Even if you are a member of Mensa International or a professor in rocket science, I believe that I can confidently say that you are probably very bad at reading someone else's mind. If you want, you can give it a try. Look at the person closest to you and focus. Focus on what they might be thinking about right now and then check with them if you were correct or not. And? You were miles off. And now try and do the same for someone that you don't see or don't even know personally. And? Even worse.
So if we're all so bad at reading someone else's mind, why do we often assume we know what people want, need & think when we make decisions about what products to build for these same people, what features they need and how they use the products we just sold them?
In most situations, the answer is probably that “we know that we don’t know but we have to make a decision so we just guess and hope for the best”. And in most situations, that means that you’re building your companies’ future on chance. And the chance that you are wrong is a whole lot bigger than that you are right.
At SDL, we don’t pretend that we can read minds but we definitely try and reduce the ‘not knowing’ part and thus reduce the chance that we’re wrong about what people need or how they’re using our products. We call this data-driven design. This means that we are always seeking data about what people need, how they work, and how well new designs and features match their needs and whether they can be used by them.
The SDL UX group uses a wide array of methods and tools to gather this type of data to help ourselves and the teams we work with to reduce the amount of guessing we do.
As people are very bad at talking about what it is they want or need, we prefer to go out and talk and observe them as they perform their regular work activities in their own context or during usability tests (also called qualitative research). This gives us the opportunity to learn from what they do as well as what they say. Personally, I always compare it to how hard it is for someone to explain to me how they ride their bike. Because they’ve automated most of their actions to the point where they don’t even have to think about them anymore, it is difficult for them to explain what they do but it is very easy for them get their bike and show me how they ride it.
We are also working with the R&D teams to implement technology that will help us understand how people use our products, which we have called Telemetry. This is something that is very common on regular websites but we don’t have this (yet) in most of SDL’s products. The quantitative data we get through this method will tells us WHAT people do and if we then combine it with qualitative data, gained through interviews and observations, about WHY they do them, we have a fairly complete set of data to help us inform what we should and could do in the future to improve our products and services.
So, in summary, we are constantly generating data through qualitative and quantitative methods to help us make the right decisions. To be able to do that, we are always interested in getting into contact with you, our users, partners, developers, implementers and general members of the community. If you’re interested in helping out, post a comment below and we’ll contact you.
In the last post I introduced the UX team at SDL and explained our general motivation with this community group. In this post I will describe “What we do” in more detail, so the services we offer and how those map to the UX roles we have in our team.
The services the UX team at SDL offers can be broken down into 4 main pillars:
1) Strategic UX describes the collaboration of the UX team with the business, and more particularly with the product management teams. This includes all kind of activities that help defining, validating, and shaping the definition and direction of a product or service. Typical activities include design thinking & service design workshops, ideation sessions, concept validation, and the definition of design goals and success metrics. These activities ensure that UX has ownership in defining and prioritizing new features and capabilities, and influence product roadmaps with the users in mind. Strategic UX is about asking the right questions, framing design problems, and setting a design direction without jumping to solutions. For new initiatives with a high level of uncertainty, we added some lean UX methodologies to our strategic UX toolbox. This involves formulating assumptions and hypothesis about outcomes and impact, which we then can test and validate. To cover Strategic UX activities at SDL in a structural manner we introduced the “UX Strategist” role with great success.
2) User Research helps us understand the context of our customers and users including their individual goals, needs, and business objectives. Our primary research goals are to answer specific design questions, inform our overall UX design process with data, and continually increase the understanding of our users within our cross-functional development teams. Most commonly we perform qualitative research which mainly means visiting customers at their desks. There we perform contextual inquiries, conduct user interviews, or run informal usability tests of products and prototypes. Typical research deliverables include user personas, use case scenarios, user journeys, and a lot other design artifacts that describe the complexity and the challenges our users deal with on a day to day basis. We are also making progress in collecting more and more quantitative data describing how our products are being used via what we call “Telemetry”. Stay tuned for a blog post dedicated to this very topic!
3) Interaction Design represents the work most people in software development traditionally associate with “UX”. It focuses on the usability and usefulness of a design solution. It is all about iteratively working out detailed designs for a stated problem which then can be tested. For this we use design prototypes that simulate the anticipated end user experience as good and realistic as possible and necessary. This allows us to test and validate designs before a developer writes a single line of code which is necessary as correcting a wrong assumption is way more difficult and expensive ones it is being build. So ones we are confident that a design addresses the actual problem and will work for its intended audience, we start working it out in all necessary detail. This also includes the support of the development team with the implementation. Interaction design deliverables include scenarios for key personas, information architecture diagrams, screen-flow charts, sketches and wireframes, low- and high-fidelity prototypes, as well the detailed user interface specifications including colors, typography, spacing, behavior - everything that is needed to build it.
4) Digital Experience Design is closely related to interaction design but focuses on the desirability and “lovability” of a design. Its goal is to delight users, not only to give them usable solutions. If successful, digital experience design can stimulate positive and memorable experiences that users will associate with SDL as a brand. To craft such experiences, we carefully experiment with visual aesthetics, subtle nuances in typography, look at minimal but consistent use of product branding, and add illustrations and graphic design elements to our interaction designs. Digital experience design deliverables include detailed visual designs for screens and controls, sets of icons, illustrations, and “micro-interactions” (animations and transitions). All deliverables are documented in form of libraries and design guidelines to ensure consistency across products and services.
We currently distinguish 3 different roles in the UX team including UX Strategist (UXS), UX Designer (UXD), and Digital Experience Designer (DXD). The graphic below illustrates how the roles map to the four services as described above.
