Design Triage


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Many of us are racing to be first to market, or release something in time for a specific event. Running and gunning on the product design battlefield is a tremendous challenge because it takes time to design things that provide ~real value for people and fit into a brand’s ecosystem in a meaningful way. How can you create things that provide utility, joy, and value while you’re chasing a moving target on the battlefield of design? This talk will show you.

Discover the essential art of design triage and explore techniques to provide solid user experience design (even when there’s no time), put mortally flawed projects out of their misery, and help deserving projects thrive. Design triage will help you shape things that serve people’s real needs and goals and give you tools to parachute into a fast moving situations so you can provide “nick of time” design that makes what your building truly helpful and delightful.

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  • The CP+B UX team works across all touch pints. Digital v Trad? No. Future is layering of holistic behavioral-focused product design w/ emotional narratives of marketing.It takes time and passion to design things that provide real value for people and fit a brand’s ecosystem a way that makes sense and leave #NoDeadEndsFor our team, there’s no rest period so design triage has become an essential art.
  • You might be familiar with the word from watching ER or war movies.
  • What’s interesting about battlefields and emergencies is that they often lead to medical advancementsWar is hell.To make it through and save lives medics over the year have had to INNOVATE.
  • Every war brings medical innovations, as horrific injuries force surgeons to come up with new ways to save lives.
  • Design triage is just one of those advancements. It help us parachute into a fast moving situations to provide “nick of time” design that makes what your building truly helpful and delightful.
  • Prioritization is number one for a reason. If medics arrived on a battle field and started treating the first casualty they see, they’d likely miss other casualties in more critical condition.
  • Triage begins by sorting through lots of similar things to facilitate grouping and decision making. You have to take a hard critical look at all the projects/products/features around you and prioritize.
  • Battlefield triage takes place in an environment limited in resources and time. Sound familiar?On battlefields, they use triage tags to sort casualties based on their immediate medical needs and according to which have the greatest probability of survival.
  • The colored bitsat the bottom are perforated and can be pulled off so that the lowest remaining color on the tag can communicate the the to other medical staff.Using a standardized approach to triage projects on YOUR battlefield can help you correctly sort and deal with the most important projects as quickly as possible.Let’s look at how triage categories can map to the kinds of projects we see in our world.
  • If you focus your attention on this group, you’re just spinning your wheels while more important projects remain undone.  Ask yourself what difference a project will make in 1 year, and if the answer is none, it probably belongs to this group.
  • A lot of the work we do at CP+B goes beyond advertising but things like banners still play a role. What’s great is that our UX team can often categorize banners as minor because our extended team has the skill to create great banners. UX can chime in if we’re able but our team has the mechanics of creating compelling banners pretty well handled so we can focus on other things.
  • When you and your team are prioritizing be careful that you don’t accidently de-prioritize things that are small and un-sexy. For example, error messages may ~seem like an unimportant and incredibly boring part of crafting a user experience. But the tonality of error messages can swing an experience around from an almost certain abandonment to a conversion. So just because a project is small, doesn’t mean it’s minor. Think about the impact to determine how to classify a project.
  • Think of the wounded person on the battlefield who’d love some immediateattention for his/her injuries but will still be OK even if they have to wait a bit.
  • The key to successful triage is to identify these projects as quickly as possible. Putsimply, if medical attention is not provided, the patient will die. Casualties do not remain in this category for an extended period of time, they are either found, triaged and treated, or they will die. Without your help, these projects will fail or end up so crappy that it won’t matter.
  • EXPECTANT Casualties in this category have wounds that are so extensive that even if they were the sole casualty and had the benefit of optimal medical resources, their survival would be highly unlikely.  In battle, these types of casualties are to receive comfort measures and pain medication. But it’s different for projects.
  • When you work at the intersection of creativity and innovation, you are likely to see a few projects that are in this group. Ideas that are convoluted, not using tech appropriately, too it’s full potential, or the ratio of effort to impact is so low that you know it can’t succeed. While many projects in this category will die automatically, others will languish. You need to be able to identify these projects so you don’t waste all your time and energy.
