Failing Fast & Learning Along the Way – Big Design 2013

Jeremy Johnson @ Big Design

Jeremy Johnson @ Big Design

A couple weeks ago I gave a presentation to a crowd at the Big Design Conference around how we can quickly learn from our customers using a variety of different methods. In the past when I’ve worked with a number of large organizations, moving fast has always been an issue – but many organizations today have cracked the code, and despite their size they move quickly to learn and adjust to make better products for their customers. Products that they truly find value in and enjoy.

If you missed Big Design, it’s a great Dallas area conference, you can see the recap of the conference here via seen.co.

Jeremy Johnson @ Big Design

Jeremy Johnson @ Big Design

The title of the presentation comes from the mantras of startups: “Fail Fast”, “Move Fast & Break Things”, “Keep Shipping” – these are all great slogans, but unknown to many – these are really all about learning. It’s about getting things in front of your customers early, and often. Watching – and learning. Finding what ideas were not quite as brilliant as you once thought – and finding this out as fast and cheap as possible.

With my background in User Experience and customer research, I’m always curious with how they fit in this model. Taking from Agile, Lean, and User Centered Design I went over the build-measure-learn process, and how you can start to shape your organization to move fast, without leaving your customers behind.

Here’s the presentation hosted on slideshare:

@philiplikens took some notes during my talk which you can find here: Failing Fast & Learning Along the Way Notes.

During the presentation I asked a series of questions around how often and how close everyone gets to their end customer. Unfortunately not enough, but there was enough discussion at the end to show that everyone wants to learn from their customers in meaningful ways – we just need to find ways to break down these barriers to do so.

It’s neither expensive or slow to learn something from your customers – so start learning today!

48 hours with Google Glass

me-owen-glass

A couple weeks back I was able to borrow Google Glass for 48 hours, and I wanted to maximize my time – so besides sleeping (and showering) – I wore them non-stop. Even when my wife kept asking “Are you really going to wear those out?” and my kids saying “Where did you get those cool glasses!” (they still ask about them) – I wore them, talked to them, tapped them, and scrolled through the virtual interface floating in front of my face.

There is no better way to share something than with photos – so here are 48 hours of photos and videos from Glass:
Continue Reading…

So you want your interface to sell.

so-you-want-your-interface-to-sell

Early on as a Designer I had the privilege to work with some big brands, like: Verizon, Mission Foods, Nokia, and Sabre. Most of my projects were rooted in web applications. Which I loved, and was more than happy to work on as a UX Designer. But some designers took other paths, working on e-commerce sites, or perhaps lead generation. What has been hard to find recently is someone who’s done both. I know I didn’t know e-commerce to the degree I needed to when starting at GameStop – but learned quickly – luckily I’ve had some good teachers over the last couple of years.

Now talking about channels, bounce rate, A/B testing, conversion, SEM/SEO in the norm. And as I loved designing applications, I find equal interest in what makes people shop and (hopefully) eventually buy.

I recently gave this short presentation to a group of designers – a 101 on getting your interface to sell:

Designing for Google Glass

During SXSW I was able to attend Timothy Jordan’s talk on designing and developing for Google Glass. I’m somewhere in here – a photo taken directly from Jordan’s Glass:

SXSW Crowd for Google Glass

Two things struck me from the videos that I’ve seen from Google’s promotional videos:

1) The 100% hands off view is not totally accurate, as you’re touching, taping and swiping the side of the Glass often, and 2) the “augmented view” is also not 100% what has been imagined from the movies or other early phone based, or game based augmented reality experiences.

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A couple weeks with the pebble

pebble watch

pebble watch
I got my pebble a day before SXSW Interactive. Good timing. It was a snap to setup, and with a single charge I was on my way.

There has been a lot about the “iWatch” recently – from Samsung confirming they’re launching a watch to recent posts around what we’d want out of a “iWatch” to current “smart” watch providers like Sony adding features as fast as they can.
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Android vs. iOS: Apps

Android Phone iOS Phone

While using Android over the past couple of weeks i’ve noticed some things when comparing my top apps to iOS. Both iOS and Android, in different cases, choose different UI elements to do different things. I wanted to catalog some of them here.

Overall I’d say that mainstream Android apps have improved over time, and in many cases (Spotify, Evernote, NPR, and Amazon) I liked the Android versions better. Also with design trends moving to blocky designs and flat colors (like Windows 8) – Android looks more modern in a side-by-side comparison to its iOS counterpart.

If anything this shows that there are very few standard patterns that are used 100% of the time on each OS, but there is risk of confusion from someone expecting one thing – like they have an iPad tablet, but an Android phone – and getting different results when switching between devices.

Take a look at the below side-by-sides (or download/view PDF here), does one OS allow for better apps? Better design? Are some patterns easier to understand? Faster to navigate? Are these built in tandem? Are they built by the same teams?