To complete the picture of “What we do”, let me add a description of my own duties as the UX Director too. My primary focus lays on managing the UX team at which I carry the responsibility that the team can be effective, efficient, and has the right focus. This includes finding the right talent, facilitating team growth, defining and evolving the team’s structure and processes, providing appropriate tooling, enabling team communication and collaboration, and balancing the need for design in the organization with the available resources.
I am also representing UX within SDL’s leadership team and the wider organization. In this function I am aligning UX with various adjacent disciplines and stakeholders. As an evangelist for UX and design thinking in the wider organization I am promoting a holistic customer-centric perspective across our internal teams and organizational silos. The commitment we made towards delivering great customer and user experiences across all touch-points of the customer journey requires a rigorous outside-in thinking from all stakeholders involved. Working with them all on coordinating and aligning our combined efforts is part of my personal mission at SDL. Finally, I am also representing UX design to external, this includes various activities as for instances setting up this community group with the aim to show that SDL is serious and passionate about UX design.
In the next blog post I will continue the introduction to UX at SDL, covering “What we work on”. I will describe how we look at customer experience from an outside-in perspective and how that defines our scope. If you subscribe to our feed, you can both join the discussion and be sure not to miss anything. However you choose to follow us, it would be great to see you back soon and often!
It has been quite a few years now since User Experience (UX) was introduced as an important success metric and an internal discipline at SDL, solidly embedded within its software development and operations organization. Ever since, UX at SDL grew. In terms of size, organizational maturity, internal influence, and impact on the success of the business. UX earned the trust of the various teams it supported, the customers it engaged with, and ultimately its seat at the table.
Why This Community Group?
As UX professionals, we take the role of user advocates when it comes to research and development in the organization. To do this successfully, we are leaving the office as often as possible for customer visits, user interviews, usability tests, industry events, and more. Those interactions are crucial for us to understand the goals, needs, and contexts of our users. By creating this community group, we hope to broaden the scope of our interactions, conversations, and discussions with users, customers, and partners alike. We aim to increase transparency, share how we work, show our ongoing projects, collect feedback from outside our team early and often, and engage in discussions about everything UX related to SDL.
As designers, we also feel strongly connected to the design trade at large and strive to be closely connected with this professional community: We already visit and present at conferences, join and host design meetups, and attend workshops. We follow countless blogs, Dribbble artists, and Twitter feeds. We connect with other designers and design teams, learn what keeps them awake at night, and exchange thoughts on how to bring design to the next level. With this in mind, another aim of this group is to facilitate and intensify the exchange within the broader design community. We will be sharing our own stories and ideas, approaches and processes, as well as failures and successes to inspire or help other designers and to stimulate discussions on how we can all get better together.
UX design meetup at SDL's Amsterdam office, April 2015
Audiences For This Group
The first audience we hope to reach with this community group are our users, customers, partners, and anyone involved with the services and products SDL offers. We are curious about your customer and user experience. What are you already happy with? Where do we need to get better? Do you have feedback on the usability and usefulness of our products? How well do they help you to get your job done? What is missing? We are also interested to hear your ideas, suggestions and questions concerning design at SDL in general. By engaging in the discussion with us, you can help us do our work with you in mind!
Second, we hope to reach other UX professionals and design teams working in similar contexts and facing similar challenges. We are curious to hear how you “designed” your design organization, which approaches and processes work for you, and which ones do not. Which though nuts are you trying to crack? Are you designing for complex, cloud-based enterprise scenarios? Growing a design team and wondering how to best structure and position it within the organization? Are you looking for best practices to improve collaboration with globally distributed design teams? Figuring out how product roadmaps, lean UX principles, service design, and agile software development fit together? Or are you interested to hear which tools other teams are using and why they love them? We think there is plenty to talk about and we would love to do so with you!
We will be active here and intend to react to all questions and discussions in a timely manner. If needed, we will also involve our colleagues from product management, development, support, or other teams to provide appropriate perspectives and feedback. Nonetheless, please keep in mind that this community group is new for us, too. We are learning as we go, so please bare with us in the beginning.
One last thing before we jump right into the conversation: Let me take a moment to introduce the UX team at SDL.
Introducing The SDL UX Team
At SDL, we have a dedicated in-house UX team that is part of the product development and operations organization aka “DevOps”, headed by our CTO. We are a fairly diverse, globally distributed team of 13 UX professionals, covering seven nationalities, spread across four different offices and time zones. Our backgrounds and trades range from strategic thinkers, design researchers, data nerds, user advocates, prototype hackers, micro-interaction lovers, to pixel-perfect UI artists. Collectively, we share a hunger for innovation, design thinking and creative processes, always striving to make our products and services better. And as most designers out there, too, we hope to make the world a little bit better with what we do. So when I talk about UX at SDL, I mainly refer to the UX team. But we are not alone! We are at the core of a larger customer experience community within SDL that is dedicated and committed to delivering great service and product experiences to our customers and users. This includes, but does not end with, our support teams, market research, professional services, product management, research and development, technical writers, testers, and cloud operations. I am sure that many of them will join the discussions and conversations on user experience in this community group, too, contributing their own perspectives and opinions where they fit best.
In the next blog post, I will continue the introduction to UX at SDL, covering “What we do” and describing the services we offer as a UX team to the rest of SDL. If you subscribe to our feed, you can both join the discussion and be sure not to miss anything. However you choose to follow us, it would be great to see you back soon and often!
Welcome to SDL's User Experience Community!
This is a space for SDL's UX design team and SDL's customers & partners to engage and discuss topics around user experience and design. Learn more about the UX team at SDL and the objectives for this group in this Post: The UX Team at SDL - Who we are. If you subscribe and become a member of this group, you can both join the discussion and be sure not to miss anything. However you choose to follow us, it would be great to see you back soon and often!