No plan survives contact with the enemy
Posted by Shauni Drought - 24 October 2018
This year I attended the hugely insightful UX Homegrown (UXHG), an annual submission-based community-curated design conference. UXHG aims to highlight the growth of the practice by sharing the often untold stories of UX practitioners and their projects, reflecting what UX looks like here in New Zealand.
All the talks were fantastic and insightful, there were a few particularly worthwhile case studies shared that demonstrate the widespread benefits smarter UX design can deliver that I’ll relay in this blog-post series. You can read Part 1: Designing human centred experiences to delight customers here.
We were told the story of the ‘product treadmill’ by Kris Lane, UX Team Lead for Customer Products at Air New Zealand. Air New Zealand is an international airline renowned for its seamless customer experience (and subsequent healthy profits). Kris described how designing deliverables is sometimes accompanied by a sense of a relentless pace, where you’re always delivering. That feeling of “deploy, deploy, deploy”, the idea that there will always be a next deliverable, a next deadline.
Did you know the treadmill was a product of torture?
When you’re running this marathon, with your head down, you never really know where you’re headed. It’s hard to get a sense of direction and even harder to know if you’re asking the right questions. You’re churning out deliverables with no clear end in sight. But the product treadmill isn’t all bad, after all, it helps us continually move forward. But slowing down is sometimes necessary, taking a step back can ensure you’re thinking long-term and you’re taking time to reflect on the broader vision, the shared goal and overall strategy, rather than the relentless delivery.
Well, you don’t - let’s face it, there’s only so many hours in a day. You just become smarter at managing the time you have. Efficiency is key: think about places your design team could become more time efficient. Could some of the initial phase be taken care of by the product team? Could a design system/design spec be set up so the design team doesn’t need to be involved every time a button needs to be built? These questions open discussions about the better use of design time.
The biggest questions our brands face over the future of products/services are impossible to answer without taking the time to stop, step back and think. Kris relayed some of the big questions for Air New Zealand:
These are all problems that Air New Zealand is working through answering right now. Challenges that require a holistic approach and a shared product vision to solve most effectively. Most importantly: they’re questions that take time to answer.
1. Understand the problems (context) - Make sense of the problem and understand the intersection of all these products and their place in a giant ecosystem.
“Always design a thing by considering it in its next larger context - a chair in a room, a room in a house, a house in an environment, an environment in a city plan” - Eliel Saarinen
2. Understand that data is only black and white - Data is only a piece of the puzzle, it can’t tell you the human stories.
3. Proximity and user testing - Develop an understanding of ‘the grey areas’, not the black and white data, the human stories. Bring in not only customers but mediators/influencers (including flight attendants and pilots) into the product design process. This allows designers to be the bridge between design, data, and users. It’s an easy way to get perspective and insights into problems which can inform and validate your broader vision.
4. It’s all pointless unless it’s shared - It’s very easy for someone to capture insights, but unless you’re sharing it, it’s not all that useful. It’s about taking your findings and communicating them across all products and relevant teams.
5. Slow down, take time to reflect - Slowing down to stop and think about the problems. Moving fast only works when you have an unclouded sense of purpose. Reflect on the broader vision to maintain your sense of direction.
Special thanks to all those involved in UXHG 2018, especially those brave enough to get up and share their stories like Kris Lane. It was a fantastic experience and I’d highly recommend keeping an eye on their Twitter and website for UXHG 2019!
Shauni Drought is a UX designer at Sandfield. Passionate about using design as a solution, she is focused on providing users with clear, intuitive, and provocative experiences. She combines her understanding of users with her aesthetic of minimal and clean, to deliver a cohesive and concise user experience.
When not designing, reading up on design and discussing design, she can be found road tripping, cooking, watching movies and playing video games.