I haven't attended many conferences in my life. To be honest, agile conferences disappointed me. Agile 2009 was half boring, half OK with just one mind-blowing keynote by Jared Spool. As you probably assume, he talked about UX. In fact, this talk has changed many things in TargetProcess, as we started incorporating UX into the company culture. And this is the only reason why I can give Agile 2009 a “good conference” label.
We decided to visit UX LX in Lisbon to check whether there's any difference. I am an expert in agile, but novice in UX. Conferences are good places to re-charge batteries and to fuel vision. UX LX fully met my expectations. It. Was. Cool.
So what I’ve learned? What we’ll try to apply at TargetProcess soon?
Maybe this is a number one and Dan Saffer did a really great job at the workshop. To be honest, brainstorming sessions sometimes were boring at TargetProcess. We used several whiteboards and markers. The process was synchronous. It means one person grabs the marker and writes something on the board. Other people throw out ideas and suggestions. Sometimes it works, but there is a much better way.
It is a very good idea to separate two activities. Brainstorming phase may be asynchronous. It means all people can brainstorm the problem and sketch/write results/ideas. There are several techniques that help. One of my favorite is brainwriting. You have a problem and everyone has a sheet of paper. You have 1 minute to write or sketch anything related to the problem. It may be just few words or a very brief sketch. Then you pass the sheet to the next person and receive a similar sheet from the person at the left hand. You see absolutely new content and have 1 minute to understand it and expand it. Very clever and fun.
Photo by Adaptivepath
Also it is very important to engage everyone. Use wall, sticky notes and paper to break down ideas into groups. Then you may review every idea and decide what to do with it. Group interacts with physical objects and these simple activities boost engagement. Also you may give some simple gifts for really cool ideas. It sounds silly, as Dan said, but this works!
During one session I understood that TargetProcess is (quite) a boring product. It has almost no emotions inside. It should be more emotional and humanish. Out of the box ideas are:
- Use avatars and real people faces
- Use better wording in dialogs, navigation, etc.
- Make it more personalized
Text is important. It is really, really important. If someone looks for information, finds the page, reads the text and has no clue what that mess of words is all about — that’s really bad. You might have a beautifully designed web site, but if the copy was written by a marketer or developer with poor writing skills — it will not be effective.
Eric Reiss ran fantastic workshop on copywriting and showed how poor wording can literarily kill a product.
The truth is that visualization is hard, but if applied well may lead to unexpected boost of satisfaction. There is a lot of data in TargetProcess, but visualization is not so good. Many areas can be improved. We should pay attention to data visualization all the time.
Async Usability Testing
We tried synchronous usability testing on new navigation. It works perfect, but there are less intrusive methods to gather interesting statistic via async usability testing. For example, we can try daily notes or true intent studies. I clearly see how daily notes can be used for installation experience. We just ask a person to install TargetProcess and write everything during this activity (emotions, thoughts, problems). True intent studies may be context-dependent and it is a quick way to gather some interesting data in just a few minutes.
The conference was very good. I feel refreshed and full of new ideas. Also, I feel that in general we are on the right track about User Experience at TargetProcess, but some tactics should be changed.
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