An insight into Wholegrain Digital

Part 1 of the Hub interview series

We’ve just joined the thriving Westminster Hub community and we’re excited to be exploring the space and slowly getting to meet our neighbours. The Hub’s primary aim is to support organisations with positive social and environmental impact at the heart of their culture. As a result, we are doing a series of short interviews with people working in design and development.

We recently met with Tom Greenwood (https://www.linkedin.com/in/tomgreenwood) who is the Managing Director of Wholegrain Digital (http://www.wholegraindigital.com), a WordPress web design agency. Tom co-founded Wholegrain with his partner Vineeta Greenwood back in 2007, with the aim of “helping good people benefit from good design.” A fan of open source and WordPress, it is Tom’s job to set the vision for the company and ensure that everyone is healthy and happy.

 

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Tom Greenwood: “I always wanted to be involved in design in some way”
  1. Did you always want to be involved in this industry?

No, I always wanted to be involved in design in some way. But not specifically website design… but as time has gone on, it’s very clear that digital is the way forward. This is what I have been working on for 10 years. I actually studied Product Design at Aston University.

 

  1. How did you get involved in developing and designing through WordPress?

So originally we set up a branding agency. I am very interested in sustainability and from what I had done in Product Design it was always to do with sustainability and energy efficiency. When it came to setting up a company, I twigged that most products you design are going to end up in a landfill in one way or another. There is some good stuff out there but it’s very hard to go about designing really good stuff. Whereas if you go down the digital route you can do things that can impact people’s lives in a positive way but it doesn’t physically exist. And that really interested me.

We originally wanted to set up a branding agency with the objective to help small businesses that were doing good things to present themselves well. About 8 years ago there were lots of green and eco businesses cropping up and a lot of them didn’t really have any branding experience so that was our focus. We gradually morphed into a WordPress agency because it’s clear that everyone wants a great website. WordPress is fantastic, it’s open source and we do so much with it. We really loved it and our clients really loved it so we gradually dropped everything else.

 

  1. What are you currently working on?
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The Wholegrain Digital team

We’re currently working on lots of things! We have just recently done a site for Collectively.org, which is an online sustainability magazine which was set up by multinational corporations basically who wanted to do something good. There’s about 30 big companies such as Unilever and Coca-Cola, all invested into it, companies who you wouldn’t always associate with doing things like this. Collectively is a really great magazine, really interesting, really engaging and they tackle difficult issues.

So due to the Paris climate summit this week we made a mini site for them, campaigning for young people to lobby universities and big companies to get them to convert into using 100% renewable energy.

 

 

 

  1. What do you hope for the future?

In the future, we definitely want to move towards more wholesome clients. We have quite a mix of clients. It’s kind of the nature of the business.  Although we are lucky and get a lot of enquiries, we can’t always be picky who we work with. You have to do enough work to keep yourself going. We do have a lot of really wholesome clients like Collectively and Ecover / Method who produce eco-friendly dishwashing products, which are used here at the Hub kitchen!  And we’re also working with UNICEF. So we have some really good clients. We have an ethical policy where we don’t work with certain industries, which has been great in steering us in the right direction. But next year or the year after we plan on having a larger proportion of our clients in the category of companies who are positive instead of neutral, so actively green and trying to make a difference.

We also plan on doing more in the way of developing things ourselves that we can give back to the WordPress community and wider community, which we have done in the past but not as much as we would like to. It’s interesting with software that you can build things and give them away so that other people can benefit from them.

 

  1. What was the project with UNICEF?11385522_1448453818790210_2120520035_n

So actually, we have been helping them on their blog. UNICEF UK has two websites. They have the core website that tells you about UNICEF, containing the donations forms and then they have the blog. Most of their traffic goes to the blog where they publish articles with their news, the celebrity ambassadors they work with and it links in with their social media. We are working on their maintenance with WordPress but also the user experience side and how we can make the blog more engaging. Also, working on how we can increase conversion rate from the blog to the main site to make donation pages. That’s something we have only just started working on so you can’t see it yet but we are really excited about it.

