So it took a reminder from a friend of mine in Chicago that the Internet Summit was coming back to Raleigh this year. I had a head smacking moment before I immediately signed up and can’t say how glad I was for that reminder. What an exceptional conference right in my own backyard.
There were so many awesome sessions this year, and I may write about more than one, but I did want to touch upon the pre-conference workshop I attended first. Titled Advanced Design & User Experience Strategies and given by Michael Salamon (@michaelsalamon), the Director of Digital Production for The Integer Group, it was worth the price of admission alone.
Good User Experience (UX) strategies summarized in one morning session may seem like a tall order, but Michael had an easy approach to his explanations and some fantastic slides to back up what he was talking about. As with most things, with UX you have to know the end result before you even start and user empathy is at the heart of good UX.
In other words, you need to meet the user where they are. This isn’t any kind of black magic, because UX can be measured (often times with real time user action measured in audio and video). In truth UX testing is no different than testing in industrial design. So the first step is to find out what your client likes and wants measured against what you think they need by what they are actually telling you.
One of the first tools in the arsenal is the Experience Map, which shows the major pieces the user will have to touch. In other words, the touchpoints of the entirety (or the piece) that is critical for the user to move through. The 30,000 foot view, if you will. This avoids the noise and concentrates on the important things you need to accomplish if you lived in a perfect world. Since UX can be quantified, you use this to get everyone on the same page and focusing on the same, central targets.
Another tool is the Empathy Map (see this great article for a wonderful summary). But this is a great brainstorming tool to get everyone on the same page rapidly and to get out of yourself and into the mind of the customer/user and how they do things. This is essential, because as Michael kept stressing, you are not the user you are just participating in the user journey.
Michael also did a great job in summarizing the “rules” of UX. There is no formula for success with UX, only some general guidelines, or has he referred to them the E.C.C.C.O. system.
- empathy: put yourself in the user’s shoes as you interact with your experience
- context: can you articulate how the user will use this in their lives?
- content: do you know what your user is trying to accomplish with your experience?
- constrains: what kind of delivery device are you constrained with?
- opportunities: ensure you can identify all of your potential opportunities of the delivery device?
At the end of his presentation, we had about an hour where we were able to brainstorm with the team around each individual table and create User Journeys. It allowed us to identify a common issue for our “user” and walk in their shoes by traveling with them as they interacted with our “company” and situation. Basically we plotted the user’s emotional experience against a timeline while trying to accomplish a task (buying movie tickets online for example) to help identify the strong, weak and just terrible points the user could experience. It was really interesting, especially to hear everyone’s take on it.
At the end of the day Michael left us with knowing that UX isn’t about art, it is about problem solving. It is agile and iterative, where you figure out the problem, you test it, you fix it, you get it out to the customer, you test it, you fix it, you make it evolve until the best experience can be found. You use good UX to design for the perpetual intermediates. You are looking for the best experience that 80% of your group will be in. You don’t design for the beginner or the expert but you constantly try to get in the head of that group to walk in their shoes through your development process.
It was a great session and the best four hours of the conference for what I learned. I think I may be tempted to give my impressions of the KeyNote speaker next time. I mean, seeing Woz in person was not that shabby. I will be hitting the ISUM next year, without a doubt.