Linearity matters in ecommerce UI

Linearity Matters: Rethinking eCommerce UI

“Linearity” plays a strong role when it comes to usability of any e-commerce checkout. Many theories supporting this concept have been proved by numerous statistics. UX sites which talks about the best practices to follow while designing the checkout process, always advocate maintaining linearity. It’s make sense when we see multiple principles in human factors indicate that in most of the time when users are “walking on the path” in a multi-step process they want to move forward. But only designing the checkout process is not enough, as from the views of typical goal oriented design, the whole experience of shopping starts with user’s objective to “find something that might influence him enough to buy”where the whole experience is a flow-state which maps to the mental model of the user where “finding” and “buying” are the major component of buying. The former being the “cause” and the latter being the “effect”, the design of the experience should always be linear in order to avoid the situation where the user is distracted by something else to break that state.

If users think of your multi-step process as a straight path, then the sequence of your views must be linear else you will break people’s expectations that will result into a bad experience and usability.

Traversing from user needs the towards the task flow

“I need” –> “I buy”–> checkout

is equivalent to

“I need” –> “I find it ” –> “I buy”–> checkout

is equivalent to

“I need” –> “I browse for it ” –> “I search for it ” –> “I buy” –> checkout

is equivalent to

“I need” –> “I browse for it ” –> “I search for it ” –> I compare –> “I buy” –> checkout

There are two major task clusters now:

1. “I need” –> “I browse for it ” –> “I search for it ” –> I compare –> “I buy”

2. “checkout”

Note the goal stating “I buy”, is the logical point that is represented by the behaviour of the user through the act of “adding to basket/cart”

Meanwhile the act of comparison of the products can be spanned from what is in the browsable and searchable views and what is already existing in the cart (which the user has added to the card already through a previous loop in this category of task). It is similar to the way that you might have added a deodorant “Old Spice” to the cart and suddenly decided to go for an “Axe” that offers 10% extra in the same price (Note that the user’s mind wanders 30% of time). So it helps to allow the user to be in the loop with in the first task group and then jump to the checkout while making the transition to checkout seamless. In order to achieve, the more the mental model matches to the conceptual one and indicate the user’s state in the flow and encouraging him through “progression” in the linearity path.

Here is a sample flow that takes the benefit of the linearity as a part of the process for the experience that covers the pre-checkout and checkout process to complete the flow state.

The target of the solution is primarily a tablet, which is acting as a catalyst as being a touch enabled swipe gesture controlled device it provides the user the effortless approach to move between the “browse/Search” <–> Cart <–> Checkout , once he has reached the entry point to the system.

Explore the complete project at
https://www.behance.net/gallery/19044315/Flip-the-Cart-Reimagining-Social-Commerce

(c) 2014, Samir Dash. All rights reserved.

Untitled

Flip the Cart! : Reimagining Next in eCommerce

eCommerce has one of the strongest buzz that we come across now a days. Specially after the success of Amazon and Flipkart, the domain is seen as a goldmine that can help in bringing the disruptive business models to increase profit and business. So what is the next in eCommerce? I tried to conceptualise and re-imagine it from a socio-integrated experience. Following are some insights and sample sides that present those attempts:

 

Find the complete idea here:

https://www.behance.net/gallery/19044315/Flip-the-Cart-Reimagining-Social-Commerce

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MakingSense: Reimagining the Next-generation Retails and e-Commerce Analytics platform

journey-consumerbenefits

 

 

In today’s ever changing world if we need to reimagine the next generation analytics platform for retail and e-commerce market, what it will look like? Well I gave it a go . Following is a conceptual framework (I call it  “MakingSense”) and a business case for an IoT based real time analytics framework for retail and FMCG market. The following post is presented as a real life business case:

 

 

 

 

Overview:

MakingSense” is IoT based market analytics platform to connect all goods and products (specially non-digital goods) that behave as fast moving goods to the cloud-analytics to get real-time market insights to make the required course correction for the market strategy and business decisions for the product manufacturers and retail chains. This enables a direct feedback model between the consumers with the producers and sellers.

 

The problem it solves:

As per current market trends, even high-tech goods like mobiles, digital accessories are behaving like FMCG in market. Rapid change is evident in consumer behaviour due to influence from technology, economy and changing buying power of the consumer . Speedy ‘go-to-market’ approach in the market from players in the market has increased the competition. Many local and niche competitors are giving tough challenges to bigger players in all segments, specially in emerging markets. For globl players the typical market strategy is not working in expected way. Traditional approach of market insights collection is not sufficient to apply the necessary check and balance for market plans in real time.

 

The 4 core needs that Making Sense will address are:

1.The manufacturers need market insights in real time

2.The consumer behaviour towards tech-goods is also needs to be tracked in real time to ensure how close they are behaving to the FMCG market behaviour.

3.In retail and non-tech sector the real time insights are needed for goods that are not digitally connected to analytics eco-system

4.Need to look beyond the traditional field immersions, surveys to get micro-insights for course corrections in strategy.

 

The solution and the business model:

The “MakingSense” platform will help product manufactures and retailers in gathering real time customer insights even for non-digital goods and helps adjust the customer retention dynamics . In retail and non-tech sector the real time insights are needed for goods that are not digitally connected to analytics eco-system. Need to look beyond the traditional field immersions, surveys to get micro-insights for course corrections in strategy.

The platform has self sustainable business model that will make it grow though benefiting the product manufacturers, retailers and the consumers. The final envisioned eco-system will have a big-data enabled management module in cloud, a super easy to use dashboard system for product manufacturers, retailers and consumers and mobile apps and easy integration public APIs along with one SMS enabled gateway.
The producers and sellers can register their products to generate specific code to their products category and if required can use the APIs to map their existing bar-code systems. The normal consumer can register themselves to generate the reward points and to be used directly in the registered retail chains or can redeem for some gifts from their dashboard itself.

The eco-system will allow the product companies and sellers to get real time analytics through creating data points directly.