  • Despite its morbid nature, triage is extremely important if you want to maximize the # of lives, or project you save. If you don’t do it, the results will be far worse.It’s not really a case of assess and bail. If you had the time you’d try to do it all but you don’t have that luxury. There are tons of great ideas coming at you so it’s important that you and your team evaluate what will have the most impact. You have to recognize that energy must be put towards the things that matter most.
  • If you want to save the projects that are most critical, you must withdraw your attention from the other groups.  Otherwise too many great projects that need immediate attention will die needlessly.Remember that triage is not treatment. Constant reassessment is needed to identify casualties who may have deteriorated or improved.
  • Just like on the battlefield, you are not swooping in to be the star. The soldier, or in our case, the product is the star.
  • When time is tight, it’s tempting to hunker down and just crank out a design. Especially if you’ve been doing this a long time. it’s tempting avoid all the shooting and creative bombs going off and instead do a bit of what MalcomGladwell describes as “thin-slicing”
  • Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by MalcomGladwell he describes "thin-slicing” as our ability to gauge what is really important from a very narrow period of experience. In other words, this is an idea that spontaneous decisions are often as good as—or even better than—carefully planned and considered ones. But even Gladwell explains how an expert's ability to "thin slice" can be corrupted by their likes and dislikes, prejudices and stereotypes (even unconscious ones such as Implicit Association and psychological priming), and how they can be overloaded by too much information.
  • A battle field surgeon doesn't’t just appear and start treating the wounded. Neither should you. If you start banging out wireframes, you may be missing out onThe opportunity to ask the right question. other more important projects, features, etc.
  • Remember that we all suffer from Malkovich Bias: The tendency to believe that everyone uses Technology like you do. Tern coined by Andrew Glusman.
  • At CP+B we like to say that marketing is a team sport. That philosophy plays out in our structure.Don’t try to be the brilliant genius, be a good facilitator - Core TEAM collaborationReal brilliance and rich product are born when a group of diverse people with diverse disciplines to come together as a team and think through, work through, write through, or sketch through issues.
  • Get the whole team involved in a simple iterative process.
  • We talk about failing early, failing often cozying up to failure. But in practice it’s hard to let things die, it’s harder still to kill them even when you believe it’s the right thing to do.
  • On a battlefield, everyone deserves to live but when it comes to products, some should just be put out of their misery.
  • Mercy killings are necessary.Teams get burned outLost confidence in leadershipNegative opportunity costs
  • It’s hard. It’s scary. Practicing triage is extremely challenging because it requires saying “no” again and again to what you may feel are good causes.  It’s the time management equivalent of saying ”no” to wounded people calling for your help.  You simply don’t have time to comfort all your dying projects or to nurse the non-essential ones.  If you don’t learn to make these tough decisions consistently, many really good projects will die, and that would be a far greater tragedy.
  • If you think I’m wrong just look at the words and actions of Steve Job. This was a man who could be a huge champion of doing cool stuff and he got many people and companies to say yes to doing the seemingly impossible but perhaps one of his greatest skills was saying no.
  • But how do you say no when you’re NOT billionaire CEO of the most valuable company in the world?
  • I’m no career councilor but I have worked in a variety of situations where saying no is difficult. Often the ability to say no depends on how high in the org is the person who wants the shiny thing? Healthy orgTell the truth – if the org is healthy and the stakeholders are rational, say no and provide a set of principles that would lead to success. Keep asking questions.Use questions to tease out the vision or illustrate the fact that there isn’t one. Having a vision will help you use common sense to know what to say no to. If there is a vision, and a project or feature goes against it, use that as your morphine shot.Tell stories -personify the project or feature so that the company or the team can start to empathize with how crappy the user experience is.
