Has business accepted user centred design?


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The title of the masters was Human Centred Systems, and a core premise was that we design the best products and services, when we have a deep understanding of people who will use them. And the time since my masters, working at Flow Interactive and now Foolproof I’ve seen the power of that connection with people – whether you call them users, customers, visitors, audience. And more significantly I’ve seen a growing awareness at our clients, and a growing desire to really engage with the people who will use a product and service.

But we still regularly see this idea challenged. We hear commentators argue that research and creativity don't mix. That research drives design to vanilla solutions. And testing early prototypes allows unsophisticated consumers to kill great ideas before they’re fully formed.

Today I’m going to consider why we see more businesses putting customers at the heart of their process, look some of the myths we hear, and more importantly at some of the real challenges to effective user-centred design.

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  • John WaterworthExperience Strategy team at FoolproofExperience Design AgencyMasters here at the Centre for HCI Design, and it was great to be invited back to speak at HCID 2013.The title of the masters was Human Centred Systems, and a core premise was that we design the best products and services, when we have a deep understanding of people who will use them. And the time since my masters, working at Flow Interactive and now Foolproof I’ve seen the power of that connection with people – whether you call them users, customers, visitors, audience. And more significantly I’ve seen a growing awareness at our clients, and a growing desire to really engage with the people who will use a product and service.But we still regularly see this idea challenged. We hear commentators argue that research and creativity don't mix. That research drives design to vanilla solutions. And testing early prototypesallows unsophisticated consumers to kill great ideas before they’re fully formed.Today I’m going to consider why we see more businesses putting customers at the heart of their process, look some of the myths we hear, and more importantly at some of the real challenges to effective user-centred design. And finally look ahead to the future.
  • Our definition of Experience Design. Contains the core ideas of user-centred design.Focussed on human outcomes, iterating through research and creativity, involving users and different specialisms, measuring outcomes.
  • This report by Watermark Consulting shows the value of good customer experience. It uses Forrester Research’s Customer Experience Index and compares the performance of the top 10 and bottom 10 in the index with the average for the 500 leading US companies. As you can see the performance difference is dramatic.And we see many businesses that have adopted a more user-centred approach on some projects and been successful doing it. It may not yet be the norm across that business, and there will be pockets of resistance, but there is an example to follow and that builds momentum.We also see people who are used to a more user-centred approach moving to a new business and shifting the culture there too.
  • Most businesses start with user testing existing products and services. We’re seeing more and more do that. In an Econsultancy survey last year the 55% of the client-side companies who responded were doing user experience testing and 33% planned to start within the next 12 months.Many experienced practitioners can forget the impact that user testing can have. It can be quite a shock for them as they find out that something they’ve just spent a lot of time and money on has serious flaws. That can produce significant ripples in the organisation. From there they realise that they could have avoided many of the problems by testing a few different concepts or prototypes, and eventually they try to gain broader insights into their current and potential customers.
  • But for me the biggest reason is that many business have been frightened to death by the uncertainties of the last 5 years. I don’t have specific figures for this, but Richard Seymour of Seymour Powell also said this at UX London on Friday, so that’s good enough for me.If we look just at digital technologies, we know lots of businesses that have only just worked through the implications of the desktop web, and are now working hard to catch up with mobile and tablet and smart TVs. While Apple start talking about watches and Google about glasses.Rather than a knee-jerk ‘we have to have an app!’ reaction, the best organisations we work with are using insights into customer behaviour to better understand when a new technology will be relevant for them and how they should respond.Despite those things driving adoption by business, we still see a lot of arguments against user-centred practices.
  • The think about this ‘myth’ is that it holds a germ of truth. Yes, asking what people want isn’t a good question. But we know that, and that’s not what we do.We want a deeper understanding of people. We want to know what people do know, we want to understand their pain points, we want to understand their motivation and aspirations. So that we can design a great product or service that will fit really well into their life, into their work.