 

 

Triple advantage benefits for consumers:
The incentivise/rewarding consumers for their feedback is what will make it more successful.
Whether the product the consumer gives feedback on is purchased from the registered retailer or not, he is definitely getting the reward points or freebies from the site.
If he purchases the product from the registered retailers, then he is getting additional discounts or reward points.
On top of it if the product manufacturer registers, then the customer is getting more discounts!

It’s a triple advantage for the customer.

Now, this is a new strategy where the customer is prompted to buy the product from specific manufacturer, from a specific retailers toget advantage of this.
While the whole aim is to get feedback and analytics running, this model also induces a new competition on product manufacturers to provide discounts to bring down the final competitive price to retain customers at the same time the customer is also getting benefitted.

This model is disruptive in nature where every one is getting benefited :

Manufacturer and Retailers – reduction in market research spending , getting real time-analytics — the mood of the segment- customer retention strategy formulation , attract customer to their outlets and
Consumer — reduction in home budget, get incentive, rewards for their feedback.

 

 

 

::Idea::

 

The “MakingSense” platform will help product manufactures and retailers in gathering real time customer insights in real time even for non-digital goods. In retail and non-tech sector the real time insights are needed for goods that are not digitally connected to analytics eco-system. Need to look beyond the traditional field immersions, surveys to get micro-insights for course corrections in strategy.

The platform has self sustainable business model that will make it grow though benefiting the product manufacturers, retailers and the consumers. The final envisioned eco-system will have a big-data enabled management module in cloud, a super easy to use dashboard system for product manufacturers, retailers and consumers and mobile apps and easy integration public APIs along with one SMS enabled gateway.

The producers and sellers can register their products to generate specific code to their products category and if required can use the APIs to map their existing bar-code systems. The normal consumer can register themselves to generate the reward points and to be used directly in the registered retail chains or can redeem for some gifts from their dashboard itself.

The eco-system will allow the product companies and sellers to get real time analytics through creating data points directly

:: Architecture:

The idea is about building an eco-system in multiple-phases that will have three components:

1. “MakingSense SmartCloud” — Cloud based server to store the data related to the consumers and host the analytic platform. This will have the following major components :
i. BigData analytic-engine that can do the necessary data mining to understand trends and formulate recommendations .

ii. Open REST APIs providing easy way to integrate third-party systems such as retail-management systems, third-party analytic and business process tools/apps.

iii. user management modules with different levels of access to different roles.

iv. Reward points management and coupon code management system.

v. Payment gateway and subscription and vendor management.

2.”MakingSense Portal” — Web-based portal/ thin-client solution that will allow consumers and product sellers/retailers who can register and access their respective dashboards

3. “Making-Sense client” — This is primarily mobile/device client and consumer facing service gateways (and optionally hardware) that can be used by the consumers to submit their feedback.
In the multi-phased development roadmap, initially the mobile apps will be primary representative of this section. Later phases will introduce SMS enabled gateways, custom “MakingSense” hardware, which will be cheap yet provide easier way to share data from the consumer.

 

:: User Journeys:

For Sellers (Retailers/Producers)-

1. gets account registered at ‘MakingSense Portal’.
2. get API if to connect to their card scanners /billing machines/users db/inventory/product catalog
3. gets products mapped to “Reward points”/discounts/freebies
4. product manufacture can offer discounts for their product using the API by registring their product

5.product manufacture can register their product to get insight for their product across globe
6.retailers get insight for their retails chains –anything sold though their system
7.retailers can buy insights (not customer details ) for other regions/ segments
8. product manufacturers can buy insights (not customer details) for competing brands and similar products

For Consumer -

1. Registers at the Portal — if he is from a retailer’s database, he can map his account to this system.
2. Connection to his SNS account (facebook) is encouraged (with some additional reward for it)
2. downloads free “makingsense” mobile app, and starts using
3. scan the barcode of any product he purchased and rates the product.
4. For each feedback on different (at least different batch of same product with in a specific time period range) the products, gets “reward points” or discounts codes or freebies coupon codes.
5. If retailers/product manufacturer has sponsored rewards, based on accumulated points, he can redeem them at their store. Else these can be redeemed at the “makingSense” dashboard at the portal.

:: Benefit:

For Sellers (Retailers/Producers)-

emerging market is the next potential
even high tech/high end goods are behaving like FMCG goods…
micro -insights are required to plan the market startegy adjustment
conventional type of large scale survey’s are not going to help much due to high cost and field immersion efforts and time.. — go-to-market is accelerating so ..time has value … micromax makes a phone in 70 days

So new age trend is required to gather data in real time ..to connect goods that are not even digital , we need those data
IoT will help in rapidly accessing this.

They get the following insight from the solution:

customer’s insight
————
who bought
how many times bought
which part of the year bought the most
consumer’s insight
—————————
liked? great – good – bad ?
what else he likes in the same product line ?
what similar product he uses?
what similar product he likes most ? what brands?
collective consumer insights
—————————-
how many such buyers are in the region who are potential buyer?
how is collective preference?

predictive market forecast
—————————-
in which part of the year the product consumption is going to increase — manufacture more and ensure smooth shelf-space management
who are competitor brands
how a product is behaving in a segment?
value curve?
what should be the status?

if connects to his SNS account/FB/retail shopers card — then u get location, age, gender, type etc. — new gold mine where every one will want to invest.

For Consumer -

1. Consumer is rewarded for any feedback he shares for any product he uses.
2. Apart from regular discounts, reward points the customer can get these additional discounts in purchase/freebies which can bring customer delight leading to more involvement and customer engagement (so no matter if consumer does not buy from registered retailers or products.)

