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[DEVit 360] Opti-pessimism: Design for the best case, build for the worst

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How can we design for the promise of the future AND build for the reality of today? Cheryl Platz turns her experience designing for products like Azure and Alexa into survival strategies for products at the cutting edge. From product concepts to system architecture, we'll take a whirlwind tour to build a roadmap for "opti-pessimistic" product design.

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[DEVit 360] Opti-pessimism: Design for the best case, build for the worst

  1. 1. OPTI-PESSIMISM: DESIGN FOR THE BEST CASE, BUILD FOR THE WORST CHERYL PLATZ OWNER, IDEAPLATZ PRINCIPAL DESIGNER, MICROSOFT TWITTER, MEDIUM: @MUPPETAPHRODITE
  2. 2. CHERYL PLATZ - @MUPPETAPHRODITE Hello! I’m Cheryl Platz, a designer with experience across e-commerce, SaaS, PaaS, and AI-powered consumer products. I’m here to share some of the emerging trends I’m seeing, and to encourage you to reframe the way you think about your products.
  3. 3. CHERYLPLATZ-@MUPPETAPHRODITE Is your glass half full… or half empty?
  4. 4. CHERYLPLATZ-@MUPPETAPHRODITE 20 years ago, design on the internet was one big worst-case scenario. CHERYLPLATZ-@MUPPETAPHRODITE
  5. 5. CHERYLPLATZ-@MUPPETAPHRODITE As design thinking spread, we focused on optimizing for common scenarios. CHERYLPLATZ-@MUPPETAPHRODITE
  6. 6. CHERYLPLATZ-@MUPPETAPHRODITE Have today’s themes and libraries solved all of our common scenarios? What’s next? CHERYLPLATZ-@MUPPETAPHRODITE
  7. 7. CHERYLPLATZ-@MUPPETAPHRODITE Responsive design is just the tip of today’s iceberg. CHERYLPLATZ-@MUPPETAPHRODITE
  8. 8. CHERYLPLATZ-@MUPPETAPHRODITE WE’VE BEEN ASSUMING THAT OUR GLASS IS HALF FULL – A “HAPPY PATH” WAS ENOUGH.
  9. 9. CHERYLPLATZ-@MUPPETAPHRODITE BUT GLASS-HALF-FULL OPTIMISM ISN’T ENOUGH IN AN INCREASINGLY COMPLEX ENVIRONMENT. CHERYLPLATZ-@MUPPETAPHRODITE
  10. 10. CHERYLPLATZ-@MUPPETAPHRODITE Customers are coming to expect experiences that transcend the desktop. CHERYLPLATZ-@MUPPETAPHRODITE
  11. 11. CHERYLPLATZ-@MUPPETAPHRODITE Artificial intelligence is changing the nature of customer engagement. CHERYLPLATZ-@MUPPETAPHRODITE
  12. 12. CHERYLPLATZ-@MUPPETAPHRODITE And GDPR brings a new level of backend complexity and risk when it comes to tracking user data. CHERYLPLATZ-@MUPPETAPHRODITE
  13. 13. CHERYLPLATZ-@MUPPETAPHRODITE PROGRESS BRINGS HIGHER STAKES. OUR WORST CASE IS WORSE THAN EVER. CHERYLPLATZ-@MUPPETAPHRODITE
  14. 14. As technical complexity increases, so does the need for design engagement early in your product lifecycle. CHERYL PLATZ - @MUPPETAPHRODITE
  15. 15. CHERYLPLATZ-@MUPPETAPHRODITE Our experiences are now decentralized, and increasingly uncertain. CHERYLPLATZ-@MUPPETAPHRODITE
  16. 16. CHERYLPLATZ-@MUPPETAPHRODITE Crowded markets mean there’s little room for design misses before engagement stops.
