Story of my backgroundThe emergence of a participatory culture and people-centered design will affect what companies design and produce in the future/It will also affect how companies go about designing
Many of us talk about being user-centered, and most of us want to be user-centered designers. But what does that really mean? And how do you take the understanding you gain from user research and do something meaningful with it for an innovative outcome?
Theatrical tradition dates back far in our history and has long been a success means of gaining empathyTheater has long given people—artists in particular—a means of interacting with their communitiesAs business becomes more dependant on knowledge to create value, work becomes more like art (artful making what managers need to know)Theater will allow the transformation into an artistic process that will be truly human-centered//LM – NICE!
What is it about theatrical practice that drives this empathy though? What makes it so proven? There are 2 major aspects….Artful making -
Peter Brooks – his ideas of rough, holy, immediate and deadly theater. Immediacy is the best route to empathy.Immediacy means being in touch with not only the people, but natural environment – the whole picture. This fits in nicely with the ideas of Austin and Devin/artful making who believe innovation emerges from iterative process.
The story about first rehearsal
It takes multiple iterations to move from the first stumbling rehearsal through getting the blocking down, memorizing our lines, working through the characters and the scenes; adding our costumes, stage settings, and lighting; and finally, arriving at the final production.Looking at the three activities by which Brooks says we can achieve this kind of emergent outcome that immediacy provideswe can begin to see the overlap between the rehearsal process and product development.Break the straight line – and you’ll infuse creativity
As you move forward your iterations get smaller, closer together and more refined. Each phase requires an increasing amount of commitment, communicates a different thing and has a more increased level of fidelity. You may go back to a different phase if needed even.
It’s your job to make sure that empathetic understanding is always carried throughTable talk – the initial discussion of the script – the story, the characters, intents, setting, and so forthThrough line – is how the threads of the story are carried throughAlso goes with Twyla Tharp’s “spine” and the goal on the index card that goes in the box. Do table talk to get your team on the same page. If you are getting off track along the way, don’t hesitate to do more table talk.Understand and maintain the overall through line — and the actions and intentions for achieving it.Break the work into manageable pieces. Don’t get overwhelmed by trying to tackle the whole thing at once. Do frequent run-throughs in the context of the whole through line once you design each chunk.Check in with your audience at reasonable points to understand the level of user acceptance you’ve achieved. Then, fine tune.
Have you ever seen really good improv? Did you walk out of the experience willing to swear that the actors had rehearsed it ahead of time or it was some kind of magic? I’ll let you in on an actor’s secret: chances are the work was neither rehearsed nor magic! What’s more likely is that the group performing the improv was a true ensemble of actors who had trained and practiced the principles of improv and were accustomed to working together.
The story from peformance and community (chris grabbing me)The reason an ensemble works so well is that it comprises people whose knowledge you can rely on—one person doesn’t have to know everything. This is also why it’s best to have a multidisciplinary team, so you can take advantage of people’s different insights, perspectives, and knowledge.”
“Empathy with the user is a powerful tool for innovation. It gives you insight into the problem, but even more important, it makes you care about the outcome.”
Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about. If I walked up to your team and asked for some Spanish carpets to store some papers in, you would probably look at me like I was crazy. But I recently worked with a team for whom this term was an important communication clarifier. It also happened to be a funny joke.
Participarty activities need some way to be managed…forum theater is a way to do so…part of boal’s theater of the oppressedStart by having the core members of your group—the people with the best knowledge of the particular problem the story would address—work on the definition and improvisation of a specific problem or story.I encourage you to do a physical enactment, as well as communicating your story visually by capturing your scenario in sketches. If you’ve created personas, this would be the perfect opportunity to embody them, as I described in my UXmatters column “What’s My Persona? Developing a Deep and Dimensioned Character.” Defining the specific problem you’re addressing, then enacting your story provide the scaffolding your more hesitant participants need to become engaged and find a clear way to contributing when you present your story to the larger group. It is much less scary to start from this shared experience than from scratch. Coming up with multiple scenarios may require a few different groups to tackle different issues, but they can work in parallel.At this point, the remaining members of the larger group can become spect-designers and jump in with their own ideas and potential solutions.Whether they participate through physical enactment or by adding to the sketches, they can help fill in the gaps or provide a wider range of perspectives that inform potential solutions. It is my belief that the concepts the group develops would be richer and more diverse, because of everyone’s contributions.Finally, evaluate the concepts as potential solutions.The point of brainstorming is to pull out the broadest sweep of potential solutions from participants, so save evaluation for this explicit step. Nothing hinders creativity more than the fear of looking or sounding silly, so reserve judgment till you’ve gathered everyone’s ideas. Then, if you truly want to understand which concepts are the right ones, test them with actual users.