Slideshare: Android vs iPhone – Differences in UI Patterns and Design

Get to know Android for $100 or less

I came across an article from earlier in the year “The UX Community Needs to Start Paying Attention to Android” – and that got me thinking. WIth both Android and Windows Phone, I don’t dislike them on principle – I’m just happy with my iPhone. But neither really have an iPod Touch like version that’s cheap enough for me to play around with, while keeping my iPhone as my primary device.

Even with Google’s Android operating system running on 75% of the smartphones shipped in the third quarter of 2012 – Android has a usage problem. People are buying them as basic phones because the carriers are giving them away, but even with current low usage, I do agree that as Designers we should be aware of all platforms, and be able to design for them equally. And as passionate, curious individuals, we might learn something new.

Over the holidays I came across this:

HTC One V

A HTC One V, running Android ICS (which is currently the #2 Android OS by usage). It’s locked to Virgin Mobile for cell service, but unlocked as a wi-fi device. And there is no mandatory connection to cell service needed. Just switch it over to Airplane Mode, turn on the wi-fi and GPS, and you’re good to go!

So for $69 (Amazon deal-of-the-day at the time), I got a Android based iPod Touch, that I can play with online and off (as long as there is wi-fi around) – and I’ve been playing with it. I’m trying to replace my iPhone while at home, and I have to say it does a good job. Most of the apps I regularly use are available (I think I’m only missing Byline for RSS, and of course FaceTime), the OS is fast enough, and there are some interesting design details that I would like to see on my iPhone.

  • This is a great way to get-to-know a device, and learn its advantages and quirks.
  • And as a father of mobile device loving kids, this could also be a great replacement for an iPod Touch, at a fraction of the cost, and if it lasts – it could one day be a pay-as-you-go phone for your kiddo.
  • It also makes a great kiddo-camera – with easy ways to upload your photos straight from the camera.

So as pay-as-you go devices get down to second device level prices, now’s the time to take the plunge, and try to see if you can replace your device for part of your day. Do it for the love of Design.

Here are some current pay-as-you go deals to get you into a different Mobile OS:

$100 HTC One V (4.0 ICS)

$199 Nokia Lumia 710 (Windows Phone)

$70 LG Optimus Slider (2.3 Gingerbread)

$100 LG Optimus Elite (2.3 Gingerbread)

$169 Samsung Exhibit II (2.3 Gingerbread)

$99 Samsung Illusion (2.3 Gingerbread)

Answering the question “Would they use it?” before you build it

Answering the question  “Would they use it?” before you build it

How can you determine if something is worth building? Recently at the Warm Gun Conference Instagram founder Mike Krieger talked about what they called “The Wizard Of Oz Techniques For Social Prototyping” – what I’ve heard called “404 Testing” – where he said:

Krieger says him and Systrom tested an early version of a feature which would notify you when friends joined the service. Instead of building it out, they manually sent people notifications “like a human bot” saying ‘your friend has joined.’ It turned out not to be useful. “We wrote zero lines of Python, so we had zero lines to throw away.”

What could be a better way to find out if something was truly valuable to your customers – then to fake it. There are a couple stories, one dating back to early computing days when a company wanted to see if they could get admins to use voice dictation software. At the time, this was a very expensive project, with huge technology hurdles. Before starting to invest in this project, they decided to run a test. They installed a “working” prototype into an office, only it wasn’t real. While the admins talked, someone was listening and typing back what they said.

After some testing they found that the admins didn’t like the product, that it was taking away from their tasks, and they preferred other methods for input. This would have been a multi-million dollar project, that most likely would have flopped. They spent almost nothing to find out this product had very little value to their target market.

I’ve thought about how this could work for smaller feature sets – and then came across this:

Coming soon

It’s from a new travel site called: http://www.mrarlo.com/

While at first you could be thinking “lame, why not just add a under construction gif to the page?” – but if they’re tracking the clicks for this – they’ll quickly determine what % of visitors would be interested in the feature, and is it worth the investment to build out.

When asking customers if they would like feature A or B, they’ll usually say “how about both?” – to them features are free. They don’t know the development that goes into something as seemly simple as “neighborhood” for instance.

404 testing is a great method for finding value, from a single feature to an entire product. Remember, development is expensive and will keep you from delivering features your customers really want.

Fail Fast, Learn Fast, Move Fast: My UX journey to move faster

Today’s Dallas Digital Summit started with Alexis Ohanian (reddit and hipmunk fame) talking about how the internet is changing everything. And in his talks he touched on some aspects of product development – things like shipping, getting a MVP product out the door, and making sure customers find value in what you’re creating.

It’s good to get a startup vibe to start off the day – and I’m really passionate about bringing this vibe to other organizations. I think as User Experience Designers we’re in the right place to help change organizations – so it makes sense that things like the Lean UX mirrors elements of the Lean Startup movement and Agile Development.

So lets make things, great things, well designed things – build/measure/test – and may you ship as often as possible.

Here’s my presentation from today’s UX session @ Dallas Digital Summit:

#DDSUM12