Green Bike Lanes

Have you noticed the green bike lanes? We were heading up Camino Del Mar (aka Hwy 101) to take our dog, Murphy, to Dog Beach and there is this intersection where Grand Avenue, Camino Del Mar and Jimmy Durante Boulevard all intersect – and there are a couple of bike lanes, too… As a driver, it causes you to slow down and take it all in so you stay in the right lane and not hit any cars, pedestrians or bikers.

biker_in_green_bikelane

not the actual intersection – but you get the picture

Recently they painted the bike lanes green – just in this intersection. Oh my gosh! It made such a difference! Now, at a glance, you clearly see the bike lanes – and the roads stand out, too. Such a little change made such a big improvement. I love it!

This is a great example of the Similarity Gestalt Perception Principle – which is a fancy way to say “things which share characteristics such as shape, size, color, texture, value or orientation will be seen as belonging together… and the ones that are not similar stands out.” Since the bike lanes share the same general shape, size and orientation, adding the green color made them visually “pop” – standout from the car lanes and rest of the visual noise around them.

green_bike_lane

This helps us make “mental shortcuts” for acquiring and maintaining stable percepts as we are trying to navigate our vehicle to where we want to go. These shortcuts help us to shorten our decision-making time and allow us to function without constantly stopping to think about the next course of action. Pretty cool, right?

We use these same principles when we design events, spaces, objects – like your smart phone, and even software interfaces… and “Yes,” we will be talking about this at our next UX Boot Camp in Tustin, CA, May 14.

Minimum Viable Product

mvp

The whole thing is an experiment.

It started as an idea to put all my published articles in a compendium – which you can buy at Amazon now. Then Laura said “You should do a seminar”… I bounced the idea around with some colleagues who said “a one-day event… a series of workshops” and “call it a ‘boot camp’ – a ‘UX Boot Camp’.” And that is how the UX Boot Camps were born. There are several other related ideas that are coming soon, too – more experiments.

Even the event site, Lessonaire, is an experiment. It is a MVP – a Minimum Viable Product – from GojuLabs, friends who want to build products that make a difference in the lives of their customers. An MVP is a fast way to gather customer feedback while doing continuous development – synchronous customer and product development – putting the right form of customer engagement well in front of ‘design freeze.’

The cool part, is the target audience for the boot camps are perfect reviewers for the event site! It’s funny how it all works out.

We have made some mistakes along the way… we are still working out the email campaign (sorry about that). We are learning fast as we mature the product.

User Experience is not what you think it is

UI is not UX

ui_not_ux

 

Usability is not UX

usability_not_ux

 

Design is not UX

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User experience encompasses all aspects of your end-user’s interaction with your company’s brand, products and services.

To learn more about what User Experience is not and is, please join us at the UX Boot Camp for Product Managers in Tustin, California, May 14.

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Sponsored by:

Orange County Product Managers

The Third Wave of the Internet is all about the Experience

waves

In the mid 1990’s there was a common believe of “build it and they will come” when it came to internet businesses. There were investments into anything that had a ‘dot com’ at the end of it because no one wanted to miss out on becoming a millionaire. After billions of dollars were invested with no returns, it all came crashing down at the turn of the century.

The next wave of internet businesses had to prove they had something to offer that people wanted and would pay for to attract investors. Internet business got more savvy and did market research to find real problems that they could solve at prices that were reasonable to the consumers and profitable for the businesses and their investors.

As internet technology matured and got easier to employ, many organizations got into the internet market. Companies were driven out, merged or acquired as expected in any maturing market…. and this brings us to the third – and current – wave of the internet marketplace.

One of biggest factors in internet business survival today is how easy it is for the consumer to understand the offer, easily find what they want and make a purchase. Something we call a “frictionless experience.” This experience goes across all devices – laptops, tablets, phones, kiosks – every way today’s consumer can experience your brand. With a focus on creating better experiences to win markets, we have seen a tremendous investment in integrating experience design objectives and KPI (Key Performance Indicators) into an organizations’ strategy, processes and human capital.

There has been plenty of research that shows that businesses fail because of delivering a poor experiences and organizations that are experience leader do exponentially better in the market. To learn more about how your organization can determine, develop and deliver a better experience, please join us at the UX Boot Camp for Product Managers in Tustin, CA Saturday, May 14.

productmanagers orange

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The Power of Product Thinking

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In his blog post Why Product Thinking is the next big thing in UX Design: Life’s too short to build something nobody wants… Nikkel Blaase shares:

“When thinking of User Experience, we often think of a simple, beautiful, and easy to use feature-set of a product, that makes the user’s life easier. But as a matter of fact, features are merely a small, fragile part of the product. They are only a few of many thinkable solutions for a user’s problem the product tries to solve. Thinking in products means thinking in specific user’s problems, in jobs to be done, in goals, and in revenues.”

