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Tag Archives: User experience

What You do matter more than what You say: Replace ‘You’ by Brands!

This is turning out to be a great learning so far, I learnt “What is Content Strategy?“, “How should I understand my audience?“, and once I have understood my audience, “How shall I segment them“. This has been a great learning experience.

As I go more and more in detail, now is the time to know about the “Connection” between Marketing and Content Strategy, and we will try and go over quite a few interesting facts here:

Marketing is: 

Understanding consumer and designing products and services to meet their needs and wants, and communicating this to consumer that you’ve done this.

Any content you produce is like a product which you should definitely market. In order to engage with people you want to reach, you must understand them. Content Strategy needs to benefit services and products that your organization creates. Your content should be meaningful and relevant to the products your organization makes. It should be able to brand your product or service. Both should be an absolute part of your content strategy.

Content needs to communicate about the Brand which your product or service defines…!!!

But What is a brand and how Experience is important!

Is Coke a brand or is Sony a brand?

A brand is not just the name or look of a product or service! Its your understanding of the product,its your best idea of the product or service, and how this idea or concept is different from alternative that you have!

Let’s spend some more time on this, and let’s talk about the experience which coke delivers!

Coke ad links coke with the experience of feeling happy when consumer feel happy they drink coke, and are taken to the Coke experience of happiness. By speaking to these experience Coke is able to engage consumers in the brand.

Today, more than ever, how a brand behaves is more important than what it says. Messaging is important, but what really matters is how a brand engages and interacts with the people who impact the business, from
its customers to the people who influence customers.

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In order to build a strong experience brand, it’s important to understand what the drivers of experience are, and how they variously impact consumer perception and purchase.

Fundamental to build any brand is:

1. Product. What you do, sell, and how well you meet your customers’ needs. It’s how you name and define your products or services and price them.

2. Communication. How you consistently promote your brand through marketing and sales – presenting your promise. It is the marketing collateral, advertising, materials, graphic standards, etc. that communicate your brand attributes, create awareness, and develop a brand image.

3. Service. How well you deliver your brand promise. Customer interaction with your company before, during and after they purchase.

An important addition to the brand-building fundamentals:

4. Experience. Synchronizing the entire business in order to generate a unique and consistent experience with the brand. Creating emotional involvement between the brand and the customer.

How to make sure content strategy is relevant to the brand?

You should be able to articulate the concept clearly.  The best tool to do this is to write a positioning.  That specifies who the target statement is, and what is the core concept! And how it is different from competitor!

You use this positioning statement to see how your content is relevant to the same experience the brand speaks to. The positioning is central to the content strategy because this is what keep the content on strategy.

Inspiration: Making consumer believe that they can accomplish things in their own lives.

Many brands have been successful as they inspire their users.  Famous example is Nike which challenges the consumers to take challenge and just do it!

The fact that you are able to do something is far more important than the fact how you did it?

Identity: Identity experience is seeing oneself as being a successful person! As a brand if you can provide useful advice and tips on how to use clothes to appear successful, this will in turn create an excellent identity experience. For this one contact point can be a sales person coming to you and suggesting you a tie which will go well with your suit!

Second example could be an example of say Tesco retail store in UK, where they do a utilitarian advice by suggesting a recipes.

In order to make sure that all the content fits in Content Strategy you need to generate the storyline which is for your brand!

You need to keep it generic enough so that any individual piece of content will tell its own story, but that component is rich enough to stick together to make sure that it caters to the brand and experiences it relate to.

We will get in more details on Experiences, in our next post…this is getting really interesting!

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UX Principles – Top 4 for my products

While talking about UX principles, I in my product always would go for the following:

Fast : My product should response to any input that has been given by user in sub-300 millisecs

Assistive: You should always give user something to react to, don’t force them to generate their own content

Clear and concise messaging : Always, make sure you’re guiding your users to respective paths on a regular basis. People don’t want to stay on and stray around!

Simplicity: A 1% PM knows how to get 80% of the value out of any feature or project with 20% of the effort. They do so repeatedly, launching more and achieving compounding effects for the product or business.

