From Chaos to Concept
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From Chaos to Concept

A Team Oriented Approach to Designing World Class Products and Experiences

Kevin Collamore Braun

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eBook - ePub

From Chaos to Concept

A Team Oriented Approach to Designing World Class Products and Experiences

Kevin Collamore Braun

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About This Book

This book is written for product design, software development, graphic design, and UX professionals with a focus on creating measurably better user experiences.

If you want to design solutions to meet business goals and delight your users, you can look to this resource which covers the following areas:

  • Creating and documenting goals, strategies, objectives, and tactics
  • Defining or refining personas based on your measurable objectives (OKRs)
  • Creating and iterating on scenarios based your prioritized personas
  • A team approach to defining the product and roadmap to address critical use cases
  • Team based divergent ideation and solution exploration
  • Team based convergent solution definition
  • Wireframing potential solutions for rapid research and iteration
  • Using quantitative and qualitative methods to understand usage and test with users
  • Exploring approaches to taxonomy and information architecture
  • Using psychology and human factors to drive your design decisions
  • Developing performant, accessible, maintainable experiences
  • Using analytics to measure the results and inform the next iteration
  • How this process differs based on the size of the company or team that is employing it

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UI/UX Design

CH 1

“There is nothing worse than a crisp image of a fuzzy concept.”
—Ansel Adams

What Are We Trying to Do and How Will We Know If We Did It?

Being able to clearly articulate what a team is expected to do and what the desired outcomes are is the first step on the road to success. That sounds obvious, but I've been in countless kick-off meetings where neither of those two questions could be answered by the project stakeholders. The leadership teams had some vague statements to share about the high-level direction such as “Improve the UX” or “We want to be the Apple of our industry,” but nothing that is specifically actionable.
This isn't just my observation. According to an article published in the MIT Sloan Management Review, “Only one-quarter of the managers surveyed could list three of the company's five strategic priorities. Even worse, one-third of the leaders charged with implementing the company's strategy could not list even one.” (
If you try to shoot the flock you won't hit anything. You need to pick a goose and target it specifically. The same thing is true in business. The first thing you need to do to succeed is to identify and document your goal.
In contrast, one customer of mine came to me with a very specific goal. They knew from their analytics that customers who bought specific products had higher average order values (AOV). Their goal was to increase the number of visitors to their site that purchased those specific items.
With that clearly focused goal in mind, I researched how their competitors were attempting to solve the same problem. In this specific case everyone seemed to be doing the same thing, so there wasn't any inspiration to be found. Since I couldn't find anything helpful while reviewing the competition, I completed a “clicks to complete” assessment to quantify the complete task from start to finish. A clicks to complete assessment simply measures each click required to complete a specific task or use case. Knowing the number of clicks (or interactions) it takes a user to complete a specific task can help identify issues and help validate potential solutions.
In the original version of their site this task took 50 clicks to complete. I could tell from my evaluation that there were a few big problems. The first and biggest problem was that the existing user flow required the user to jump back and forth between different types of tasks. This can cause users to lose context and abandon the process. The second was that all those clicks increased the user's “time on task” and the longer it takes users to complete a task, the more likely it is that they will get sidetracked.
After verifying both of those issues via their usage analytics, I began exploring options for how we might eliminate the loss of context and reduce the number of clicks to complete. I figured if we could do that, we would likely see an increase in our conversion rate and average order value Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
My initial efforts were focused on reducing the loss of context. To do that I reviewed various interaction pattern libraries ( and in search of inspiration for something that would eliminate the need for users to move back and forth through the process multiple times to complete their transaction.
In the end, I decided on a wizard-based user flow so that users could complete subtasks one at a time and move through the process step by step. Wizard interfaces break down complex user flows into individual screens for each step. This allows the user to focus on one task at a time and also provides space in the interface for more instructions. That solved the first problem and also reduced the number of clicks significantly but created screens that were a bit dense with form fields. When I first tested those wireframes with some coworkers, they mentioned that seeing all those form fields that needed to be completed in the new design was intimidating. They were right.
This is the same problem that Disney has in its theme parks. If visitors could see the actual length of the line they would need to wait in to be able to get on the ride, they might choose to not even try. As the amazing design book Universal Principles of Design points out … to solve that, Disney uses a technique called “progressive reveal.” All that really means is that Disney hides a lot of the line from view by including the line in the building that houses the attraction and zigzags the line so a visitor only ever sees the first group of people instead of the entire line. The actual length of the line gets progressively revealed as the user moves through the process.
Seeing only the first part of the line is less intimidating, so visitors are more likely to get in the line. Once they are there, they become more and more invested in staying in the line because of the time they have already invested in being there in the first place.
I decided to go back to the whiteboard and incorporate the progressive reveal technique into my design by using the accordion interaction pattern with the wizard interface I created. An accordion interface provides summary data for each element that needs further review. The first element that needs input is expanded so the user can complete the required interactions, while the others are collapsed in order to save space and not overwhelm the user. This approach reduced the number of form elements the user sees, making it more likely that users will start the process. Once they start the process, they start building an investment of time and become less likely to abandon it.
Once I had a clickable prototype of the new accordion/wizard hybrid interface ready, I tested again with more coworkers because we didn't have a budget to test with users. It wasn't ideal, but testing with people even if they are not a direct match for your user demographic can be better than not testing at all especially if the system you are working on is used by the general public.
This new interface reduced the clicks to complete by 50% and eliminated the loss of context issue that the previous version had, so I was pretty confident that testing would go well.
The coworkers were able to complete the tasks well and didn't have any further feedback, so we moved this solution on to development.
This entire process, from the first meeting where the team discussed what they found in the analytics until the new interactions went live on the site, took only two months and cost less than $35K in development costs. Immediately after this solution went live, we saw an increase in conversions and an estimated $9.00 increase in average order value. At that rate, it only took a few days of orders to pay for the entire effort, and the rest of that AOV increase going forward has created a very healthy return on the investment.
There was only one designer and one contract developer on this project, and a lot of the larger user experience design process was missing from this effort due to time and resources. You don't need a multimillion-dollar budget and a team of hundreds to make a real impact on your business. The first things you need are a clear goal and the knowledge of how you will measure your progress along the way....

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