by Ryan Stacy | March 21, 2018 | Experience Design

“Experience Designer” is one of the best and most important jobs in America.

Don’t take my word for it; CNN Money said so in a report predicting double-digit job growth for UX Designers over the next decade. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, given that every $1 invested in UX yields up to $100 in return. According to Forbes, “Good UX Design Means Better Business.”

As the demand for UX design talent booms, executives face a tough decision: hire staff designers or leverage external consultants?

This decision has consequences. Sometimes companies lose valuable time seeking to add an employee when they could have realized value rapidly with consultants. However, companies who rely on outsourced help might ultimately later be better served by a dedicated team member.

I don’t believe there is one, simple answer that fits every situation, but I can provide a brief analysis of a few common scenarios.

Scenario 1: “I need a quick diagnostic.”

Problem: Your relatively simple product has been operational and in-use for some time now, but all is not well. Perhaps the conversion rate is slipping, or customer satisfaction scores are low, or (if it’s an internal tool) employee efficiency is down. You suspect the design of the system is to blame but mostly you just lie awake at night wondering, “why?”

Solution: You need a fast and low-cost effort to identify UX issues that have negative effects. A seasoned experience design expert can measure and report obvious problem areas and point you in the direction of ‘low hanging fruit.’

Consultant or Staff Hire? Consultant.

Bringing a veteran (expensive) UX expert on staff to conduct months of research and usability tests is probably overkill. At the end of all that effort, all you’ll have is a definition of some problem areas—you won’t even be looking at solutions yet.

Consult with an outside expert who will conduct a heuristic analysis. You’ll benefit greatly from a outside perspective delivered quickly and without bias. Sometimes you’ll be shocked at the simple solutions uncovered by a consulting UX practitioner, such as “The $300 Million Button.”

Scenario 2: “I need my team to see things from the users’ point of view.”

Problem: You’re building a complex digital product. You’ve got all the required skill areas covered: product management, engineering, content, marketing. Just one little problem: nobody quite has their finger on the pulse of how end-users feel about what you’re building. With the fast pace of work you’ve established to hit release milestones, your staff also doesn’t have the time to go find out.

Solution: Modern, digital product teams need an embedded UX lead consistently advocating for the user. It’s absolutely true that UX is everyone’s responsibility, and it’s also true that your users deserve a dedicated UX professional as a core member of your team. Ultimately, UX also must have a seat at the strategic leadership table if you want to deliver a great end-to-end experience.

Consultant or Staff Hire? Staff Hire.

Many companies have a sales-oriented or engineering-led culture. In such environments design is usually regarded as an add-on or surface-level issue. Leaders rely heavily on short-term UX and design contractors, resulting in a disjointed patchwork of design decisions, disorderly documentation, and no clear product vision.

Shifting the corporate culture toward one that is user-centric demands a focused and empowered design leader with skin in the game. You need someone who can bring your vision to life in the details, inspire others to build deep customer empathy, and build the right kind of experience design team. UX consultants begin engagements as outsiders to your organization, and your business must not outsource such a critical part of its core mission. Finding the right design leader is a time-consuming process, but it is a worthy investment that will pay off in the long run.

There is a place for consultants in this scenario, however. Your design leader will face many challenges and critical decisions in the early days of establishing his or her practice. An executive-level design consultant can help accelerate the integration of design into existing business functions, lay out a strong roadmap and maturity model for future growth, and provide external validation of your direction relative to industry trends.

Scenario 3: “I just need a facelift.”

Problem: While your site or app works fine from a technology standpoint, there’s no denying it’s just plain ugly. It looks old and tired. People can’t find the features they need and key content is mysteriously elusive. Marketing just completed a costly rebranding effort and you need to apply the new look. You’re smart enough to spot an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone: update the interface to the new brand guidelines while simultaneously fixing usability issues.

Solution: You need a fixed-cost UX upgrade and visual refresh. You want it delivered on-time and without a lot of hassle. (Oh, and while we’re at it, let’s make sure the new user interface is ‘responsive,’ so it works well on mobile devices.)

Consultant or Staff Hire? Consultant.

With the functionality and content are mostly defined, an external consultant can easily complete a reasonable scope of work for a fixed cost. Assuming most of the development work will be on the front end of the technology stack, it should be a quick and painless operation.

Say it turns out your problems aren’t limited to just the user experience and design, and you discover major back-end changes are needed to improve or add functionality. A good consultant will help you identify this early on and can provide feasible options to tackle the larger scope of work.

Know when to leverage experience design consultants

The right UX consulting partner is a cost-effective, reliable resource for quickly solving clearly articulated problems. While an internal UX lead will benefit many aspects of your business over the long haul, a consultant can multiply and accelerate their efforts up-front, rapidly transforming the culture of your organization to one that delivers a best-in-class service design and user experience.

