Tag: UX

Design Thinking Series, Part 3: Design Sprints Accelerate Success

Posted by on October 11, 2019

The sprint is a five-day process for answering critical business questions through design, prototyping, and testing ideas with customers. Developed at GV, it’s a “greatest hits” of business strategy, innovation, behavior science, design thinking, and more—packaged into a battle-tested process that any team can use.

— GV.com/sprint

Unlike the more typical define, design, develop, deploy methodology, design sprints focus on generating ideas rapidly to improve the usability of a product in advance of building and launching. Rather than trying to design the entire solution in one go, design sprints break down the product into key components, allowing the designers to continuously supply the developers backlog for their sprints.

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

Why Design Sprints

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

  1. To kick-off a project: To help make sure that the project gets off to a quickstart, a design sprint can be used to find the needs, expected outcomes, user journey, and possible solutions that can then be developed into a prototype.

  2. Develop a new product: If the product is new for the organization, the two week version of the design sprint can be used to quickly iterate through solutions before bringing ideas to the developers.

  3. Ongoing refinement to an existing product: When refining an existing product in conjunction with an agile development environment, the design sprints can proceed the development sprints, building the backlog of tasks for dev.

Roles & Responsibilities

Design Sprints have a variety of roles to execute. Some of these roles are filled by Rivet Logic employees, but others provided by the client to ensure that the solution meets their needs.

Provided by Rivet Logic

  • The facilitator coordinates the design sprint, ensures that the team stays on track, and deconstructs the final results from the sprint, preparing for possible development or further design iterations.

  • The designer is knowledgeable about UX and design best practices to help guide team decisions throughout the process, and work with the prototyper.

  • The prototyper is knowledgeable about user interface design practices, the technology being used to deploy the product, and can use simple tools to create mid-level level prototypes for user testing.

Provided by Client

  • The decider works with the facilitator to choose the big idea to work on in the sprint, makes final decisions where group consensus, and reviews the final output created by the facilitator, asking hard questions about whether it ready for development yet. Although they do not have to be present during the entire sprint week, they should check in regularly to provide feedback and make any unresolved decisions.

  • The sprint team should be a combination of subject matter experts recruited from power users, new users, reluctant users, and managers who can help guide the sprint towards solutions that work best for the overall company. Like jury duty, this should be a revolving group, changing from sprint to sprint to keep fresh perspectives.

  • The test team is made up of actual users or potential users who are not a part of the sprint team who test the prototype and provide feedback. Although this goes on for much of the day, each test subject will only need to give about an hour for the testing.

Road Map

To prepare for the sprint, the week before the facilitator “sets the stage.” The design sprint itself takes place in the second week requiring  intense, focused work by a diverse team committed to resolving the issues defined in the first week. In the third week, the facilitator works with the decider to unpack the findings from the sprint, iterate on any remaining design needs, and then prepare to brief development on their tasks in advance of development in week four.

Pre-sprint — Set the Stage

Before the sprint begins, you’ll need to have the right challenge and the right team. Working with the decision maker to choose the issue to be worked on in the sprint, recruit that sprints team, recruit people to test the ideas, and make sure to gather all materials needed to conduct the sprint.

The biggest challenge is likely to be recruiting a team of members with diverse skill sets so that we can approach the problem with a broader spectrum of opinions. The team, a sprint team usually consists of the facilitator, a designer, a prototyper, a customer service representative, and a manager from the company.

  • Choose the Big Idea to be tackled

  • Recruit the sprint team

    • 3-5 people

    • Block off Monday & Tuesday

    • Reserve 2 hours for Wednesday, Thursday

    • Friday

  • Recruit for testing.

    • 3–5 people

    • Block a 2 hour block Friday off for them (each participant a different block)

  • Book the “war” room

  • Gather supplies. Don’t forget snacks!

The Design Sprint Week

The design sprint is composed of five interlocking activities performed over a five day period.

Monday — Ideate & Sketch

The first day of the sprint is dedicated to reverse-engineering the big idea. Reverse-engineering is the process of deconstructing the problem in order to understand its root cause, (and in turn, the solution).

While the team suggests solutions to look at, the facilitator will place viable solutions on the whiteboard. After that, each team member will choose a section of the customer journey to sketch by themselves, then presenting their sketches to the team.

