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Highlights from UX STRAT 2016

May 8, 2017

At UX STRAT USA 2016, the main conference took place on September 15 and 16, at the Providence Biltmore, in Providence, Rhode Island. UX STRAT was a very useful, enjoyable, well-curated conference.

The depth and breadth of the programming at this year’s conference was impressive, covering a wide range of business strategy, UX strategy, customer experience, product design, and service design topics. There were so many fantastic speakers and topics that I had a hard time choosing just a few favorites to highlight in my review. I have chosen to review the three talks that really stood out for me and had relevant meaning for my work.

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Experience Design in Business: An Evolution

Presenter: Leah Buley

Leah Buley, consultant and author of The User Experience Team of One, who is shown in Figure 1, began her talk by describing the current landscape of the business world. In the US, most people own smart devices—70% own smartphones; 51%, tablets; and 14%, wearables. They spend an inordinate amount of time consuming digital media—10 hours a day, with 25% of that time on mobile. “Consumer spending on digital media has surpassed spending on traditional media,” said Leah. However, only half of consumers are satisfied with business’s mobile experiences. Consumers expect more, better, and faster.

Figure 1—Leah Buley
Leah Buley

There is pressure on companies to keep pace. Technology is transforming organizations. A collision of disruptive trends is fueling this transformation, as shown in Figure 2. There is great interest in the trends that are most likely to impact experience design, maximize profits, and minimize costs.

Figure 2—Disruptive trends
Disruptive trends

Companies need new roles, but there is a “talent drought” that is making it challenging for companies to support this changing landscape. There is confusion about how the roles of Customer Experience (CX), User Experience (UX), and Service Design align. Figure 3 defines these roles.

Figure 3—Definitions
Definitions
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Leah wanted to discover “more about the relationship between CX and UX,” whether there are meaningful differences between these roles, and whether these differences help or hinder. Figure 4 summarizes what she learned. Leah found that, while Customer Experience, User Experience, and Service Design may appear to be different disciplines, they all see the world through the eyes of the customer. Leah observed that interest in the fields of Customer Experience and User Experience is increasing, but Service Design is not maintaining the same momentum in the business world.

Figure 4—Leah’s learnings
Leah's learnings

In learning about the relationship between Customer Experience and User Experience, Leah found that organizations expect and empower these two disciplines to do different things. Even though Customer Experience and User Experience increasingly use the same methods, the fragmentation of Customer Experience and User Experience results in fragmented experiences.

“What are the differences between Customer Experience and User Experience?” asked Leah. “How are they important?” Let’s look at what she discovered.

Differences Between Customer Experience and User Experience

CX professionals have backgrounds in and use techniques from operations and quantitative analysis and often have MBAs. They speak about Net Promoter Score (NPS). They often reside in Marketing or a separate Customer Experience function.

UX professionals have backgrounds in and use techniques from design, human-computer interaction, cognitive psychology, and anthropology. They speak in terms of insights. They often reside in Product, Technology, or a separate Design organization.

An understanding of quantitative customer data such as KPIs informs CX strategy. In contrast, “UX strategy sets a humanistic vision of what the experience should be.” CX professionals and UX professionals have different responsibilities, as Figure 5 shows.

Figure 5—Responsibilities of CX and UX professionals
Responsibilities of CX and UX professionals

False Distinctions Between Customer Experience and User Experience

There is potential for lack of coordination and, therefore, organizations often make false distinctions between Customer Experience and User Experience, as follows:

