Based on what I’ve heard and read so far about the recent Boeing crash, it seems that Boeing really needs to re-focus itself on human factors – with an emphasis on: the UX of training pilots (cultural sensitivity, onboarding experience) and on interaction design: contextual feedback.
One industry that’s profitable and ready for tech disruption is the used and new auto parts industry.
What’s worse than not using UX to help your company compete in the marketplace?
Something that’s worse is relying on basic applications of UX. The days where you could just approach an UX problem following the standard UX process are part of the past. It’s no longer good enough.
This is especially true in dense and competitive markets; and in markets where the largest competitors are leveraging armies of UX employees.
UX is a strategic tool. When it’s leveraged properly, UX helps companies emphasize their strengths. It also helps differentiate your company and creates a competitive edge that is uniquely yours.
I’m not talking about competing on “a better user interface”, “good usability” or “a simple UI”, or “better UX” — those are just basic expectations. That’s not good enough anymore.
Applying basic UX in markets that require a more strategic application is irresponsible. Companies that make this mistake are wasting money and accelerating their demise.
I got a chance to tap into the U.S. Geological Survey’s API and referenced the JSON data feed to create a map showing significant earthquakes in Southern California within the last 30 days.
The developer community is having a collective freakout with the recent news of Microsoft taking over GitHub.
I’ve had a GitHub account for more than 4 years and I’ve honestly haven’t used it much. I visited a couple of times over the years but never really dug deep enough to understand what GitHub does and how it can be useful — until a couple of weeks ago when I started learning more about it.
Since my background is on the UX side and have not worked on projects where I was coding in collaboration with other coders, I’m a different type of user than a dedicated developer (GitHub’s primary user persona).
Like most developer-centric tools, GitHub has tons UX problems. It’s competitors, BitBucket and GitLab also have UX problems. I haven’t spent enough time researching additional alternatives that have better UX.
Whenever I hear that a tool is “Open Source” I will not trust it to remain independent — unless it’s owned and operated by a not-for-profit organization
Since I’m a “new” GitHub user and I wasn’t a fan of the UX issues, I’m not feeling the pain as intensely as others are feeling it. But one thing is certain, I’ve been reminded that whenever I hear that a tool is “Open Source” I will not trust it to remain independent — unless it’s owned and operated by a not-for-profit organization.
Microsoft’s acquisition has caused a ripple in the marketplace. I’m sure GitLab and BitBucket are loving the news. But these two shouldn’t get comfortable just because they’re the default alternative — for now.
UX is a critical resource in competitive markets
I expect the competitive marketplace to become tighter and more competitive. These conditions make UX a more critical, competitive resource. I hope the leaders in all these companies realize that.
Responsive visual design mock-up. Real estate company.
Requirements, visual design, information architecture, logo design.
Presentation tool. With integrated class engagement tools and real-time quantitative classroom feedback. Class-level quiz performance data. Student question tracking.
Sooner or later, companies that create products for businesses have to face the internal vs. external user dilemma.
The dilemma usually revolves around having to decide which user group will end up with the best user experience — often, at the expense of the other user group. The product designer, usually has to choose between two user groups that can be labeled, in a general way, as either internal or external users.
The internal users are on the side of the product customer — the ones that bought the product to optimize their business process. The external user group is the internal user’s clients or customers. For example, human resources staff, purchase an Applicant Tracking System, (ATS) to help them with their job applicant selection and hiring process; and on the other hand, we have job applicants — who are the external end users of the ATS product.
From time to time, the ATS product designers have to stop and really think about how a particular ATS process will affect the the users — especially when the requests of one user group will result in complications for the other user group.
You can guess which user group ends up winning in most cases — and here’s a hint: it’s the users closer to the product customer — the ones who bought the ATS. The product designers listen to their sales and marketing departments about the endless requests coming from their customers and developers eager to look busy and agile, keep on blindly developing and testing whatever the customer asks for.
Is this a problem?
In most cases the answer is yes. Some product development companies are not very “self aware” — they have no idea that they have a problem. Other product development companies know they are causing problems, but hope no one notices. In the early stages of a product category, this may not be a visible issue, but as product categories enter the maturity stage — new entrants, eager to disrupt and find better solutions will eventually discover this key weakness in your product strategy.
How big of a problem is it?
You be the judge. Here are some typical problems and scenarios:
- It’s likely your product is a bloated monster with more features than your average user really needs.
- Learning how to use the product and on-ramping may be more of a challenge than they need to be
- Want to try to “slim” down the product by removing less used features? Get ready for the customer-activists that will threaten to leave your product if you remove “their favorite feature”
- Your product is likely so complicated, that the end users (external users), have a problem using it. This usually translates in a lower ROI for your ATS customers
- You’re leaving yourself wide-open for new product entrants who will offer products that are easier to learn, easier to use, and deliver more ROI faster
- It’s likely that you’re ignoring your product’s life-cycle stage — this is a huge problem
- In enterprise products, thinking just of “internal vs. external” users is not enough because there are many user groups — this dilemma is multiplied — which means you have a ton of problems
How do you solve this problem?
- You need to leverage UX / user research to understand the internal and external user scenarios within context
- You need to understand and segment your target markets
- You need a strategic process to decide when, where and how a new process or feature will be added to your product
- You need an active user feedback and monitoring system
- You need UX data analysis
- You need UX strategy and insights as a base for Product Strategy
- You need product leaders that will guide your product in the right direction
Get in touch
I would be happy to collaborate with your staff to help find the right solution for your problem. I’m available for FTE and contract opportunities.
