Can you tell me a little bit about your role at Fjord / Accenture
I have actually finished up my role in Brussels with Fjord after we successfully got a very full on digital transformation project well underway. It was for a rather large organisation and well-known service provider in Europe and America, and a challenging one indeed. Fun too though! I can tell you a bit about my role of course. As Service Design Lead it was my responsibility to look after and guide a team of around 10 members consisting of UX’ers, translators, BA’s alongside Visual Designers (UI’s). The really good thing about this project was that the team also consisted of six representatives from the client itself, working with us throughout the day in an agile fashion; scrum planning, workshops, sketching together, providing research, expert knowledge and prototyping.
You mention you’re currently using a full user led research approach at Fjord / Accenture, could you tell me more about that?
We worked in a very agile fashion, starting each day with full team scrum meetings about what we were doing for the day and usually going straight into workshops, that were either led by research that the client was gathering or by the sketching and prototyping work. Each sprint included user testing with real users of the company’s services plus members of staff. It was often a rush to get these prototypes ready for this but we managed! The prototypes (or site structure ideas, journeys etc.) were often translated into Flemish for this testing and so it was interesting keeping track of our work in a language very unfamiliar to most of the team. But it worked. User testing was disseminated via Slack and face-to-face and then actioned before we brought the sprint to a close with a UX and Design Specification and high-level stakeholder presentation.
How does this approach benefit the organization?
“User testing and upfront research should just simply be seen as invaluable, and if it’s not you are in the wrong organisation.”
Insight, feedback and positive change obviously effect the project that you are doing but can then make its way through the rest of the organisation, and suddenly you are now making a positive impact to something that you did not know existed last week!
Do you find it difficult to get buy-in from the wider business? If so, how do you deal with this?
Not in this particular case but in some other roles in the past. There is still an issue with what exactly is UX and what it means to organisations. You can be seen simply as ‘wireframe monkeys’ only or just researchers. Or you hear things like ‘the visual designers can do all this can’t they?’ (They sometimes can by the way so I am not being disparaging.) Lack of budget and lack of time or indeed willingness to understand all come into play.
Educating early in the project or in your time in a new role is the key, or at least a very good starting point.
As the former head of UX at Macmillan you also grew the knowledge and use of UX with the digital team as well as the wider organization. How did you do this?
At Macmillan Cancer Support we had a UX / UI wall full of information and would attend other departments fortnightly meetings to find out what they are up to and how we can help. One of my proudest times there was seeing some of the Editorial team undertaking the full UX process themselves on a particular section and doing it very well, with just a bit of guidance from me and my team.
Outside of this it is all about proof. You show key Stakeholders how the use of the UX process has improved visitors engagement, sales and indeed enjoyment through analytics, white papers, presentations, and, my favourite, simply talking to them should do.
What do you think are your biggest challenges in the next 12 months?
It does still go back to what UX actually means to people and the organisations in question, and indeed the industry as a whole. Calling everyone UX Designers for instance is not helpful and causes issues all of the time still. I am not a Visual Designer and my very Creative friend does not want to run workshops or do content audits. We are both though apparently UX Designers. And then you have the research side of things that not everyone is suited to.
This creates the challenges of people being hired to do half a job well through no fault of there own, or the perception from companies that we have a ‘UX team’ so we are doing UX, when there are no actual users involved!
It’s a tangle that we have all gotten ourselves into and leads to misinterpretation of skills and briefs. I am all for people having as many skills as possible of course, but do you really want your UX ‘Unicorn’ doing all of these things?
- User Research
- Information Architecture
- Content and site structure
- Prototyping and functionality
- Creative ideas and concepting
- Wonderful visual design
It can be done but leads us to other perspectives not coming into play.
Oh, other challenges! Voice control, augmented and virtual reality, the continued argument over mobile first or not and, believe it or not, something come back very soon in a Google Glasses fashion!
What piece of work are you most proud of, and why is that?
The classic interview question and one that I struggle to answer all of the time! Some work for NATO, BMW and the RAF spring to mind, but I would say that it’s a nice website and mobile version for Betty Crocker over in Australia. I had gone there to set up a new Digital Creative Services offering for Mindshare and, although certainly not the first piece of work for this new service, it was the first big strategy and web build that we won against the big agencies and it was a very lovely thing indeed!
(In partnership with the brilliant Melbourne agency Hard Hat Digital.)
BEST PRACTICE UX:
Do you have a standard user experience process that you always follow?
I would say yes and no! It really depends on the project, timeline and budget. Sometimes you just get right stuck into the structure and prototyping, which is not necessarily a bad thing. You have to trust your own skills and knowledge and that of those around you.
Otherwise it will usually be similar to the ‘UX Dragon’ that we used at Macmillan.
Have you got any favourite methods of UX tools in your toolkit that you couldn’t do your job without?
Talking to people lots! In a structured or informal fashion first and foremost. Post-it notes, Axure, listening, being flexible, keeping up to date as far as feasible and learning from others.
Other tools, outside of the likes of the fashionable Sketch and InVision would be the usual parts of the UX process:
- User-focused workshops
- Senior stakeholder interviews
- Research planning and interviews
- Competitor reviews and analysis
- User research and testing
- UX strategic recommendations for on-going campaign work
- User personas and journeys
- Sitemaps and wireframes, interactive prototypes
Plus there’s nothing wrong with using Keynote and PowerPoint in the right circumstances!
Who in the industry do you follow and read?
Very, very many of course, but the key week-to-week sources of influence are:
- Pinterest – A wonderful source of UX, UI and design inspiration. Have a look at the wealth of UX and UI examples on Timoa’s boards.
- Undercover UX Design by the guys from Clearleft in Brighton. A superb way to introduce UX to your organization by stealth, with workshops exercises that I use all the time.
- Service Design Tools – amazing workshop and tool based inspiration.
- Agency blogs and case studies showing their thinking, inspiration and ideas, such as UsTwo.
- Friends and colleagues of course who often have a different take on things and help you to have some more clarity and direction in your own thinking.
- UX strategic recommendations for on-going campaign work
- Conferences such as UX Brighton and Meaning conference.
Are there any examples of UX that you look at and think “wow, they’ve got it so right?”
Another great job interview question and one that I struggle with from time to time! I am actually more likely to notice what’s going wrong of course.
Virgin Atlantic and Virgin America are rightly held up as a great User Experience and I have liked how Trivago operates lately. The Guardian offers some great storytelling and I wish that I could think of some more right now!
Funnily enough we were talking about how Amazon has not ‘modernised’ much noticeably and kept true to the conventions that its user base expect. They still do it all well and make incremental changes as their data and testing tell them to do so.
What UX trends should we look out for?
I’d say voice control, augmented and virtual reality and new digital spectacles!
Also, a more overall customer experience focus. Are we all becoming Customer Experience experts and Services Designers? Or going to have too?. But at least a key trend is that the majority of organisations appear to be interested in what users say and feel.
From a practical point of view, we will look at failure points, making small improvements on existing large web media, the continued proliferation of Sketch and InVision.
What is your vision of the future of UX design? Where do you see it going?
A very difficult one to answer actually. I rolled into Macmillan with a vision of working with as many of the different streams as possible, not just digital. Fundraising, Marketing, Creative, The Shop and so forth. And it worked a fair bit. But they are already used to doing their own research, their own testing and focus groups.
So breaking down organisational walls so that everyone works together, share and teach skills across such boundaries is my wish. This is not a criticism of Macmillan by the way; it’s just how it is in so many organisations.