Saxony Partners will help your businesses create competitive advantage and delight customers through world-class enterprise design strategy, service design, and user experience design. Contact us today via our form or at 214.389.7897.

This article was originally a draft by Ben Judy. His contributions are much appreciated. 


About The Author

Ryan Stacy
Senior Consultant, Research Driven Design

My goals are to make unique, usable, and lucrative interfaces for clients and users. I have a strong interest in learning the complexities of many industry's User Experience (UX) challenges evidenced by my experience in the following industries: eCommerce, Education, Event Hosting, Health Care, Hospitality, Mortgage Lending, Pharmaceuticals, Real Estate, Telecom, and Travel.

I value research and the outcomes of it above all else and convince clients of its importance. With research I assure them that the decisions they make are ones that will empower their staff, their customers, and help build their organization's success.


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These articles have not been prepared, approved, endorsed, or licensed by any entity that created or produced the referenced products or services

by Ryan Stacy | January 3, 2018 | Custom Applications

Health Care is better served by software created quickly and effectively. A process uniquely capable for this type of software, when done well, is Agile Development. This is especially true when user centric approaches are used which lead to tools being built that meet user needs.

Often the wrong tool is created because users were ignored, their wants were perceived as needs (they often don’t know what they need – this is why you observe their behavior), or the execution was insufficient. And these are not mutually exclusive. The point is if you do not build what users need then they will not be in a position to do their job as effectively as they could have. Unfortunately, the dark side of Agile is that people perceive they always need to rush and there is not enough time to determine user needs. This is simply not true as you save more time later by building features aligned to user needs with user involvement at every iteration.

You know your software is bad if physicians, nurses, admins, or revenue cycle professionals take an inordinate amount of time to do what should be easy tasks. The move from paper to electronic was supposed to lead to more efficiency. And yet it has not done as well as we could have hoped. The prime reason for this is again, tools are being created that do not align to user needs. This is why you create prototypes and test them early with users identifying what failed (and features will) so you can fix them. Waiting many months before you show your work to users is a recipe for waste. And if you find nothing wrong, your test didn’t test what it should have because nothing is perfect.

Further, clients are shown the Cadillac of what could be delivered but often that does not become what is delivered. And the Cadillac or the delivery may not necessarily be what their users need. Proper business analysis, user experience, and dev can identify and implement the proper tool.

We at Saxony Partners believe that fostering an environment in which experimental perspectives are taken seriously–contributes to our clients’ success and sets us apart. We seek to be open-minded and to allow the data to determine how a product or process should be created or improved. And we do so with a passion for getting our clients and their customers what they need, when they need it. When you partner with us, you partner for success.

Contact us at (214) 389-7903 or email us to learn how we can help you.


About The Author

Ryan Stacy
Senior Consultant, Research Driven Design

My goals are to make unique, usable, and lucrative interfaces for clients and users. I have a strong interest in learning the complexities of many industry's User Experience (UX) challenges evidenced by my experience in the following industries: eCommerce, Education, Event Hosting, Health Care, Hospitality, Mortgage Lending, Pharmaceuticals, Real Estate, Telecom, and Travel.

I value research and the outcomes of it above all else and convince clients of its importance. With research I assure them that the decisions they make are ones that will empower their staff, their customers, and help build their organization's success.


Related Articles

These articles have not been prepared, approved, endorsed, or licensed by any entity that created or produced the referenced products or services

Identifying and Testing Your Users

by Ryan Stacy | May 24, 2017 | Experience Design

Any great user experience practitioner will tell you that you need to define who your users are (Personas/User Profiles) and identify their behaviors (Usability testing/ Ethnography) before designing can begin or should continue. And if you do not have any users yet, these steps are even more critical.

This is necessary because you want to be sure you are building the right feature set for your users. While determining this, you should be questioning your assumptions. Do I really know if my users need a mobile app? Otherwise you are susceptible to building something that you believe your users need, but not actually what they need. Could it be that a responsive website would accommodate their needs?

There are many tools you can utilize to have a clearer understanding of your users. And though these tools are great, you will never have a perfect understanding of your users. The idea is not to be perfect though, just better. Always better — using what you learn about your users over time.

Continuous Testing

Unfortunately, as is often the case, user experience is thought of as a drive-through; it is just one step in the process or something that can quickly be fixed.

“Oh no! Our product is failing because so many of our users are having trouble using it. We were expecting this release to go better!”

This is a very expensive mistake which is less expensive to be solved before it happens because you are not building and discarding entire works that should not have been built. Continuously before, during, and after a product is built you should have user needs indicating what will be built. Each successive test and update will build upon previous successes.