Tuesday — Tell Stories

Create storyboards for prototyping on Thursday. Separately, each group member will roughly sketch how the solution works on storyboard worksheets. After regrouping, each member presents their story, and the group then decides on a final story, possibly combining elements from different stories.

Wednesday — Prototype

The designer and developer begin turning the wireframe into an interactive prototype with the rest of the team’s input and direction. If not working on the prototype, the rest of the team can be confirming the test subjects are still available for tomorrow and write a script for the customer interview. This person will create a list of questions to ask the user tester as they review our prototype.

Thursday — Test

Interview customers and learn by watching them react to your prototype. This test makes the entire sprint worthwhile: At the end of the day, you’ll know how far you have to go, and you’ll know just what to do next.

Friday — Refine

After testing with users, the team reassembles to review

Post-sprint — Iterate Prototype

While design sprints won’t result in a finished product, they do help validate ideas quickly and affordably, providing a wealth of insights in a relatively short space of time. Before wrapping up the sprint, decide what to do with the prototype.

Is the solution ready to go to dev?

or

Will we improve the prototype and conduct a follow-up sprint?

Next Steps

After answering the post sprint question, the process is ready to be repeated again. At this point, you need to decide:

Do we need to revisit a previous big idea for further refinement in a new sprint?

or

Are we ready to tackle a new big idea in a fresh sprint?

Additionally, the facilitator will be providing ongoing feedback and support to the engineering team as they work through their own sprints to develop previously completed solutions.

Design Sprints with Agile

When design and development work closely together—playing off of each other’s strengths and pushing each other’s limits—that’s where the best experiences will be created. That’s what we bring at Rivet Logic!

Although a relatively new process, combining design sprints with development sprints allows us to react and adapt to changing needs and requirements, rather than locking into a solution. Additionally, since solutions are often dependant on technical capabilities, the design sprint allows designers to iterate around solutions based on real world conditions.

The design sprint starts in advance of the development sprint, and then stays one sprint ahead of development .

Interested in learning more about Design Sprints? Contact Rivet Logic today.

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!

Awesome Customer Experience Begins with Customer Context

Posted by on April 01, 2016

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With 68% of all Americans owning smartphones, it’s no wonder that many companies place a huge emphasis on mobile first. Yet from Starbucks to Uber, companies are realizing what matters are screens, not devices, and these mobile app driven companies are quickly adding complimentary web apps to create a better customer experience. The “context first” focus is the next wave of customer experience design that will soon replace mobile first as the leading approach to customer experience design. This smarter, more seamless design caters to the best of both worlds (mobile and web) and helps designers break away from designing for mobile by removing functions previously created for large screens.

Mobile is Not Enough

Simply put, mobile first is really a design strategy and not a complete method of approaching customer experience. It, in fact, limits the scope of the overall customer experience. While the optimal screen size is still a moving target, and there is fast-paced change concerning which screen size is best for varying contexts, it really all comes down to access to consuming and publishing information. From screens on wrists to tablets and notebooks, information via screens and not devices is the overarching concept that the “context first” design solves.

Customers, be they B2C or B2B, want a buying journey synchronized with their daily life as they interact with a brand’s products and services through numerous touchpoints and varying contexts (other than mobile). When companies stick with a mobile first design they miss out on key opportunities for customer engagement. A recent Gallup poll indicated that engaged customers buy 90% more frequently and even wary customers will give more money to companies they feel emotionally connected to – while ignoring others.

Context First Design

Servicing customers in a way that takes advantages of the situational context of use will create a better customer experience every time. Whether this means eliminating steps to speed up the process or, adding a step or two to enable the customer to easily broadcast their activities to their social circle, all depends on the objectives at hand.  For example, most people don’t take their laptop to the beach and no one is creating the board deck from their smartphone, so considering what screen is best for input and what screen is best suited for output can make all the difference. The ultimate goal, of course is to help the customer achieve their intended objective in a way that delights in their current context.

Context first is significant because it focuses on why a customer is engaging with a brand or company and allows companies to respond to each phase in a customer’s decision journey as well as the customer’s interaction with technologies outside of mobile. Additionally, it gives companies a broader lens of customer content and valuable customer data to better drive engagement and deliver a highly personalized, responsive and more ubiquitous customer experience.

Imagine the possibilities for the customer experience and top line growth of a company with the ability to completely address all context drivers to further engage customers and enhance their experience.  Context first opens doors for brands that were once closed by mobile-first thinking.