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The elements of product success for designers and developers

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All software, whether it's for consumers or workers, needs to meet the ever growing demands people have in today’s world. Greater user expectations and influence are forcing companies to create and …

All software, whether it's for consumers or workers, needs to meet the ever growing demands people have in today’s world. Greater user expectations and influence are forcing companies to create and deliver better products, but not every organization has a rich heritage in software creation like tech giants Apple and Google. Most companies need to be more customer-focused, become design specialists, and transform their cultures as they shift to become both software makers and innovators.

Myers, head of design services at Cooper, will share the elements of product success that companies need to possess and be market leaders: user insight, design, and organization. Myers will share principles and techniques that successful innovative companies use to truly understand their customers. He’ll also discuss the methods effective designers use to support their customers and create breakthrough ideas and delightful experiences. And he’ll finish by sharing the magic formula organizations need to deliver ground-breaking experiences to market.

This talk was given at UX Day.

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  • My name is Nick Myers, I’m a managingdirector of design at Cooper.I’m here to talk about the elements that create product success.
  • I’ve spent many years working with different companies designing products and services. Some have been successful, some have failed miserably. During this time I’ve been thinking a lot about what goes into that success and I wanted to share some of that wisdom with you.I’m going to first talk about where we are today. Then I’m going to go into depth on the three elements that I’ve observed over the years working at Cooper. I’ll share some technique, principles, and that exist in each element.
  • The digital world has changed at a wicked pace.More customer interactions are now digital. Software serves us everywhere. User experience design influences more of these interactions every day. And a company’s brand sits at the center of this change.
  • Computers used to be clunky, large, uninviting and complex.
  • Now we use simpler, more useful products that do some magical things like connecting with people over video chat when we can’t be there in person. The bar has been raised and we’re now living in a future we didn’t imagine possible many years ago.
  • As a result our expectations have grown. And not just for consumer products. People expect more in healthcare, technology, enterprises and all industries. Expectations are being redefined every day. What was once exceeding our highest expectations are now meeting our basic needs lower in the pyramid. And so we have to now aim higher to create satisfying experiences.
  • It’s now much easier to create software and everyone’s doing it. To be successful, companies are realizing that design is critical.
  • Design is more valued than ever before. User Experience Designers are in high demand. Design is considered a priority and a strategic advantage by many business leaders. But still, many people don’t understand design or are able to talk intelligently about it. Our number one problem’s been solved. Now our number two problem is our number one problem.
  • Lots of companies are now building software. But many are failing.
  • Three basic tenets to delivering successful products to the marketplace:Awarenessof your users, ability to design great experiences for them, and the ability to deliver those products to the market through organizational will.
  • I’m about to dig into these elements. But before I do I want you to consider theme in context of your company. Where are you succeeding? Where are you struggling? What other principles, strategies or techniques are you using that aren’t covered here?
  • Let’s first talk about user insight.
  • Only a deep understanding of your users will help you create something they love.
  • Most teams creating products are internally focused without a strong connection to customers. We sit behind our desks without enough understanding of who we’re designing for.
  • Alan wrote a book about it many years ago.
  • I’ve been practicing design for nearly 20 years now and have seen the landscape change dramatically during my career. Trends change all the time. But the constant that still exists is people and their goals. We need to design for people first.
  • Seeing how people work and play in their environment helps us understand their needs and goals and the way they live and work.
  • Cooper designed a new iPad app for busy doctors to manage their patient’s health better. While observing doctors we noticed that they were extremely busy rushing from patient to patient. To support their day-to-day work we organized their patient view to support their daily schedule and created an experience dedicated to minimizing keyboard input and helping doctors spend more time caring for their patients. The schedule view is something we figured out by observing the doctors. No one ever requested a via arranged by appointment.