 

  1. When you’re not at the Hub working, what do you like to do in your spare time?

I like running, I do a lot of barefoot running. Everyone always asks if it’s painful but I live in the new forest so it’s really good, it’s quite sandy.

I also run a film club with some friends called The Ethical Film Club (www.ethicalfilmclub.com), where we screen documentaries about different issues in 4 main categories: animal rights, environment, community and human rights. We try to do eight screenings a year. We do this in the New Forest where it’s not like London, where there is lots to see and do all the time. It’s a beautiful place to live but there is not a lot of this sort of activity going on but it’s going really well. We have a good community of people and about 50-100 people come to each screening.

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Wholegrain Digital enjoying their time at the Hub

This weekend was our 7th screening and we showed The Future of Energy, which ties in quite nicely with the Paris climate summit going on. We had a scientist from Imperial College called Keith Barnham who came down and gave a talk afterwards. He is one of the top scientists in the country on solar energy and wrote a book called The Burning Answer so that was really cool.

We have also just been given a grant by the BFI. We have really basic projection equipment but no one has ever complained, everyone seems really happy with it! It’s just a cheap PowerPoint projector but it’s all you need! The BFI have a fund for community cinemas, which we applied for and got about £4000 worth of HD projection equipment. So next year we will hopefully show people better films!

 

 

 

We would like to thank Tom for letting us hijack his day for this interview! We loved learning about the origins of Wholegrain Digital, but I’m not sure we will be going barefoot running anytime soon!

We are looking forward to getting to know more of our colleagues at the Hub.

Zen of UX from a Developer

When we talk about developers contributing to UX design, many people are quick to point out that developers have a different mindset. Developers are often reduced to stereotypes of an overweight maths nerd who is busy hacking behind a computer screen with no social skills. While this may be true for some developers, there are many developers who also have an understanding of good design principles.

Code Has “Design”

Many people believe designers are people born with some special genes and only they can design and come up with design ideas. Contrary to that, design is actually a skill that anybody can learn. According to Cambridge Dictionary of American English “Design” is defined as the creation of a plan or convention for the construction of an object or a system (as in architectural blueprints, engineering drawings, business processes, circuit diagrams and sewing patterns).graph_models

If we look at this definition we can see that design is more about problem-solving rather than producing art. Whenever a developer is writing code they are actually planning/designing the system in which different elements of code (i.e objects in OOP programming) will be interacting with each other. They have to plan and imagine all possible problems and create solutions that are easily understood by machines. This means they already are designing, but they are expressing it in code. Hence, it would be safe to say the developers are designers of code. If they are given a chance they can easily learn to express their ideas visually, just like they learned to express them in code.

Good Code Needs Aesthetic Sense

In order to write good code, developers have to adopt aesthetics.A good developer doesn’t write code just for the sake of making something work. Their code also has to be to be easily understood by other developers. Just like when evaluating the quality of any other product, code which is aesthetically pleasing ( along with other attributes) is deemed better by other developers. Developers are also judged by how “beautiful” their code is. As Ruben Verborgh puts it “Programmers are functional artists.However, we’re not the kind of artists that create purely for beauty. We are functional artists. We have a functional task as well as the duty to write beautiful code because it is effective and thus lasts.

Code Design Principles and UX Design Principles

Writing beautiful code like UX design requires simultaneously satisfying goals that often conflict e.g:

good-code-big

We need to have an understanding of a problem well enough and design a solution which is as simple as possible to explain to a machine and to other developers who are like users of our code. As Allen Kent &James G. William puts it “ beautiful program is like a beautiful theorem: it does the job elegantly and has a simple and perspicuous structure

Code Readability

Code readability is one of the first things we learn as developers. It is also referred by some as the – The first law of programming: code is read more than written. Developers spend the majority of their time editing other people’s code. By making our code readable, other developers can find their way to places they need to improve just like good UX design helps users navigate through the system. Code readability also requires the code to be structured well and has many similarities to Information Architecture in UX Design.