  • And at this point the person presenting this myth will usually give a quote by Henry Ford or Steve Jobs. So I’m going to give my own Steve Jobs reference.
  • The next myth is that once you listen to customers you’ll just create the least offensive, blandest, samiest thing that everyone’s done before.Again there is a germ of truth here. If you just ask users what they want and ask someone to make that. I guess there wouldn’t be any room for creativity, but that’s not what anyone’s advocating.
  • And in any case the greatest constraint to creativity we see isn’t being user-centred. It’s tasking teams with producing a pre-determined output – we need an iphone app for people to register their products, make support requests, and you’ve got a budget of £30K for it.We see the best businesses moving from asking for Outputs to asking for Outcomes. So rather than ask for an iPhone app, ask a team to increase product registrations by 50%, to have customers make more online support requests than telephone requests, etc.
  • A good example of this came from a design competition we entered last year. The challenge was to remove barriers to embracing electronic-vehicles and associated technologies, and my colleagues Jan Srutek and Lucy Wilson created the winning concept.The first relevant things here was that the competition did not ask for a specific solution, it did not specify a particular output. It asked for ideas that would produce a particular outcome – removing barriers to e-vehicles.The second relevant thing is that most of the other entries appeared to be design and technology led. But Jan and Lucy spent a couple of days doing some really quick research on the streets around our office into perceptions of e-vehicles and current barriers, from people who might be more resistant and more receptive to e-vehicles. This meant that Jan and Lucy could produce a very creative solution that they knew addressed real barriers.
  • So we need to do something now. We know enough about our customers. We should just get on with it. All that research will make us miss the deadline.Again there is a germ of truth here. We do still see some people presenting a user-centred design process that includes long phases of up-front research.But that’s not what we do and it’s not what the best businesses we work with do. We work from what an organisation knows already, do some focussed research to fill significant gaps, and then do further research and evaluation to inform the design through each iteration.
  • If you want to know more about that approach to research, listen to Jo Packer and her work at Songkick. They get out of the building to find out more about customers, and also bring in customers on a regular cycle for design research and user testing.
  • Now don’t get me wrong. We love data. There’s nothing better to solve an argument about what users do and don’t than to have real data. But what current users do with your current product will only ever give you a partial picture.You really do need to ‘get out the building’ and talk to people in their natural habitat. People often describe this as adding the why to the what. But I think it goes deeper. You want to know what you don’t know that you don’t know – if you know what I mean. You want to see people do things that you’ve never imagined before. To hear them describe things in way you never heard before. To get that deep understanding of how your product or service can work for them.
  • Richard Seymour gave a great example at UX London last Friday. I’d love to show his video, but I’ll have to describe it.In the video a woman is talking about the ingredients in her shopping. But that’s really a distraction, a way to get her not to think to much about what she is really doing, which is using a packet of peas.She picks up a freezer bag of peas cuts a line half way across the packet. Uses some of the peas, tips up the packet, twists it and uses the tab she created as a tie.(Use a piece of paper to show this).That’s why you want to get out and meet real people.
  • Another argument I hear regularly is that radical innovation is always driven by technology and design.This diagram is by Roberto Verganti from his book Design Driven Innovation. It shows how the great leaps come from a combination of radical improvement in technology and a radical change in the meaning and understanding of the use of that technology – what Verganti calls a technology epiphany.Verganti relegates user centred approaches to a small corner of incremental adaptation of existing technologies and meanings. Which seems to me to again take a particular view of user-centred design.Walkman?