  • Observing people naturally also helps create and identify new opportunities and markets. TaskRabbitis a new platform for busy people to get help with their chores. Two big challenges were evident for us. People needed to learn and become comfortable with the pricing model. How much do I pay someone to get my shopping? And they needed to ask for help fast. This is a tool for busy people after all. Leah
  • There’s a trend to use data to grow your user population but it’s not a great starting point for design. It’s useful to evaluate your decisions and gather feedback to adjust your approach along the way.
  • Surveys provide some insight but again are more useful once you’re testing your design in the real world. Surveys may give you a sense of your target demographic but it doesn’t help you design a great experience or deep insight about how they think.
  • Many software teams and companies interview their customers using poor techniques because they don’t reveal people’s latent needs. Henry Ford once allegedly said if he’d asked his customers what they wanted they would have said a faster horse. The quote has not been proven to be true but it illustrates the point that simply asking questions means we may not identify their goal: In this case: to travel fast and easy from point A to point B. A goal that hasn’t changed even by today’s standards.
  • People tend to agree out of politeness when we ask:Would X feature help you?You like X, don’t you?People are agreeable out of politeness and fear of looking stupid
  • Recently a team at Cooper redesigned an eye exam machine (this isn’t the exact machine) and noticed the technician struggle to flip constantly between three different input devices. They’d become so used to it they didn’t realize how energy-zapping it was. People also don’t really speak specifically about their use when asked questions.
  • To learn more about customers it’s better to use ethnographic research, the practice of observation and interview.
  • Ethnography is used in several social science disciplines in order to understand the ordinary behavior, values and goals of a set of people. Anthropologists use it to understand cultures that differ from ours. While sociologists use it to understand the behavior and interactions of people within their social context.
  • And we ask “Why” a lot to understand people’s underlying goals and needs. A conversation might go a bit like this.
  • In the end it’s simple…
  • As designers, it’s easy to be self-referential and design for ourselves. That might work in more understood domains like consumer but it’s generally difficult without much understanding and empathy for the people you’re designing for. Seeing someone struggle in an ICU can be both heart breaking and provide a strong sense of the importance of information over style that designers may not feel from behind their desks.
  • Lots of deep research is hard to remember. So we synthesize the data into behavioral patterns of people called personas.Personasare archetypal users that represent the needs of your audience.
  • These tools, invented by Cooper help bring focus for teams as they design, prioritize and develop. You know you’re using them right if people start talking about design decisions based on the needs of Louisa.
  • But personas on their own don’t really mean much. Scenarios, the navigational pathways, bring your personas to life and help people see the ideal usage of a software products through the eyes of your user.
  • Plenty of groups misuse personas, plenty of people disregard them all entirely. Personas aren’t really what’s important. It’s the collected understanding of your users you’re designing for that’s important. Otherwise, you’re all just sitting in a room guessing and wasting time.
  • There’s nothing better than user research in people’s location of use. But there are some substitute research methods you can use.You can ask customers to journal their experience by documenting in word or with photos. You can bring people together to do participatory design. You can interview people over video conference. This is certainly better if it’s at the person’s work location. And you can do other light research on the street, through friends. This is really gorilla style stuff that if you’re enthusiastic you can get some good research from.
  • Supposing you can’t do user research.Teams should still agree to some basic assumptions so you’re designing in the same direction. You won’t have as much insight but your meetings will hopefully be more efficient.
  • If you become an expert at knowing your users at your company you will be trusted with more decisions on product and service strategy.
  • That’s all I wanted to say about insight.Some questions to ask yourself in evaluating your team’s effectiveness here…
  • Let’s shift now to talk about design.
  • Design is hard.Many decisions are made along the way.Andit’s easy to take a wrong turn and get lost.
  • The simplest answers always seem obvious.But the truth is they take a long time to get there. Simple is hard.
  • We’re makingstuff. This is a craft. And like like made things software design takes effort.
  • We’re all solving problems.
  • But designers solve them differently using abductivethinking.It’s the designer’s ability to create solutions based on what could be possible. Roger Martin asserted that real value creation now comes from using the designer's foremost competitive weapon, his imagination, to peer into a mystery -- a problem that we recognize but don't understand -- and to devise a rough solution that explains it.
