As noted by Steven Johnson in his TED Talk, “Where Good Ideas Come From,” coffeehouses are important places to exchange ideas. I have enjoyed many idea-generating discussions in coffeehouses and have also met several amazing people. One such person, Larry Marine, caused me to think more deeply about the field of User Experience.
Sitting near him in a coffeehouse, I heard him discussing product design and started talking with him about the innovation research I was doing at the time. We later co-authored chapter 5 in the PDMA Toolbook 3 titled “Integrating User Observations with Business Objectives to Drive Product Design.” Larry is a User Experience expert that has helped many companies improve their products as well as design new products. He came to the field of UX through Don Norman’s Cognitive Science program at UC San Diego. Norman is frequently referred to as the father of UX and Larry learned directly from him. I interviewed him, asking about the critical steps for applying UX to product development.
See the link below to hear the interview.
What is the Essence of UX Work?
Fundamentally, it is seeking to understand how users will react to specific stimuli in a given context. For example, identifying how a user will respond to a user interface. The goal of UX is to create the right experience for the context. A classic low-tech example is door handles. If you have ever come to the door of a commercial building, such as a restaurant or hotel, and pulled on the handle of the door only to find the door will not open in that direction, you encountered a poor user experience. We naturally expect to pull on handles and to push on flat plates. Architects have recognized this and started using push plates on one side of doors and pull handles on the other side that work the way users expect. One example was created by Yanko Design.
What is an UX Audit?
Redesigning a product to improve the user experience begins with a UX audit. Start by stepping back from the problem to identify larger unmet needs. An example is the redesign Larry did for ProFlowers. At the time, floral websites were designed around building a bouquet while the desired user task was buying flowers for a special occasion. In the redesign, the customer is first asked what occasion they are buying flowers for (birthday, anniversary, Mother’s Day, etc) and then they are shown bouquets in various price groups and color options. The new website catapulted them to the top of the online florists and sales surged.
What are the Basic Steps for Conducting a UX Audit?
- It begins by identifying who the users are and then understanding what problem they need solved. We need to understand what the users currently know and what they need to know to succeed in the tasks that solves the problem. This is a deeper level of information than businesses typically know about customers. Too often organizations define the problem from their perspective instead of from the user’s perspective.
- Next is determining how the user will recognize a proper solution to the problem. Research is needed for this and the best research tool is user observation – ethnographic research — going out and watching people and looking for what is common between them as they try to solve the problem. This helps you understand what users currently know and what they don’t know. This can be accomplished well by observing as few as five users.
- With the insights from the user research, conduct a task analysis by constructing a task flow that represents what the users do. With these pieces, then a solution can be designed. A prioritization matrix is used to focus on the elements that are most important to the user, important to the business, and technically feasible.
Listen to the interview with Larry Marine on The Everyday Innovator Podcast.
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Chad McAllister, PhD is a product innovation guide, innovation management educator, and recovering engineer. He leads Product Innovation Educators, which trains product managers to create products customers love. He also hosts The Everyday Innovator weekly podcast, sharing knowledge from innovation thought leaders and practitioners. Follow him on Twitter.