“Quick, Visual, Collaborative & Continuous”

Here’s a video and Storify stream from my AgileUXNYC presentation at the School of Visual Arts, NYC February 25, 2012.

Quick, Visual, Collaborative and Continuous from William Evans on Vimeo.

At many companies, user experience (UX) activities are performed by specialists and occur in distinct phases: user research, design, specification, development support and usability testing. Blending this linear process into an agile or Lean Startup team creates handoffs, bottlenecks and frustration. In this talk, I’ll share techniques to help teams collect and make better decisions based on user feedback by adapting some familiar UX techniques to be more quick, visual, collaborative and continuous.

Daily dose of inspiration

This video is via 99% – Insights on Making Design Happen. Thanks Zaid for sharing this with me!

Michael Bierut (Pentagram) shares lessons illustrated with examples from his work

Design is more about problem solving than creativity
“I’m a doctor, I can’t practice medicine on myself, I need patients, the sicker the better.”

Embrace the obvious
Cover for Tibor monograph is his face and his name. Simple.

The solution is in the problem
Working within the constraints results in this interesting work for the NY Times exterior signage.

Indulge your obsessions
Tasty typography for the Museum of Arts and Design.

Love is the answer!
“If you do what you love, and you find other people who do what they love, you’ll be successful, you’ll do great work…you’ll make money…you could even become famous…I promose you’ll be happy.”




Steve Blank at Lean Startup LA

Customer Development is the process of how you get out of the building and search for the model. Customer Development is designed so that you the founder(s) gather first hand experience about customer and market needs.” – SteveBlank.com, 5/13/2010

My signed copy of the Four StepsI heard  Steve Blank speak at the Los Angeles Lean Startup Circle 10/6 at UCLA. He even signed my book! “To Lane, Get out of the building”

I can’t find the specific deck he used, most of the content is covered by these decks on SlideShare:

A video stream of the event is archived on LiveStream.

When I first read “The Four Steps to the Epiphany” I was frustrated that Steve advised people to “get out of the building” but didn’t provide any advice about what to do when you’re out there. As a UX practitioner, I know how to help teams achieve meaningful conversations with users, synthesize the information we collect and make it actionable. I wondered how he could have missed the fact that UX folks had been focused on this stuff for YEARS.

After hearing him tell the CarrotBot story, I realized that Steve is giving advice at a fundamental/basic level. He’s working with CS students who love tech and, left to their own devices, would  prefer to just start building things. They think they already know. His demand that they “get out of the building” helps them see the world in a new way. It doesn’t take a lot of fieldwork for his students to learn what’s really going on and look at the problem differently.

The edict “get out of the building” is a general, simple thing anyone can do. Any entrepreneur is going to learn by trial and error anyhow and they are going to learn a lot more, a lot faster if they are in the world. Making it a process could create another device that entrepreneurs can use to avoid talking to real people.

I think UX people harm ourselves by calling what we do “user research” and “testing.” We do that, but there’s also aspects of the work that are deeper and more subtle. We’re trying to learn about people and their problems so we can create the right solutions. This is the critical learning for entrepreneurs who are looking for a viable product idea. Once someone starts to get out there, they develop second-order problems, like “how do we do this as a team?” and “what do we do with all this information we’ve collected?” and “what about all this contradictory information?” That’s when people are ready to use some tools and tricks.

The other highlight of the talk was Steve’s description of how the business model canvas is used to define the hypothesis of your business. You get out of the building to discover if your hypothesis are true, and you Pivot when one or more aspects of your business model canvas changes.

Thanks, Steve for an excellent talk, I enjoyed meeting you!

We, the makers

Recently I’ve heard a lot of frustration from UX people (Interaction Designers and Information Architects too) who feel their expertise is not recognized or appreciated. They feel they don’t have a seat at the table. They complain that product managers talk to customers and determine what features are built while designers have to beg for access to customers. Developers write the code and determine how the product looks and behaves. Design is seen as something “nice to have,” or at worst a bottleneck. Designers trade tips on how to do guerrilla user research, or operate as a UX team of one.

While talking about this subject recently, my friend Josh Seiden observed “the outcome of development work is code. The outcome of design work is sketches.” He’s right, and this is central to the difficulty we face. We’re known (and celebrated) for our ability to emphasize with users, generate ideas, and rapidly generate many concepts via sketches. Unfortunately, this strength is also our weakness. For many of us, the end point of our process is an idea expressed as a report or drawings which are handed off to other people for implementation. When design is dis-engaged from construction, we create silos and hand-offs and don’t gain the full benefit of either discipline. We need to work together more closely to make things real.

As designers, we can be better team members and more active participants in our projects when we educate ourselves in the material of construction. For a digital product, that means learning about code. Educate yourself about the technology you’re designing for. If you’re making iPhone/iPad apps, look into iOS programming. If you’re working Web products, learn about CSS, HTML and Javascript. If you’re working on an enterprise product, you’ll probably want to know something about .net. I’m not suggesting you learn to be a fully-fledged developer, just learn the basics about how a UI is produced. What are the UI guidelines for this environment? What’s the UI framework? What is easy? What is hard? Identify a few different examples of products built in this environment so you can build up your knowledge of UI design patterns.

If you get a chance to do it, it’s a great learning experience to work closely with a developer on an actual project. As Bo Campbell says in his blog “I encourage any UXers to get closer to the engineers, especially if you feel isolated in a product group. Push your way in. It seems crazy, but you really need to show everyone that your obstinance is merely a passion for the quality of the product and that you want the interface to represent the quality of the work behind it.”

