The Collaborative UX Professional's Toolkit


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Presentation from UXPA Boston 2013: The Collaborative UX Professional's Toolkit
Presented by Andrew Wirtanen and myself.

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  • Personal introductions, background, and qualifications for speaking about thisWhat the talk is going to be about: three collaborative methods that can be added to your toolkit whether you work in an agency or as an in-house UX person. Focus will be on agency model, but internal buy-in and collaboration is just as important as it is with the client (people are free to argue that it’s more or less so)
  • Paraphrase (from Clerks) “I’d love this job if it weren’t for all the clients.”Working in an agency can be challenging. The main differentiator from in-house work is that the clients change. This is bad because you have to re-learn and re-teach a lot. It’s good because you can review and revise your methods rapidly.
  • There are a lot of ways communication happens. These are opportunities for you to get a greater understanding of the problem and the domain and for the client to validate your decisions and ideas.
  • The ultimate problems are synchronicity and engagement. It’s easy to get bogged down in back-and-forth in asynchronous communications, and it’s very common for ideas to be miscommunicated or ignored due to a client that is removed--or feels removed-- from the process.
  • So we have some neat new tools to help with that.
  • In other words, you should facilitate the UX process to focus everyone where they are needed.
  • The same goes for stakeholders--guide them so they can focus on what they know best.
  • Don't pretend to know what your client knows, and don't let them pretend to know what your UX/design teams know.And now we're going to talk about three methods to use to accomplish this...
  • Created by Tamara Adlin, recently discussed in Lean UX by Jeff Gothelf.
  • Note that we say “assumptions”. This is bad, sure, but assumptions are used all the time. The good thing is that this time they’re documented. Good ones can be reused and bad ones can be revised.
  • Proto-personas are particularly useful in agency life due to time and budget constraints .Your client should understand that you have constraints and that acting on the information in proto-personas is risky.
  • Never do proto-personas if you do not have to. Don't invite too many, or you won't be able to facilitate the meeting effectively.Customer service reps are often the closest ones to end users. If your clients don’t know their users well enough, don’t use this method. Do a short survey or some interviews instead.
  • Your clients will use the paper to sketch their personas.The notetaker can be useful when your clients are explaining and discussing your personas.
  • Relevance is a tricky thing. Adding personal details about a persona may not be directly relevant, but can help paint a clearer picture of the character. The fact that Oscar drives an Audi may not be as relevant as the Apple preference on Comcast's site for example, but it does carry implications of his taste and lifestyle.
  • You can use a whiteboard to make characteristic spectrum plots. For example, you could have one for tech savviness level from 1 to 7.We’re happy to discuss plotting characteristics further, but time is short.
  • Remove personas that are completely redundant– if a persona’s place on every spectrum has a close neighbor, consider removing the persona.If one or two characteristics keep a persona from being removed, those characteristics may be moved onto other personas to make it redundant.* Gaps in a spectrum indicate one of two things: that one or more personas were overlooked, or that the business does not address users of that quality. This can be either a conscious market decision or an oversight that may be worth some attention.
  • The website or application may be complex and it may help to sort things out before your clients get started sketching personas.You can often do a lightweight survey to get basic user needs and goals.
  • Common misinterpretations: “is this the final design?”, “move this a couple pixels over”, “why is this in latin?”, “I need to see something more detailed”Designers can translate a wireframe into a visual. Clients often can’t.
  • Marketing and project leadership can help make sure business goals and messaging needs are adequately represented
  • Explaining priorities to users is helpful, but most important is that you understand them.
  • You don’t even need to use the same column descriptions and priorities as long as you know them well and keep them consistent. These have just worked well for us.
  • When placing items in columns, apply some affinity diagramming principles to keep items grouped by similarity. This can help reduce the set later.
  • Recent research suggests that novice usability evaluators find different issues than seasoned evaluators, so consider including a novice evaluator if you can provide 3 UX professionals.