Let’s work together: info@DanMontano.com
Most design efforts I see are copies of other designs with superficial changes. While getting inspiration by other products may be a way to get thing done fast — it’s not a good thing for the product in the long run. When you copy other products, you lower the differentiation of your product in the market and this triggers larger issues.
Why does product differentiation matter?
Poor differentiation matters — over time, it can kill products and by extension, it can kill companies.
When competing products look too much like each other, this is bad for marketing and sales. Since products end up looking the same, marketing departments have a harder time making the product appear better than its competitors. Low differentiation makes it hard for sales to justify a higher price for the product, because the product looks similar to the competitor’s. Both marketing and sales find themselves backed up in a corner, with the worst choice they can make — to compete on price by offering the product at a lower price than the competitors — over time, this is a dead end.
It’s a dead end because it prompts the competitors to also lower their price, and before you know it, you’re racing to the bottom — until the products are no longer are able to sustain the companies that make them.
So, keep that in mind next time you find yourself copying a design from your competitor. And, please resist the urge to get clever. Differentiation is still a problem even if you change the font style, the color and the layout of the design you copied. The take away is this: differentiation based on visual design alone is not enough. You have to also differentiate the way things work, behave — how they help the users.
This means that you need to also differentiate interaction design, information architecture, design strategy, content strategy, data strategy, and user research.
Differentiation is hard work
When you try to differentiate your products you will encounter a few challenges:
- The challenge of differentiation is blind to the fact that you either copied someone’s design or you used a popular design pattern. (Both lower differentiation). If it looks and works like the competitors, your design will deliver low differentiation.
- It’s easy to get confused. Your instinct may be to “get creative”. In UX design, we try to ground our design in facts as much as possible. Getting creative may be an option but the design strategy should be grounded on the UX process.
- Designing something different takes a lot of different skills. This is why most designers just copy things — it’s easier — but it’s irresponsible in the long run.
- Applying differentiation blindly is a mistake. Applying UX differentiation is part of UX strategy. You need to apply it strategically — within context — you need to take the larger context into consideration and know the when, where, how and to what extent of applying UX differentiation. Get these wrong, it’s likely that your efforts will be wasted. Most of the time, this is a very costly mistake.
- Selling a differentiated design may be an uphill battle. You’re likely to encounter opposition from product owners, project managers and developers who don’t understand the value of differentiation. Your allies are marketing, sales and product management. These folks should understand differentiation — it’s a basic concept in their field — and if they don’t understand it, you need to help them understand it.
Do your designers know how to differentiate your products?
Most UX job postings today mention a wide range of requirements from job to job. Some companies are still lost and think of UX as “visual design”, (focused on patterns, textures, colors, fonts), and ignore just about everything else. As a result, both companies and UX designers end up lacking the skills necessary to contextualize their designs.
Need help with this?
Get in touch: email@example.com
Have you ever followed a link and then you landed on a page like the one in the image above? A page apologizing because the page “does not exist” or “has been moved”.
Pages like these are red flags signaling missed opportunities for the companies that own them.
Why do these pages exist?
Some possible reasons:
- A web developer or blogger made a typo in the link you clicked on to get you to your intended destination
- You made a typo on the link for the webpage you wanted to see
- Someone just gave you the wrong link
- The company deleted the webpage and now doesn’t even know if it ever existed
- The company moved the webpage but didn’t bother to forward you to its new location
- The company changed the link for this webpage but didn’t forward you there
- The webpage truly never existed
Missed revenue opportunities
The broken link may be the result from the company deleting a webpage. The missed opportunities:
- The content should point the visitor to similar content as the one that was deleted — (in advertisement-supported websites, this is a lost opportunity for additional revenue)
- The content could point the visitor to similar content in partner websites, (lost revenue)
Who you should talk to to fix this?
In a place without UX staff — talk to the marketing department to acknowledge the missed opportunities
In a place where there is UX staff, they would be the ones to help you get the ball rolling
In a place where the UX teams includes folks with job titles (or roles) like: Information Architect, Content Strategist — these are the folks that would be working on this type of issue directly.
In a place that has a web content manager but no UX folks — The web content manager would be the one to look at this.
If you want to explore additional ideas and opportunities, get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org
The standard: Ignoring the user’s entire journey
Think about it. You’ve got a tons of data and now you have to look through it. You hope you to get something out of all this data. Hopefully, you’ll get some actionable insights that will improve your organization’s performance.
Data visualization tools help users perform only the first part of the process — looking at the data. Unfortunately, a lot of UX designers don’t acknowledge the entire data->action journey — they deliver an UI that displays data and provides the ability to sort/filter, along with import/export options and then call it a day. That’s not enough. The users are getting short-changed.
People don’t just need data, they need actionable insights. Better yet, they need a system that helps them take action and can perform the data-to-action process automatically.
Why is this problem so prevalent?
One possibility is that, the UX designers are not thinking through the user’s scenarios and their needs. They’re only doing a fraction of their job.
Another reason could be that other folks are doing user research – maybe they failed to map out the user’s entire journey, they failed to ask the right questions, and they failed to pass the right information to the designers.
A more typical reason, is that visual and graphic designers are pretending to be interaction designers — without having the right problem-solving skills yet. They get mesmerized by the beauty of data visualization graphics. They get caught up in tiny visual details, rather than looking at the big picture to remind themselves that the UI has to support a larger interactive process. (I know this is a common problem because I was one of these guys when I started my career. Making the shift to thinking like an interaction designer is not easy and takes time.)