  • Good designers consider possibilities.
  • They’re filled with patterns of design that they can reuse and refer to in new software design. You can see here a pattern library of mobile interactions.
  • One great exercise to try: Find a problem. Spend 20 minutes generating ten different solutions to that problem. Weused to be a lot more practical at idea generation but the truth is we push the boundaries of our work a lot more at Cooper now we explore as teams. We host exploration workshops with our clients to generate piles of ideas around parts of the software and sheer volume of ideas can fill an entire room.
  • At Cooper we explore quickly and broadly as teams. We host exploration workshops with our clients to generate piles of ideas to tackle specific problems and sheer volume of ideas can fill an entire room.
  • And the more we explore the more we can create better and more novel interactions that both surprise and delight our customers.
  • If we create a set of experience attributes we can also drive to an experience that’s more original, authentic and decisive.
  • And this can inform the way we think about the visual language, interaction language, motion, and voice of the product.
  • And designing in pairs means teams are able to generate more ideas together, do it faster, and evaluate their potential before sharing with the larger teams. Pair design results in better quality.
  • All design should be based on good rationale. Does the design help our persona, Louisa? Does the idea represent the real-life scenario in the right way? This is where our teams often ask why a lot to. To ensure there’s good rationale behind the design.
  • It’s the designer’s responsibility to sell ideas.
  • And when the design comes together we need to share it. But!We’re not sharing features, we’re selling a vision.
  • All classically great stories begin in a state of everyday life but then a trigger sparks a quest for resolution. The story then takes the audience on a journey to reach that resolution
  • Prototyping helps you evaluate the design quicker and make adjustments down to the details.
  • And as interactions and motion are more pervasive in software prototyping has become more critical for sharing the nuances of a design. You’ll note I’m very behind on all my tasks. Especially the haircut.
  • And motion studies help connect screens and help us explore how that should happen.
  • And of course, if you’re looking to get people excited, there’s no better way than a rich, great looking prototype. We designed an iPad product for Thomson Reuter’s Corporate Services team, it was shared with an exec in a hallway conversation, and he then started sharing it around the company at large.
  • Let’s shift now to talk about organization.
  • Here’s a hard lesson:You can know lots about yourusers. You can do great design. And you can still fail. Organizations have a significant impact on product success. Here’s an example of a product called the QueProreader. Anyone heard of it?It was a large format digital reader. Especially targeting newspapers and magazines. It was presented at CES several years ago and created a ton of excitement at the conference. And then nothing happened. Two years went by and Plastic Logic still hadn’t released the actual product. It was simply a demo that had failed to hit the market. In the time, the new iPad was released. The eReader market had grown and devices were becoming very cheap. And the Proreader, was expected to cost north of $700. As you may have figured out that Plastic Logic’s inability to release the product and do so with a good strategy meant it was a huge failure.
  • It takes a lot to be successful. You need leadership, process, tools. Great people. Education to help your company grow. Collaboration and communication for teams to change.
  • Design is hard, but change is insanely difficult. Metro, Microsoft’s new design system, took many years to reach this point. It’s considered to have begun development in the mid 90s.
  • Needless to say, change takes time. There aren’t that many design leaders. We’re not all very good being operational. But effective leaders need to be operational to make a difference higher up the org.
  • This is a cultural challenge. If your company’s culture isn’t optimized to deliver great products then you have an uphill battle.
  • A common myth is that you can’t affect culture but that’s not true. There are several different forms of culture starting with you. You can all change yourselves. If that has impact then others will notice and you can start to influence your teams. And if your teams do well then you can have a bigger organizational change too.
  • Even Cooper has organizational challenges sometimes but we try to give people support to affect change. A design team at Cooper didn’t feel they were being collaborative enough so they arranged to take over a meeting room for an entire project to save time and be more collaborative. People thought they were crazy at first but they were successful and now everyone does it.