  • Not-So-Healthy, If you work in a very politicized organization where saying no is a no-no,Take careful notes to illustrate how stakholders have a different vision for the thing and reflect that conflict back to themA friend of mind calls this “grass roots murder” because it’s the systematic and subtle undermining of group think via hint and innuendo. Nobody likes a nay-sayer, but a series of subtle pooh-poohs in the right places, at the right moment can have a powerful cumulative effect.Quit or be ready to quite.
  • Once you’ve prioritized, and helped the bad projects exit this world. It’s time to design the things that matter. And of course it needs to be done like yesterday, so you’re going to have to be SCRAPPY. Just like a battlefield surgeon, You don’t have the time and resources you’d like. No time and budget for the process you’d like, or the tools that would help. Battlefield surgeons face these challenges all the time. Do what they do: make it work.
  • At CP+B we have and entire department of cultural anthropologists who help us gain insights about the people we design for but I’ve worked at many places where they’d say things like “No time or budget for research” You have to call bullshit.
  • You have to call bullshit because…
  • Getting insight from our customers has never been easier, faster or more achievable than it is today. It won’t be perfect research but it’s better than nothing. Be persistent and energetic in providing a range of options.
  • If the project is in really bad shape, start with a vision everyone can get behind. No methodology can substitute a real vision. Our core teams use these deceptively simple, jargon-free questions to kick off a vision discussion.Assemble your core team and try to answer these questions as clearly and concisely as possible.
  • Battlefield surgeons keep clean, organized operating areas where everyone knows where everything is so they can provide the best care possible. You need to similarly create environments where good UX can happen.So many startups are trying to launch in UX is going to be the differentiator – if that’s the case, we need to actually have orgs that can produce good UX. It can’t come from one person or department; it has to be part of the organization’s core principles. If you’re in a position to command this doIf you’re not, reach out and forge relationships with Devs, Creatives who are sensitive to UX.
  • When you're iterating quickly, heavyweight deliverables, like specifications and even wireframes, can get in the way and slow you down. Rapid prototypes and whole-team discussion can be more effective. If you have fancy tools for prototyping, use them. If not, paper prototypes, keynote, clickable PDFs, etc.
  • No one comes to work say, “I’m going to read a massive report today!” Save your paper for sketching! Once you’ve done your scrappy user research, or have worked through problem as a team, forget the huge doc and instead present it as a workshop. Keep your notes and a high level summary.
  • If a picture is worth a thousand words then a video is worth a million. Try making a short video to show how a user would experience your design.
  • In a fast paced environment where you’re working with your team to make something awesome, at times it’s possible to forget that you’re still a person.
  • To perform effective triage you have to maintain a certain level of mental health, otherwise you’re going to burn out.
  • Find time to rest. Medics have to preserve energy so they can focus on a battlefield. Doctors in the ER take naps too. Rest is an important part of triage. If you aren't rested, you won’t be able to focus when needed.Speaking of focus…
  • We face all the same distractions as any modern office worker; exploding inboxes, emergency phone calls, etc. and we also have to constantly switch gears where we’re working on a user journey for this project, conducting research for another one, etc. Rather than lamenting that you don’t have time to get into flow, think about a battlefield medic who’s moving from one horrifically wounded person to the next. Different injuries, different needs but you find flow in the chaos so you can focus on one person/ project at a time.
  • Remember that you can foster good will by going back to the projects that you previously diverted attention from. Now is the time to help on those projects.Remember that triage is not treatment. Constant reassessment is needed to identify casualties who may have deteriorated or improved.
  • In wartime, governments work hard to keep everyone’s head in the game. We have to do the same. We have to say inspired. Take steps to stay inspired by what you’re doing, the people you’re collaborating with and also the world around you.
  • In the long run, these habits can make a huge long-term difference in your work. You have to be vigilant but if you embrace these principles, design triage will help you create things that provide utility, joy, and real value.Remember these principles and get out there. Go rock YOUR battlefield.