 

 

 

 

 

:: Business model::

Business model is mostly through subscription based to access competitor analytics
Along with it the access to premium data and value added services like (customizable report, goal alignment, market strategy etc. ) can be a major source of revenue .

retailers get 100% discounts to access their data — all real time
retailers get 20-30% discount in viewing their competitor’s data in the same region or segment

retailers not listed in the program to have to pay full to get data for a segment
retailers not listed in the program can not view their data

consumer gets 2% bonus discounts or points to submit the feedback on every item he uses

 

 

:: Market Size::

As per ESOMAR Global Market Research conducted in 2011:

Global Spending on Market Research is 32 Billion USD.
Out of this Emerging Market share is 24% == 8 Billion USD
Out of this only Asia Pacific spending is == 5 Billion USD.

India & China are major share holders of 5 Billion USD
India == 40% of 5 Billion USD = 2 Billion USD

Based this 1st year
target in five 1st tier cities.
assuming 30% investment is done in these 5 cities == 0.6 Billion USD
assuming we get 30% of this share in 1st year == 0.2 Billion USD

That results in 100 Cr INR Revenue in 1st year .

 

 

 

:: Potential competitors & Competitive advantage of the idea::


Amazon Dash
Dash is a product by Amazon that allows to facilitate the consumer to order new products from Amazon store

 

 

Dash:

Hardware based + amazon portal is available for consumer to buy
Only limited to Amamzon portal
No-whitelabelled system — Amamzon uses it for it’s own usage.
It’s is NOT a feedback based model, the bigdata only shows which segment is purchasing which product.

 

Making Sense:

Special marketing-insight platform – unique and first of it’s kind.
Specially designed to handle multiple vendors, retailers and consumers along with reward points/incentive management model .
Unique analytics with predictive strategy formation
works across cross platform, outlets, cross multi-channecommercialal platforms both counter based or online.

 

SWOT  Analysis

Strength: 

Cross platform – mobile, tablet, PC, kosk, custom hardware
works across cross platform, outlets, cross multi-channel commerceial platforms both counter based or online.
Can appeal to consumers, retailer, manufacturers

Can be scaled from FMCG to insurance, banking/finance sectors.
Weakness:
New concept, new to the market — disruptive business model for market research where customers are incentivised for their feedback directly.
Requires fund to maintain the incentives/ rewards for the end-consumers.
Large scale imkplementation can bring meaningful results??????
Opportunities:
New unique business model.
Regional market is drib\ven by fragmented retail / distribution channels
Specially FMCG market is highly un-organised
Penetration of single super markets, and online selling is low.
Specially in India the coverage of super markets (Big Baazar, )
Market insights
Threats:
Dash making it’s platform focused on marketing research
Marketing research companies replicating this model– alternative models
Retail chains making their own platform — will get limited view only only their customers..still they need to spend more in their marketing agencies.

 

 

:: Why it’s a killer Idea? ::

The incentivise/rewarding consumers for their feedback is what will make it more successful.
Whether the product the consumer gives feedback on is purchased from the registered retailer or not, he is definitely getting the reward points or freebies from the site.
If he purchases the product from the registered retailers, then he is getting additional discounts or reward points.
On top of it if the product manufacturer registers, then the customer is getting more discounts!

It’s a tripple advantage for the customer.

Now, this is a new strategy where the customer is prompted to buy the product from specific manufacturer, from a specific retailers toget advantage of this.
While the whole aim is to get feedback and analytics running, this model also induces a new competition on product manufacturers to provide discounts to bring down the final competitive price to retain customers at the same time the customer is also getting benefitted.

This model is disruptive in nature where every one is getting benefited :

Manufacturer and Retailers – reduction in market research spending , gettingf realtime analytics — the mood of the segment- customer retaintion strategy formulation , attaract customer to their outlets and
Consumer — reduction in home budghet, get incentive, rewards for their feedback.

 

 

 

As per Tim Ambler of London Business School, “Marketing Productivity” is measured through the following 5 ponts :

1. routinely research consumer beavior?

2. routinely report research with financial matrics?

3. compare results with previously forecasted in business plans

4. compare with level achieved by your competitor using the same indicators?

5. adjust short term performance?

 

All of these are taken care in the  blue print of “MakingSense”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Indoor Mapping in Consumer or Retail Vertical and it’s impact on UX

Mapping and localization for indoor mapping is gaining momentum in consumer verticals of IT and software services industry to propose new age technological solutions and process re-engineering services that helps in providing value added features to the consumers of the verticals. Also the consumer data mining and data analytics are pushing new dimensions with the indoor mapping technologies to provide new insights into the consumer and end-users’ psyche. This ultimately opening doors to provide better and delightful user experience for the user during his shopping experiences.

 

Technology Used for Indoor Maps

 

Despite the fact that the location determination of mobile users within a building has attracted much attention lately due to its many applications in mobile networking including network intrusion detection problems, it is challenging due to the complexities of the indoor radio propagation characteristics exacerbated by the mobility of the user. Global navigation satellite systems (GPS or GNSS, which act as the benchmark for the standard Map related applications development, are generally not suitable to establish indoor locations, since microwaves will be attenuated and scattered by roofs, walls and other objects. Due to the signal attenuation caused by construction materials, the satellite based Global Positioning System (GPS) loses significant power indoors affecting the required coverage for receivers by at least for satellites. In addition to this, the multiple reflections at surfaces cause multi-path propagation serving for uncontrollable errors. So the most popular among the technologies that are employed for indoor mapping scenario is the wireless technologies like Wifi and RFID.

In Radio-Frequency identification (RFID) systems, the simple concept of location indexing and presence reporting for tagged objects are used, that only acts as the object identification. Typically RFIDs do not report the signal strengths and various distances of single tags or of a pulk of tags and do not renew any before known location coordinates of the sensor or current location of any tags. Operability of such approaches requires some narrow passage to prevent from passing by out of range. In Grid concepts, a dense network of low-range receivers may be arranged, e.g. in a grid pattern for economy, throughout the space being observed. Due to the low range, a tagged entity will be identified by only a few close, networked receivers. An identified tag must be within range of the identifying reader, allowing a rough approximation of the tag location. Advanced systems combine visual coverage with a camera grid with the wireless coverage for the rough location.