  • It’s easy to blame others for issues at work but consider this a design problem. You’re a designer with a set of great design tools at your fingertips. Use them productively and you can change more than you think.
  • Consider your colleagues as personas. Consider their goals and if you can align to those goals you’ll remove many of the visible barriers they may raise about your work and ideas.
  • Consider the needs of other teams like developers and marketers and produce additional materials to make their lives easier too like style guides or front-end code libraries.
  • Are design reviews not going well? Redesign the meeting experience.
  • Host an experience workshop to discuss the ideal user experience.Everyone in your team can join and share the experiences they have, both good and bad, with other software.Thisthen gets related to your new product or redesign and people get excited about what that could be. It’s educational for everyone to learn about what makes a good product. And it’s a great way to bring excitement and inspiration to your teams. Also great for different teams to collaborate more.
  • Going even further, you can change your company culture with principles. Cooper collaborated with Citrix to create these new principles which were to guide product and design teams. They are the basic tenets for how all new Citrix products should perform.
  • People often come into meetings with the wrong mindset but if you design the right environment you’ll help them engage in the way you intended.
  • A Cooper team just designed a game for teams to learn about and create better design solutions for their customers around different touchpoints. This game is a lot more engaging, has fun competition built in, that encourages teams to problem solve together.
  • During interviews and user feedback we encourage people to talk out loud. Similarly, you can work out loud and show your ideas and thinking in progress. This more collaborative approach will encourage others to get involved and excited.
  • We’re challenged to work in environments that are still pretty conservative and risk-averse. So we need to build trust before we make big bets. Start small, get results, and then share how you got there to get more support. Then repeat and build yourself a track record of success that’ll help you build more support in the future.
  • The easy wins exist in the white spaces of your organization. The work done in small teams, on new platforms, on stuff no one cares about, or in fast projects with small overhead.
  • Practice Fusion has really disrupted the healthcare industry with a new free EMR. But that’s not enough. They worked with Cooper to disrupt their own web interface despite their success. Here’s their web-based product. We worked with them over several months to understand their users, design for their context and deliver a new tablet solution.
  • Here’s a video of what happened. What’s nice about the video is you’ll see a little bit of the user insight, little bits of design exploration and experience workshopping, the prototype we built for their user conference and the end result.
  • Practice Fusion is a company, like Citrix, and others that are managing to change their products, cultures, awareness of users and design capabilities.
  • I hope you enjoyed it.You can find me on twitter or via the Cooper journal.You can also follow Cooper via our twitter feed.Andif you’re interested in learning more about Cooper, come by and chat afterward.
  • Transcript

    • 1. The elements of product success› Nick Myers @nickmyer5 @cooper
    • 2. What I’ll be talking aboutWhere we are today.The elements: user insight, design, organizational effectiveness.Principles, techniques, truths.
    • 3. Many products are now digital
    • 4. Products used to suck!
    • 5. Now they perform magic.
    • 6. Expectations have grown.
    • 7. Competition is fierce. www.flickr.com/photos/retrocactus/4949516534/
    • 8. Great news! Now everyone loves designers!
    • 9. But there are still failures.
    • 10. Why? Companies lack the elements of product success.1 User  Insight  2 Design  3 Organiza1on  
    • 11. Take notes!How  do  you/team/company  match  up?  What  else  affects  success?  
    • 12. User insight
    • 13. Only a deep understanding of your users will help youcreate something they love.
    • 14. Many of us have limited knowledge of our users.
    • 15. This was especially true of software teams.
    • 16. Great products don’t happen because of new technologies,new design trends, big data, mobile first, anti-skeumorphic,micro interactions, Lean UX, No UI manifestos,…h@p://www.guardian.co.uk/world/gallery/2009/mar/28/g20-­‐protest-­‐london-­‐put-­‐people-­‐first  
    • 17. If we can learn and understand people’s goals, needs +emotions...