Code readability principles
  • Locality: Keeping related stuff together
  • Consistency: Using familiar patterns
  • Verbosity: When in doubt, explain. Be as obvious as possible

Code design principles encourage developers to write readable code; written for humans and not just for machines. In other words, we are improving the user experience of our code (i.e. other developers) by following good design principles. This means good developers should easily be able to transfer this understanding to apply to UX design.

Python’s Design Philosophy

Python is a programming language which was designed to be a highly readable language. Guido van Rossum, the creator of Python, created it aiming towards simplicity and generality in the design of its syntax. Tim Peters adapted the guiding principles for Python’s design philosophy in what he calls the “Zen of Python.

zen-of-python

One can easily adapt these aphorisms and apply it to UX design.

 

Zen of UX Design Adapted from Zen of Python
  • Creating a beautiful product is better than an ugly one.
  • Every component of our product should be visible explicitly and separately
  • Design should be simple rather than complex

  • Choose flat over deep website hierarchies. Content is more discoverable when it’s not buried under multiple intervening layers.

  • Sparse is better than dense. White space is design’s best friend! Not every single space needs to be filled with color, shapes or words.
  • Design for readability. Content is king and your users should have a good reading experience
  • As much as possible don’t break usability principles
  • Only  break usability principles in extreme case, one in which it is causing problems for the user
  • Write good error messages
  • Unless not required by design
  • Everything should be easily understood by the user. The user should not need to guess.
  • There should be one and preferably only one obvious way do something. Limit the number of choices given to a user
  • If the design is hard to explain it’s a bad idea and vice versa
  • Now is better than never although never is often better than right now!

This is not an exhaustive list, but it still covers the some essential concepts of UX Design. As evident from above developers are making design decisions on code level already and have the creativity and ability required to solve UX design problems.

Creating a digital product can be compared to a building a house where UI is like the outward appearance of a house. A user can recognize beauty in a UI, just like they can appreciate a beautiful house. But perhaps even more importantly, the real beauty in the design in both houses and programs are the things that are invisible to the uninitiated, but important nonetheless.Moreover, good user experience needs good performance which ultimately needs good code design. Also, there are many similarities between code designing and UX design and developer can easily transfer their understanding to UX design. Admittedly, a trained designer will probably be more effective at finding design solutions especially when it comes to problems related to visual design but UX is more than UI and good design is more about problem-solving than creating art – everyone including developers can contribute to it.

 

Product Design to UX

Physical products and UX at first seem worlds apart, so how could a tangible object have similarities with an online product? It seems ridiculous that these fields should have anything in common. However, the design process from start to finish in fact follows a very similar path. From experiencing both fields it is evident that all products must go through a long, complicated process to achieve the end result, whether that be a UX friendly display or tangible product.

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Product Design framework applied to UX Design

Product Designers are problem solvers; there are very few successful products that do not solve a problem the public face. The phrase: “Even if there is a gap in the market, it doesn’t mean there is a market in the gap” is constantly used by my lecturers as a reminder, you may have an innovative new idea but it does not mean that people will buy it or like it. My degree of Product Design with Professional Experience emphasises physical products and the different stages of launching a product onto market.

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Similar Paths: UX and Product Design

We spend the year in 4 quarters:

· Research

· Ideation

· Development

· Launch

Put simply,

· We research the target market
· We come up with a range of ideas for the target market
· We then take forward one idea to develop
· Finally we launch this product onto the market

This framework however can absolutely be applied to UX design. The research phase is in fact very similar. Tailored research is vital in both; it must be bespoke for the target audience or intended user. This is perhaps the most important phase for UX, gathering user needs is essential to how something is developed. During my degree the research phase for product design included interviews and surveys displayed in a detailed report including personas, literature reviews and stats. Breaking down the problems people face everyday and whether there is a gap in the market for a product to aid the problem.

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Some phases  that Product Design and UX Design follow are similar

In UX you must find out what is instinctual to the users, it is incredibly important to understand the user more than anything else. A researcher will do this by very similar methods of collecting quantitative and qualitative data. For both fields this is a vital stage, if overlooked you will miss what the public want or need therefore making the end products useless.