Niikas explains that the user experience is not a set of features but the jobusers hire the product for. It is not what it does that is important but what does for people. Only when a product fulfills a need – solves a problem – people have, does it become meaningful and provide value.

When thinking about our product’s experience, we need to be able to answer the following questions first:

  • What problem do we solve? (User problem)
  • For whom are we doing this? (Target audience)
  • Why are we doing this? (Vision)
  • How are we doing this (Strategy)
  • What do we want to achieve? (Goals)

Only then it makes sense to think about what exactly we are doing (Features).

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To learn more about product thinking and user experience for product managers, please join us at our next UX Boot Camp for Product Managers May 14 in Tustin, CA.

If a Picture is Worth 1000 Words then a Prototype is Worth a 1000 Meetings

prototyping

Good designs convey information that the target audience can quickly understand. But how do you know if your designs are working? How do you know that your target audience can quickly understand your solution? There is only one way I know of – ask them! Show them – walk them through the design and see if it works. If it doesn’t then make changes and ask them again – rinse and repeat until your designs do their job.

This is prototyping. Something I am very passionate about. “If a picture is worth a thousand words, a prototype is worth a 1000 meetings” (credited at @ideo). You can write a description of what your solution is supposed to do – but that won’t tell you if it actually does it. You can make some “pictures” of what it does – that can eliminate a few thousands words but still not tell you if it does it job. But a prototype can convey what the solution does. Something you can iterate on until you get it right.

What do Product Managers need to know about User Experience?

pmux

Let me start with “What do Product Managers need to know about Product Management.” In 1931 at Proctor & Gamble, Neil McElroy wrote a memo that proposed the idea of a “brand man” — an employee to manage a specific product rather than serving a traditional business role. Other organizations adopted brand management and the practice came to be known as consumer product management.

Its principles were adopted in the software market as it grew during the 1980s and the gaps between engineering and marketing widened in the 1990s because Engineers did not have processes to keep up with customer demand or speak directly with customers about their concerns. Nor did they have time to collaborate with sales and marketing teams responsible for revenue growth. A gap between them needed to be bridged — and product managers became the ones to do it.

The origin of product management is important to understand user experience. Where the research and development side of user experience originates in Human Factors and Ergonomics, the strategic side is aligned with brand just like product management. With all of this in consideration, here are some basics that a product manager needs to be thinking about user experience:

  1. User Experience Maturity Model. Where is our organization in its UX maturity, what do we need to do to mature (do we need to mature) and how do we compare to our competition?
  2. User Experience Strategy. What is our organization’s UX strategy and how do those objectives align with the rest of our organization?
  3. User Experience Operations. Based on our strategy, where does UX belong in our organization? Does it belong in Marketing, Technology, is there a Chief Experience Officer or something else.
  4. User Experience Process. What processes do we need to integrate our user experience? How does it align with our product management framework or development process?
  5. User Experience Organization. Based on all of the above, who do we need on our UX team – visual designers, interaction designers, usability specialist, etc., how many, ratio, etc.

I will be discussing these in detail at my next UX Boot Camp for Product Managers in May. More to come on that…

How to Build the Perfect Team

perfect_team

In a recent New York Times article, What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team: New research reveals surprising truths about why some work groups thrive and others falter, Charles Duhigg shares that five years ago, Google — one of the most public proselytizers of how studying workers can transform productivity — became focused on building the perfect team.

In the last decade, the tech giant has spent untold millions of dollars measuring nearly every aspect of its employees’ lives. Google’s People Operations department has scrutinized everything from how frequently particular people eat together (the most productive employees tend to build larger networks by rotating dining companions) to which traits the best managers share (unsurprisingly, good communication and avoiding micromanaging is critical).

The study found two behaviors that all the good teams generally shared:

First, members spoke in roughly the same proportion, a phenomenon the researchers referred to as ‘‘equality in distribution of conversational turn-taking.’’ On some teams, everyone spoke during each task; on others, leadership shifted among teammates from assignment to assignment. But in each case, by the end of the day, everyone had spoken roughly the same amount. The study stated that ‘‘As long as everyone got a chance to talk, the team did well. But if only one person or a small group spoke all the time, the collective intelligence declined.’’