 
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Posted by on June 10, 2012 in UX and Usability

 

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How to handle clients with varied sense of UX

An excellent article, which explains in detail about how to handle various clients depending non their  ‘Usability and or UX’ understanding.

Project management, and UX strategy to me, these fields are inextricably linked as part of the planning phase of any project.

In this article let’s learn about how to introduce two things:

  1. A governance framework that walks through the value of UX during various stages of a project.
  2. Hurdles UX strategists face, and how to overcome them.

Experience Design Process

The following presentation outlines the various documents that can be created during the planning phase of any project. Although it’s rare that all of these documents would be required, a number of them will be useful for every project. It’s a good template to reference on every project to ensure you’re setting the project up for success.

The Experience Design Framework

With the planning phase defined, the role of a UX specialist often gets forgotten. Throughout the project lifecycle, a UX specialist can be invaluable to the success of a project. In this document, I describe how to integrate the role of a UX specialist into every phase of a project, regardless of the project management methodology used.

The UX Project Lifecycle

Clip from The UX Project Lifecycle
(Download PDF – 61kb)

External UX Hurdles

Risk-averse client

Hurdle: Risk-Adverse Client

Issue: A Risk-Adverse Client is a common issue that pops up on many projects. The client will push back on any innovative solutions, and will not want to commit to a single solution without testing, written rationale, or other 3rd party support.

Overcoming: The easiest way to overcome this is through upfront stakeholder interviews. If you detect a Risk-Adverse Client, you will need to probe for the root cause of their fear, and may need to perform upfront research or user testing to help assuage the client’s fear. Doing this upfront will do two things: 1) it’ll show you’re taking the client’s concerns seriously 2) it’ll prevent fears from inhibiting innovation further down the project pipeline.


New World Client

Hurdle: New World Client

Issue: It’s said that in 1492 when Columbus came to America, the native inhabitants were able to look out over the ocean, full of ships, and see nothing but water. They had never seen ships before; in fact, they’d couldn’t even dream of such things. The only way they knew a contingent was on approach was because of the ripples the ships caused in the ocean.

This is the same issue that New World Clients have. It’s known as perceptual blindness, and it’s contested whether or not it actually exists. In this case, New World Clients might push back or make unusual requests because they’re used to having things look, feel, and behave in a certain way and don’t know any other way to think.

Overcoming: Just like the first person to spot the ripples in the water, you need to get the New World Client to see that something new and important is on its way. Show them examples, prototypes, or any other materials that illustrate that what you’re proposing is right. New World Clients need special attention, but much of the attention should be given during the onboarding process.


Big-Eyed Client

Hurdle: Big-Eyed Client

Issue: Think kid in a candy store. The Big-Eyed Client wants everything, every feature you could name. A great indicator that you might have a Big-Eyed Client is vendor-itis; if your client has more than five vendors providing niche services on a single site, there’s a good chance you have a Big-Eyed Client. These clients will push for as many features as possible, regardless of the impact on user experience.

Overcoming: Again, an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. In this case, prioritization and focus are key to reining in a Big-Eyed Client. This can be done in a number of ways: by prioritizing user flows, scenarios, user stories, or a feature list. Adaptive Path recounts this process in detail here starting on slide 52


Fox-in-the-Hen-House Client

Hurdle: Fox-in-the-Hen-House Client

Issue: This is an example of the Highest Paid Persons Opinion (HIPPO) effect, where a misinformed UX advocate holds an elevated position within an organization and can influence everyone else simply by offering his opinion. In many cases this type of client will offer outdated or misinterpreted information he’s read or heard from others. No client wants to create problems for the user; the Fox-in-the-Hen-House client believes what he’s saying is true, and will benefit the user.

Overcoming: Don’t argue a specific issue—you’ll never win. Even if you end up winning the issue at hand, you’ll have built animosity between yourself and the client. Instead, focus on imbuing the wisdom that a single solution isn’t right all the time, and that different contexts require adapting and manipulating solutions to improve an experience. Even banner ads worked until we realized users were developing banner blindness.