The Ideation and development phase are more specifically defined. This is where in Product Design we will sketch and model solutions selecting the most effective way the user reaches their goal; this phase is called Ideation. Being as creative as possible we invent new ideas and then begin a selection process. We then take the best idea to the Development phase and this is where the technical, science based side comes in using CAD technologically moving our product forward. Using manufacturing information, prototypes, reverse engineering and technical drawing to work out the details involved with product design. The ideation and development phases in UX although different would still follow a similar criteria, using idea generation, prototyping, testing and then ultimately product development.

Finally the Launch phase allows us to brand our product, learning about the legalities involved with this. A UX designer would go through an equivalent processes to ensure the the product is thoroughly tested and completely ready for launch.

These 4 phases can cover all steps involved in launching any kind of product, however these phases do not have to divide into separate deadlines as they would on a degree course. I believe it is important to have them intertwined and constantly active within the process. As UX has taught me; research should be constant, testing completed work and helping it progress further. If small problems are ignored early on they will progress into much larger problems later down the road. I aspire to learn more about UX in the months to come and to gain a larger range of skills involved with UX research and design.

 

My Journey into UX Design

The field of User experience (UX) design was largely unknown to me until fairly recently.  It is not something I was introduced to as part of my undergraduate psychology degree despite studying ‘Cyberpsychology’, which focuses on the study of human cognition and behavior within the ever expanding digital world. Although the ‘Cyberpsychology’ part of my course did not directly discuss UX design as a discipline (which now I think it should have) it opened my eyes to the effects that technology is having on our everyday lives, from the way we communicate to how we behave offline vs online. This is what initially drew my interest to the field of online research.

Dr. Susan Weinschenk UX
Dr. Susan Weinschenk on the psychologists view of UX Design

Yet, it wasn’t until shortly after I completed my degree that I first came face to face with the term UX design. I was scouring job sites (as all new graduates do) trying to find an area where I could combine my background in psychology with my new interests in online research. Admittedly, I was skeptical at first as to how UX design and psychology were intrinsically related. However, once I began researching the field more thoroughly, I immediately recognize the overlap.

I discovered that like empirical psychological research, good UX design relies on data gathered from qualitative and quantitative research methods such as interviews, observations and surveys. Having a background in psychology placed me in a great position to start practicing UX, as not only had I built a strong foundation around these research practices, but I had also (without realizing it) studied many of the same theories and concepts that underpin much of the research that is done within UX.

For example, I found that motivation, perception, memory, attention and cognitive biases must all be considered when observing/testing users. I also found that the only way to consider these concepts in relation to different users is to be empathetic. Thus, the ability to show empathy and understand another person’s situation and experience has been essential to my role as a UX researcher. Empathy is another UX skill I have been developing unwittingly for a number of years through my previous work as a student mentor. When I came to realize its importance within UX research, I knew that this was the right career choice for me.

designbook

One strange aspect of being a UX researcher that I have grown to enjoy is explaining what it is to other people. As UX is a relatively unknown field it is very common for others to ask what it is. Although explaining what UX is to laymen can be a hard task at times, I get a great sense of satisfaction and achievement from another person having an ‘aha’ moment when they finally come to understand what I do (I get the same feeling when a user instinctively knows how to work an interface).

I’ve found that one of the most effective ways of explaining UX to another person is to discuss the design of everyday objects and why they are designed that way. Once they realize that everything from their car to their Xbox controller has mountains of usability research behind it they often think ‘well yeah I guess it does make sense to do the same thing for websites’.

UX Design
Understanding UX Design

A good example of this was when I was discussing my new job with my brother and I was using one of the many definitions that I had picked up online to describe it to him (such as these UX Design, UX Research), but he was still finding it hard to understand. The conversation then moved on to his new car and how it was so much easier for him to start and stop the engine using a button rather than turning a key and that’s when I said that’s the outcome of UX research, that’s what I do, but think online…his ‘Aha’ moment then followed shortly after.

This is also when I realized that UX practitioners had been recycling findings from fields like ergonomics and human factors and applying them to online environments, which only enhanced my interest in the field.

