress and breaking up the journey into a multitude of small steps, an organization can better control the path that a customer travels. Smaller, incentivized steps make customers more likely to continue on the journey, in addition to making it easier to determine when customers lose interest and fail to convert.

Just a few years ago, scrolling “one page” displays became a popular method of delivering content media, as companies found that customers were compelled to continue their journey as long as new content was readily accessible. Similarly, micro-interactions feed a customer constant feedback regarding their interactions, thereby promoting continued interaction and avoiding situations in which the customer might have to wait.

Omni-Channel Consolidation

In order to optimize their processes, businesses need to consolidate their data. Companies can no longer track the multitude of different platforms and services their customers may use to interact with them. Consequently, omni-channel consolidation is going to become more popular, with as-a-service consolidation tools paving the path.

Subscription-based, cloud-based channel consolidation tools make it easier for organizations to manage all of their interactions with their customers, rather than seeing their interactions on a granular, per-platform basis. This gives a fuller picture of customer behavior, which leads to sharper, more accurate analytic data.

Agile Product and Service Development

Companies are going to need to pivot faster in 2018. In order to adjust their customer experience, they’ll also need to adjust their products and services in a rapid-fire way. Rather than a traditional, iterative production work-cycle, companies are going to find themselves balancing a lot of moving parts, constantly testing, improving, and optimizing their solutions.

This will create further need for advanced project management and data management suites, as companies are going to have to track not only the changes that they make to their environment and services, but also the results of these changes. Companies are going to have to become ready and willing to immediately respond to customer needs, creating not only responsive platforms but responsive cultures.

“Fog” Computing Will Give Rise to “Fog” Data

On the periphery of every network today are now Internet of Things devices. Not only are smartphones and tablets connected to networks, but so are televisions, coffee pots, and thermostats. These Internet of Things devices are going to broaden and expand in 2018, including wearable devices and augmented reality devices.

“Fog” computing is the term given to computing on these IoT devices, but these IoT devices will lead to something more interesting: fog data. Customers will be able to interface with a number of companies on their smart devices, and these companies will be able to transition the customer experience not only to the fog, but also the cloud.

Smart watches and augmented reality glasses will both represent opportunities for companies to continue to engage their customers, ushering in a new era of responsive devices. And just as companies today can take advantage of special phone features (such as native alerts), these IoT devices will come with additional functionality.

Overall, it’s all going to be about the data. Getting more data, processing it, and consolidating it — all to create a better user experience from start to finish.

11 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade to Liferay 6.2

Posted by on May 28, 2014

A few months ago, Liferay released the latest version of their portal, version 6.2. This version delivers enhanced usability and provides a comprehensive platform for building intuitive, engaging digital experiences for both employee-facing and customer-facing applications. While previous versions of Liferay had primarily focused on backend enhancements, version 6.2 turns the spotlight on the user experience, a crucial capability that many organizations seek in today’s era of customer and employee engagement.

Liferay Portal 6.2’s feature enhancements can be broken into two categories: 1) Usability and Administration, and 2) Development. Usability and Administration enhancements would primarily benefit organizational employees and end users. Development enhancements, on the other hand, would provide extra flexibility for developers, enabling them to be more creative when it comes to customizations and new portlet development efforts, resulting in faster time to market and better efficiency for bug fixes. In short, Liferay 6.2’s wide variety of new features has many organizational benefits across the board.

With everything that Liferay 6.2 has to offer, we highly encourage an upgrade, and have compiled a list of the 11 most useful new features in a white paper. The most talked about and anticipated new feature in Liferay 6.2 is undoubtedly its enhancement for mobile support, which by itself is enough reason to upgrade. However, the rest of the features in this list will also positively impact organizational users, administrators, and developers in various ways, helping to make a stronger case for an upgrade.

To download the full white paper, click here.

Intranet Portal Usability, From a User Experience Perspective

Posted by on July 25, 2011

The Nielsen Norman Group recently published a report on intranet portal usability based on 67 real case studies from enterprises worldwide. In contrast to other reports that typically offer vendor solutions, this report is seen from the user experience perspective, providing insight on what portals mean to users and how to deliver a portal solution that organizations need.

Jakob Nielsen touches on some important points from the report in his column. The overall trend for enterprise portals seems to focus on ways of making the existing features more robust and better managed as portals have become more widely accepted. The early definitions of portals being gateway access points have evolved; today’s portals can be thought of as a dashboard integrating all enterprise information and applications that employees need to do their jobs through a unified interface.

Interestingly, but maybe not too surprising, the biggest finding is that portals aren’t adding mobile features at the expected rate, at least not when compared to consumer apps. Most of the companies studied saw true mobile portals as being at least a few years out. Research has found that good mobile usability requires a separate design with a reduced feature set for mobile use cases, focusing on time- and location-dependent tasks, so it’s not enough that an existing portal is made accessible through phones since the UI is optimized for desktop use.

Since this report focuses on the user experience, it comes as no surprise that personalization is a critical component of a well-designed portal. The ability to integrate information from multiple sources can have its own disadvantages as the information can be overwhelming for the users, especially when it’s irrelevant. The more the portal serves up to the users, the stronger the need to curate what each person sees. Allowing users to customize what they see through individual user profiles provides an effective way display content relevant to each user.

Portals have long been known for its social features, but now they have also evolved into collaboration platforms. While most companies didn’t see a sharp distinction between the two, an easier way to distinguish the two is informal vs. formal collaboration, where formal content is officially managed and informal content is left to emerge on its own. This contributes to the issue of governance, which many organizations already struggle with. While governance may be a greater issue for larger enterprises, a key lesson learned is that organizations should plan the governance structure before starting a portal project. While there is no general governance solution that fits all organizations, they can look at governance solutions that have worked for others and adapt them to their own specific corporate culture and circumstances.

So while the portal industry has matured over the years, the focus now shifts to the user experience to create a solution that can be easily adopted and optimized. The full report can be found here, http://www.nngroup.com/reports/intranet/portals.

On a similar note, in one of our own recent webcasts (and at the Liferay East Coast Symposium back in May), we spoke on the topic of building and deploying a global intranet with Liferay, which touched on some of the same challenges that enterprises face when starting this type of initiative – personalization, governance, employee search. Our presentation is available for download here, http://www.slideshare.net/rivetlogic/building-and-deploying-a-global-intranet-with-liferay-8459841, and the webcast is accessible on our website, http://rivetlogic.com/resources/webcasts.