Minimum Viable UX Strategy

Been hearing about UX for years now but you don’t feel like your team has really adopted it properly?

UX can be hard – there’s a lot to learn, a lot of people to speak to and a lot of research to do.

On top of learning about it and figuring out how to do it, you’ve got organizational changes to contend with if you’re going to be really successful.

It can be tough and discouraging. Especially if you don’t have a supportive boss.

It’s all too easy to get stuck in the “My boss is never going to go for that” mindset and just keep muddling on with your usual product creation process. Especially if you work for a large corporation. We can’t all work for cool startups who put the user first.

In the immediate short-term, “doing UX” doesn’t have to mean creating a new team and making sure every new product development process begins with lengthy user research.

When you’re up against a wall of scepticism, you have two problems to solve:

  • Short term – How can UX bring value to this particular project?
  • Medium term – How can I show the value of UX to my company?

Having a Minimum Viable UX Strategy focuses on answering these first 2 questions.

How can UX bring value to this particular project?

First things first:

1. Do you know who your user is? No? OK, let’s quickly make some empathy maps (60 mins) and figure out who we think our users are.

Empathy Mapping in 100 words – Grab some post-its and pens & a few key team players. Sketch out the map on paper or a whiteboard. Give it a real name, add some bio information. Fill up each quadrant. One idea per post-it. There’s no right or wrong answer, this is based on your assumptions about your user. What does the user think & feel, say & do, see and hear while using our product or in the context of their day to day life (i.e. the bigger picture, help us understand where our product fits in)? Pain – any obstacles the user encounters? Gain – what do they want to accomplish? Each empathy map represents one type of user.

2. You know who you think your user is, do you know what they’re supposed to be doing on the site? No? OK, let’s draft some user flows quickly (60 mins).

User Flows in 100 words – Grab some post-its and some team members. Identify the goals a user wants to complete on the site. Think about the different paths users take to arrive on the site. Depending on the source, they may want to accomplish different tasks or be looking for different things. Pay attention to their expectations. Map out the task flow with post-its. Re-order and insert new tasks as you go along. Consider the different actions a user will take and what they will see on the screen. Identify the screens you’ll need to design.

3. Does your product exist already? Yes? Let’s do a cognitive walkthrough (60 mins).

Cognitive Walkthrough in 100 words – Grab your empathy maps. Grab your user flows. Grab your product. Grab one or more team members. Pick an empathy map. Read it. Put yourself in that user’s mindset. Become the user. What are their main goals (refer to the user flows)? Try to accomplish each goal step by step. Really break it down. What do you expect? What do you get? Do they match? How does it make you feel? What’s missing? Understand where each feeling comes from: what was each minor step in the process that resulted in that feeling (consider expectations, results, tasks).

4. Product doesn’t exist? Cool, let’s do a Design Studio (60 mins) to figure out how this thing might look.

Design Studio in 100 words – Grab some team members. Grab your user flows and empathy maps. Grab some paper and marker pens. Choose a user goal. For 10 minutes, sketch individually how you think the screens involved should look. When the time’s up, show your work to the rest of the team. They critique it and tell you why it’s does or doesn’t match the user’s needs. Another 10 minutes, more sketching. Then critique again. Another 10 minutes, more sketching. Repeat for other user goals. Next step: use software to create an interactive prototype.

So you’ve invested 3 – 4 hours of your time and gained an understanding of:

  • who the users are (their goals, objectives, expectations etc)
  • what the users want to do
  • what’s wrong with the existing product and a list of low hanging fruit to improve
  • or, iterated paper prototypes showing how the product might function

How can I show the value of UX to my company?

The tricky thing with UX and the thing you’ll spend a lot of your time doing is communicating, persuading and explaining – with users, with development teams and with upper management.

Upper management are often a tricky bunch, especially in staid corporate environments. They like things done a particular way and often don’t like deviation from the currently  norm.

Your job is to show the value of UX to them and plant the seeds of change in their minds.

Ways to do that generally center around involving them in the process as much as you can:

  • have them join the empathy mapping workshops – make them understand who the user is
  • have them join the Design Studio (everyone is a designer) and get them to think about what would be best for their users
  • have them watch a usability test – this is usually the big one. If you can show users having a hard time performing tasks using your product and if they can hear the emotions people are experiencing (annoyance, frustration, anger), it’s very often enough to change their mind to be more user focused.

Disagree? Think we missed something? Let us know in the comments!

Phil Smithson

Phil Smithson

The owner of On-Off Group, Phil is passionate about human-centered design and designing better end-to-end customer experiences.
Phil Smithson

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