Looking to the future I’m excited to see what new challenges I’ll face in my role as a UX researcher and how the field will evolve alongside new technologies. Also, having spoken to others in the field and seeing how enthusiastic they are (even after 10 years) I’m very confident that I have made the right career choice.

 

Humans and Tech Risk

highlighting dangerous tech

New technologies are constantly being released in the market with new, exciting functions and reshaping the way we live our lives as human beings. Psychological research studies may be helpful in understanding how people engage with technology and how they manage the risks and dangers relevant to information and data storage.

Williams (2002) looked at the government’s efforts to educate the public in security risks that threaten public health, security, environmental climate change and other well being factors.

Williams suggested a framework for understanding how humans process information from a focuses on brain science and the human species’ ability to perceive risk.

Central to Williams’ theoretical framework is what he calls “brain lag,” or the notion that the human brain has not evolved as rapidly as the pace of modernisation and, therefore, is incapable of perceiving many risks and threats in a modern world.

As a result, these shortcomings in perception and intellect leave humans ill-equipped to comprehend certain technology related risks and they lack an innate “common sense” response to many modern threats (p. 227).

Williams (2002) makes the point that the trait of adaptation also brings with it an element of denial within behaviour because humans begin to accept false normalities in an urbanised world (e.g., living in cities with polluted air or adapting to the noise of a nearby airport). If denial by adaptation occurs, Williams (2002) maintains that humans will rely on sensory information to determine risk; however, many modern hazards tend to be unnoticeable to the human senses.

Conveying risk in IT is a complicated task.

Furthermore, he characterised conveying the hazards and risks of information security as a highly complex task for governments as there is little sensory information available for humans to assess information risk properly and to characterise such risk as threatening.

Elaborating on his theoretical framework and relying on evolutionary brain science, Williams puts forth the core concept of “enhanced difference” and outlines rules for creating communication materials on modern risks (p.244).

His “enhanced difference” concept relies on the basic evolutionary skills humans have to experience fear or disgust, estimate size and impact through number-scale perception, and to determine reliable entities through a trust versus cheating assessment.

Ultimately, Williams’ “enhanced difference” guidelines aim to make any unseen or unobserved risks of the modern world more visible to humans by appealing to those fundamental, perceptive skills.

Williams, C. (2002). ‘New security’ risks and public educating: the significance of recent evolutionary brain science. Journal of Risk Research, 5 (3), 225 – 248.

Constructs of Privacy Online

Online Privacy is generally surrounded with doubt and scepticism, putting trust into a machine and allowing details of your private life to be absorbed is a daunting thought. Who can see it? How safe is it? What sites can be trusted? Are all prevalent questions that most of us ask. When we are online we want to feel secure and there are many threats out there that can effect our online behaviour, making us cautious.

Dourish and Anderson suggest that Privacy online can be determined by social and cultural circumstances, including group formation, group identity, group membership, and acceptable behaviours characterised within the group. They defined privacy as a social practice including aspects such as solitude, confidentiality and autonomy.

The researchers challenged existing models of privacy and security in regards to Human Computer Interaction concerns, citing areas where prior research has shown the failings of technological and design solutions in addressing usability needs and anticipating the real-world practices, preferences, and behaviours of end-users.

Dourish and Anderson outlined three models of theoretical approaches to understanding privacy and security that have failed to account for actual information habits and practices of users.

  • First, they considered the existing model of privacy as an economic rationality, where the risk and reward of exchanging information takes on a value that can be prioritised (e.g., the benefit of online purchasing versus the costs of disclosing financial information) and the user is positioned as an entity able to calculate the impact of such a risk.
  • Second, they presented the model of privacy as a practical action whereby security measures are considered in the context of everyday life and how people achieve privacy in real settings. Viewing privacy and security as a practice in action makes them ongoing measures rather than any static or fixed ideals. It also forces considerations of privacy and security beyond technical and computer systems and toward considerations of the context, so the people, organisations, entities or even the physical space involved.
  • Third, and lastly, the researchers presented the model of privacy as a discursive practice where use of language constitutes how privacy and security are characterised. Depending on the social or cultural circumstances, the language used to describe a risk will take on a clear perspective of whether the action is acceptable and securem, or unacceptable and insecure (e.g., co-workers choosing to share passwords as a display of teamwork, contradicting company policy).