 

The use enhanced Wi-Fi infrastructure to provide location information actually provides the missing piece that only RFID can not provide. WiFi infrastructure help in establishing more accurate and stable landmarks, which serve to anchor the various partial trajectories. This approach uses Received signal strength indication (RSSI) – that is a measurement of the power level received by sensor. Because radio waves propagate according to the inverse-square law, distance can be approximated based on the relationship between transmitted and received signal strength (the transmission strength is a constant based on the equipment being used), as long as no other errors contribute to faulty results.

 

Once the user and/or the tracking objects are located and tracked for their movement, the resulting data is mapped to the pre-built indoor location map to provide meaningful observations on the user’s location in particular section of indoor space and based on this the shopping experience of the user can be enhanced.

 

Indoor Maps in Consumer or Retail Verticals

During the last few decades, research on localization for exploration and navigation in indoor environments has made significant progress. However this technology was not accessible to the consumers till Google declared “indoor maps” as the future of consumer facing verticals, which successful attempts in utilizing this technology in shopping malls, museum and related public places where the real-time user analytics based on his location inside the shop helped formulating a set of customized offering to the user to make his experience easier and delightful.

IKEA, one of the world’s leading home furnishings company, uses Google indoor maps for improving customer’s experience in navigating the stores that are typically “typically a two level building that ranges in size from 200,000 sq ft to 450,000 sq ft–the average size is approximately 320,000 sq ft” and which typically “can work against” the “IKEA’s goal is to make the customer feel comfortable and in control of their shopping experience” — “People can have a hard time navigating the store. There have been stories of people saying that they feel like we are are purposely keeping them in.We want to make their shopping experience as easy as possible” (Google).

In a typical customer’s experience in a large sized mall, or shopping store can be frustrating, when he “want the option to quickly find their way to a particular product or throughout the store”(Ibidem,1)and this is mostly the consumer sees as the product he “needs”. Whereas the shopper or the store owner’s intention in most cases is to “encourage customers to find items they didn’t know they needed” – which is in fact conflicting with the thought line of the customer that is more inclined towards the self-gratification through the identification of items of his need.

 

 

The common set of expectations that lies among the conflicts of interests between the shop/store owner and the shopper provides the foundation that helps sustaining the user experience of the shopper in such an eco-system. The common set of expectations mostly revolve around the concepts of getting (for shopper)and providing (for shop-owner)the best possible experience. The common mission when equipped with the technology, such as indoor maps, sets the momentum of better usability and at the same time offers avenues for more cash flow for the store owner.

Most of the mall or stores which have implemented indoor mapping technology have been profitable by capitalizing “on the growing population of smartphone users” who can use the technology through their handsets. As of March 2012, over 106 million people in the U.S. owned a smartphone with Apple and Google having market share of 30% and 51% respectively — which shows that a significant mass of the consumers are also depending on mobility as a medium to consume the technology aided services. This fact is itself acting as a catalyst to propel the usage of indoor maps in consumer sector. (comScore, 2012).

 

Keeping the user in-touch during the whole experience

 

One of the successful features of the indoor mapping eco-system is to keep the user informed at every step of his experience and maintain a communication thread between the user and the system. A sample flow is shown below where the two way communication is illustrated.

 

 

The illustration above highlights how a simple two way communication is established between the user (through his app on his mobile) and the indoor mapping backend running and performs the analysis of user location data to execute productive actions that meets the user goals and helps improve the user’s over shopping experience in the store.

(c) 2013-14, Samir Dash

BOOK-COVER1600x2400

UX Simplified: Models & Methodologies: Digital Edition [Kindle Edition] ISBN: 978-1-3115-9110-4

My  recent title is available on Kindle for download. This book covers basic models and methodologies that are revolved around User Experience (UX). The discussed topics include User Experience, Information Architecture, User Interface, Usability models, User Centered Design (UCD), User Centered Software Design (UCSD), different Software Lifecycles (SDLC) and how usability models fit into SDLC models.

The details of the book are as follows:

UX Simplified: Models & Methodologies: Digital Edition
by Samir Dash
ISBN: 978-1-3115-9110-4
ASIN: B00LPQ22O0

Kindle Price (US$):$1.87
Kindle Price (INR):Rs. 119.00 includes free international wireless delivery via Amazon Whispernet

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00LPQ22O0/ref=r_soa_w_d

 

 

UX Simplified: Models & Methodologies: Digital Edition [Kindle Edition] ISBN: 978-1-3115-9110-4

UX Simplified: Models & Methodologies: Digital Edition [Kindle Edition] ISBN: 978-1-3115-9110-4

Major topics included in this book are :

• Why “UX: Simplified”?
o The Diverse Disciplines: The ABCs of UX
o User Experience(UX)
o Information Architecture(IA)
o Interaction Design (IxD)
o User Interface Design (UI)
• Usability and Mental Models: Foundations of UX
o What is Usability?
o System Models
o What is a “Mental Model” exactly?
o Most-likely Mental Model
o Conceptual Model
o Challenges in Usability Measurement and Metrics
o A List of Factors for Generic and Consolidated Usability Model
o Heuristics:Measuring Usability
• Engineering and Design Processes: Usability and User Centric Approach
o Usability Engineering
o User-Centered Systems Design (UCSD)
o Usability Design
o User-Centered Design (UCD)
o Don’t get Confused: UCD vs UCSD
o UCD Models and Process
• Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC): Where and How User Experience Models fit in?
o Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC)
o Waterfall model
o Spiral model
o Iterative Development Model
o Agile development
o Challenges in UX Integration to Different SDLC Models
o Usability Designing Process
o How Usability Design Process Fits in Different Phases of SDLC?
o How UX Fits in Different Models of SDLC?
o Challenges with Agile model of SDLC to implement UX
o Lean UX and Agile Model
• Agile in Usability Design:Without Reference to SDLC
o Usability Designing Process
• Lean UX: Another Agile UX?
o The Beauty of Lean UX: Everything is familiar
o Foundation Stones of Lean UX:
o Lean Startup method: The concept of “Build-Measure-Learn”
o Minimum Viable Product (MVP) – Prototyping at it’s best in Lean Startup Method
o Principles of Lean UX

  • File Size: 1435 KB
  • Print Length: 86 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00LPQ22O0

 

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Lean UX : Another Agile UX?