Methodology

  • Some or all of the following should be created or conducted prior to design beginning, refined later, and supplemented with other tools such as usability testing (identifying pain points), card sorting (for organizing the information architecture of your product), automated analytics (Google Analytics), or ethnography (in depth analysis of how a product or service fits with their lives).
  • The first four tools will help you build personas, user profiles, and scenarios.

User Interviews

  • One-on-One discussions between a UX practitioner and users that can be grouped within the personas. Remember, there is no ‘average’ user rather there are different user groups of users.

Literature User Analysis

  • Reading literature written about users or by users. For example, you are building a communication application so you could look at some of the most popular applications and see praises or complaints written by those users.

Stakeholder Interviews

  • This is especially helpful if your budget constraints do not allow you to speak with users yet. I say yet because if you do not ever talk to your users, you are doing yourself a real disservice. You can learn a lot from your happy and unhappy customers; beyond what your stakeholders may be willing to say; who wants to say that their product they built is not great? Many customers are more than willing to let you know.

Surveys

  • Demographics
  • Self-Indicated Behaviors

Personas (Basics including a visual representation) & User Profiles (Detailed data) from the four tools above for:

  • Current users
  • New Users
  • Future Desired Users

Scenarios

  • Realistic real-world activities that a user would conduct. For example, for a communication application a scenario would be: “I need to be able to contact my colleagues immediately and I cannot have connectivity issues as it will damage my business relationships” or “While talking to a colleague online I need to quickly send large files (1GB) or larger without having to open another tool such as Drop Box.”
  • With these personas, user profiles, and scenarios now built, you can begin creating low fidelity designs (such as paper sketches) and begin testing that design with users (Usability Testing). Then you can move onto higher fidelity design (such as an interactive prototypes) that can then be taken to be developed in code or into a physical object to be again tested.

Conclusion

These types of activities will help you build a high quality product that has a better chance of being purchased by your users. This is because you’re considering their needs and behaviors when designing and building your product.

If you need help with these activities you can contact us at Saxony Partners and we would be happy to help or you can seek out others to help. Remember, to be successful, whomever is helping you should have a firm grasp of the concepts above, experience conducting them, and emphasize testing as being key to a great customer experience.

 


About The Author

Ryan Stacy
Senior Consultant, Research Driven Design

My goals are to make unique, usable, and lucrative interfaces for clients and users. I have a strong interest in learning the complexities of many industry's User Experience (UX) challenges evidenced by my experience in the following industries: eCommerce, Education, Event Hosting, Health Care, Hospitality, Mortgage Lending, Pharmaceuticals, Real Estate, Telecom, and Travel.

I value research and the outcomes of it above all else and convince clients of its importance. With research I assure them that the decisions they make are ones that will empower their staff, their customers, and help build their organization's success.


Related Articles

These articles have not been prepared, approved, endorsed, or licensed by any entity that created or produced the referenced products or services

Ben Judy presents at the Enterprise UX Virtual Summit

February 14, 2017 | Experience Design

I had the pleasure of presenting to the EUX Virtual Summit on February 14, 2017. Nearly 30,000 people around the globe registered for this, the largest UX conference ever!

Thousands joined my webinar from locations such as Indonesia, France, Brazil, Poland, the Philippines, and elsewhere. The reaction from the global design community was simply fantastic. I collected and curated a few Tweets for posterity. One attendee even took the time to take some awesome sketchnotes!

Much of the content of my presentation will be familiar if you’ve read my post UX Strategy: What’s Your Altitude?

This was a great opportunity to take that framework and apply it to a case study from my previous design work at Intuit, and to get feedback from designers around the world.

Here’s a screencast recording of my full presentation with Q&A afterward. It’s just over an hour long.

If you’re short on time, here’s a pre-recorded and condensed version of my presentation. It’s just 30 minutes long. Enjoy!


About The Author


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Gamification for Training

by Ryan Stacy | January 13, 2017 | Experience Design

While most of us can immediately recognize the benefit of training at a job, I doubt most of us would call this activity fun. But there are things that can be done to make it fun and engaging or at least less tedious than it traditionally is. And that in turn will make employees more likely to recall what they’ve learned. This can be achieved with something called Gamification.

What is it?

Gamification is the process by which you alter an interface, product, or process that was not originally intended to be a game to incorporate aspects of games. If you can bring the same type of excitement people have for games to something that is traditionally not an engaging activity, you can increase the likelihood of someone wanting to repeat that activity. People tend to have better memories for things that elicit strong emotions, so you’re increasing the likelihood of the training having a positive effect on their job performance.