For the most part, the first model of privacy as an economic rationality has dominated information system design. However, Dourish and Anderson (2006) next reframe privacy and security, keeping in line with the latter two models, which are more inclusive of social aspects and then position privacy and security as a collective rather than individual practice. In terms of how groups or cultures interpret risk, the researchers focus on risk as an aspect of danger assessment or the moral value shared by the collective.

This perspective reinforces the requirement for information technology systems to acknowledge individuals may be part of a collective and consequently aid them where necessary as individuals and a collective.

Another aspect of collective practice is the dynamic relationships within the collective itself and how secrecy and trust are expressed and group identity formed. Social practices of the users (how they manage, share, or withhold information) are positioned as markers of group membership which dictate trust and information sharing.

The researchers then argue that information system design must recognise the need to selectively share information and should negotiate a continuum of public versus private boundaries rather than giving information an inherent value of one over the other.

Finally, Dourish and Anderson (2006) presented their system design solutions that include a visual feedback of system performance so that users are aware of the potential consequences of their actions and they suggest integrating a system’s configuration panels (i.e., the visual control panels that manage privacy settings) with the relevant user actions so that users are aware of the constraints their security preferences have placed on their system’s performance.

Dourish, P. & Anderson, K. (2006). Collective Information Practice: Exploring Privacy and Security as Social and Cultural Phenomena. Human-Computer Interaction, 21(3), 319-342.

http://www.dourish.com/publications/2006/DourishAnderson-InfoPractices-HCIJ.pdf


Dourish, P. & Anderson, K. (2006). Collective Information Practice: Exploring Privacy and Security as Social and Cultural Phenomena. Human-Computer Interaction, 21(3), 319-342.
http://www.dourish.com/publications/2006/DourishAnderson-InfoPractices-HCIJ.pdf 

Women and Video Games

 

When we think of ‘gamers’ a certain stereotype appears in most people’s minds and this stereotype is more often than most a male. Video games have become increasing popular world wide, with a diverse range of games the demographic profile of the typical player or ‘gamer’ is also changing. As more and games are released or readily available consequently there has been an increase in average age and an equalising gender distribution (1)

However, the literature consistently finds that males play video games more frequently than females and play for longer intervals (2). It also states that both genders are equally likely to view video game playing as a masculine pursuit (3).

The gendering of video game play has been linked to low female motivation to play video games because of gender-role stereotyping (4). Particularly a connection has been made to reduced female participation in areas like science, mathematics, and technology, where there is a historical perception of women as ‘inferior’ (5).

Bryce and Rutter (2002) have argued that video game research must challenge the dominant gender stereotypes in gaming and focus on game-play as a “domestic” or leisure practice “in the context of everyday life” (p. 248), especially given the many genres of games, range of places in which to game and the popularity of domestic and online gaming among females.

Thus, context and personal experience become crucial factors in generating an explanatory model of female motivation in gaming. To date, there is no research on female gamers in circumstances where females are the perceived dominant gamers.

Female players are most pronounced in the ‘casual games’ industry (6), where they account for 51% of all players and 74% of the buyers (7).

Casual games have simple rules, allowing players to “get into” game-play quickly, are highly accessible to novice players, and can belong to any game genre (8). Researchers focusing on gender and computer games have suggested that casual games are often overlooked as “real” games because of an “unarticulated aesthetic” in the gaming community that considers mastery of so-called hardcore games as a right of passage to be a true gamer (9). Carr (2005) argues that simply because hard-core gamers appear more committed to their gaming, it does not mean that they are “more representative or more credible” than casual-gamers (p. 468).

As gender stereotypes persist regarding who is an ‘avid’ gamer, actual figures suggest that although males appear to play more than females, such findings are only true for certain countries, gaming platforms, and game genres (10).