  • Focus on getting through as much of the interface as possible at this point. Budget no more than a couple of hours to avoid fatiguing everyone.If the whiteboard fills up, take a picture, erase the board, and move on.
  • Clients really shine in this method because they can help assign realistic severity and recommendations (especially if development personnel are present).We’ve seen client developers fix issues during the review. While encouraging, we suggest clients refrain from changing the product while it’s being reviewed.
  • This one isn’t really complicated. No physical interaction is required, so a conference call over a shared screen works fine.
  • The Collaborative UX Professional's Toolkit

    1. 1. The Collaborative UX Professional’sToolkitCOLIN BUTLERANDREW WIRTANEN2013 UXPA Boston Annual Conference
    2. 2. The presenters and the presentationWhy are we here?
    3. 3. Agency lifeHow to survive it
    4. 4. Keep communicatingMeetings and kickoffsEmails and phone callsDocuments and specifications
    5. 5. Keep communicatingMeetings and kickoffsEmails and phone callsDocuments and specificationsBut…That won’t solve everything
    6. 6. Keep communicatingMeetings and kickoffsEmails and phone callsDocuments and specificationsReally cool collaborative design methods
    7. 7. Create a process that:Allows the client to relate their knowledge and expertise both up-frontand throughout the processExposes exactly enough of the process to the client to satisfythem, involve them in their strengths, and no moreLets both parties stick to what they do best
    8. 8. Internal UX teamsYou have stakeholders who are your internal clientsCreate a process that:Allows the client stakeholders to relate their knowledge and expertiseboth up-front and throughout the processExposes exactly enough of the process to the client stakeholders tosatisfy them, involve them in their strengths, and no moreLets both parties stick to what they do best
    9. 9. Remember:Your agency is an expert at creative and technical processesYour client is an expert at clienty thingsDon’t try to be an armchair expertDon’t let someone else do the same to you
    10. 10. Proto-persona workshopWhat it is
    11. 11. Also known as: ad hoc personas, brainstormed personasCraft a set of user archetypes to represent the user baseBuilt using the client’s specific experience and knowledgeThis knowledge is often anecdotal and not based on data
    12. 12. Proto-persona workshopWhy you should do it
    13. 13. Can be done in only 2-3 hours and clients often find it funAllows you to base design decisions on documented assumptionsCan serve as a good starting point for real validated personas if thebudget allows for surveys or interviewsBut…
    14. 14. If you have the time and budget to do research, real personas arealways betterBe wary of creating a culture of making proto-personasMake sure your client is aware of the risks of using unvalidated proto-personas
    15. 15. Proto-persona workshopHow to do it
    16. 16. Before you startAlways ask if the client has done any UX or marketing researchInvite between 1 and 5 stakeholders that are in a position to knowabout the usersAlways try to invite someone who is customer-facing, e.g. customerservice, sales, or support
    17. 17. LogisticsGather Sharpies and 11”x17” (or comparably large) pieces of paperReserve a conference room for 2-3 hoursConsider inviting a project team member to help you take notes
    18. 18. Creating the personasExplain personas and create an example persona for an unrelated orfictional product or serviceGive participants 10-20 minutes to build personasProvide guidance and help participants create consistent, usefulpersonas: data should be specific and cover some relevant aspectse.g. Oscar, 43 year old male, prefers Apple products, drives an Audi
    19. 19. Revising the set of personasHave each participant present his/her personasDiscuss which personas are similarConsolidate personas based on similaritiesIf necessary, plot key characteristics to visualize similarities/differences
    20. 20. If your clients are remote…Ask participants to create personas on their own and send photosReview the personas yourself for correctnessPresent personas to the team via web conferenceConsolidate personas yourself based on similarities
    21. 21. Page description workshopWhat it is
    22. 22. Everything about a wireframe except the layoutList the things that need to be on a pageAssign priorities to page components
    23. 23. Page description workshopWhy you should do it
    24. 24. Your clients are probably not designersWireframes are very easy to misinterpretDecisions on layout and visual style don’t need to be made yetIt only takes about 2-3 hours
    25. 25. Page description workshopHow to do it
    26. 26. Before you startWe’re going to need post-its. Lots of post-its.Supply each seat with a stack of notes and a SharpieInvite around 2-6 stakeholders who know the business goalsTry to include marketing and project leadership from your side
    27. 27. Step one: the standard stuffIntroduce yourself and your purpose in the workshopGo around the room and have participants introduce themselves andexplain their rolesExplain what a page description diagram is, provide an example, anddescribe the workshop concept
    28. 28. Step two: make 3 columns on your boardHIGH priorityThese features are vitalto a user’s understandingof the fundamentalconcept and goals of thesite.MEDIUM priorityThe site should includethese features tofunction well andprovide for the majorityof a user’s needs.LOW priorityThese features areuseful, but not vital tothe user’s operation orunderstanding of thesite.