I’m in the user’s shoes, now what? How finding an empathetically user-centered perspective on design builds innovation May 2011 Traci Lepore Principal Interaction Designer Twitter: @traciuxd uxmatters.com/authors/traci_lepore
If this is the direction we are moving, the way we work needs to change – we need to be more user-centered UXD today and the need for a new approach Design is moving from being an engineering focused practice to a human experience focused practice With that transition understanding the user’s experience becomes important The availability of new technologies with more sophisticated and physical interaction requires deeper understanding of context of the experience
Towards a user-centered process Empathy: The power of entering into another’s personality and imaginatively experiencing his experiences: the power of entering into the feeling or spirit of something…and so appreciating it fully. (Greek: en, in, pathos, feeling) The designer learns from experiencing the user andworks for the experience of the user The designer, user and product are not separate - successful design of experiences requires empathy Empathy is the heart of UXD
It’s a natural parallel artistic process to turn to for help Theater teaches us empathy Theatrical approaches to UXD could provide: A useful way of establishing a common, shared context for audience participants Instruction in engaging and insightful communication and teamwork Encouragement of dialog and suggestions of solutions betweendesigners and users Opportunity to test those suggestions Iteration that allows changes to be incorporated immediately and tested again
The route to empathy already exists in typical UXD process and people – it just needs some enhancement Empathetic UXD should work like an art process… If UXD was user-centered and empathetic like theater it would have: A production process that includes: Rapid iteration Cyclical rehearsal, not linear movement towards the end product Strategy creation and direction Worked by an ensemble that: Know and trust each other Have shared language and domain knowledge Engage in improvisation & innovative play Have a forum for design negotiation
Immediacy in UXD = iteration… Maintaining immediacy drives timely empathy Immediacy: a reflection of the here and now and evolves from observation of the world around us Maintaining Immediacy requires committing to a truly user-centered process which: Gathers requirements from users Produces concepts based on those requirements Validates them with users again before beginning to develop And immediacy doesn’t end at the release, immediacy means continual assessment and iteration
Out of the chaos comes structure and delight Iteration leads to innovation Try lots of ideas in a short period of time Get everyone’s input – make use of the ensemble Use your wealth of stored and shared stimuli and experiences Experiment and find metaphors and analogies Throw out what doesn’t work, letting you keep what does Allows for failure in a safe environment Keeps you from having to go with the first idea –no matter whether it’s the best or not Keep the immediacy Constant check and balance against the user stories and needs Keeps freshness
The building blocks of iteration Rehearsal processes aren’t much different than product development Break the straight line by thinking in multiple chunks of the building blocks you put together
The phases of iteration Usability high Refinement Concept Validation Ideation Ideas drop off – commit to viable options Level of Fidelity Commitment Iteration low Rehearsal Run Through Performance Dress Rehearsal Communicates Ideas, possibilities to pursue Structure, overall flow Structure, flow, & details (w/o final visual design) Final branded and fully developed product Be clear about what phase you are in and what you are communicating
It’s up to you to maintain the forward motion The UX designer’s role – driving the vision Getting help along the way: Do the table talk – discuss the vision and have a shared understanding Be clear about the story and the intents Break the work into manageable pieces and the run through multiple pieces together as a whole Check in with your audience at reasonable points, then fine tune
Promotes empathy, which leads to innovation The empathetic UXD production process An immediate, iterative and artistic process pulls it all together
No one can do it alone and unconnected It takes a village… Empathy requires that you understand The whole picture The users The team The context and domain of your design problem The physical and cultural environment That an ensemble gives you the best chance of understanding the whole picture The power of empathy derived from the ensemble drives spontaneity and innovation