Agile is the most popular and successful SDLC model as of today as it allows better scope in providing continuous and iterative refinement to the product. Historically when developers out of their frustrations with waterfall model turned to the growing Agile Movement to regain their control over the process, they found that “like its ancestors, Agile also didn’t take UX into account. Several of the Agile methods, such as Scrum and XP, recommended users sitting with the team during the development process, but that isn’t the same as design. Everyone who figured out how to get what they wanted from plugging UX into a phased waterfall approach was now struggling to work inside the Agile methods. The Agile principles, that focus more on communication and less on contracts, didn’t fit the status quo UX processes”.So efforts were made again to implement UX into Agile methods just like the way it was implemented into waterfall model . But it was not easy as , in waterfall model there are 2 things which helped implemented UX :

 

  1. The objectives of the project stays same from kickoff to the point where the finished product is launched.
  2. The designers created the set of design specifications as a contract which the developers had to implement into the final product.

 

And above two cannot be expected from Agile model as it is based on iterations and gradual exploration of what is best fit for the final product . On ejust simply cannot predict the final design from the start of the project. So many attempts were made to get the best agile SDLC practices that can incorporate the UX , before “Lean UX” was born.

 

As the above figure shows the documentation and guidelines are stripped to their bare minimum components, providing the minimum amount of information necessary to get started on implementation. Also Long detailed design cycles are discarded in favor of very short, iterative, low-fidelity cycles, with feedback coming from all members of the implementation team early and often.

 

 

Challenges with Agile model of SDLC to implement UX

There are several challenges in implementing UX in Agile model effectively and these challenges include:

  • Different approaches. Usability methodologies are centered on the user and holistic view of the user needs whereas agile methodologies take a broader view and focus on the stakeholder. Agile methods primarily focus on delivering working software early.

  • Different goals: Software engineers focus on the technical design, implementation the system where as UX practitioners focus on “developing systems so end-users can use them effectively”.
  • Organizational challenges: The agile methodologies focus on strategy where teams are self-organizing whereas UX focuses on a centralized UX groups within some organizations so that the needed practices, tools, and standards can be provided.
  • UX practitioners struggle to be heard: Many UX practitioners often complain that the results of their work are not considered in the design decisions and even if it is heard, there seems to be focus more on engineering decisions over the usability decisions.

Lean UX and Agile Model

 

Many of UX practitioners see “Lean UX” as the answers to the challenge we see in implementing UX into an Agile SDLC where it uses “taking the best parts of our current UX practices and redesigning them specifically for use in an agile world”. Lean UX, is about reducing waste in a process by removing it from the value chain of the usability process..

The proactive measures for border engagement in Agile model has paved path to a new and more practical implementation of UX discipline and methods called “Lean UX” Lean UX once blended with any exiting Agile SDLC, helps to “create a more productive team and a more collaborative process” .

 

The basic principles Lean UX uses to provide positive refinements to SDLC are through the following 3 foundation stones for it:

 

  1. Design Thinking:This foundation upholds the concept that “every aspect of a business can be approached with design methods” and gives “designers permission and precedent to work beyond their typical boundaries”.

  2. Agile Software Development: Core values of Agile are the key to Lean UX.
  3. Lean Startup method:Lean Startup uses a feedback loop called “build-measure-learn” to minimize project risk and gets teams building quickly and learning quickly

 

Lean UX and UX in Agile SDLC

 

“Lean UX” is seen as the answers to the challenge we see in implementing UX into an Agile SDLC. As discussed in the earlier chapters, Lean UX principles use “taking the best parts of our current UX practices and redesigning them specifically for use in an agile world”.

Lean UX solved many issues were even there with the practices and usability process used in waterfall and different derivative iterative models. In Lean UX practices, there is no more requirements for the “objectives will stay the same and that you can design for a single solution throughout the project”. Also there no more need for the designers to create bulky guidelines and documentations for the developers to be used as a contract. Rather the Lean UX practice upholding agile approach, only focuses on each independent design iteration as a “hypothesis” which has to be validated from a “customer perspective” and from a “business perspective” . The beauty here is because of the Agile process being followed, fast iterations can happen to quickly test hypotheses and get to a great design in the end of the project.

In context of a real world situation the Lean UX is something like:

“The traditional paper work is discarded, while the focus is turned to making sketches of the idea. Then the sketch is presented and discussed with the team. The initial prototype effort is very small comparing to detailed documents, so it’s easy to make changes. After it’s agreed internally, rough prototype is made and tested with users. The learning from users help refine the idea and iteration starts over again”

And this makes case for “collaboration with the entire team” as it becomes critical to the success of the product and the whole project.

 

The Beauty of Lean UX: Everything is familiar

No practice used in Lean UX is something new. Rather it is “built from well-understood UX practices”. Many of the techniques used over the time in various UX process and have the practical usability even today, have been packaged properly in Lean UX.

 

Lean UX is not Same as Agile UX

Lean UX is a totally different term than Agile UX.Lean UX details methods and their practical application in dynamic environment of a Lean StartupIt is the converging point for product development and business, through constant measurement and so called “learning loops” (build – measure – learn).

Agile UX defines update of Agile Software Methodology with UX Design methods. It aims to unify developers and designers in the Agile process of product development.

However Lean UX uses Agile UX methodologies, tools to coordinate their software development.

Foundation Stones of Lean UX:

The key ingredients of Lean UX which act as foundation stones for it are:

 

  1. Design Thinking:
    This foundation upholds the concept that “every aspect of a business can be approached with design methods” and gives “designers permission and precedent to work beyond their typical boundaries”.