Can That Be Done Client

Hurdle: “Can That Be Done?” Client

Issue: In many (if not most) organizations, the client contact you’ll be interacting with will not be familiar with technological constraints. Additionally, he may not be familiar with emerging conventions and new types of tools and technology that are available. The issue this type of client will often create is one of hesitation; he’ll want to pass every innovative idea past their IT department. As we all know, IT departments can be the place where innovative ideas die.

Overcoming: Being able to navigate the pitfalls of an IT department is a skill few people possess. However, if you have access to a seasoned developer (or better, can develop a relationship with one of the developers within the IT department), you can utilize that person to communicate how a solution could be implemented.


Too Many Chefs Client

Hurdle: Too Many Chefs Client

Issue: When working with clients that are part of larger organizations, there may be a lot of stakeholders, all looking out for their own interests. In many cases, these varying interests conflict with one another, and prioritization of these interests becomes unmanageable.

Overcoming: Rather than trying to accommodate everyone, it’s best to take a two-step approach to preventing this issue:

  1. Produce a comprehensive content inventory either by auditing the existing site/app, or by developing a new one. This will help identify all the potential stakeholders. Tip: Add a responsibility column to your content inventory and get the client to fill it in. This should outline the business owner of each piece of content that will be created.
  2. Facilitate a prioritization breakout session with representation from all stakeholders to determine whose content will be considered mandatory on all shared content pages and modules.

Astronaut Client

Hurdle: Astronaut Client

Issue: The Astronaut Client is a visionary; he doesn’t want to get bogged down in details and knows what he wants when he sees it. This type of client, while open to innovation, is often only open to innovative ideas that mesh with his perception of his vision. A big issue I’ve run into with Astronaut Clients is that they often don’t want to review planning documents, but will reserve feedback for visual design.

Overcoming: A standard onboarding procedure should address this issue. The client should either be educated on the process they’ll be asked to run through, or asked to provide a proxy who can review and provide approval to elements the Astronaut Client doesn’t want to review.


Proxy Client

Hurdle: Proxy Client

Issue: A proxy client is generally a person who’s selected to represent the interest of another stakeholder because that stakeholder is too busy or unavailable to interface with you directly. This is an example of “broken telephone,” where an opportunity exists for the proxy client to misinterpret direction from the stakeholder due to a lack of background information.

Overcoming: Strong relationship management skills are required to overcome this issue. The easiest way to work with a Proxy Client is to ensure regular reviews are scheduled with all vested interests. When that is impossible, a governance document may need to be created to have some documentation on what elements the Proxy Client can approve, and what elements the Proxy will take back to the stakeholder for approval. Tip: Never allow the Proxy Client to present your work to the stakeholder. Whenever possible, present your own work.

Summary

If you use the Experience Design Framework, and follow the process laid out in the UX project lifecycle, you’ll experience far fewer hurdles. If you’re not able to do this for whatever reason, you’re likely to face some of these hurdles.

You’re now equipped with the tools you’ll need to combat the hurdles you may face from these types of clients. That said, you may face combination clients who have traits from several of the above types. If this is the case, you need to consider both your well being and your organization’s well being.

Ask yourself, “Is this work going to be worth the education and relationship management required to transform this client?” I’ve phrased this question deliberately, because I’m assuming you wouldn’t want to simply capitulate to every client whim, and you wouldn’t want to invest in a client that isn’t willing to produce quality work.

If it is worth the time and effort required, you may need to schedule an education session. Earlier this year I was hired as a consultant for a major Canadian financial institution where I was able to conduct such a workshop. It uncovered major organizational issues that couldn’t be corrected immediately, but caused stakeholders to be cognizant of their potential biases. These issues were also documented and raised to the corporate HR lead and the executive team. I was also invited to give a high-level presentation to the board of directors, who will be considering several proposals my team made.

