Are UX teams still working in the garage?

In a previous blog I suggested that most UX teams are surprisingly under-served with tools to support the work they do.

"It’s really annoying when I have to unplug the drill to use the saw or the sander.  If I did this for a living I’d probably have to figure out how to get 'em all plugged in at the same time." 
-Manual Man-cave

Dance of the UX practitioner
If you’re like the UX pros I know here’s a typical scenario (actual mileage may vary):

  • Executive presentations – PowerPoint
  • Stakeholder and User Research interviews – Word translated into Excel forms
  • Functional requirements – Word and Excel
  • Personas – Visio, PowerPoint
  • Consolidated research findings – Excel and Word
  • Interim Summary presentations – PowerPoint
  • IA, Navigation, Page Wireframe work – Visio
  • Prototyping – Visio, Axure, HTML
  • Visual design work- Photoshop
  • User Testing protocols – Word translated into Excel
  • UI specs – Word > pdf
  • Visual style guides – Word > pdf

A skilled UX practitioner dances between these tools and makes it look easy.  But after 15 years of doing it like this the cracks in the garage floor become clear.

Does your UX work feel like it’s still being done in the garage? Or are you functioning like the professional artisan?

4 questions about your garage

  1. Do you have the right tools to do all the activities you perform in user-centered design?
  2. Do your tools work together in an integrated way?
  3. Is it easy to package and deliver your quality work to your stakeholders?
  4. Once you’re done, is it easy to store them, make them available to yourself and others in 6 months?

Cracks in the garage floor
If you do this work over and over again you start notice the truth:

  1. Most of these are not UX tools but we force them to work for us
  2. These tools don’t work together in an integrated way
  3. We do a tremendous amount of redundant work to package and re-package our assets moving from one tool to another
  4. It’s not trivial to find these documents again. We have to build custom repositories

How many of us have worked with a company who brings on a new executive sponsor who wants to review all the work that was done on the site we did last year?  The last person standing on the team gives us a call and says, “Can you send me all the data and reports and design work for that project?”

You say, “Geeezzz, I’m looking at the fileserver and I see some of the reports but I can’t remember where I put the research, and certainly all the work I did crunching numbers is spread out all over the place. I think I did personas in visio – but you don’t have Visio – I must have a pdf version… Three days later you find 50% of the files and send them along in an email – ugh.

Out of the Garage –
If it’s true that UX is becoming mainstream then we need to make the UX process mainstream – like developers did 10 years ago.

"Ask me to deliver world class UX in a managed, continuous and sustainable way, then I say move me out of your garage and into an environment that streamlines and supports UX work."
-Mary Masters

I divide the UCD process into 4 areas:

  1. Modeling
  2. Design
  3. Measurement
  4. Monitoring

UX modeling – we need tools to support user research and persona and scenario modeling.  That will allow us to collect, crunch, model and store the information we require to create models of our users, the work they do, and context in which they work.

UX Design – The design tools are there, they could be better.  The one problem we see is the connection between models of users and the design.  That connection point is the scenario. We need scenario models to create an explicit language to connect users to design.

UX Measurement – There’s a big gap here from my point of view.  Yes we have a lot of testing tools that are great.  But the problem is they don’t connect back to our user models and designs.  We need a framework to continuously measure our models of UX and they need to be connected. 

UX Monitoring – There is no easy way to say what the state of UX is for a site in a strategic sense.  Despite all the data from analytics and performance testing, and user testing, etc. – we are not able to easily summarize that and have a comfortable conversation with stakeholders in a language they can understand.

If we’re going to deliver on world class UX in a managed, continuous and sustainable way, we need to move out of the garage and into an environment that streamlines and supports UX work.

Taking UX to the next level
We’ve all watched athletes take their sport to the next level with the support of new tools and technology.  The same thing is happening in the world of UX.

Related Posts