  2. Agile Software Development
    Core values of Agile are the key to Lean UX. It forces on 4 major principles of Agile development to product design:
    • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools: This principle louds the concept of exchange of ideas freely and frequently in a team. “The constraints of current processes and production tools are eschewed in favor of conversation with colleagues”

    • Working Software over Documentation:This focuses on bringing out solution quickly so that it can be “accessed for market and viability”.
    • Customer Collaboration over Contract Negotiation:Collaboration with teammates and customers builds consensus behind decisions which results in faster iterations and lessens heavy documentations.
    • Responding to change over following a plan: “The assumption in Lean UX is that the initial product designs will be wrong, so the goal should be to find out what’s wrong with them as soon as possible” and this helps in finding the right direction quickly.
  3. Lean Startup method: 
    Lean Startup uses a feedback loop called “build-measure-learn” to minimize project risk and gets teams building quickly and learning quickly. Typically startups are “free to build products in a manner which differentiate on quality”. Also startups can focus on “intrinsic value and usefulness of the product, rather than on a long list of mostly irrelevant features”. Startups have a distinguishable feature of reducing long product cycles into smaller, shorter chunks and validating these iterations with people that will use the products, actually opens the gate for important information needed to avoid expensive development cycles that come withsome kind of risk. ”The secret sauce of lean startup people is that they advocate for user experience research and design as one of the primary solutions to their business problems, and they do it using plain language”.

 

 

Lean Startup method: The concept of “Build-Measure-Learn”

The fundamental activity of a startup is to “turn ideas into products” at the first step. Next it has the aim to measure how customers respond and then to learn whether to pivot or persevere. So basically a startup’s success depends on this feedback loop. To be successful a startup has to accelerate that feedback loop. The feedback loop being employed here includes three primary activities: build the product, measure data and learn new ideas.

However the Lean Startup method employed in Lean UX , is slightly different – it’s basically about “Think-Make-Check”. The difference lies in the fact that in latter case the “feedback loop incorporates your own thoughts as a designer, not just ideas learned through measurement”.

 

Minimum Viable Product (MVP) – Prototyping at it’s best in Lean Startup Method

Minimum viable product is a version of the product that enables a full turn of the Build-Measure-Learn loop with a minimum amount of effort and the least amount of development time. The MVP is, in fact, an early prototype that serves as a tool to learn and test the team’s assumptions.

 

 

Lean UX is where prototyping is best promoted, focusing the prototype on major components of the experience. Once created, it will be immediately testable by any and all users to start the feedback loop. In most of the case the fidelity of the prototype is not a road block, rather the only mission is to get a quick prototype that can be tested quickly. However where the need for better visualization has priority, the best practices and tools are used to develop high fidelity prototypes in shortest time possible.

 

Principles of Lean UX

There are some guiding principles behind Lean UX which can be used to make sure the methodologies used in a Lean process is on track.

 

  1. Cross-Functional Teams: Specialists from various disciplines come together to form a cross functional team to create the product. Such a team typically consists of Software engineering, product management, interaction design, visual design, content strategy, marketing, and quality assurance (QA).

  2. Small, Dedicated, Collocated: Keep your teams small—no more than 10 total core people as keeping small team has the benefit of small teams comes down to three words: communication,focus, and camaraderie. It is easier to manage smaller team as keeping track of status report , change management and learning.
  3. Progress = Outcomes, Not Output: The focus should be on business goals which are typically are the “outcomes”, rather than the output product/system or service.
  4. Problem-Focused Teams:“A problem-focused team is one that has been assigned a business problem to solve, as opposed to a set of features to implement”.
  5. Removing Waste: This is one of the key ingredients of Lean UX which is focused on “removal of anything that doesn’t lead to the ultimate goal” so that the team resource can be utilized properly.
  6. Small Batch Size: Lean UX focuses on “notion to keep inventory low and quality high”.
  7. Continuous Discovery: “Regular customer conversations provide frequent opportunities for validating new product ideas”
  8. GOOB: The New User-Centricity: GOOB stands for “getting out of the building” — meeting-room debates about user needs won’t be settled conclusively within your office. Instead, the answers lie out in the marketplace, outside of your building.
  9. Shared Understanding: The more a team collectively understands what it’s doing and why, the less it has to depend on secondhand reports and detailed documents to continue its work.
  10. Anti-Pattern: Rock-stars, Gurus, and Ninjas:Team cohesion breaks down when you add individuals with large egos who are determined to stand out and be stars. So more efforts should on team collaboration.
  11. Externalizing Your Work:“Externalizing gets ideas out of teammates’ heads and on to the wall, allowing everyone to see where the team stands”.
  12. Making over Analysis: “There is more value in creating the first version of an idea than spending half a day debating its merits in a conference room”.
  13. Learning over Growth: “Lean UX favors a focus on learning first and scaling second”.
  14. Permission to Fail: “Lean UX teams need to experiment with ideas. Most of these ideas will fail.The team must be safe to fail if they are to be successful”.
  15. Getting Out of the Deliverables Business: “The team’s focus should be on learning which features have the biggest impact on the their customers. The artifacts the team uses to gain that knowledge are irrelevant.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

(c)2013-14, Samir Dash

waterfallmodel_UXphases

How UX Fits in Different Models of SDLC?

In my last post “Challenges in UX integration with different SDLC models” we explored about the challenges of fitting UX into different SDLC models. I would like to extend that discussion in the current post.

 

he pre-agile era saw many attempts of UX getting fitted into the waterfall and it’s derivative models of SDLCs. Such attempts by the many developers were natural outcome of the post-projects disasters, where ‘design’ was never the personality of “software product engineering” and the lack of usability doomed the products even after the initial set of requirements check list was fulfilled.