  • Design Triage

    2. Number of advertisement messages the average American is exposed to daily.Tweet about this @angel #UXtriage 2
    3. billion Amount global corporations spend each year to make their product seem desirable and to get us to buy them.Tweet about this @angel #UXtriage 3
    4. Know what you have in common with agencies? The fight to succeed on the product design battlefield.Tweet about this @angel #UXtriage 4
    5. Faster! Faster! We’re launching!Tweet about this @angel #UXtriage 5
    6. Agencies feel your pain. For ourclients we engage in constantbattles, on multiple fronts, todeliver work that goes beyondads to create products, tools, andcommunities that truly connectpeople to brands.Tweet about this @angel #UXtriage 6
    7. We work across all touch points and there’s no rest period so we’ve become masters of triage.Tweet about this @angel #UXtriage 7
    8. What Is Triage?Tweet about this @angel #UXtriage 8
    9. Triage From the French Trier, to sort Produce Battlefield Mass Casualty Sorting Medics SituationsTweet about this @angel #UXtriage 9
    10. Necessity is the mother of invention. War provides many necessities.Tweet about this @angel #UXtriage 10
    11. Wartime medical innovations X-Ray Anesthesia Blood TransfusionTweet about this @angel #UXtriage 11
    12. The design battlefield creates a similar “crucible of combat” that provides the focus & impetus for major advancements in craft, methodology, and design itself.Tweet about this @angel #UXtriage 12
    13. Design Triage 1. Prioritization 2. Selflessness 3. Mercy Killings 4. Scrappiness 5. Staying humanTweet about this @angel #UXtriage 13
    14. 1 PrioritizationTweet about this @angel #UXtriage 14
    15. Tweet about this @angel #UXtriage @slinkachu 15
    16. Triage Tags Casualties are sorted and tagged based on immediate needs and probability of EXPECTANT survival. IMMEDIATE DELAYED MINORTweet about this @angel #UXtriage 16
    17. EXPECTANT IMMEDIATE DELAYED MINORTweet about this @angel #UXtriage 17
    18. MINOR The walking wounded. Small burns, lacerations, minor fractures. For us, these are low-impact projects that wont be significantly affected whether you help them or not.Tweet about this @angel #UXtriage 18
    19. Creating Banner AdsMinor if others are capable.Tweet about this @angel #UXtriage 19
    20. Forms & Error messagesSmall but NOT Minor if impact is high.Tweet about this @angel #UXtriage 20
    21. DELAYED Surgery may be needed but condition permits delay without risk to life & limb. Projects in this group should be addressed, but don’t require you to drop everything.Tweet about this @angel #UXtriage 21
    22. Reasons for delay We have to wait The client needs until the next to sign the SOW. fiscal period. We’re getting We need a proof analytics next of concept first. week.Tweet about this @angel #UXtriage 22
    23. IMMEDIATE Casualties that require immediate LSI and/or surgery or they will die. This are the projects that will have significant impact. These really matter and without your help, they will not make it.Tweet about this @angel #UXtriage 23
    24. EXPECTANT Casualties that are mortally wounded. Death is almost certain. Critically flawed projects. These are projects that no amount of time and effort can save.Tweet about this @angel #UXtriage 24
    25. When you work at the intersection of creativity and innovation, some of the projects that cross your path will be too convoluted to succeed.Tweet about this @angel #UXtriage 25
    26. It’s kinda morbid. If you had time to save them all, you would but instead, you and your team must evaluate what will have the most impact.Tweet about this @angel #UXtriage 26
    27. Focus. You must withdraw your attention from the other categories so you can make a difference here.Tweet about this @angel #UXtriage 27
    28. 2 SelflessnessTweet about this @angel #UXtriage 28
    29. On a battlefield, the surgeon isn’t swooping in to be the star. The soldier, or in our case the project is the star.Tweet about this @angel #UXtriage 29