    • 18. We can create great products that answer their needs.
    • 19. Observing the world helps us spot new opportunities andinvent new things.
    • 20. Data is useful for learning, adapting and growth but is oftenhard to interpret or non-existent.
    • 21. Surveys give us limited insight into how people think.
    • 22. Traditional interviewing techniques don’t reveal people’slatent needs.
    • 23. Interviewees have a natural tendency to please theinterviewer and be agreeable.
    • 24. People are poor at self-reporting and over-generalize.
    • 25. Ethnography reveals more – the practice of observation andinterview.
    • 26. Ethnographic research helps us understand the context andmotivations for user behavior.
    • 27. Take an apprentice’s mindset.
    • 28. Start by understanding their world.What’s a day look like?+  Makes it feel less like a survey+  Makes you less inclined to ask leading questions
    • 29. Follow up with “case-focused” questions. Tell me about a specific instance when… +  Ask for interviewees to tell stories +  Ask for specific examples
    • 30. Watch and learn. Team  environment   Process  flows   Workarounds   Lots  of  codes   to  remember!   Heavy  use  
    • 31. Ask “why?” a lot. A conversation might go like this… Tell me about a part of the system that you love. I really love that Starmine analyst rating. Why? Because it’s awesome. What’s awesome about it? It tells me how good the analyst is. Duh. And why is that good? Because I need to feel confident when I use their advice . Yahtzee!
    • 32. In the end it’s simple… Attention to Simple, Execution Great people’s + elegant + on the = products needs & goals ideas details
    • 33. And it’s a great way to build empathy and become expert inyour domain.
    • 34. So what do I do with all this research? Share it!
    • 35. “ The persona is the voice of the user, each has a goal. This informs lightweight, quickly iterated designs.   ” Alan Cooper
    • 36. And share stories about your users to inform yourproduct’s vision.
    • 37. If you’re brainstorming ideas in a room but no one knowswho you’re designing for then you’re just guessing.
    • 38. It needn’t be heavy BUFD.Journaling Participatory designUser research via web conference Lightweight user research (street, friends)
    • 39. At the very least, sketch personas can be based on a set ofagreed-upon assumptions that can focus the team.
    • 40. If you have a strong understanding of your users you willhave more authority with your products.
    • 41. How strong is your user insight?+  How much do you know your users?+  Do you use ethnographic techniques?+  Do you regularly observe users in their environments?+  Do you know what your users need and want?+  Do you design from the point-of-view of your users?+  Do you validate your work with personas, data, surveys, user feedback?+  Do your customers love you and acknowledge that you “get them”?
    • 42. Design
    • 43. Design is hard!
    • 44. End results are simple, but simple is hard.
    • 45. We’re making stuff. All made things take effort.
    • 46. We’re all solving problems.Roger Martin’s Design of Businesshttp://dthsg.com/what-is-design-thinking/
    • 47. What’s makes designers good? Abductive thinking:imagining what could be possible.Roger Martin’s Design of Businesshttp://dthsg.com/what-is-design-thinking/
    • 48. Good designers consider the possibilities.
    • 49. Good designers draw from knowledge of design patterns.
    • 50. Try this exercise to generate more: What are ten ways Icould solve this problem?
    • 51. Explore ideas in teams during an exploration workshop togenerate even more.
    • 52. More generation increases the chances of generatingsignature interactions and unique designs.
    • 53. Form a language for the design to be more decisive.
    • 54. A strong experience strategy informs the behavioral andvisual design language.
    • 55. Design shouldn’t be a lonely task. Designing in pairs helpsteams generate more, better ideas, faster.
    • 56. Design should be based on good rationale – great to askwhy? Here a lot too!
    • 57. Ideas don’t sell themselves. Designer’s To create Convince others responsibility = great ideas + to use them
    • 58. Sell ideas with stories.