We know this in part due to what is described as a “Flashbulb Memory.” For example, do you remember what you were doing on September 11th? How about a more recent emotionally charged event such as the birth of a child or their graduation? What about a game you have fond memories of? While these are not all happy events, they do provide evidence that emotion can improve the recall of memories.

We can use this knowledge to try to make our training more emotionally charged by adding an element of gamification, or better yet, turning the training into a game itself.

Good UX in Gaming

For the interface of your game you can have a good user experience (UX). But for gaming the goal is to introduce challenges and rewards for those challenges, which are a bit different from UX’s goal of decreasing pain points.

“UX design is about removing problems from the user. Game design is about giving problems to the user.” – Raph Koster, A prolific game designer and UX expert

Gamification can bring the same type of excitement people get from games to training exercises but remember to leave some challenge and reward. Otherwise you risk making the game too easy, boring, and without any sense of accomplishment

Case Study

Let us say that as a part of your yearly employee development you need to train employees in correct OSHA procedures. You’re never going to make this as fun and engaging as a triple A title from a well-known game publisher, but that doesn’t mean you cannot gamify the training, increase memory recall, and see reduced accidents.

Key Considerations:

• Identify the key competencies you want employees to attain

• Reward the mastery of those key competencies in game

• Make it engaging. This is easier said than done, but this is part of the challenge. Use successful games as examples to build from.

• Test the game early

• Test continuously

The last two considerations are critical. You don’t want to have spent a ton of time developing a game and realize that the game is not engaging or employees are not learning the things they need to know. While testing may not be the most glamorous thing to do and it can be hard to take feedback well, it will save you a lot of time later.

You can do this by paper prototyping. After identifying the key competencies you want employees to attain, start building screens on paper of what the game will look like. Then have a few employees test it out.

Be sure not to ask leading questions (for example, “What were the frustrating parts of this game?” – Instead “What did you think of this game?”), let them know their unbiased feedback is appreciated, and emphasize you are testing the game and not them. You want them to be honest. Then have them take a short test to see if the game did its job of teaching the desired concepts. Later after the game is developed you can see if an improvement in job performance occurred. While it may be difficult to determine if it was the game or other factors that may have improved performance, if you consider the impact of the other factors — and performance did not get worse, you can count it as a success. Especially so if employees enjoyed the game!

With data, you can feel empowered to start building the game and do not forget to repeat this testing throughout the development process!

Why Gamify your training?

Gamifying your training can bring about excitement in an otherwise dull activity. You want people to be excited while learning, have improved performance, and be more likely to be engaged while doing the training in the future.

Now who can help you do this?

I’m suggesting Saxony Partners, as I and others here are experienced UX practitioners and love opportunities like this! But if you go with someone else, they should be emphasizing assisting you in identifying requirements for both the trainees and your business, promoting testing to ensure you are building something that meets those requirements, and be willing to educate you about any design/testing questions you have. Thank you for reading and we would love to hear from you!


About The Author

Ryan Stacy
Senior Consultant, Research Driven Design

My goals are to make unique, usable, and lucrative interfaces for clients and users. I have a strong interest in learning the complexities of many industry's User Experience (UX) challenges evidenced by my experience in the following industries: eCommerce, Education, Event Hosting, Health Care, Hospitality, Mortgage Lending, Pharmaceuticals, Real Estate, Telecom, and Travel.

I value research and the outcomes of it above all else and convince clients of its importance. With research I assure them that the decisions they make are ones that will empower their staff, their customers, and help build their organization's success.


Related Articles

These articles have not been prepared, approved, endorsed, or licensed by any entity that created or produced the referenced products or services

Ben Judy presents at the Enterprise UX Virtual Summit

by Ranjith Nair | July 24, 2015 | Experience Design

I had the pleasure of presenting to the EUX Virtual Summit on February 14, 2017. Nearly 30,000 people around the globe registered for this, the largest UX conference ever!

Thousands joined my webinar from locations such as Indonesia, France, Brazil, Poland, the Philippines, and elsewhere. The reaction from the global design community was simply fantastic. I collected and curated a few Tweets for posterity. One attendee even took the time to take some awesome sketchnotes!


About The Author

Ranjith Nair
Senior Consultant

Ranjith Nair has over 19 years of experience in business intelligence and data warehousing solutions. Mr. Nair has worked on implementations across marketing agency, consumer packaged goods, real estate, software products, sales and professional services, and healthcare industries. Roles on these projects across various horizontals include user experience architect, data modelling, data architect, solutions developer and business analyst. Nair possesses a knowledge of business intelligence tools across Oracle (OBIEE) and Microsoft BI stack including: SQL server, analysis services, integration services and reporting services.


Related Articles

These articles have not been prepared, approved, endorsed, or licensed by any entity that created or produced the referenced products or services