  17. 17. CHERYLPLATZ-@MUPPETAPHRODITE And the harm our products can cause has never been greater. CHERYLPLATZ-@MUPPETAPHRODITE
  18. 18. SO HOW DO WE COPE? GET OPTI-PESSIMISTIC. Three techniques to apply to your product design process to consider the best – AND worst – of what your product has to offer.
  19. 19. 1. LEAD WITH THE HARD QUESTIONS Cheryl Platz - @muppetaphrodite
  20. 20. CHERYL PLATZ - @MUPPETAPHRODITE How does your product fit into the big picture? How will this make the world BETTER? • Does it include more people than other solutions? • Does it solve a previously unsolved problem? • Does it solve a problem in a uniquely beneficial way? How will this make the world WORSE? • Are we introducing useless noise into a customer’s life? • Which customers might be excluded by our product? • Are we manipulating customers or putting them at risk?
  21. 21. CHERYLPLATZ-@MUPPETAPHRODITE Is your experience worth the spent resources? CHERYLPLATZ-@MUPPETAPHRODITE
  22. 22. CHERYL PLATZ - @MUPPETAPHRODITE What happens if our success is not customer success? If we’re too successful, how could customers be harmed? • Addiction • Stress • Broken relationships How will customers abuse our product? • Impact of leaked data • Malicious mob behaviors • Out of context use
  23. 23. CHERYLPLATZ-@MUPPETAPHRODITE Your customer’s success may not match yours.
  24. 24. What is the WORST CASE impact our product could have? This is no longer a quantity discussion. It doesn’t matter if your worst case “only happens occasionally”. What matters is the proportional impact that worst case has on a customer’s day or life. Even if that’s just a single customer. CHERYL PLATZ - @MUPPETAPHRODITE
  25. 25. CHERYLPLATZ-@MUPPETAPHRODITE What if our feature brings back painful memories? CHERYLPLATZ-@MUPPETAPHRODITE
  26. 26. What if a conversation is recorded without consent? CHERYL PLATZ - @MUPPETAPHRODITE
  27. 27. According to two anonymous sources who talked to Efrati, Uber's sensors did, in fact, detect Herzberg as she crossed the street with her bicycle. Unfortunately, the software classified her as a "false positive" and decided it didn't need to stop for her. Timothy B. Lee, regarding the fatal Uber autonomous car crash ArsTechnica – May 7, 2018 CHERYL PLATZ - @MUPPETAPHRODITE
  28. 28. EXPLORE THE TOUGH QUESTIONS BEFORE THE COST IS TOO HIGH. CHERYL PLATZ - @MUPPETAPHRODITE
  29. 29. CHERYLPLATZ-@MUPPETAPHRODITE Use tools like Artefact’s Tarot Cards of Tech to help you identify your blind spots. CHERYLPLATZ-@MUPPETAPHRODITE
  30. 30. 2. EXPLORE THE HUMAN CONTEXT Cheryl Platz - @muppetaphrodite
  31. 31. DON’T BUILD PRODUCTS THAT YOUR CUSTOMERS DON’T NEED. CHERYL PLATZ - @MUPPETAPHRODITE
  32. 32. CHERYLPLATZ-@MUPPETAPHRODITE “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.” CHERYL PLATZ - @MUPPETAPHRODITE
  33. 33. Higher stakes demand greater attention to the context of use. To answer some of those tough questions, it’s more important than ever you get answers from the source: your customers. But the most successful products don’t start by testing an idea. They start by observing customers as they are, and identifying real problems to solve. CHERYL PLATZ - @MUPPETAPHRODITE
  34. 34. CHERYL PLATZ - @MUPPETAPHRODITE
  35. 35. CHERYLPLATZ-@MUPPETAPHRODITE It’s time to move your research beyond surveys.