    29. 29. The car analogy:High priority items are the engine. Without it, the car is in no way a car.Medium priority items are seats. They make the car work right.Low priority items are cup holders. Including them make the car a morepleasant, effective experience.
    30. 30. Step three: gather business goalsTake 5-10 minutes for participants to write down componentsCommon items: identity message, call to action, navigation menuCollect items on post-it notes and place them in columnsLike brainstorming, do not reject anything yetFeel free to place items on column boundaries for now
    31. 31. Step four: turn it all into this
    32. 32. Create a “parking lot” at the bottom of the boardWalk through each item from high priority to low with the groupDiscuss and debate priority positions – try to move all items off theboundaries if you have anyItems that may not be used get bumped to the parking lot andredundant items can be removed completelyOptionally sketch some components
    33. 33. If your clients are remote…Have your clients brainstorm page elements and send you the listReview the lists yourself for correctnessSchedule a web conferenceUse a screen-sharing app and a tool like or Visio to replacethe whiteboard
    34. 34. Participatory expert reviewWhat it is
    35. 35. Think expert review, but live and with experts from both sidesOne or more UX specialists and client stakeholders locked in a roomwith the product for a few hoursA good way to exercise UX oversight of pre-release iterations
    36. 36. Participatory expert reviewWhy you should do it
    37. 37. UX professionals may lack domain knowledgeClients often misinterpret reviews or ignore them altogether due tolack of engagementThe evaluator effect – where different reviewers may come up withdifferent results or different evaluations of those results – is mitigatedby multiple reviewersImproves engagement when you are not responsible for development
    38. 38. Participatory expert reviewHow to do it
    39. 39. Before you startInvite between 3 and 10 experts across UX and the client domainSet up a room with a whiteboard and a projector if possibleThe projector is more important than the whiteboardOne UX professional should be set up to take notes – on thewhiteboard if available, otherwise just type them into a document
    40. 40. Getting startedEveryone in the room introduces themselves and their rolesExplain UX, expert reviews, and heuristics to the clientOpen the product and display it on the projector where everyone cansee clearly
    41. 41. The walkthroughOne UX professional “drives” the group through the interfacePause, discuss, and record issues in red and positive findings in greenDomain experts (clients) may need to drive or help drive at timesOne UX professional documents issues on the whiteboard or in a doc
    42. 42. After the walkthroughReview the collected issuesRate each issue on its severity – low, medium, or highIf an issue is a particularly quick fix, it can be given a special “trivial”severity rankingProvide a recommendation for each issue if possible
    43. 43. After you leaveTranscribe the issues, severity ratings, and recommendations in adeliverable formatSend the issues to the client and have them review the results and offerany further input they may haveFollow up after a week or two and offer help resolving or clarifyingissues
    44. 44. If your clients are remote…Use a screen-sharing app and a tool like or Visio in place of awhiteboard
    45. 45. Summing upCollaboration. Yay.
    46. 46. User Experience professionals are facilitators as much as they arecreatorsThe worst thing you can do is work against your client instead of withthemInvolving the client improves their experience and fosters engagement
    47. 47. The endThank you, etc.
    48. 48. Questions?Answers!