Arguably it is possible that research into gaming may have overlooked different genres and platforms where female players are more common than it initially appears. The further in depth the research delves the more evident it becomes that certain studies may have overlooked these factors.

(1) (Entertainment Software Association, 2009).

(2) Williams, Yee, & Caplan, 2008; Ogletree & Drake, 2007; Griffiths, Davies, & Chappell, 2004; Phillips, Rolls, Rouse, & Griffiths, 1995

(3)(Selwyn, 2007).

(4) (Lucas & Sherry, 2004)

(5) see Cassell & Jenkins, 1998

(6) Krotoski, 2004

(7) Casual Games Association, 2007

(8) Juul, 2009

(9) Sweedyk & de Laet, 2005, p. 26

(10) Krotoski, 2004

An excerpt from Lewis, A.M. and Griffiths, M.D. (2011). A qualitative study of the experiences and motivations of female casual-gamers. Aloma: Revista de Psicologia, Ciències de l’Educació ide l’Esport, 28, 245-272. (Spanish and English text).

The complete text is available as a part of the “open journals” system:
http://www.revistaaloma.net/index.php/aloma/article/view/37

UX and Due Diligence

UX is the key to a congested tech landscape.

Day to day living has changed dramatically due to the ability to connect via a diverse range of devices. Society has entered a hyper-connected movement that allows social, educational, and business spheres to be separated. The power of software and wired devices encourages users to savour the privacy,  anonymity, invisibility and convenience of the Internet as a platform.

Users quickly become dependent on being connected online and are swift to evaluate how efficiently and effectively a product meets these needs.

Understanding how and why people accept or reject a product is the framework for improving product user experience, and consequently product success in an ever-crowding marketplace.

As investors assess opportunities within the congested “tech” landscape, it becomes crucial to include a consideration of the product’s user experience as the unique differentiator. Likewise, as companies examine digital media products for acquisition or partnership, it is absolutely paramount that a user-centred evaluation of the product’s potential and features is outlined in the forward-looking growth strategy.

Leaders ought to consider the following two issues when evaluating a product’s potential:

1) The product’s ability to evolve and adapt to user needs

While product evolution and adaptation may be assumed elements of success, the ability to change quickly to respond to market needs should not be taken for granted. Costly, early builds inevitably become legacy products in the rapidly changing digital media environment. Furthermore, if any element of a service relies on such a legacy system, then the service cannot be so concisely defined and tied to that system that service itself cannot evolve. It is nearly impossible for software and system developers to anticipate all user needs and context of use scenarios. The very genius of an initial product concept should not be its own demise. A product or concept must have an inherent adaptability and this adaptability relies on a user-centred positioning. Where the concept and usage states fully tested with potential target audiences? How was user research and feedback incorporated into the development process? And, finally, is there a development framework that allows user feedback to fuel future innovation?
2) The development team’s approach to incorporating user requirements

Brilliant minds are frequently forthright when it comes to clarity of strategy, but is there too much pride if never considering a fall? There are times when leaders, product teams, designers and engineers are so thoroughly embedded within their own product experience that they are unable to strategically execute on user experience and customer insight. A simple resolution for any such reluctance and resistance is to ensure that customer insight and UX are the driving values of the product development cycle. Quite simply, in order to embrace the technology, a user must be able to use the technology, and much more so, achieve mastery of the product for any sense of self-efficacy. When a team recognises that product adoption is a core aspect of innovation, then a user centred philosophy is the natural approach.  “But customers don’t know what they want!” The second point is not to suggest that development teams should be led solely by user requirements. However, leadership teams must be amenable to input from users and implement structured changes based on feedback by finding the innovation on the solution that leads to rich, product differentiation.

User experience analysis provides an accurate valuation of digital media products in the marketplace by providing quantifiable and impartial insights. The UX field has expanded to include research, design, development, and project management. Many agencies and companies have adopted a user-centred development process as a key competitive edge. While challenges remain as to how UX insight successfully merges with business strategy, one adage remains clear: the customer may not know what they want, but the customer is always right.

 

Human factors, User Research, Design Research