    30. Resist the urge tohunker down in your foxhole and “thin-slice” asolution.Tweet about this @angel #UXtriage 30
    31. Thin-Slicing Can help us make snap decisions. BUT it’s easily corrupted by our unconscious prejudices and stereotypes.Tweet about this @angel #UXtriage 31
    32. DON’T WIRE BLOW: When you blow past asking the right questions and go right into drawing the pictures of potential design solutions. -Abby CovertTweet about this @angel #UXtriage 32
    33. MALKOVICH BIAS The tendency to believe everyone uses technology like you do. -Andrew GlusmanTweet about this @angel #UXtriage 33
    34. CORE TEAM PM ECD Account Dev UX Creative 1. Leads digital strategy and planning 2. Collaborates in all phases 3. Responsible for the vision, quality and performance of the work.Tweet about this @angel #UXtriage 34
    35. Collaborative Process THINK Research Ideation Vision Models MAKE Prototypes Wireframes Comps Code CHECK Testing Analytics KPITweet about this @angel #UXtriage 35
    36. 3 Mercy KillingsTweet about this @angel #UXtriage 36
    37. Tweet about this @angel #UXtriage @slinkachu 37
    38. Project euthanasia is a vital skill.Tweet about this @angel #UXtriage 38
    39. Learn how to say no.Tweet about this @angel #UXtriage 39
    40. Like this guy.Tweet about this @angel #UXtriage 40
    41. [Innovation] comes fromsaying no to 1,000 things aweek to make sure we don’tget on the wrong track or tryto do too much...It’s only by saying no that youcan concentrate on the thingsthat are really important.- Steve Jobs Business Week, Oct. 12, 2004Tweet about this @angel #UXtriage 41
    42. How to say NO(without getting fired) Healthy Org  1. Tell the truth 2. Ask questions 3. Tell storiesTweet about this @angel #UXtriage 42
    43. How to say NO(without getting fired) Healthy Org  Not-So-Healthy  1. Tell the truth 1. Reflect Conflict 2. Ask questions 2. Poison Pill 3. Tell stories 3. QuitTweet about this @angel #UXtriage 43
    44. 4 ScrappinessTweet about this @angel #UXtriage 44
    45. Tweet about this @angel #UXtriage @slinkachu 45
    46. Channel MacGyver. Make awesome happen with what’s on hand.Tweet about this @angel #UXtriage 46
    47. We can only afford time and budget for wireframes. - Almost every company at some misguided moment in their historyTweet about this @angel #UXtriage 47
    48. We can only afford time and budget for wireframes. - Almost every company at some misguided moment in their historyTweet about this @angel #UXtriage 48
    49. User insight has never been morefast, easy, and affordable.Tweet about this @angel #UXtriage 49
    50. Determine the vision 1. What is it? 2. Who is it for and what’s their payoff? 3. Why are we creating it? 4. How does it work? 5. What are the risks? 6. How can we make it successful? 7. Are there other questions?Tweet about this @angel #UXtriage 50
    51. Create an environment where good UX can happen.Tweet about this @angel #UXtriage 51
    52. Lean UX? Kanban?Tweet about this @angel #UXtriage 52
    53. high FIDELITY Keynote PowerPoint Clickable PDFs Paper Prototypes low slow fast SPEEDTweet about this @angel #UXtriage 53
    54. Don’t worship at the altar of deliverables. The product is your real deliverable.Tweet about this @angel #UXtriage 54
    55. Tools for making UX storytelling videos & photos are in your pocket.Tweet about this @angel #UXtriage 55
    56. 5 Staying HumanTweet about this @angel #UXtriage 56
    57. Tweet about this @angel #UXtriage @slinkachu 57
    58. Tweet about this @angel #UXtriage 58
    59. Find flow in the chaos.Tweet about this @angel #UXtriage 59
    60. Use your lulls. When things quiet down, give attention to the Delayed and Minor projects. EXPECTANT IMMEDIATE DELAYED MINORTweet about this @angel #UXtriage 60
    61. Stay Inspired. Take steps to re-ignite your passion and stay excited about what you’re doing.Tweet about this @angel #UXtriage 61
    62. Design Triage 1. Prioritization 2. Selflessness 3. Mercy Killings 4. Scrappiness 5. Staying humanTweet about this @angel #UXtriage 62
    63. Thank You. @angelTweet about this @angel #UXtriage 63