More demands for Graphic User Interfaces (GUI) in software application (due to GUI’s power to offer better visibility and power to the end users) tempted the developers to follow emerging UX practices which included a task to add “design phase” to existing SDLCs. Waterfall model was good enough to accommodate a notion of design in its phases and become popular despite its limitations (which later pave paths for Agile era). Most of the design approaches and techniques created during this era were having mostly a goal “to eliminate any deviation during the development process, by telling the developers exactly what we expect of them”.

Let’s see how different models of SDLC accommodated UX differently in the following:

 

Waterfall model

In this process the developers follow the different phases described in the previous section in order.


 

 

 

UCD components in Waterfall model:

Historically the waterfall model of SDLC can use the UCD components in its engineering process and the product to translate the “set of requirements into something beautiful”. It is relatively simpler and easy to spot the to spot the areas within different phases where UX can be easily fits in as each phases are clearly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this model once one phase is finished, it proceeds to the next one. Reviews may occur before moving to the next phase which allows for the possibility of changes. Reviews may also be employed to ensure that the phase is indeed complete; the phase completion criteria are often referred to as a “gate” that the project must pass through to move to the next phase. Waterfall discourages revisiting and revising any prior phase once it’s complete.

 

Spiral model:

In this model deliberate iterative risk analysis, particularly suited to large-scale complex systems happens at a predefined frequency. It emphasizes risk analysis, and thereby requires customers to accept this analysis and act on it. So the developers typically spend more to fix the issues and are therefore often used for large-scale internal software development.

The Spiral is visualized as a process passing through some number of iterations, with the four quadrant diagram representative of the following activities:

  1. Formulate plans to: identify software targets, implement the program, clarify the project development restrictions
  2. Risk analysis: an analytical assessment of selected programs, to consider how to identify and eliminate risk
  3. Implementation of the project: the implementation of software development and verification

 

 

 

Because of frequent risk analysis and more effort spent by the developer to analyze the risks accurately, the cost factor goes up in the project.

 

UCD components in Spiral model:

In Spiral model, the UCD design can work across different quadrants of activities. The first quadrant where the objectives are determined, the usability and user research can happen as this is where requirements are planned. In the second quadrant the activities involving risk identification can best use UX activities involving IA and prototyping. The third quadrant of development and testing can utilize consultation and usability testing. The final fourth quadrant of activities can be used for feasibility evaluation and setting up usability metrics and bench marking for the next release.

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Iterative development model

This method helps to develop a system through repeated cycles and in smaller chunks at a time, allowing software developers to take advantage of what was learned during development of earlier parts or versions of the system.

Incremental development divides the system functionality into increments (portions). In each increment, a portion of functionality is delivered through cross-discipline work, from the requirements to the deployment. The unified process groups increments/iterations into phases: inception, elaboration, construction, and transition. It identifies scope, functional and non-functional requirements and risks at a high level which can be estimated. 

Applying this model to multidisciplinary complex project with large volume can come with a risk as inability in the developers part to uncover important issues early before problems can spoil the project.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UCD components in Iterative development model

In this model each iteration cycle can be divided into different activities phases to incorporate UCD methodologies for UX integration. Each iteration activities block that are mostly split across concept, design, build and test phases can be used for different UCD activities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Agile development

This is perhaps today’s the most widely used SDLC model. It uses iterative development as a basis ,but uses people-centric viewpoint through user feedbacks rather than planning as the primary control mechanism. The feedback is driven by regular tests and releases of the evolving software.

There are many variations of agile processes “:

  1. Agile Data (AD)
  2. Agile Microsoft Solutions Framework (MSF)
  3. Agile Modeling (AM)
  4. Agile Unified Process (AUP)
  5. Dynamic System Development Method (DSDM)
  6. Extreme Programming (XP)
  7. Feature Driven Development (FDD)
  8. Scrum
  9. Usage-Centered Design (UCD)

 

 

UCD components in Agile development

This is the most popular and successful SDLC model as of today as it allows better scope in providing continuous and iterative refinement to the product.

 

Historically when developers out of their frustrations with waterfall model turned to the growing Agile Movement to regain their control over the process, they found that “like its ancestors, Agile also didn’t take UX into account. Several of the Agile methods, such as Scrum and XP, recommended users sitting with the team during the development process, but that isn’t the same as design. Everyone who figured out how to get what they wanted from plugging UX into a phased waterfall approach was now struggling to work inside the Agile methods. The Agile principles, that focus more on communication and less on contracts, didn’t fit the status quo UX processes”. So efforts were made again to implement UX into Agile methods just like the way it was implemented into waterfall model . But it was not easy as , in waterfall model there are 2 things which helped implemented UX :

 

  1. The objectives of the project stays same from kickoff to the point where the finished product is launched.
  2. The designers created the set of design specifications as a contract which the developers had to implement into the final product.

 

And above two cannot be expected from Agile model as it is based on iterations and gradual exploration of what is best fit for the final product . On ejust simply cannot predict the final design from the start of the project. So many attempts were made to get the best agile SDLC practices that can incorporate the UX , before “Lean UX” was born.

 

As the above figure shows the documentation and guidelines are stripped to their bare minimum components, providing the minimum amount of information necessary to get started on implementation. Also Long detailed design cycles are discarded in favor of very short, iterative, low-fidelity cycles, with feedback coming from all members of the implementation team early and often.

(c) 2013-14, Samir Dash

ux-process-vs-sdlciterative

Challenges in UX integration with different SDLC models

There are several challenges in integrating UX design and related activities into a typical agile software development life cycle process. The most common problem is typically “ finding a balance between up-front interaction design and integrating interaction design with iterative coding with the aim of delivering working software instead of early design concepts”. This happens mostly because typical pure SDLC approaches primarily aim at “efficient coding tactics together with project management and team organization instead of usability engineering”.As Agile is more “a way of thinking about creating software products’ rather than being a specific process or methodology hints at the challenges of UX integration into it as  integrating user research and UX design with agile, is itself an “agile antipattern”.The very idea of SDLC being a process for developing software , traditionally never kept the “user” into a focus, or event kept any scope for methedologies that try to bring any component that is not considered as native ingredient of the process of creating a software product. The focus was always the “cost, scope, and schedule” that drive any traditional SDLC models including Agile. And sure enough this typically gives rise to the challenges for UX integration into any SDLC as project managers never try to upset the balance of these three by reducing costs, tightening deadlines, and adding features in the specification.