  • One of his examples is the Nintendo Wii. The Wii is a combination of new motion and position capture technologies and a radical change in the meaning of video games, away from the dominance of solitary play with an ever higher powered console. In Verganti’s view the Wii was not at all user-centred because it was not designed to meet existing user needs.But the Wii was absolutely derived from a deep understanding of the changes in games players and families. Nintendo knew that many of their most popular games were relatively simple multi-player games like Mario Kart and Mario Party. They knew that families now had parents who had grown up playing games themselves. That families were buying large, flat screen TVs that were ideal for multi-player gaming, as long as everyone could play. And they knew that having everyone play meant a console and games that worked for boys, girls, mums and dads.Nintendo could not have come up with the Wii if it didn’t have a deep understanding of its customers.So we’ve discounted those myths, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t real challenges. And that’s what I’d like to speak about next/
  • This is a big challenge in many organisation.You’re the boss. You have lot’s of experience. You get paid the big bucks. So you are supposed to know what we should do. To get money to do something you need a definitive output, plan and budget. And it doesn’t sound good when you say that we don’t know what we’re going to do, so we need to do research and try some things out and see what works best.But in our best clients the leaders create a vision and a culture that supports experimentation, customer contact, thoughtful design, multi-function collaboration, etc.
  • This is a service blueprint. It shows the things a service user does, the direct parts of a service they see (front of stage) and the back stage and supporting activities that they don’t see.And the problem here is that people responsible for user/customer experience are often only allowed to change the layers at the top. They can change what the service user does and how the front of stage elements work. But they cannot change back stage and supporting activities, or at least not without great difficulty, great expense and great delay.So we increasingly see quite nice looking interfaces layered over obsolete services, or the planning for the support systems not taking into account their impact n customer experience.
  • This is a diagram from Marty Neumeier’sZag book. It looks at the way prototypes and products test according to how good and how different they are. The problem is that the products that do best in tests are ones that are most similar to existing products. So if you’re not good at analysing your test results, or you only do A/B testing, you can easily throw away your best ideas. As Marty puts it, you end up zigging, along with everyone else, when you should be zagging on your own.Key here is to listen to people, as well as just watch or measure what people do. Because they say different things about the Goof and Different products.
  • The best organisations we work with have great numbers that measure the things that are important to them, and then track them over time. But too many companies have lots of numbers, but few that help guide their action.The problem here is counting things you can count, rather than starting from something you want to measure and figuring out a good way to measure that. In particular the problem seems to be with finding good proxy measures for things that you can’t count directly – like increased engagement.
  • A key element of user-centred design is trying things out with real customers. Experimenting. And that is, rightly, scary for many businesses. What if it goes wrong. How much harm can you do to the brand.But there is an emerging body of work on how to do this. Particularly by Dave Snowden and his Probe-Sense-Respond approach.
  • So to answer my question. Yes, I think business has accepted user-centred design.And my real clue is in the Customer Development ideas of Steven Blank, which information the Lean Startup ideas of Eric Reis, which in turn spawned the Lean UX ideas of Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden. These ideas are some of the most pervasive in businesses today.None of these talk about user-centred design. But throughout these books we see the balance between researching the customer and designing and building the product or service, we see tight cycles of designing, making and learning, getting out of the building to observe and listen to customers, cross-functional collaboration, etc.So again yes, business has accepted user-centred design, they just don’t call it that.
  • Has business accepted user centred design?