If you design Web products, you can learn enough to create simple websites. There are LOTS of great resources like this one. I’ve taught myself a lot just by going through the process of hosting and configuring WordPress sites. There is a huge community of friendly WordPress people out there, ready to share what they know.

So, don’t just design something, make something. As you learn more about how software is made, and grow more comfortable working with code, you’ll find it easier to collaborate and communicate with developers. Once you understand how software is built, you’ll develop a better sense of what activities will be of most benefit and what deliverables are actually useful for moving the project forward.

For an inspiring example of how a team of generalists work together to cover design and development activities,  check out this blog post from from Brittany Hunter at Atomic Object.



Balconf: Hybrid User Interviews

Here’s my talk at the Balanced Team Conference in San Francisco Sep 23-25, 2011.

You can see other presentations from this event on the Balanced Team Blog.

Ignite: Lean Startup “I (heart) ugly”

Back in June, I was invited to participate in a session of Ignite: Lean Startup at Pivotal Labs NYC. I gave a short talk about working quickly at low fidelity to help teams create a shared vision, illustrated with some examples from the Knowsy project I worked on with Innovation Games Online.

Ignite is a short-form presentation format similar to pecha-kucha. Speakers are allowed just 20 slides which advance at 20 seconds each, whether you’re ready or not. The format encourages you to be brief, memorable and funny if you can manage it. If you want a challenge to your presentation skills, I recommend the format!

For more talks offered that night, check out the YouTube Playlist.

Agile game development event Oct 26

Just heard about an interesting event from my friend Clinton Keith (author of “Agile Game Development with SCRUM.”) This sounds like a great opportunity to bring together product managers, developers and designers to discuss how we can encourage creative collaboration.

“On Wednesday, October 26th, the IGDA will be hosting the first agile game development gathering at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel, LAX, the day before the start of the IGDA Leadership Forum.  The gathering will bring together game developers who have been applying agile and lean practices (including Scrum, Kanban and XP) to share their successes and failures of applying agile to their projects and advance the art of agile game development.  Rather than a series of presentations, the gathering will use Open Space Technology to support a self-organizing agenda.”

Registration costs $149 here.  For more information, please contact Clinton Keith.






Where the designers are

People often ask me “Where can I find a designer to work with me?” Most of the good matches I’ve seen have been made through referrals and introductions. If you know designers, or people who work with them, ask them if they know anyone who can help you. Check your LinkedIn connections for designers and ask for an introduction through someone you know.

You an also try these design-related sites that accept job postings.

Good Experience
– There’s a jobs area on this site, and Mark Hurst also includes job listings in his email newsletter

Boxes and Arrows
– Create an account and you can post jobs directly from this page

The Interaction Design Association (IxDA)
– I believe there’s also specific newsgroups for jobs, not sure where they are located on the site.

Silicon Valley Product Group (SVPG)
– This is less specifically focused on UX jobs, but I have seen some listings in Marty Cagan’s newsletter. I can’t find any jobs area on his site, so you’ll have to contact Marty for more information.

If you want to try face-to-face networking, and maybe learn something about design at the same time, you can hang out in the places where designers hang out. Some good places to start include:

  • The Interaction Design Association (IxDA) has local events and an annual conference
  • AIGA events (The professional association for design)
  • Startup events (easier in urban areas like the Bay Area and and NYC)
  • Meetups (look for the words “UX” “User Experience” “IxD” “Design” and “Startup”)

You can also work with a recruiter who will learn about your position and help you locate and screen the ideal candidate. I know a few recruiters who I personally recommend, please contact me if you’d like an introduction.

BTW: If you’re looking for a designer who has experience with Lean Startup, (and honestly, there aren’t many of them) there’s a special list exclusively for lean startup jobs. I have mostly seen postings there for developers, but it might also be a reasonable place to try. Read the guidelines carefully. The list is closely curated and only open to hiring companies (no agents or recruiters).

Good luck, and let me know if you find other good places I can add to my list.

Think, Make, Check: the Lean User Experience Intensive

Group photoJosh Seiden and I taught a sold-out session of the Lean User Experience Intensive (LUXi) July 9-10, 2011 at Pivotal Labs NYC. Here’s some information for those of you who didn’t get a chance to join us. We hope to see you at a future event!

Event summary

For a participant’s perspective, please see Nelly Yusupova’s post on the Webgrrls blog.

Eventbrite announcement

You know that great design is critical to the success of your business. It differentiates your product, defines the experience, and creates passionate users and loyal customers. Yet, many teams today struggle with design. Designers are hard to hire, working with an agency is expensive and doesn’t transfer knowledge to the team. If you do have designers and developers working together, It’s challenging to bring UX methods into an agile process without creating a bottleneck and tensions in the team.

Lean UX is a way to solve these problems. It’s a deeply practical and collaborative way of working. Lean UX uses rapid iterative cycles to create and improve products, simplify decision-making, and ensure you are building things that people want.

The Intensive is a two-day workshop for startups who want to improve the user experience of their product or individuals who want to work more effectively by using lean user experience methods. Over the weekend, you’ll be introduced to key principles and methods, and you’ll learn by doing. You’ll work collaboratively with your team-mates and experienced coaches to gain skills you can put to work immediately after the workshop.

Materials on SlideShare


Related links