Just over a year ago Capital One has acquired Adaptive Path, one of the most prominent User Experience Engineering (UX) firms of the recent years. About the same time Accenture acquired Fjord, another UX leader, and IBM is on track to grow their in house UX team to more than a 1000 people. So what does "UX" really mean and why should PM's pay attention?
Even though, the term 'User Experience' has been coined in the 90s, today's UX has grown past its original applications in Product Design and Website Development. It is now a standalone discipline with clear set of methods and wide spectrum of application - from enterprise applications and industrial equipment to consumer products and mobile apps.
Risk Reversal - is it even possible?
Recent PMI study quotes that 37 percent of projects fail due to a slip in requirements management. So Agile development came into existence, because it allows project teams to adapt and succeed in the face of changing requirements.
But what if we take most of this volatility out of user requirements? What if you could 'magically' extract the knowledge out of your key stakeholders and flesh out all of the screens of your app in just a few days?
What if you could also do this with your end users? Your key stakeholders may be a bit too close to an app and when development is complete and the app is handed over, many projects are up for a few shocking surprises.
So if I could show you how you can also avoid these - wouldn’t that just slash this 37 percent project failure rate down to low 5s? And what would that mean for your current project in terms of dollars saved and improved user productivity?
One last question - what if I could show you how to get all of this done in just a few days, often, as part of the Project Initiation? Wouldn’t that be something you'd like to learn?
Well, this is the reason IBM is being so aggressive with building up its UX team. And this is exactly the reason why I'm so excited to show you how you too can implement these same UX tools and methodology on your own project in very close future.
UX - short introduction
Unless you're developing an internal component of a bigger system, that has absolutely no user interaction, the truth is, your team is already using UX tools, and they do so with various degrees of knowledge and confidence, producing various results.
This article will help you get the most of the time spent and steer clear of the common pitfalls. You'll understand the key UX activities, their goals, deliverables and what kind of outcomes you should be expecting to receive.
We will also look at the degree at which each of these activities are affecting your risk breakdown structure, and your schedule, their typical durations and typical manpower requirements.
Here're the top 7 key UX activities that we found to be the most relevant from Project Management point of view:
- Stakeholder Review. This is a series of one-on-one interviews with key stakeholders and project sponsors. Yes, this is something you normally do as part of Project Initiation, only this time you focus on user experience.
- Usability Review. A set of baseline usability tests of your sites or software. This is done if you're looking to improve an existing site, product or app.
- User Interviews and Observation. These are exactly what the name implies, when you interview your users to determine their needs and goals. These can be done in-person or remote, scheduled or onsite intercepts. Observation, not surprisingly, is when you observe users as they interact with sites or software in their normal daily environment.
- Persona Development. Personas are fictional characters or 'avatars' that represent key categories of users. Thinking from 'their point of view' helps us make better decisions and makes it easy to validate user needs, motivations and tasks.
- Task Analysis and User Journey Maps. Task Analysis helps uncover the scope and complexity of a given user's or group's needs for an application or site. Journey Maps then help condense this data into a compelling visual summary, making it easy to analyze.
- Prototyping and Wireframing. The meat and potatoes of UX process, where the findings from all previous steps a fleshed out in a life-like interactive application mock-up. If done right, this and the next activity, Usability Testing, is where the most benefits and risk reduction are taking place.
- Usability Testing. Another potent risk-reducing activity that helps catch problems early on, without having to spend a lot of time and resources.
These activities fit into four phases, that help you gain knowledge, plan, apply and quickly test your insights:
Stakeholder Review, Usability Review, User Interviews and Observation are there to extract maximum amount of insight from your stakeholders and your users to avoid unpleasant surprises down the road.
Persona Development, Task Analysis and User Journey Maps help mapping these requirements to user interface, that you could rapidly prototype with Wireframing Tools, producing a live interactive application prototype. The power of wireframes is that they are simple enough be produced in minutes instead of days or even hours - yet they are close enough to the real thing to be life-like and fully convey the features and the meaning to your end users. (See screenshot below)
Then finally, Usability Testing provides robust way of obtaining true user feedback based on the built prototypes. The kind of feedback that most organizations are only beginning to realize years after the app has been in production, the feedback that could've saved countless post-production failures and prevent most (if not all) user adoption issues.
So far we looked at the reasons why PMs should care about User Experience and reviewed major UX activities and their outcomes.
In the following articles I'll walk you through each of these, step by step, and show some practical steps that you can take right away, which tools to use and what pitfalls to avoid.