I love working on developing new projects, and I firmly believe that there is a lot to be gained by involving “the UX guys” in from the earliest stages of product development.
In large organizations employing specialized personnel such as product managers, products owners, or project managers, there’s usually some new product or feature being cooked up all the time. Such an exciting and dynamic environment provides great opportunities for me given that I do get involved at an early stage. This is a great opportunity to make a solid impact on the UX that each product is going to provide.
To gain a better understanding of how to contribute at these early stages of project/product development, one needs to understand the process that goes on at these stages. When the green light is given, more detailed planning is generally undertaken. After these plans are in place, changes are preferably kept to a minimum and change requests are harder to get approved. However, this planning process takes many inputs, and the UX concerns, and best practice requirements need to be in these initial inputs in order to be reflected on to the plans with proper time and resources allocated. In this way, risks are kept to a minimum.
In the end, the resultant product is likely to be better in terms of UX, and developed with less conflicts with our project/product manager. This approach can be read in more detail in this article.
Another key point to understand is how the product/project development plan is influenced by these UX inputs. In this process, all people that affect or are affected by the product/project are considered to be stakeholders. However, even if your input has been considered, the prioritization of requirements is according to the power that each stakeholder has over the project, and how much they care about it.
So you need to sell your case to the people who are calling the shots. This is not merely the project/product manager, but also the sponsors, owners, or higher management such as portfolio managers. A word from those guys has more influence than one can imagine.
Spread the word
I need to create a culture of UX awareness not only among people who are carrying out the design/development of products, but also and perhaps even more importantly, people who are steering the wheel on strategy and requirements.
I sent the first internal UX newsletter in my organization and have received some great and encouraging feedback. People truly wanted to learn about what UX is and how they can improve their work using UX best practices.
The buzz surrounding the term will help anyone trying to introduce UX best practices to their organization, and that’s a good place to start. A rule of thumb to do this is: keep it simple and relevant to your team and products. Also there’s no need to reinvent the wheel here. Using some of the great tools out there such as MailChimp will help you create great newsletters. What’s more is that such software allows you to do this in a fast and reliable manner, while providing valuable statistical data that one can use to see what works, and what needs to be changed.
It’s a team effort
I need to be sure not to make this a one man show. I bet that I can find a couple of people in our organization that share some level of UX awareness as mine. Get their buy-in to my quest and they’ll provide great help.
The first people I would approach would be Designers, Front-End Engineers and Product Development Engineers. In fact, having been here for a couple of months I already have several go-to people at the top of my head. When making an effort for better UX practices, a team effort is definitely a great way to make an impact.
As I’m using newsletters to convey my message across, I need to insure that the newsletters themselves are exemplary in UX best practices, when I first started using newsletters in my work, I turned to this small guide for best practices and tips that have always helped me whether I’m sending an internal newsletter, or one for customers.
Another good reason that I’ve had to using MailChimp, is the fact that we are currently using an old system that does not provide as much options and convenience. However I believe that one of the best ways to sell anyone a product, is a demonstration, and I think this serves as a good demonstration of what can be done using this tool. I believe this to be a good method that one can use also for tools such as heatmaps.
“It’s a jungle out there”
As the theme song for the TV show monk; the funny detective with a great eye for details goes “it’s a jungle out there”, and the sophisticated world of digital products is no exception.
I was watching a documentary about Darwin and his theory on natural selection, and the similarities it showed with today’s cutthroat competition in the software development industry struck me. According to Darwin, the principle that determines which species will become a dusty piece of history and which flourishes and prospers boils down to the survival of the fittest concept. And isn’t that, I wondered, exactly what happens in our industry all the time? Products and even entire companies shrink or even cease to exist as better products that provide a greater value and experience rise to the top.
When put into the context of all the lessons we’ve learned over the past decades of this industry’s existence, the importance of bringing in the UX designers and kicking off the process leading to better UX in the earliest stages of product development is essential. This is highly recommended as the experience that this product provides the users, will be a definitive factor to make it or break it.
Often as UX enthusiasts we tend to avoid thinking too much of the harsh reality of the business world, but if a UX expert is ever to claim a seat at the right table to really make an impact, then he/she needs to be knowledgeable about business, projects, and management, and to use the competitive nature of business to make the case for the importance of investing in better UX.
This is particularly true since one of the things that higher management will think about when contemplating a decision of such a change is the added value vs cost ratio or quite simply the Return on Investment from User Experience. In addition to this, they also have to think on the cost of not making this investment. This is the value of the added value that they could have had, if they had made the investment and change for better UX. So one needs to make sure to include this in any case made for UX .
“well done is better than well said”
As I look into UX design in light of these new perspectives, I find it essential to not only to talk about it, but take action and put it all to good use to start seeing greater results. These results will come in the way the products and services that are made in our organization provide better experience for our users.
For me this means taking a course in project management to really understand those concepts. One may learn more on it here.
However one may start off with a less time consuming commitment such as the Handbook of New Product Development Management, and then starting to incorporate this knowledge in project/product and overall business management into action plans. At the end of the day well done is truly better than well said.
About this series – UX Diary
As a UX enthusiast and a front-end engineer I have decided to try and truly bring UX best practices to the organization that I work in. UX diary is a small series of 5 articles documenting this journey with all of its lessons and bumps that I am hoping can help and inspire you, fellow UX enthusiasts to adopt and spread UX awareness in your work and organizations. Read the articles by clicking on the links below: