What Did You Do with My Cheese?
Within the gaming industry, Blizzard is particularly well known for its impeccable user experiences. They hire the best designers and are always looking for top-notch UX professionals to join their team. Blizzard also has a rule: Games don’t get shipped until they’re perfect in every way. This means zero UX annoyances—otherwise known as cheese. What is cheese? Here’s a rule of thumb: if you’re arguing about whether something is a bug or a feature, it’s cheese! Blizzard doesn’t allow cheese. They continuously strive to perfect their games until there’s no cheese left. Even if this means missing an important release date—even a Christmas release date. Don’t you wish all companies were like that?
But if, as at my company, daPulse, you’re working in an agile environment, you’re not shipping complete and perfect products. Far from it. More likely, you’re working with a team that swears by continuous deployment and is always releasing. In today’s world of software development, with agile methodologies and the latest Web-development technologies, releasing features at a fast pace is easy. In fact, at daPulse, we release software several times a day. But let’s face it, there’s always a good chance of some software cheese creeping in.
One problem with doing such frequent releases is that the cheese accumulates—and soon enough, you have a product that’s full of UX annoyances. Another problem is that R&D works on releases relentlessly, and it seems impossible to persuade companies to attend to the cheese. For the owner of User Experience in such a company, this can be very frustrating and stand in the way of getting your job done.
How to Implement Blizzard’s UX Perfection in an Agile Environment
Since my passion for founding and leading startups stems from my love of developing great products, I wanted to be able to eat my cake and have it whole, too. I wanted both to be agile and to create excellent user experiences. But like in most companies, it was always hard for me to prioritize taking care of the cheese—until I came up with a solution inspired by Blizzard. We call it Cheese Day.
As the name suggests, Cheese Day is a whole day when our entire R&D team puts everything else aside and storms the accumulated heaps of cheese until it’s all gone. Cheese Day is the yellow brick road leading to perfect user experiences. It’s also a great way to manage an R&D team. Note that Cheese Day is not about fixing bugs. Bugs get killed on the spot. Cheese Day is for all of those things that, while not bugs, are annoying to your users. These are the things that stand in the way of delivering amazing user experiences.
But if you’re not in charge of your company’s R&D team, how can you persuade whoever is in charge to put everything on hold and dedicate an entire day to user experience? Especially when you can’t even seem to get them to give user experience an hour or two?