I work as a UX consultant for RAC. Before I worked in UX, I was an agency side copywriter (which I still do freelance). I got into UX because I was forever being sent fully designed frames full of ipsum boxes to fill, and that to me seems like working backwards.
I also dealt with a lot of clients who had their requests agreed for fear of the agency losing the pitch, without having considered the functionality and whether there was value in their assumptions.
That meant projects went over time and budget, leading to unhappy devs, and unhappy client.
Now I work in corporate, the ‘clients’ are internal – MD’s and marketing & comms people with a big idea about how selling on digital should work.
The digital team have to balance doing what the powers that be want, and producing something that works for the user. If we disagree and the MD’s can’t see why, we’re in trouble. If we agree and the stats come back to show what we built isn’t working, we’re in trouble.
That’s why I would like to talk about the importance of solid IA & UX, and the value of working with clients to make sure they understand and can see evidence for laying a solid foundation before you start.
I know there are a lot of people with a design background here – so apologies for the very basic slides, but that’s sort of the point.
This is my talk…TITLE: There’s only limited time, so let’s go!
To start our user journey, I’m going to tell you the story of one particularly tricky and interesting client I worked with (with Dave Allen actually, so he can back me up here!).
This client consisted of a team of incredibly clever aerospace engineers who had invented and patented a completely new type of revolving torque coupling.
They had no interest in, or understanding of digital, but wanted a website because their competitors had one.
So… a bit of background. Here’s what they wanted to sell (not theirs). This part is present in vehicles ranging from cars to tanks to submarines to aeroplanes.
Their big aim was to replace existing parts in these vehicles with something better – I.e., their invention.
So, here’s what we needed to get across – the reasons why their invention is better:
List the stuff.
Did you get all that?
No, I didn’t either.
To me it was just lot of tech terms, and most importantly a hell of a lot of information, which needed to be organised, tailored to different industries, and made accessible to the user – both ‘shop floor’ engineers and the technical sales specialists who hold the purse strings.
The trouble was that when it came to the crunch, the engineers with their technical expertise, and me with digital expertise spoke in entirely different, and equally confusing, languages.
To the engineers with their practical, tangible, materials based experience, the digital world seemed pretty fluffy and unimportant.
To them, IA & UX seemed:
So, where to start?
With some business truths.
They wanted a site, however begrudgingly, because competitors had one
They wanted to show the 16 different technical variants of their coupling, and make clear the benefits this had in applications for various different industry sectors
They needed sell to licenses to manufacturers
They were really keen on having a spinning GIF logo.
Yep. Helpful. So…
I decided to ignore the spinning logo request completely, and go back to basics and explain to them, the importance of selling the UX of UX.
In the interests of saving time (and as this is only a demonstrative thing!) I’ll use one persona.
Introducing engineer, Alan Key (yep)
Alan’s key goals:
Sell his product and get a site up fast. Not interested in digital ‘fluff’, just wants to tell us what he wants, and get us to do it.
Thinks his invention speaks for itself - the website is secondary. Hopes to make millions and retire.
Respects ‘proper hands on work’, which digital isn’t.
Reads long industry articles in print, not web savvy
Not interested in fashions or trends
Respects technical, logical work, research and robust testing.
That’s right: Logical work and robust testing.
And that is where our languages overlap. We’ve found a common ground, which is always there with any client, and needs to be discovered if you are to avoid the ‘reams of content on the homepage and spinning gif logo’ scenario.
So, based on this persona, and the newly found common ground, we must not:
Show Alan we understand his product and market, and gather all the information he has, right at the start.
Explain HONESTLY the value of IA & UX, how long this will take, and why that time is important.
Me must talk to Alan in a language he understands.
Think about Alan’s journey in the same way we would usually think about the journey his users will take. (small, but I’ll put slides up later)
What’s the trigger? He knows he needs a website.
We need to Pinpoint the value – testing Alan’s, and our, assumptions. Organise the information, and base changes on evidence to limit risk. Explain this to Alan.
Involve Alan in the process, so he gets to implement his ideas, then test to see if they work or not
Put together a clickable, lo-fi prototype, meaning Alan is not distracted by design and the more ‘sexy and exciting’ parts of the process too early
Record and report on errors, and iteratively plan changes and functionality around these
So: By the time design and build start, information, function and data tracking is planned – and Alan feels confident about, and involved in, the project
So at the end of the Allan’s journey, he sees that IA & UX are important.
He realises that the web isn’t all fluff and marketing, and he feels confident when the site goes live.
He can expect ROI, can track what’s working and what isn’t, and can rely on us to make changes along the journey based on evidence, because more often that not, our involvement doesn’t end when the site goes live.
Needs change, and we understand those needs.
So – in a perfect world, Alan loves IA & UX
So, in summary…
Be honest, and be clear. The client will respect it.
Change your language – most people don’t talk like we do.
Remember that UX isn’t new – it’s a principle that applies to and adds value to both the tangible and the virtual
BE PROUD to be in such a useful & rapidly evolving industry…
And most importantly, remember:
Thanks – hope this was useful, and there’s my details. I’ll pop the slides up on my blog after this. Thanks to SWUX for having me, and enjoy the rest of the lightening talks!
Castles Made of Sand - Explaining the importance of IA & UX
I’d better get a
have one. I’ll just
write up what the
product does and
they can put the
Explain the value of
planning information and
testing assumptions –
both Allan’s, and ours.
Limit risk and organise
Involve Allan in the
process, and base
decisions on evidence.
Save time, costly
mistakes and avoid a
lengthy sign off
process. Get to know
the product and target
market inside out.
Clickable prototype gives
valuable data, test and log
errors, plan functionality.
Allan can follow and
understand the process.
Ready to start design and
build – Information,
functionality & data
tracking is planned. Allan is
confident in the process,
and what he is paying for.
- Alan Key *
“I bloody love IA & UX”
* Quote not verbatim