    1. 1. April 2013HCID 2013 | Has business accepted user-centred design?John Waterworth Experience Strategy
    2. 2. DefinitionExperience design is…A design practice focused on human outcomes particularly the level ofengagement and satisfaction that the user derives from a product orservice, and the relevance of the experience to their needs and context.It is: Iterative - identifying and resolving design challenges through cyclesof creativity and user research Collaborative - involving specialists from various design and non-designdisciplines, as well as project stakeholders and end users, in the designprocess Measurable - identifying both physical and emotional outcomes for theexperience, and measuring success against these targets
    3. 3. #1 : Success breeds success3© 2013 Foolproof LimitedDrivers
    4. 4. #2 : Working back through the process4© 2013 Foolproof LimitedDriversFrom User Experience Survey Report. Copyright @ 2013 Econsultancy
    5. 5. #3 : Fear of an uncertain future5© 2013 Foolproof LimitedDrivers
    6. 6. #1 : You can’t ask people what they want6© 2013 Foolproof LimitedMyths
    7. 7. “This is what Jobs means when he says Apple doesn‟tdo focus groups. In no way is he recommending that youstop listening to your customers. He‟s advocating thatyou get closer than ever to your customers. So close, infact, that you tell them what they need before theyrealize it themselves.”Carmine Gallo, The Innovation Secrets of Steve JobsGet close to your customers7© 2013 Foolproof LimitedMyths
    8. 8. 8© 2013 Foolproof Limited• Nationwide struggling toposition three new currentaccounts• Used existing Foolproofand Nationwide knowledgeof customers to createexploratory designs• Refined through twocycles of testing withpotential customers• Dramatic increase inapplications• Particularly through a new„why Nationwide‟ routeNationwide Voyager current accountMyths
    9. 9. #2 : There’s no room left for creativity9© 2013 Foolproof LimitedMythsImage by cowpie at flickr.com
    10. 10. Task teams with outcomes10© 2013 Foolproof LimitedMythsOutputs Outcomes Impact
    11. 11. 11© 2013 Foolproof Limited“The panel were impressed withthe approach that Flow took, theirextensive research of the problemand the innovative nature of thesolution. They thought that the appwould be highly appealing, easilyaccessible and be a wide-reachingsolution. The use of NFC on „juicepoints‟ to provide information was aparticularly innovative, yet entirelyfeasible, element of the entry, andgreatly impressed the judges.”Stuart Catchpole, InnovationManager at Hethel Innovation andcompetition lead.E-Mobility concept designMyths
    12. 12. #3 : Too slow, too expensive12© 2013 Foolproof LimitedMyths
    13. 13. 13© 2013 Foolproof Limited• Problems with bookingprocess• Research in 5 EUcountries to create designprinciples• Ideas for new multi-channel booking process• Iterative design throughprototypes and trial sites• Rich insights gatheredclose to real-time• Learning across channels• Faster to market andreduced costsAutoglass booking processMyths
    14. 14. Minimum Viable Research14© 2013 Foolproof LimitedMyths
    15. 15. #4 : We can just look at the data15© 2013 Foolproof LimitedMyths
    16. 16. Freezer pack of peas16© 2013 Foolproof LimitedMythsImage by notfrancois at flickr.com
    17. 17. #5 : Innovation is driven by technology and design17© 2013 Foolproof LimitedMythsDiagram Copyright © 2009 Roberto VergantiEpiphany
    18. 18. Nintendo Wii18© 2013 Foolproof LimitedMythsWii publicity image from Nintendo. Copyright @ 2009 Nintendo of America, Inc
    19. 19. #1 : Leaders are supposed to know the answer19© 2013 Foolproof LimitedChallengesStill image from The Ten Commandments. Copyright @ 1956 Paramount Pictures
    20. 20. #2 : Going deeper than the touch points20© 2013 Foolproof LimitedChallenges
    21. 21. #3 : Throwing out the baby21© 2013 Foolproof LimitedChallengesFrom Zag: The #1 Strategy of High-Performance Brands. Copyright @ 2010 Marty Neumeier
    22. 22. #4 : Lots of data, but little insight22© 2013 Foolproof LimitedChallenges
    23. 23. #5 : How to conduct safe-fail experiments23© 2013 Foolproof LimitedChallengesPhoto by jervetson at flickr.com
    24. 24. Has business accepted user-centred design?24© 2013 Foolproof LimitedConclusion
    25. 25. ContactFoolproofHarella House90-98 Goswell RoadLondonEC1V 7DFwww.foolproof.co.ukContactFoolproofHarella House90-98 Goswell RoadLondonEC1V 7DF+44 (0)20 7539 3840www.foolproof.co.ukjohn.waterworth@foolproof.co.ukJohn Waterworth Experience Strategy25© 2013 Foolproof Limited