UIE Article: Team Models for Scaling a Design System

Jared Spool

September 24th, 2015

In this week’s article, Nathan Curtis investigates different variants of centralizing and federating decision making around a design system.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Now, more designers code. Now, more developers design. Product managers have their hands dirty with everything. They all work tribally in teams spread throughout an enterprise. You can’t legitimately tell them what to do anymore. No one is that omnipresent, omnipotent or omniscient. You have to work together to build something bigger and cohesive.

So, how do you form a team that best helps you stay cohesive with a system? It depends on who you are and what you are capable of.

Nevertheless, modern design organizations are making their way from solitary teams making a library available or a centralized team serving disconnected products towards a more federated approach.

Read the article: Team Models for Scaling a Design System.

How could your company benefit from a federated design system? Leave us a note below.

Stop Doing Survey Research

Jared Spool

September 24th, 2015

Recently, Erika Hall published the article On Surveys where she emphasized the danger of using surveys as a research tool. She suggested that they’re often misunderstood and misused and frequently poorly done.

Here’s an excerpt from her article:

In my opinion it’s much much harder to write a good survey than to conduct good qualitative user research. Given a decently representative research participant, you could sit down, shut up, turn on the recorder, and get good data just by letting them talk. (The screening process that gets you that participant is a topic for another day.) But if you write bad survey questions, you get bad data at scale with no chance of recovery.

What makes a survey bad? If the data you get back isn’t actually useful input to the decision you need to make or if it doesn’t reflect reality, that is a bad survey. This could happen if respondents didn’t give true answers, or if the questions are impossible to answer truthfully, or if the questions don’t map to the information you need, or if you ask leading or confusing questions.

It’s worth reading the full article.

You can also hear Erika’s interview with me on team-based research and the need to shift away from an academic way of thinking about it.

Using a team-based research approach and skillfully analyzing the data is key to getting your team on the same page when trying to figure out who your users are and what problems you’re trying to solve for them. Erika Hall covers this in her full-day workshop at UI20 on Cultivating Shared Understanding from Collaborative User Research.

What’s the Minimum Viable Product to Design for Success?

Jared Spool

September 23rd, 2015

Lean UX focuses on research and the minimum viable product. Getting your product in front of customers early in the process lets you test any hypotheses you have about both the product and your customer base. Uncovering misconceptions up front allows you to iterate and pivot to arrive not just at the best design, but the right one.

Recently, I interviewed one of the folks on the forefront of Lean UX, Jeff Gothelf. Here’s an excerpt from our conversation:

If I had to list one of the biggest challenges in winning teams over, and providing concrete insight about how to make this work with everybody on the team, visual design is, by far, the biggest obstacle. There’s a subjectivity there to the level of fidelity that’s necessary to learn what you need to learn.

I think that [the definition of MVP] has been where some of the biggest challenges have been. One of my favorite exercises to do in workshops is to go around the room, and have half a dozen people define “MVP.” You’ll get half a dozen definitions. I always come back with, “It’s the smallest thing that you need to make or do to learn the next most important thing.”

Listen to the podcast interview or read the transcript.

Jeff Gothelf has conducted dozens of workshops all around Lean UX. In his workshop at UI20, Lean UX: Agility Through Cross-functional Collaboration, you’ll learn how to deconstruct business problems into assumptions that drive product direction. You’ll then understand how to prioritize the best product ideas and test these assumptions so that you’re building the right product.

Enjoy the podcast and we hope to see you at UI20.

UI20: You Need to Solve Problems, Not Build Features

Jared Spool

September 21st, 2015

Recently, I published an article on a novel concept that Bruce McCarthy shared with me: Themes. Themes are an alternative for features. Instead of promising to build a specific feature, the team commits to solving a specific customer problem.

Here’s an excerpt:

Part of solving a customer’s problem is making sure you don’t make it worse. By having the problem as the starting point for the project, the development team has an instant baseline to measure against.

Given a customer problem, the team will come up with multiple solutions. Picking the best solution becomes a trade off of effort against the improvement they can deliver. Determining these factors is easier when they start with a clearly defined problem. Without a commitment to specific solutions, the team has flexibility.

It’s worth reading the full article.

You can also hear Bruce’s interview with me on UX and product roadmaps where we discuss how the importance of good user experience shifts the product-management world thinking.

Without a doubt, UX can influence a product road map. Bruce McCarthy covers exactly this in his full-day workshop, Collaborative Product Strategy: How UX Can Influence Product Decisions.

UIE Newsletter: Themes – A Small Change to Product Roadmaps with Large Effects

Jared Spool

September 16th, 2015

In this week’s article, I investigate Themes, in which instead of promising to build a specific feature, the team commits to solving a specific customer problem.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Part of solving a customer’s problem is making sure you don’t make it worse. By having the problem as the starting point for the project, the development team has an instant baseline to measure against.

Given a customer problem, the team will come up with multiple solutions. Picking the best solution becomes a trade off of effort against the improvement they can deliver. Determining these factors is easier when they start with a clearly defined problem. Without a commitment to specific solutions, the team has flexibility.

Read the article: Themes: A Small Change to Product Roadmaps with Large Effects.

How could Themes improve your customers’ experience? Leave us a note below.

Erika Hall – Cultivating Shared Understanding from Collaborative User Research

Sean Carmichael

September 11th, 2015

Play

[ Transcript Available ]

Erika Hall

Traditionally, user research has taken on more of a scientific identity. You would do usability testing and research, take a ton of notes, and then compile all of your findings into a report. The effectiveness of that research depended on whether anyone read the report, and then if they could do anything actionable with that data.