  36. 36. Surveys are the most dangerous research tool— misunderstood and misused. …Yeah, surveys are great because you can quantify the results. But you have to ask, what are you quantifying? Is it an actual quantity of something, e.g. how many, how often—or is it a stealth quality like appeal, ease, or appropriateness, trying to pass itself off as something measurable? Erika Hall, Mule Design “On Surveys” CHERYL PLATZ - @MUPPETAPHRODITE
  37. 37. QUALITATIVE DATA DOESN’T HAVE TO BE SCARY. If you can’t rely on surveys, what can you do? Qualitative data can help. CHERYL PLATZ - @MUPPETAPHRODITE
  38. 38. CHERYL PLATZ - @MUPPETAPHRODITE Consider adding ethnography to your toolkit. Whether you conduct ethnographic research on your own or work with an outside company, the investment of time and money may save you millions in misdirected product work.
  39. 39. Six Sigma, Kaizan, Big Data or various and sundry other innovation strategies start with the company’s needs. These methods tend to have the company’s standpoint, not the consumer’s. Ethnography in the private sector starts from the consumer’s standpoint and defines products, services and marketing messages according to that standpoint. Sam Ladner, PhD Practical Ethnography: A Guide to Doing Ethnography in the Public Sector CHERYL PLATZ - @MUPPETAPHRODITE
  40. 40. CHERYL PLATZ - @MUPPETAPHRODITE Meet your customers where they are. Investigate online diary study tools like dscout, or online user research tools like usertesting.com. User Voice or even a Discord can also help, but take care to make sure you’re not introducing bias into the feedback.
  41. 41. CHERYLPLATZ-@MUPPETAPHRODITE Ethnographic research can lead you to new problems and new solutions.
  42. 42. CHERYLPLATZ-@MUPPETAPHRODITE Use storyboards to convey customer context - and the risks you face.
  43. 43. CONSIDER A WIDE SPECTRUM OF USERS, ABILITIES, AND CIRCUMSTANCES. CHERYL PLATZ - @MUPPETAPHRODITE
  44. 44. CHERYLPLATZ-@MUPPETAPHRODITE Not every customer is an early adopter. CHERYLPLATZ-@MUPPETAPHRODITE
  45. 45. CHERYLPLATZ-@MUPPETAPHRODITE Microsoft’s Inclusive Design toolkit includes activity cards to jumpstart your thinking. CHERYLPLATZ-@MUPPETAPHRODITE
  46. 46. CHERYL PLATZ - @MUPPETAPHRODITE Inclusivity also means asking the right questions. Tracking the wrong data about customers can lead to erroneous or painful assumptions. Gender and pronouns alone are fraught with risk and provide decreasing value. What do you really NEED to know about customers? Start there, and be judicious about adding additional data.
  47. 47. 3. DESIGN FOR THE BEST CASE, BUT BUILD FOR THE WORST. Cheryl Platz - @muppetaphrodite
  48. 48. Cheryl Platz - @muppetaphrodite It’s time to look beyond the experience on a single device. Traditional site architecture Profile data is available everywhere, but task state is stored in the UI layer on the device where it starts. Telemetry is tracked in isolation. Device-agnostic architecture Customer state and telemetry data are stored in the cloud and available on any device, just like profile data.
  49. 49. CHERYLPLATZ-@MUPPETAPHRODITE Go beyond the happy path by enabling your customer state to transcend devices. CHERYLPLATZ-@MUPPETAPHRODITE
  50. 50. CHERYL PLATZ - @MUPPETAPHRODITE Experience, interrupted We can no longer assume that our customer experiences will span a single session. Build a system that can sustain interruptions, and a system that doesn’t inundate customers with its own interruptions.
  51. 51. CHERYLPLATZ-@MUPPETAPHRODITE Seek out and conquer your experience cliffs.
