If you have a new UX project coming up or you want to be prepared for how you can better set yourself up for success, then this article is for you.
I’ve interviewed the internal UX and Design team here at DiUS and these are our top tips for how you can maximise success for your next UX project.
I’ve categorised our thoughts into two categories:
- What is the real problem / opportunity?
- Who are we building this for?
- What does success look like?
- What are our assumptions?
- Who is going to be working on this project?
- How is the team going to work together?
What is the problem and who experiences it?
The very first question for any project should be; “What problem does this solve?”
To understand what problem we are solving, we then need to know who is encountering this problem.
We need to truly know who our customers are and we won’t know that unless we go and talk to them. By interviewing real people, understanding who they are and how this product / service fits within their lives, we can get a better understanding of the problems they’re facing, and if this is in fact the right problem to be solving and not a by-product of another problem.
We can adopt the ‘five whys’ method to uncover the root cause of a problem and understand if we are solving the right problem.
In order to understand your customers, build empathy within the team and uncover if you are solving the right problem. The following activities will help you:
- Proto persona workshops to build empathy for who your customers are
- Persona interviews
- Persona development
Before starting any work, we need to understand where the business is within its journey – has this project been tried before? If so, why did it not work the first time?
It is important to ask these questions so you can learn from past mistakes and not make the same mistakes again. It will also give you greater context into the project and what your stakeholders are after.
Just like understanding your customers, it is also important to understand your stakeholders; what journey they have been through and what they are wanting to achieve from this project.
It can be a bit daunting, especially on larger projects that have multiple stakeholders and teams involved, that’s why it’s good to have a stakeholder map. This will help you recognise who needs to be involved in certain activities and who needs to be informed.
What does success look like?
Whenever starting a new project, the first step is to workshop with the core team to define, ‘What does success look like?’ This will be timeboxed so stakeholders can concentrate on answers rather than talking about it for long periods of time.
This can be done in tools such as Miro, where each stakeholder will put down as many stickies as they want within five minutes. After the five minutes is up, we then group up all related / similar ideas and we go through them. After we have read them all, we prioritise them from most important to least. I usually do this by putting a number next to each theme – 1, 2, 3 etc from most important to least.
So this is crucial to document and be able to refer to, because when the project is underway this will be your north star in terms of business expectations.
When it comes time to present once the project has finished, showing how your work met these business expectations shows accountability and will lead to the business having trust in you and your team. This trust is fundamental as it will allow the team to allocate more resources as well as lead to more strategic and exciting work.
What are our assumptions
When you’re about to start a project there can be many stakeholders as mentioned before and with these stakeholders comes preconceived ideas of how this project will take place and what the end result will be.
It is necessary to understand everyone’s point of view to uncover all of these preconceived ideas – this can be done in what’s known as an assumptions map.
The idea is that all of the important and unknown information is what we need to uncover, these are referred to as the ‘riskiest assumptions’ of the project.
Ideally we want to identify the riskiest assumptions of the project as early as possible as to not waste time and effort on things that turn out to be false. That way the team can move on as a collective as information is proven true or false.
Another determining factor of success is understanding the constraints in which this next UX project is under.
- Time: When does this need to be done by, does it have to line up with a special event?
- Budget: This along with budget will affect the activities which you adopt to carry out the UX project
- Resources: Does this project have a full cross functional team? Are certain resources shared, i.e. copywriters? This will help you time and plan to cater for shared resources and plan UX activities accordingly
- Leadership buy-in: One of the most significant aspects of any project. Is this work important to the company and does this project line up to any high level business goals?
These factors will give you an overview of the project and help give you strategies on how to best handle the environment which you are in.
- Alignment workshop
- Assumptions Map
- Stakeholder interviews
- Stakeholder map
Who is going to be working on this project?
All of the above tips have been at a project level, however we must also factor in the team dynamic. People that trust each other are crucial for high performing teams and their ability to deliver successful projects.
A designer is only as good as the team they are working with, therefore a well functioning cross functional team is vital for high performing teams.
Whether you’re running a discovery or ideating potential solutions, the best outcomes will always come from a cross functional team. This can include developers, designers, product, copywriters and business – diverse perspectives creates more viewpoints on a singular problem.
In a project we often focus on skills and processes however we leave out team dynamics to ensure a safe working environment. This can be done by setting up a Ways of Working workshop to define the values and boundaries to help create psychological safety and trust within the team. In this workshop, setting expectations of the roles and responsibilities of each team member, how each other likes to work and what are their preferred ways of communicating, will really ensure that the team members work together smoothly.
No two projects are ever the same, but to ensure success, you need to be able to adapt to different circumstances and to get the best out of any given situation and that means give and take with your teammates as well.
- Ways of working workshop
By using the tips we’ve covered in this article you will be able to capture:
- The right problem to solve
- Who is encountering this problem
- How the business defines success and how to measure it
- The team’s assumptions so you can all learn from the same starting point
- Who is working on the project and how to work together
- How to keep an open mind and adapt to your environment
By following all of the tips above we are able to maximise our chances of success, not just at a project level but also at a team level as well.
At a project level we are able to define the north star for the business, how we are going to measure success as well as understanding who we are building this project for. We also are able to bring the team together, have a shared understanding of what assumptions we have about the project and uncover if these are true or false. This will ensure we are working on the right thing and solving the right problems.
At a team level we are able to understand all of the stakeholders that are involved, what are the roles and responsibilities as well as understanding the best ways of working together as a high performing team. This way the team knows who to include in certain activities as well as who to ask for certain information. This will enable the team to work efficiently together and become a high performing team.