  • False Distinction #1: CX and UX set different strategies. Companies believe Customer Experience and User Experience employ different strategies, as shown in Figure 6, as well as different types of communications, impeding the organization’s ability to move quickly. However, Leah thinks this is a false distinction because, as Mike Bracken of UK Government Digital Services has said, “The strategy is the delivery.” Leah used Sephora an example to prove this point. Sephora has gone beyond merely responding to the Voice of the Customer. They’ve identified and eliminated painpoints in the customer journey. Sephora also does a good job of mixing the physical and the digital worlds. At Sephora, there is no separation between Customer Experience and User Experience.
  • False Distinction #2: CX and UX seek different insights. Companies expect Customer Experience to focus on market segments, buyers, Voice of the Customer (VOC), and journeys; while User Experience focuses on personas, users, ethnography, and tasks. In some organizations, their insights may be completely siloed. Digitally enhanced experiences do not make such distinctions. Leah showed another example from WeWork, where their efficient use of data and user feedback has enabled them to digitally enhance the experience of physical spaces, buildings, systems, and cities, as shown in Figure 7.
  • False Distinction #3: CX and UX measure different things. Companies ask Customer Experience to measure NPS, conduct surveys, and rely on quantitative data, while they ask User Experience to measure usability and user behaviors and rely on qualitative data. Some even perceive User Experience as being anti-quantitative. For example, Facebook asks: “What problem are we trying to solve for people? How do we know this is a real problem? How will we know if we’re successful?” As shown in Figure 8, this is backed by data, so they’re not addressing a problem that they have fabricated internally. Leah quoted Julie Zhuo of Facebook:

“Metrics and User Experience are not locked in an eternal struggle against each other. Make sure you don’t say things that imply that they are.”—Julie Zhuo

Figure 6—Different types of strategy
Different types of strategy
Figure 7—A digitally enhanced experience of physical spaces
A digitally enhanced experience of physical spaces
Figure 8—Applying measures
Applying measures

What This Means for You

Leah concluded her talk by providing a summary of her recommendations, shown in Figure 9.

Figure 9—Six recommendations
Six recommendations

Leah asked the audience to focus not on distinctions between Customer Experience and User Experience, but instead on design for a digital world. “We must rethink research and data sources to build upon existing strategies, not to re-do strategies,” advised Leah.

Leah put together the beautiful presentation shown in Figure 10.

Figure 10—Leah’s slide deck on SlideShare

Q & A

Someone in the audience asked Leah, “What should I do if Customer Experience and User Experience were very separate in my organization, and we’re not supported at the CEO level or at the managerial level?” Leah suggested fostering a partnership mentality and using soft skills to try to bridge Customer Experience and User Experience.

Using Design Experiments to Kickstart Strategy

Presenter: Ha Phan

Ha Phan, Principal UX Designer at GoPro Software and Services, is shown in Figure 11. She presented a case study about how her R&D team built and evangelized design experiments to make storytelling the focus for GoPro software. Ha told us about how she built a startup within the GoPro organization and how they became more consumer centric.

Figure 11—Ha Phan
Ha Phan

Ha began her talk by describing the value of the go Pro camera: “You buy a GoPro to share stories. Every camera has the promise of storytelling.” The problem was that of “over capture.” Users tended to live in the moment. They wanted to “set and forget,” not spend forever curating, as illustrated in Figure 12.

Figure 12—Living in the moment versus curating
Living in the moment versus curating

Ha shared a real-life example. She knows that it typically takes hours to create a one-minute video. “Editing is hard and time consuming. The landscape of video editing is fraught with controls and a steep learning curve,” acknowledged Ha. “The black box of good storytelling: You know it when you see it, but you can’t deconstruct it. You don’t know how to get there.” Her challenge was to create a five-minute, video-editing tool that keeps the focus on storytelling. Ha asked, “How might we enable users to create an emotional story and make storytelling quick, easy, and fun?”

Figure 13 represents a product experience’s underlying foundation. “Every product has to have a foundation—core principles supported by insights,” said Ha.

Figure 13—A product’s foundation
A product's foundation

Ha asked, “What tradeoffs are users willing to make in a given context?” She wondered, “Would users be willing to give up control for a quicker experience?” Ha hypothesized that users needed to get away from using a timeline to laboriously sync video to music. What they needed was to have important moments automatically sync to emotional moments in the music.

Ha and her team came up with what they call an experiment cycle, during which they conduct many types of research, including qualitative behavioral research and A/B testing, as shown in Figure 14. To validate hypotheses, they test behaviors, not solutions, to understand users’ motivations and mental models.