  52. 52. CHERYL PLATZ - @MUPPETAPHRODITE Design an experience that can scale across devices… with opti-pessimism. OPTIMISTIC ASSUMPTIONS • Your customers will want to interact with you on a variety of devices. • You’ll be able to track customer behavior and learn from it all the time • You’ll want to scale beyond websites to voice, conversation, augmented reality, and beyond PESSIMISTIC ASSUMPTIONS • Your core scenarios will be interrupted, and span devices • Your telemetry won’t be useful for a long time • Many of your customers won’t have access to emerging tech
  53. 53. CHERYL PLATZ - @MUPPETAPHRODITE Your customer’s relationship with your product is more than just first-run. OPTIMISTIC ASSUMPTIONS • Your customers will use your product long enough that you’ll have the opportunity to teach them new features over time. • Your product will be so successful, your expert customers will need help with scale. PESSIMISTIC ASSUMPTIONS • New customers won’t stay with you without a strong onboarding story. • Most of your customers will struggle with their first few interactions.
  54. 54. CHERYLPLATZ-@MUPPETAPHRODITE Design for AI requires embracing uncertainty. More attention must be given to the error experiences than the desired outcome. CHERYLPLATZ-@MUPPETAPHRODITE
  55. 55. CHERYL PLATZ - @MUPPETAPHRODITE Embracing uncertainty: design for natural language OPTIMISTIC: • “Set a timer for 15 minutes.” PESSIMISTIC: • “Set a timer.” • “Timer for <unintelligible>.” • “Set a timer for cookies.” • “Timer for 2 parsecs.” • “Umm, can you, um, set a timer for um, 5 minutes?”
  56. 56. CHERYLPLATZ-@MUPPETAPHRODITE Build a system that helps you respond to surprises. CHERYL PLATZ - @MUPPETAPHRODITE
  57. 57. CHERYLPLATZ-@MUPPETAPHRODITE Most AI can’t explain itself. We can’t predict its behavior – we can only prepare to respond. Image output from Google’s “Deep Dream” neural network CHERYLPLATZ-@MUPPETAPHRODITE
  58. 58. ADOPT OPTI- PESSIMISM IN YOUR PROCESS Cheryl Platz - @muppetaphrodite
  59. 59. CHERYL PLATZ - @MUPPETAPHRODITE Re-evaluate your product process. If you have access to designers: • Engage design in pre-production on envisioning exercises to explore impact. • Consult design during system architecture to ensure you’ve accounted for likely use cases. • Make sure your process allows for reacting to research feedback and emergent issues. If you don’t have access to design: • Work customer outreach and brainstorming aids more deeply into your process • Incorporate these techniques to help you cope with increasingly complex products effectively.
  60. 60. 1. LEAD WITH THE HARD QUESTIONS • What is the primary customer problem we’re solving? • How do customers solve this problem today? Are we really better, or just different? • What’s the worst thing that could happen? • What’s the riskiest part of this project? • What are our blind spots? • Is this product worth building? CHERYL PLATZ - @MUPPETAPHRODITE
  61. 61. 2. EXPLORE THE HUMAN CONTEXT • What are the worst conditions under which our product will be used? • Where will the product be used? • What devices will our customer prefer? • What surrounds our customers during the use of the product? • How will our customers feel if we fail? • Who are we excluding? CHERYL PLATZ - @MUPPETAPHRODITE
  62. 62. CHERYL PLATZ - @MUPPETAPHRODITE 3. DESIGN FOR THE BEST CASE, BUILD FOR THE WORST Design for the best case • Architect an experience that allows your customers to interact with you on multiple platforms and devices. • Think through long-term relationships with your product over time – from Day 0 to Day 365 & beyond. Build for the worst • Assume your customers will get interrupted. • Design for when your system gets it wrong. • Create tools and processes that let you adapt to emergent use cases and customer feedback.
  63. 63. CHERYLPLATZ-@MUPPETAPHRODITE THE GLASS IS HALF EMPTY. AND HALF FULL. BE OPTI-PESSIMISTIC.
  64. 64. MAY YOUR CUP RUNNETH OVER. CHERYL PLATZ OWNER, IDEAPLATZ PRINCIPAL DESIGNER, MICROSOFT TWITTER, MEDIUM: @MUPPETAPHRODITE

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