06 4 / 2012
ceonyc asked: Are there stages of engagement that a startup should/can work with a UX expert? Like... at idea conception for user interviews, then after a certain milestone, then after launch, etc... or just kind of always on a day a week retainer for a while? Hire someone from the beginning? What's a good roadmap for working with UX over the lifetime of a startup?
Great question. UX and design in general is an ongoing process throughout the lifetime of any startup. There are many different types of skills under the big umbrella of UX so the specific type of person you need might change over time. For example, you might need someone very strategy and process/product focused in the very beginning to help you develop your idea into a viable product. After your startup is off the ground you might need someone more strictly visual design focused, with a UX design consultant coming in when needed for key developments.
In the very beginning stages of a startup - or at the “idea” phase in general it’s very important to find the right UX person who can help develop the idea(s) and put a process in place where your idea(s) can be tested and validated (or more typically in the beginning, invalidated) in order to hone in on what a possible viable product might be. At this stage there are a few things that are important to keep in mind when talking about and testing ideas:
- What are the pain points we’re solving?
- Who else is solving this problem already?
- Who are our users?
- What is the business model/monetization strategy?
- What is the smallest thing we can build to test this idea?
Ideas are not the hardest part of the equation in these types of scenarios, the solutions are. If point A is the “idea” and point “B” is the solution - there can be a long road between point A and point B and sometimes it’s filled with pain and it is certainly filled with risk. Pain meaning, we thought we had a good solution, but it didn’t quite work out like we thought and this can happen several times. Risk meaning time and money. When you read about “failing early and often” that is a good thing and means you crossed some things off the list that did not work, instead of spending weeks or months building them only to figure out later that it did not work.
Quantity Over Quality
In the very early stages when you have an idea, your mind and your team should be focused on quantity over quality. You’re not going to come up with your winning idea on day one - you should accept this. What you should do instead is start with a problem and then come up with as many different solutions as possible, to solve this problem.
Reality Wins Every Time
Reality is the only true test of an idea and getting something to market in an amount of time that is not weeks or months is very important. Where a good UX practitioner can help you is mitigating the pain and risk in developing your idea and “faking” reality through testing ideas with users early and often.
To set yourself up for success it’s in your best interest to have a balanced team. A balanced team means that you have every element of a project represented. A good UX practitioner is not the only piece to the puzzle. In order to truly develop and test ideas it also helps to have a technical lead or developer throughout the ideation process. Technical leads can help build interactive prototypes (used for testing) and have a very important place in conversations as they’re coming in from a technical point of view. Even though we may all consider ourselves “technical” on some level developers are best suited for the “can we do this” or “what’s the easiest way to implement this” situations. Speed is a big part of the process and figuring out the least time consuming ways of executing an idea is key.
To sum it up, it’s in your best interest to hire the right UX practitioner in the very beginning who can help you develop and test your idea(s). Ideally, don’t want to wait until you’ve already defined your solution because then you will have to deal with someone like me who will try to poke holes in your idea and to figure out if it’s been tested with real users enough.
You will usually know when it’s time to shift the role to someone with a different skill set, or at least start to phase out a UX role. Typically a UX consultant like me for example, will spend a lot of time up front and then as the idea is developed more, the time begins to decrease. For example, let’s say this is a four week engagement. I may be 80% the first couple of weeks, then 50% the third week and 25% the fourth week but it really, really depends on the particular project. In the scenario where we’ve validated an idea enough to merit building a small version of it, the focus becomes more on development, however user testing can and should still take place during that time. A good rule of thumb around figuring out if you need a strategic UX person involved in something going on in your startup is to answer this question: “are we building something new that our customers will interact with?” If the answer is yes, then you should consider bringing in the right person with the right skill set to help with this process.
Related Blog Posts
Investors Are Not Customers
Methods & Tips for Easy User Testing
29 1 / 2012
frankdenbow asked: Where can I find cool mobile ux patterns?
Great question. There are plenty of great resources and sites out there for mobile ux patterns and I always reference them for ideas and inspiration when designing a mobile app.
I’ve compiled a list of not only mobile patterns but sites for design inspiration and frameworks. Cheers!
Mobile UI Patterns
Mobile Design Inspiration
Android Specific Patterns
Cocoa Specific Patterns/Controls
23 1 / 2012
section9 asked: From an experience/design perspective, what product would you say is as close to perfect as possible? It does not need to be limited to web design.
- Twitter App
- The iPhone
- Nexus One
- Foursquare (Web + Mobile)
- Nintendo Wii Interface
I’m kind of obsessed with cameras and if I could justify it, would probably buy a new one every month. The Panasonic GF1 (now GF2) is one of the first cameras to deliver SLR quality in a compact form. I get compliments on this camera all the time.
For that reason, this is the product I would you say is as close to perfect as possible!
23 1 / 2012
marcandrewb asked: Can you explain the difference between UX & Lean UX?
Ooh, this is a good one! I’ll try to keep this concise. :)
On my Website, I explain User Experience like this: "While User Experience (UX) casts a wide net across many disciplines, I like to think of UX as a process that is applied to product development to make the best possible product that people want to use." I believe “User Experience” and “Lean UX” to be the same thing, but the term “Lean UX” has gained so much traction over the past few years that people refer to it as a singular thing.
