Have you ever been on the end of a long string of feature requests, either from users or management? These feature requests are usually very specific in how you are supposed to implement it. So much so that you, as a UX Designer or Product Owner, you sometimes feel like a tool. Well, there is a very simple way to change that. All it is going to take is for you to ask one simple question, and that question is: “What are you trying to achieve?”
“What makes this question so special?”, you may ask. Let me explain. This question does three things.
“The best interface, is no interface.” These were the pearls of wisdom offered by Alan Cooper back in 2012. Fast-forward six years, and here we are with ecommerce: forced registrations, whimsical delivery times, late/cancelled deliveries, basket analogies, wishlists, broken mobile-web journeys & impersonal recommendations.
If “Customer is King” and we follow User-Centered Design (or any of the other variants of UX), why is it that businesses, marketing and even sometimes UX put obstacles in the way of users reaching their goals?
“Be the change you want to see in the world” ~ Not Gandhi
After “What are you trying to achieve?“, my second-favourite and most used question, is “Why?”
Anyone who has ever engaged the inquisitive mind of a four-year old has had the experience of answering the dreaded follow-up question of ‘but why?’. While this line of questioning has lead to many frustrated adults, this line of thinking has inspired the problem-solving approach employed by some of the top companies and leaders in the world.
“Tree testing is a usability technique for evaluating the findability of topics in a website. It’s also known as ‘reverse card sorting’ or ‘card-based classification’” ~ Optimal Workshop
The test works like this. You take your current navigation structure, which in case of an ecommerce site might be quite wide (product range) and deep (product sub categories) and list them on a tool like Treejack from Optimal Workshop. You then ask users to navigate this menu and indicate where they would expect to find a certain product. For example: “Where would you find Black Shoes for a school boy?” The user then might navigate down your menu structure through “Fashion – Men – Shoes” or they might go through “Kids & Toys – Fashion” or through “School – other”. It all depends on which items you have available in your menu and which words interest their train of thought. This leads to an interesting graph on how many people find your product and which other paths they take. If a big portion of your users can’t find your product, you will need to move it to the category they expect to find it, or maybe not…
Are you really doing Agile? If you are not doing iteration on your work, then are you getting the benefits of doing Agile?
The idea behind Agile was to be more flexible to users and market changes. Waterfall takes years to develop a piece of software and by the time you hit the market, you are no longer relevant. With Agile, you can build a MVP and iterate on your product as you try and find the right market fit. If you are only adding new features during sprints, without iteration, then you have just broken Waterfall down into smaller pieces. This is what I like to call “Mini-Waterfall”.
What is your company doing?
Links & References
In User Experience (UX) we establish users’ needs through research and looking at product usage (where do users struggle with the use of the product – context of use), through the process of user testing. We establish user needs, help the product owner clarify his MVP and expose user problems, so that the product owner, in the end, can create a better product.
One problem with these tools, is that they are reactive. We need to gather data and it is “new” for every product and market. What if we had data that could be used proactively to shape the design, before you get to testing? The first designs tend to copy existing popular products, but we don’t have context of their design decisions and their products aren’t necessarily better.