Design with empathy and insight

Have you ever fallen in love with design? Seen a graphical mock-up that really represented your brand spot on in a way you would not know how to describe with words?

The problem with design in digital projects is that people tend to fall in love with different things. When feelings guide project decisions, life as a digital or project manager doesn’t get any easier. There must be a better way.

A design that you really want or a design that you really need?

Contextual research gives us a systematic way of developing a deeper understanding of our users. Using these insights and uncovering what users might be expressing when you read between the lines is one of the cornerstones of empathic design.

What users don’t say is often key. Contextual research gives us a way of developing a deeper understanding of our users. This enables us to not only design with empathy but to identify latent needs that provide opportunities to create breakthrough products and services.

In different projects in the past years, Paul-Jervis Heath has used diary studies, shadowing, contextual interviews plus some informal contextual research techniques. He’s mapped numerous customer journeys, including of buying and using a new kitchen appliance, inventing a machine that means you never order the wrong size shoes online and navigating the future of Open Access publishing

Paul applies human-centred design to help businesses invent their future and is principal at design studio and innovation consultancy Modern Human

Designing intelligent environments for everyday life

The ‘internet of things’ moves technology out of our hands and into the environments we inhabit. Rather than devices that constantly demand our attention, technology can be embedded everywhere; invisible until called upon. This creates a new relationship between us, the environments we inhabit, and the technology in those environments.

In a session on the UX conference track at the J. Boye Aarhus 17 conference, Paul-Jervis Heath will start by exploring our changing relationship with technology based on ethnographic research with early adopters of smarthome devices. He will then present two case studies of designing smart environments: the product design of a suite of kitchen appliances that work together to create ambient intelligence; and a concept for the retail store of the future.

Finally, he will share a framework for designing intelligent environments.

Designing a fundamentally better organisation

If organisations took more time to do design right – understanding those who will use the deliverables – and do it early in the project, it would fundamentally lead to better digital solutions, which is better for the organisation.

With limited budget and compressed timelines, you probably need to fight hard to get space to do it right from the beginning.

Improve UX with these 3 questions

Investment in digital solutions is growing rapidly both in the public and private domains. These investments are made with the dual ambitions of reducing costs and increasing customer satisfaction as a result of improved digital solutions. But frequently the investments do not deliver the anticipated returns.

A shift of focus from technology to user experience is a gateway to understanding how to create the most amenable digital self-service frameworks.

Journey mapping emerged among J. Boye members back in circa 2013 as a new user experience discipline and has since become a well-established method. Danish digital leader Ina Rosen has asked the below fundamental three questions to reflect on in your projects:

1) How can a journey map create broader value for your company?

The purpose of a journey map is to optimise and develop the experience that your customers have of the different digital touchpoints. It let’s you assess whether sales work or doesn’t work at the different points of contact and it gives you an idea of where you can improve your communications efforts. Also, you will become aware of whether your digital and physical processes are working well together and if they aren’t where the pitfalls are located.

2) What can you expect to achieve with a journey map?

You can expect to achieve three things with a journey map:

  1. Optimisation and/or improving efficiency of your processes
    1. You know where and at what touchpoints you should improve the experience of your customers. And you it gives you an idea of where you went wrong.
  2. Development of your processes
    1. You know where you can change and you can knowingly test your ideas on how to improve your service.
  3. Ease buy-in-process
    1. A journey map is easy to understand. It points out issues and problems and your organisation will more easily buy-in and help you find solutions.

3) What should you be concerned to avoid?

You don’t just make a journey map. It should be based on data and knowledge – not a gut feeling. Through analyses of your data you might locate certain patterns. Let’s say, for example, that you have a self-service website on a government website. In the data, you notice that the completion rate drops drastically at specific point. Here is an indication that you are doing something wrong and here you can initiate improvements.

Also, if you decide to make a journey map you should be sure that you have enough resources to act on the insights that comes out of it. A journey map is only useful if you actually do something to solve an existing problem.

That being said, journey maps aren’t the best tool for everything. It’s meant for the broader picture and more complex things. For example, you might be better off using a split test if you want to see if people are more likely to press “read more” when the botton is green instead of red.

Learn more about journey mapping

In a popular conference presentation at the J. Boye Philadelphia 2014 conference, Ina Rosen covered Journey mapping – building on user insight to deliver results.

We’ll look at journey mapping, how to institutionalise UX and much more on the user experience conference track on November 8 at the J. Boye Aarhus 17 conference.

What really matters in a persona?

susan-weinschenkIn June Susan Weinschenk guest starred at a J. Boye group meeting in Copenhagen and shared some of the typical mistakes often made when working with personas. These include:

  • they are created based on job role
  • there are high-level personas for customers
  • personas describe variables (age, income, and so on) that are not critical for the project at hand.

Susan Weinschenk is a US-based behavioural psychologist, who has published several books including How To Get People To Do Stuff and 100 Things Every Designer Needs To Know About People. I asked her to elaborate and she generously agreed to share some of her insights on the topic.

How to do personas right

According to Susan, to have an effective persona you have to look at the people who are actually going to use the particular product or service you are working on — and those people may be different from your “usual” target audience.

For example, you may be interested in a different geography or age or customers who have more or less experience with the subject matter than usual.

So don’t just use personas you’ve used before or those that someone in marketing research did for you. You have to ask:

  • Who is my target audience for this project/product?
  • What are the critical variables to describe them,  which are relevant for my project or product; depending on what you are working on, this might be any number of things. Don’t just use “typical” variables. It may make no difference to YOUR project how old someone is, whether they are married and so on. What are the variables that are relevant to your project?

What are the different personas on those variables? Are there differences among the critical variables you have identified? If so, then those define your personas.

In her work, Susan has found that each project often has different personas than another project for the same company. This is because the particular product she is designing is for a specific subset, so she has to redefine that with new personas.

The key question behind a good persona

Do I know who I am designing for? And how many different groups am I designing for? How do they differ? How are they the same? Which one is the most important? If you can answer these questions, you are on the right track according to Susan.

One more thing: Don’t forget unconscious and emotional variables too… their self-story, their fears, what will motivate them; not just “demographic” variables, but “psychographic” ones too.

New perspectives and new possibilities

From time to time we invite industry experts to join J. Boye peer groups to share their experiences and expertise and to have an open, unscripted and confidential conversation with the group.  If you think this sounds interesting, you should check out the benefits of joining.

The entire J. Boye community has a get-together in Aarhus, Denmark in November for the annual international J. Boye conference. Here you can meet peers and expand your network. This year you’ll find a packed program, including a dedicated user experience conference track.