Failing Fast & Learning Along the Way – Big Design 2013

October 31, 2013 at 4:42 pm
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!

So you want your interface to sell.

August 5, 2013 at 10:17 pm

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:

A couple weeks with the pebble

March 20, 2013 at 3:26 pm

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.

Get to know Android for $100 or less

January 7, 2013 at 11:00 am

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

December 19, 2012 at 4:54 pm

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.

I’m speaking @ the Dallas Digital Summit tomorrow

December 3, 2012 at 4:16 pm

Tomorrow I will be speaking at the Dallas Digital Summit in the User Experience & Design track @ 4:10.



I’ll be speaking about Lean UX (and related topics) – dubbed: Fail Fast, Learn Fast, Move Fast: My UX journey to move faster. I’ll post my slides right after the talk (because you know I’ll be editing them until I’m on stage ;-)

The tickets are currently sold out, but if you’re there be sure to say hello! And if you’re not, you can follow along #DDSum12.

Designing for Sensors 
& the Future of Experiences

November 29, 2012 at 9:00 am

Jeremy Johnson - Designing for Sensors 
& the Future of Experiences

This year at Big Design I spoke about Designing for Sensors 
& the Future of Experiences. This is something that’s near and dear to my heart as we move forward into an exciting time as Designers.

Sound knowledgeable about moving your iOS app to Android in around 10 minutes

April 1, 2012 at 11:33 pm

As Android gains ground, iOS may not be enough for some brands. And with limited budgets and development constraints, sometimes you can’t give your app the full “Android Treatment” it should deserve. I’ve put together a mini guide to go over some common ways to get your iOS app over to Android, while keeping it consistent (mostly) with today’s Android patterns.

Gesture vs. Touch – observations from the Kinect for developers event

February 8, 2012 at 5:16 am

This past week I was able to speak to a large room of developers at the Gravity Center, who were all there to learn more about developing for Kinect. Which is really developing for sensors – of course Kinect development is much more exciting than sensor development :-) You could also say it’s designing for NUI – Natural User Interfaces, ways you’d expect to interact with interfaces if we didn’t have things like mice in the way. I was asked to speak, as a Designer (and the only one in the room) on the trends of Kinect interfaces, and give my perspective.

Why I followed Gowalla like a teenage girl follows Justin Bieber

December 6, 2011 at 6:52 am

I’m Gowalla user #91. They’re at about 2 million now. But, alas… they are no more. I’ve been easing into the idea for months now – my slow decline in usage started with a series of events: taking away my (yes my) icons, demoting check-ins, and my social graph moving on to other apps/sites. Gowalla is one of my first true “must have services” that have disappeared. Why am I sad, because Gowalla was meaningful to me.