Second, all members shared high ‘‘average social sensitivity’’ — a fancy way of saying they were skilled at intuiting how others felt based on their tone of voice, their expressions and other nonverbal cues. They sensed when someone was feeling upset or left out. People on the ineffective teams, had less sensitivity toward their colleagues.

Within psychology, researchers sometimes colloquially refer to traits like ‘‘conversational turn-taking’’ and ‘‘average social sensitivity’’ as aspects of what’s known as psychological safety — a group culture that the Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson defines as a ‘‘shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking.’’

Psychological safety is ‘‘a sense of confidence that the team will not embarrass, reject or punish someone for speaking up,’’ Edmondson wrote in a study published in 1999. ‘‘It describes a team climate characterized by interpersonal trust and mutual respect in which people are comfortable being themselves.’’

One engineer, for instance, had told researchers that his team leader was ‘‘direct and straightforward, which creates a safe space for you to take risks.’’ That team, researchers estimated, was among Google’s accomplished groups. By contrast, another engineer had told the researchers that his ‘‘team leader has poor emotional control.’’ He added: ‘‘He panics over small issues and keeps trying to grab control. I would hate to be driving with him being in the passenger seat, because he would keep trying to grab the steering wheel and crash the car.’’ That team, researchers presumed, did not perform well.

So let’s recap… if you want your teams to be effective then:

  1. Ensure everyone gets a turn to talk. Everyone could speak during each task or have leadership shift among teammates from assignment to assignment.
  2. Ensure everyone has social sensitivity. That everyone is aware of how others are feeling based on their tone of voice, their expressions and other nonverbal cues.

Ultimately, you want to build mutual trust and respect in which people are comfortable being themselves and they know that they will not be embarrassed, rejected or punished for speaking up or taking risks.

You don’t want to be in a situation where one person or a small group spoke all the time or there is a lack of sensitivity. If you see people panicking over small issues or trying to grab control, then you know you have you got an issue to address.

Take Part in Actuation Consulting 5th Annual Study of Product Teams

These annual ongoing studies share information that is meaningful to executives of product organizations in general and product executives in particular. Once the survey is complete, the data is shared with an independent statistician who conducts regression analysis. The result of this regression analysis are factors that are highly correlated with high performance on product teams. Interesting trends:

Product Development Methodology Adoption

methodology_Trendline

This first illustration displays product development methodology adoption rates for the last four years. As you can see, Blended methods (combining Agile and Waterfall) continue to dominate in terms of usage. Popular belief would lead one to believe that Agile methods currently rule but the fact is last year’s data illustrated a decline in Agile adoption for the very first time since we began tracking adoption rates.

User Experience Adoption

ux_trend

They asked respondents to tell us about where user experience professionals functionally report within their organizations (see pie chart above). Engineering, development and technology currently has the edge with product management following closely behind.

However, when we asked a follow-on question regarding “where UX professionals should report to be most effective” they got a different answer… Respondents reported by a wide margin that UX pros should report into product (either the product management function or the Chief Product Officer (CPO)).

Take the New Survey

All of these findings are from our 2015 study and that white paper is still available. If you have 7 minutes to invest, I encourage you to take the new survey

If you choose to fill out the survey – you will be among the first to receive a copy of the 2016 white paper as a thank you! They are also randomly drawing for a $200 gift card as well.

Experience Design and the Sixth Sense

sixth_sense

When designing experiences – regardless if it is for a place or event or product or service – you think about how it will be experienced across the five senses: sight, sound, touch, taste and smell. All of these are important but what about the sixth sense? I don’t mean extrasensory perception or ESP but that emotional experience that may result from the sum total of other five senses or be a response to one or more senses or… sometimes seems to come someplace unrelated to the other five senses – extra sensory.

Emotions can seem irrational… a visceral reaction. But it is the emotional connection that creates satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy. The best experiences are designed to deliberately evoke strong positive emotions like appeal, trust, and fun. Experiences with a strong emotional connection can create long-lasting customer relationships, fanatical advocates and long term recurring revenue.

People make many of their most important decisions about how they feel about things more than what the rational logic may tell them. And if the feeling is strong enough, they will justify their decisions to support their emotional connection.

If you consistently delivers a better experience than your competition, then your target audience will develop a high level of trust with you rather than them. If you consistently delivers a great experience, then you can win long-lasting advocates who will tell other about how great you are.

Your experience design – especially the sixth sense of the emotional connection – can either draw your audience towards your places, events, products and services or away from them.

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