Technically speaking “User Experience” is a very broad term that can include many different things under the umbrella of UX like: interaction design, visual design, usability, copyrighting, SEO, marketing, etc. You can think of “User Experience” as anytime a human interacts with your software. The specific skill set of any UX Designer can be a little different but the goal of UX Designers and the process used by many is usually about the same: “think,” “make,” “check.”
- Think: Brainstorm as many different solutions to one problem as possible
- Make: Make something to test your solutions with
- Check: Test your solutions with users
This process is designed to be quick and is repeated as many times as it takes to validate/invalidate ideas and hypotheses and make a minimal viable product.
Even though I believe “User Experience” and “Lean UX” to be the same thing, “Lean UX” has gained traction over the past few years for a few reasons, one of them being that notable people such as Eric Ries, Steve Blank and Janice Fraser have used this term “lean” to align the field of UX with the business objectives of companies and start-ups, making it a more valuable commodity and shedding more light on the practice as a whole. Some people and companies argue that it’s all the same thing however this article from Jared Spool makes a good point in this post: "You can think of it another way: Lean UX is just UX. But UX isn’t always Lean UX."
I highly recommend you check out Luxr’s “9 Principles of Lean User Experience” on their site. This describes the specific “lean” process that User Experience Designers already use:
- Design + Product Management + Development = 1 team
- Goal-driven & outcome-focused
- Repeatable & routinized
- FLOW: think -> make -> check
- Focus on solving the right problem
- Generate many options & decide quickly what to pursue
- Recognize hypotheses & validate them
- Research with users is the best source of information & inspiration
I hope this was helpful, please let me know!
23 1 / 2012
ukstartupguy-deactivated2012041 asked: I've spent the past few years working under a stone in corporate life where we didn't get to work with a designer at any stage for anything - UX or design. What tips and advice do you have for a startup developer looking to build products who hasn't worked closely with designers before. What is the best way to approach such a working relationship to ensure you both remain productive, especially when you might be in different timezones. Any tools, tips, must reads, do's etc.? Thanks.
Great question! This is a tough one because there is not really a straight answer.
Before I started working for myself I worked at a couple different technology companies. In any company or organization however it really helps to have someone in a leadership role who either IS in charge of or UNDERSTANDS the importance that a design driven product development process plays. Someone who understands that design and development are equally important.
"Design" and "UX" is one of those tricky fields also because anyone can claim this title. It can even be common to have people in these types of leadership roles that are not even really qualified to be there. In turn companies can mislead themselves into thinking that they have all their bases covered.
First and foremost and where there is sometimes a misperception - design and UX is a results driven profession. It takes into consideration all things that are important to the business and fosters them as part of the process. Design is not about making something look nice, it’s about making something highly usable, profitable, extensible and done so in an efficient manner that involves many stakeholders and users or customers in a collaborative fashion.
A lot of companies are still trying to get a grasp on why UX is important and how it can properly be done in their organization. This is why educating clients is a huge part of the UX profession. I always find it’s helpful to do a broad overview of the UX process with new clients and show specific case studies to help clients understand what it’s all about. The business of UX continues to have many meanings to many different people and making sure everyone has the same common understanding is always a good place to start.
To speak more specifically to your question though, I’ve always found that the best work comes from being able to collaborate with people one on one. This is obviously not always possible though and right now I’m working on projects with people in three different countries.
The first piece of advice I would give you is to find someone you really enjoy working with. For me personally, I like to work people who are really passionate, collaborative and who are good communicators. That last one is important, especially when you’re working with people remotely.
The second piece of advice I would offer is about staying motivated and making little bits of progress every day or week. Part of what will help you be successful in doing this is not biting off more than you can chew and setting realistic goals. It’s very easy to start a project, it’s very hard to finish it. Keep it simple and think “what can we design today that we can build this week.” Software projects can get so complex and when you have limited time this way of thinking will help you strip out everything that is unnecessary and focus on the core goals. It will also help you test something small, get feedback on it and iterate.
When working with developers, I always try to keep the design process a couple steps ahead of development. This will enable your small team to be able to have conversations about what you’re building before you develop it.
Find a designer that can work quickly and is willing to throw some ideas around before committing to something. I produce more work these days that I wouldn’t be proud to show the world, just for the sake of having some sort of visualization to look at and talk about as a group. You’ll have plenty of time to make it perfect later.
In regards to tools, I use Adium for chat and Basecamp for managing projects and as a replacement for email for projects. Campfire is also great if you have multiple team members and I also use Skype. I’m sure there are other great tools that get the job done.
There are many task apps on the market, some of which are shared by teams. Flow App is one of the latest: http://www.getflow.com. You have to find something that works for you and your team. Lastly I would recommend reading “Getting Real" by 37signals, which raises a lot of good points that you mind find helpful!
23 1 / 2012
smoovebert asked: Do I get anything for being first? jk. Do you use a stylus with Adobe Ideas or just fingerstylus?
Ha! I will send you an email full of compliments about how wonderful you are for being the first. :)
Personally, I use a Stylus. There are some challenges with this when using Adobe Ideas. Mainly if the iPad is not propped up properly your hand can brush up against the screen and do unintended things but it works well 99% of the time.
My friend Kevin Burg does some AMAZING iPad drawings using his fingers: http://kevin.tumblr.com/tagged/morningdoodle. This is a particularly fantastic video showcasing that: http://kevin.tumblr.com/post/4259851720/recently-i-created-a-video-for-adobe-demoing-my
On a similar note, this Kickstarter project for the Worlds First Pressure Sensitive Stylus for iPad will be funded on February 7th.