Erika Hall, of Mule Design, has taken a more effective approach she calls team-based research. She says her goal is to shift the focus away from a more academic way of thinking. Rather than being concerned with doing high quality research, determining how much the research actually helps you will allow you to build and create better.

Another part of team-based research is to view research as having its own customer. Research is sometimes done as a checklist item and doesn’t go much further than just being able to say you’ve done it. When you consider that the “customer” for your research is the people who are going to change or design the product, research becomes more of a service itself. You can measure how well you’re doing the research by how well the results help that “customer.”

Erika will be presenting one of 8 daylong workshops at UI20, November 2–4, in Boston. For more information, visit uiconf.com.

Recorded: August, 2015
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Are You Our Next Web Intern?

Adam Churchill

September 11th, 2015

We’re looking for an amazing Web Developer Intern for a paid, 6-month internship. It starts in October 2015 in our offices just north of Boston.

Fast Forward Six Months…

We’d like to thank you for doing a fantastic job as our Fall/Winter Web Developer Intern. You’ve excelled at maintaining, editing, and documenting our stable of web properties. You spent much of your time creating all of our outbound HTML emails, and managed those campaigns through MailChimp.

Your site development skills are top-notch, as you worked closely with our web team to improve our online subscription program. You worked your magical HTML5, and CSS3 skills to get our next version closer to what our users want.

To top it off, you’ve even helped us improve the documentation for our Git-based development process to make life easier for future interns and mined useful data from multiple databases for our Director of Marketing.

Thanks for your energy and enthusiasm during your internship. We know you’ll succeed at your future ventures.

Now back to today…

If you’d like this to be your story, send us:

  1. Your resume
  2. A half-page write up of your most significant web development accomplishment (Don’t forget this. Most do)

While we’re less concerned with your skills and qualifications, we won’t compromise on your ability to deliver team results. We’ll be back to you in 48 hours if you can follow these simple directions and have what it takes to achieve something special.

You might even want to check out our web sites— http://ui20.uie.com/, aycl.uie.com,  and www.uie.com—for some insight into our current efforts. Best of all, hear what past interns had to say about the experience. We think you’ll be excited by where we are today and the challenge to get us where we’re going.

You will work in our North Andover offices. (Sorry, we don’t hire remote interns, or those not already in the United States.) We’ll provide all the equipment you need, including Apple hardware and Mac software to bring out the best in your talents and skills.

We’d like this internship to begin by mid-October, with the ideal individual working up to 40 hours per week, but offer flexibility to the right candidate.

Send your resume and write-up to: WebDevInternJob@uie.com

or: Adam Churchill / Director, Online Products / User Interface Engineering

510 Turnpike Street, Suite 102  North Andover, MA 01845

Nathan Curtis – Building Scalable Design Systems and Style Guides

Sean Carmichael

September 9th, 2015

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[ Transcript Available ]

Nathan Curtis

The expansion of the web past a desktop-based world into more of a multi-device ecosystem has caused organizations to re-evaluate almost everything they do. Style guides have had to grow to accommodate this new reality of multiple screens sizes and resolutions. When you start incorporating the multitude of products across devices and all the people working on them, organizations are forced to think more “systematically.”

Nathan Curtis, co-founder of EightShapes, has worked with component libraries and style guides for years. He says that when you’re thinking about all the platforms that comprise the totality of an experience, these patterns (such as a sign-in form, or elements like buttons) need to be more broadly applicable. It’s one thing to create the structure and layout, then thread all the pieces together for a single app or web page, but when that app needs to scale across platforms, it suddenly becomes a very different animal.

This requires alignment throughout the organization. Different design teams will have different stories to work with, and managing something at a much larger scale means that these stories need to be coherent when it comes to the brand. The designers don’t necessarily need to be working on the same products, but they need to design pieces that fit well together.

Nathan is presenting one of 8 daylong workshops at UI20, November 2–4, in Boston. For more information, visit uiconf.com.

Recorded: August, 2015
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UIE Newsletter: The Dirty Dozen Roadmap Roadblocks

Jared Spool

September 9th, 2015

In this week’s article, Bruce defines the product roadmap and offers twelve areas where organizations break down when developing roadmaps. Best of all, he shares ideas on how to put all twelve roadblocks in your rearview mirror.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

A good roadmap inspires. It inspires buy-in from executives, inspires confidence from customers and salespeople, and inspires development teams to produce the groundbreaking products that drive significant growth.

A good roadmap keeps your organization on course toward its destination. Stating what you will do and when makes it easy to judge when you fall behind schedule or get detoured by good ideas that just don’t fit your strategic vision.

Read the article: The Dirty Dozen Roadmap Roadblocks.

What roadblocks have challenged your organization in creating product roadmaps?  Leave us a note below.

Hiring for Building UX Teams – Kim Goodwin’s September 17 Virtual Seminar

Adam Churchill

September 3rd, 2015

Convincing an organization to invest in growing a UX team is an achievement worth celebrating! Once the glow of that success fades, though, most leaders realize that hiring for an effective UX team is incredibly difficult. In Finding the Perfect Fit: Hiring for Building (and Joining) UX Teams, Kim Goodwin teaches you how to build successful agency and in-house teams.

Attend this seminar if you want to:

  • Match your hiring plan to your real needs
  • Make better hiring decisions with less time invested
  • Involve the team to increase your flow of good candidates

Save your spot in this September 17 virtual seminar, or make it part of your 6-month program of virtual seminars.