However even though there are many challenges in integrating UX design with agile practices, some researchers see “agile software development practices” as enablers for bringing UX design closer to software engineering and enhancing interaction between these two disciplines.

In Current State of Agile User-Centered Design: A Survey. HCI and Usability for e-Inclusion. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, (by Hussain, Z., Slany, W., and Holzinger, 2009), a survey of the integration of usability and UCD practices with agile methods reported that “the majority of the respondents found that usability and user-centered design practices had brought added value through improvements in the usability and quality of the end product. Development teams often report that they are better able to respond to the needs of the customer with agile methods, and their measured or perceived productivity has been reported to be better than development teams using traditional methods”.

 

Agile development

This is perhaps today’s the most widely used SDLC model. It uses iterative development as a basis ,but uses people-centric viewpoint through user feedbacks rather than planning as the primary control mechanism. The feedback is driven by regular tests and releases of the evolving software.

 

 Fig. 1

 

There are many variations of agile processes “:

  1. Agile Data (AD)
  2. Agile Microsoft Solutions Framework (MSF)
  3. Agile Modeling (AM)
  4. Agile Unified Process (AUP)
  5. Dynamic System Development Method (DSDM)
  6. Extreme Programming (XP)
  7. Feature Driven Development (FDD)
  8. Scrum
  9. Usage-Centered Design (UCD)

 

 

Challenges with Agile model of SDLC to implement UX

There are several challenges in implementing UX in Agile model effectively and these challenges include:

  • Different approaches. Usability methodologies are centered on the user and holistic view of the user needs whereas agile methodologies take a broader view and focus on the stakeholder. Agile methods primarily focus on delivering working software early. 
  • Different goals: Software engineers focus on the technical design, implementation the system where as UX practitioners focus on “developing systems so end-users can use them effectively”.
  • Organizational challenges: The agile methodologies focus on strategy where teams are self-organizing whereas UX focuses on a centralized UX groups within some organizations so that the needed practices, tools, and standards can be provided.
  • UX practitioners struggle to be heard: Many UX practitioners often complain that the results of their work are not considered in the design decisions and even if it is heard, there seems to be focus more on engineering decisions over the usability decisions.

Usability Designing Process

While exploring through available scopes in different SDLC models, we can notice a set of common activities which can be combined together to form a generic Usability Designing Process. Basically there are four phases of the whole set of activities which can be tagged separately as follows:

 

1. Plan: This phase involves the following major activities:

  • i. Developing a Plan
  • ii. Assembling a project team
  • iii. Kicking of the project

2. Analyze: This can have the following activities:

  • i. Evaluation of scope
  • ii. Evaluation of existing product (if enhancements are planned)
  • iii. User Research
  • iv. Task Analysis
  • v. Persona Development
  • vi. Scenarios evaluation and prescription
  • vii. Define measurable goals

3. Design: This is phase where some out puts related to the actual product are generated:

  • i. Product/ Site requirement analysis
  • ii. Conducting a content inventory
  • iii. Performing card sorting
  • iv. Information Architecture (IA) formation
  • v. Writing for web
  • vi. Parallel design
  • vii. Wire framing and prototyping
  • viii. Usability Consultations to programming team

4. Test and refinement: This is a phase that can be applied to multiple phases of SDLC as it is mostly about usability testing :

  • i. Usability Testing
  • ii. Heuristic Evaluations
  • iii. Implementation and retest

 

Note that the above phases are not the phases we discussed regarding different SDLC processes. Rather these are the phases that can paired with different phases of SDLC processes depending on the SDLC model used. Typically Usability Designing Process is led by the “usability designer” with the team of field study specialists, user research specialists, usability evaluation specialists, prototype developers, interface designers and graphic designers along with other specialists from related disciplines that varies from project to project.

 

How Usability Design Process Fits in Different Phases of SDLC?

The different blocks of usability design process can be mapped to different process blocks of any SDLC model. The following diagram shows a generic model for typical process blocks for the typical iterative SDLC model.

 

 Fig: 2

 One thing to keep in mind is that process is not a complete product development process as it does not out put the final product at the end of the process cycle. Rather Usability process supplements to any software development life cycle at various stages.

Plan or Ideationand Requirement Analysis Phase: In this phase while the technical feasibility is being evaluated, UCD contributors can assist product management by conducting user research with people in the target market to evaluate target user goals, tasks, and workflow. Requirement analysis phase is also aided by the UCD experts in careful review of the gathered data and preparing metrics that can be used in the development phase.

Design Phase: UCD contributors who are skilled at interaction design, visual design, and information design create mockups or prototypes of portions of the system, and contributors who are trained in usability evaluation assess the designs by subjecting them to usability testing.

Build or Development Phase: UCD contributors are usually called upon in a consultative or interpretive role, meeting with the developers responsible for actual implementation of the product, and providing guidance for underspecified areas of the product. In this phase the UCD contributor’s role is to remain the consistent user advocate throughout the project. When negotiations must happen during design and development of a feature, the UCD contributor reminds the team of the design persona (the “design target”, or user group at which the feature is aimed), helps the product manager identify and weigh the risks of leaving off certain areas of functionality, etc.

Integration and Testing/ Verification Phase:UCD experts help in benchmarking usability tests popularly known as “summative evaluations” that evaluates performance of the system /product developed on several grounds. The metrics of this test is typically based on the “error rate for users as they use the system”, the “time it takes to attain proficiency performing a task”, and the “time it takes to perform a task once proficiency has been attained”.

 

 

(c)2013-14, Samir Dash