Being connected to a whole larger than yourself evokes the kind of empathy that makes magic happen Ensembles deliver innovation – not magic! Misconception: Innovation happens spontaneously – therefore is magic Reality: Alot of individual work and teamwork goes into spontaneity An ensemble can: Be spontaneous, or improvise in the moment when needed Successfully work as a group tobrainstorm and evaluate Draw on the skills of a whole that is larger than any one individual Provide empathy for more than just the user – but also the group and the environment
An ensemble is more than just a team Working together in a group is difficult. To be an ensemble and not just a team requires: Practice in the core principles of improvisation The ability to recombine and reincorporate things you already know A multidisciplinary team to split the work of obtaining domain knowledge Shared experiences, language, and gestures Warming up before brainstorming Negotiation during the brainstorming Ensembles don’t happen overnight just because you put people together
An ongoing preparation task for the individual & group Ready, set, improvise! Creativity and spontaneity Build up your stimuli and input reserves Warm up and play games Be OK with failure Trust and collaboration Know your team Focus on being present Skillful improvisation Follow the rules of “Yes, and…” Rely on the first two points
The best way to understand the user’s world is to engage in it Stealing isn’t illegal, it’s encouraged! “Playing Degas” A role playing game to help Picasso understand the innovators around him Innovation comes from empathetic understanding of Users Other creators Culture Which lets you Be in tune with the world Combine listening and action So you can call on those tools at any time - spontaneously
Improv that is truly spontaneous requires deeper communication capabilities in the ensemble Shared language – the secret sauce of improv “A shared language … becomes a critical factor in the kind of improvisation that leads to innovation. A shared language is the key thing you can rely on and fall back on in moments of spontaneity with your ensemble. And it is what makes improvisation fast, smooth, and seamless.” Shared language doesn’t have to be verbal; it can include gestures and shared experiences the group has had together.
All design is a negotiation, so take advantage of it! A forum for design negotiation Small subgroup of the ensemble define and improvise the embodiment of a specific problem or issue Leverage the members who know the most about the context Scaffold structure makes it less scary for the larger group Presenting the embodied issues to a larger group in a participatory experience by Let members of the larger group jump in with their variations on the story Fill in gaps, and get all perspectives Defer evaluation until the process has revealed everyone’s concepts and ideas Don’t hinder the creativity!
We can learn from theater how to derive more empathy in our UXD processes Today’s UXD world requires more empathy The way we go about the business of user experience design is changing There is a move to focus on the human aspects of design, not the technical This change, along with increasing complexity in available technologies and experiences, make it imperative that designers have an empathetic perspective Theatrical techniques and methods can help support building that empathetic perspective when infused into various points in already existing design processes
Empathetic UXD perspectives drive innovation Through an immediate, iterative and artistic process That builds on understanding of needs by the use of characters and storytelling of requirements Validates & refines ideas through iterative runs of work - shared with users in participatory exercises Communicates the design story for buy in Worked by a group That does the work of building an ensemble capable of improvising Has a shared language Can negotiate successfully in a participatory exercise
Find out more on Uxmatters.com The Holy Grail of Innovation: It Takes an Ensemble to Achieve Inspired Creativity Sketches and Wireframes and Prototypes! Oh My! Creating Your Own Magical Wizard Experience I Have an Idea! Forums for Design Conversations and Negotiations Putting Together a Production: A Rehearsal Strategy for Design The UX Designer’s Place in the Ensemble: Directing the Vision What Place Does Theater Have in the Creative Process of Design?
Great books to read “Artful Making: What Managers Need to Know About How Artists Work” by Robert Austin and Lee Devin “The Creative Habit: Learn it and Use it for Life” by Twyla Tharp “The Empty Space” by Peter Brook “Games for Actors and Non-Actors” by Augusto Boal