Figure 14—Experiment cycle
Experiment cycle

They “prototype to learn and evangelize to align.” After analyzing the results, they presented them to the organization in the form of a synthesis roadshow that they made as compelling as possible.

Ha structured design experiments to allow her team to reach “good enough” in the least amount of time. She shared three key experiments: trim versus highlight, linear timeline versus smart storyboard, and music discovery. In one experiment, they intentionally left user-interface elements vague to get users to talk about that part of the design. These design experiments built off each other, so the first experiment ensured a budget for subsequent experiments.

The outcome of her experiments:

  • “We have a point of view.”
  • “We know what we don’t know.”
  • We demonstrated “critical micro-interactions.”
  • We identified opportunities for investment.
  • We derived “guiding principles for experience and strategy.”
  • We evangelized “design thinking and process.”

As Figure 15 shows, they had learned about the elements of a good story.

Figure 15—Elements of a good story
Elements of a good story

In conclusion, Ha described the core principles that derived from her experiments:

  • moment focused—Moments, not time, are the building blocks of story / memory. Have a highlight focus rather than tweaking and syncing time.
  • lightweight—Simple. Get to “good enough” with a few controls.
  • magical—“Minimal time investment with delightful returns.”
  • empowering—“Makes the users feel like they’re better than they are. Builds them into better storytellers.”

Figure 16 shows Ha’s complete presentation.

Figure 16—Ha’s slides on SlideShare

Experience Design as Competitive Advantage

Presenter: Jim Kalbach

Jim Kalbach, Head of Customer Success at MURAL and author of Designing Web Navigation and Mapping Experiences, who is shown in Figure 17, began with a quotation from Steve Jobs.

“You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology—not the other way around.”—Steve Jobs

Figure 17—Jim Kalbach
Jim Kalbach

Jim introduced a bit of business history through a series of pithy quotations from business leaders like that shown in Figure 18, from Salesforce CEO, Mark Benioff. Industry began with customers and their needs, but in the 1960s there began to be an obsession with maximizing profits above everything else. However, “Business is not a math problem.”

Figure 18—A Mark Benioff quotation
A Mark Benioff quotation

Jim’s presentation comprised three key points.

1. “We are witnessing a shift in business thinking: from how to create shareholder value to how to create shared value.

This business shift toward creating shared value does not imply philanthropy; nor is it corporate responsibility. It means “pursuing profit in a beneficial way” and solving social problems. Shared value is not just doing good, it’s doing business. We can think of shared value as a “new competitive advantage.”

Jim quoted Michael Porter, who said, “Figure out what your product is and what your value chain is. Understand where those things touch important social needs and problems.”

As Figure 19 shows, this takes us beyond the typical customer journey.

Figure 19—Beyond the customer journey
Beyond the customer journey

2. “Business is not (only) a math problem. We need to create real human and social value, from the outside in, not inside out.”

Jim considered the questions: “What is a market? What market are you really in?”

3. “Leverage your skills to help overcome strategy myopia and create shared value by seeing markets through the lens of experience.”

Jim noted many parallels between business strategy and UX strategy. Both focus on what is important to users. At its core, shared value is understanding human experience. Shared value reimagines value from the consumer perspective. Jim stated, “You need to understand how humans act in order to do good business.”

Key Takeaways

The three main takeaways from Jim’s talk:

  • Help businesses shift perspective.
  • Focus on experience for shared value.
  • Challenge your market definition.

Figure 20 shows Jim’s full presentation. 

Figure 20—Jim’s presentation on SlideShare
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Independent UX Consultant

Information Architecture Instructor at Vancouver Film School

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Krispian EmertKrispian has over 10 years’ experience, working at all stages of the User Experience process—from strategy and conception through production and implementation. She has worked at award-winning agencies and for some of the world’s top brands, including Microsoft, Thompson Reuters, ING, and Toyota. Keen to improve the discipline of User Experience, Krispian is the Information Architecture Instructor at VFS and speaks about UX Strategy at conferences, universities, and within Vancouver’s UX community.  Read More

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