    • 59. Stories help people imagine how your idea will change theirlives or the lives of others.A character A trigger that Journey to Great storywe believe + sparks a quest + resolution = (design solution) (persona) (problem) (scenario)
    • 60. Prototyping helps you evaluate the design and refine.
    • 61. Prototyping has become more important as interactions +movement bring products to life.
    • 62. And motion studies fill the void between screen key frames.
    • 63. Prototypes sell ideas and communicate the design.
    • 64. How design-capable are you?+  Are you highly-generative?+  Are you highly collaborative with design?+  Do you validate your ideas with prototypes?+  Do you have a clear design process?+  Do you support your ideas with rationale?+  Do you communicate their design vision?+  Do you care about the details before shipping?+  Have you sold people on your design ideas?+  Do customers love your products?
    • 65. Organization
    • 66. Hard lesson: You know your users, do great design + stillfail.Plastic LogicQue ProreaderGreat designLaunched at CESMultiple product delaysMarket changedCompetition grewToo expensive
    • 67. We all suffer frustrations in product teams.“People don’t listen to my ideas.” “We design for what the boss wants, but he’s wrong.”“I’m not given enough time.” “Design is an afterthought.” “I’m just following orders.” “People don’t get what design means.” “The project got canned.” “There’s no vision.”
    • 68. Product success is driven by great people and great culture.LeadershipProcessPrinciplesToolsPeopleEducationCollaborationCommunication
    • 69. Change is hard! Metro has taken years of effort.
    • 70. Design leaders are changing organizations but it requiresleadership support. Not everyone has that.
    • 71. Company culture is controlled from the top. www.flickr.com/photos/15918528@N00/3639993517/
    • 72. But there are different spheres of culture. You can influencethe culture of you and those closest to you.
    • 73. Designers at Cooper wanted to be more collaborative acrossdisciplines. One team changed their environment to work inthe same room. Now everyone does it.
    • 74. This is a design problem. Designers can fix these problemswith design tools and methods!
    • 75. Be goal-directed: Treat your coworkers like personas andconsider their goals.
    • 76. Design for everyone’s goals: Help development teamsimplement design with tools.
    • 77. Design better experiences for design reviews.
    • 78. Experience workshops help you educate others aboutdesign and start to define a strategy.
    • 79. Teach: Design principles foster culture change.
    • 80. Design experiences: Create environments with purpose.Exploration Evaluation
    • 81. Design for engagement: Help people learn about your usersand identify better experiences.
    • 82. Work out loud.
    • 83. Prototype: Create small wins. Show results. Share how youdid it. Ask for more! Small Show Share Ask for win + results + work + more = Progress
    • 84. Easy wins exist in the white spaces like new platforms orsmall apps or even small features.
    • 85. Practice Fusion has disrupted the healthcare space, nowthey’re disrupting their own EMR products.
    • 86. Practice Fusion’s iPad story.
    • 87. Practice Fusion is managing to achieve success in userinsight, design and organizational will.
    • 88. How does your organization measure up?+  Does your company value design and innovation?+  Is your company willing and able to change?+  Do you feel empowered to change your teams and company?+  Do you have empathy for your colleagues like your users?+  Do you design effective meetings?+  Do you have a common language/principles for good design?+  Does your company support risk-taking?+  Does your company value quality over deadlines?+  Is your company dominating its market?
    • 89. A few things toremember…
    • 90. A deep understanding ofyour users will bring clarityto your product or service.
    • 91. Great products are designedthrough expansive generation, fastvalidation, and great craftsmanship.
    • 92. Use your design skills tosolve the problems in yourorganization.
    • 93. Insight, design, and a goal-directed approach can inspireyour organization to change.
    • 94. Upcoming Cooper U CoursesInteraction Design Apr 9-12Visual Interface Design Apr 15-16Design Leadership Apr 17-18UX Boot Camp Jun 11-14Cooper is hiring!Interaction DesignersVisual Designers› Continue the conversation…nick@cooper.com@nickmyer5cooper.com/journal