This is all to say, if you’re a digital shop who’s working with a client, you have options to make your relationship much more valuable and fun. If you’re a marketer, consider hiring an agency that is capable of offering you the direction you need. If you’re hearing “yes” to all your ideas, or are being required to provide more direction that you believe should be required, you probably have an agency that doesn’t understand the nuances of UX strategy. If this is the case, consider hiring your own consultant to provide the project with guidance, or consider finding an alternate agency that can.

 
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Posted by on November 9, 2011 in UX, UX and Usability

 

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A Product Manager? Who exactly this guy is…?

I often ask this question from myself as to what does it take to be a successful product manager. What do they do? Where do they come from? Why do they like sharpies so much?


In his book Inspired, Marty Cagan describes the job of the product manager as “to discover a product that is valuable, usable and feasible”. For me too product management is the intersection between business, technology and user experience (hint – only a product manager would define themselves in a venn diagram).

Key elements: A good product manager must be experienced in at least one, passionate about all three, and conversant with practitioners in all.

Business – Product Management is above all else a business function, focused on maximising business value from a product. Product Managers should be obsessed with optimising a product to achieve the business goals while maximising return on investment. Sorry, this does mean that you are a suit – but you don’t have to wear one.

Technology – There’s no point defining what to build if you don’t know how it will get built. This doesn’t mean a Product Manager needs to be able to sit down and code but understanding the technology stack and most importantly understanding the level of effort involved is crucial to making the right decisions. This is even more important in an Agile world where Product Managers spend more time day to day with the development team than with anyone else inside the business.

User Experience – Last but not least the Product Manager is the voice of the user inside the business and must be passionate about the user experience. Again this doesn’t mean being a pixel pusher but you do need to be out there testing the product, talking to users and getting that feedback first hand – especially in a start-up.

to discover a product that is valuable, usable and feasible – Marty Cagan

Manage what exactly?

Why do you need this breadth of skills? Because the role itself is incredibly broad and varied and you’ll be using them every day.

Vision: It starts with setting a vision for the product, which requires you to research, research and research some more your market, your customer and the problem they have that you’re trying to solve. You have to assimilate huge amounts of information – feedback from clients, quantitative data from your web analytics, research reports, market trends and statistics – you need to know everything about your market and your customer, and then mix all that information with a healthy dose of creativity to define a vision for your product.

Spread a Word: Once you have a vision, you have to spread the word in your business. Get dogmatic, evangelical even, about the utopia that is your product. And if you can’t get passionate about it – you’re in the wrong job or you didn’t come up with a very good vision. Your success, and that of your product, relies on every team member – from sales to developer – understanding that vision and being at least a little bit passionate about it as well.

And then you switch gears again and start building an actionable plan to reach that vision. A roadmap of incremental improvements and iterative development that take you step by faltering step closer to that final vision. This is when all that hard work preaching the good word pays off – and your team throw themselves into coming up with better designs, better code and better solutions to the customers problem.

Now we get really detail oriented, as you work day in, day out with the development team as a product owner – defining and iterating the product as you go, solving problems as they pop up and closely managing scope so you can get the product out on time.

The product is finally out there and suddenly you’re spending your days poring over data again – looking at how customers use the product, going out and talking to them about the product and generally eating, sleeping and breathing the product. Did you solve the right problem? Do your users get the product? Will they pay for the product? This is all about understanding your customer, I take this point that you have been doing this from past so many months for this product, but it is post product that makes life more easier for you and your customer.

And then you do it all over again. Now since we do not use the waterfall methodology anymore, this means we are not doing this step by step, we’re doing this for a dozen products or features at any one time, switching from strategy to tactics in the blink of an eye.

Want to give this a second thought?

Sure it’s a tough job but it’s just about the most fun you can have with your clothes on – certainly the most fun you’re going to get paid to do. You get to define the very essence of a product, design solutions to your customers’ problems, work with everyone in the business and play a very large part in your business’s success. We’re the unsung heroes of the tech world – or at least we’d like to think so…

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2011 in Product Management, Uncategorized

 

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