In a recent leadership podcast, one comment stood out:
“A great leader doesn’t just fix what’s broken”*
I love that quote and it made me wonder how it applies to user experience. Think about it…how often a user experience stalls because all design time is spent designing fixes to customer problems within the bounds of the current product rather than keeping focused on the overall user experience mission?
A seemingly common pattern in designing a great user experience is to have a grand vision…a mission statement…for a product’s user experience, work feverishly to make its first release as good as it can be, and ship it. However, as soon as the first release is out, customers request to fix pain points or add tweaks to improve what was shipped. Naturally, we want our customers happy so we focus our next releases on solving those pain points.
While reacting to customer feedback is important, how we react could make the difference from a ‘decent’ user experience to a ‘killer’ user experience.
If we are not careful, we can quickly narrow our design focus on how to solve the problem to be only within the bounds of our current product’s capabilities or infrastructure. We forget our user experience mission (or maybe just let it fade?) and as a result the user experience fades as well.
While patching a current UX may solve a customer’s current problem, I wonder if it actually reduces that customer’s overall satisfaction? If we keep accommodating repair requests, we may never have the chance to surprise and delight that customer with the killer UX envisioned in the original mission.
For me, creating a UX mission statement for each product is essential. That mission statement, along with our target personas, drive everything. When we do get customer requests, I find it useful to look at the request through the lens of that mission to see if it should be repaired directly, or if we can surprise and delight them by producing something much better that moves us closer to the overall vision.
What do you think? What other ways can we apply “Don’t just fix what’s broken” to keep improving our user experience?
* From Andy Stanley’s Leadership podcast
This post provokes questions (hey! it worked!):
– What did Andy say about what great leadership *is*? What it’s not leaves a great deal open to interpretation. I hope he wasn’t implying that a great leader just doesn’t fix stuff at all. Does the great leader also go about breaking things? (They do, of course, but that’s another topic that requires some rich food and a good wine!)
– I like the *idea* that a product UX mission statement is useful, because targets are also useful. Personas, well, I’m not sure about these, but that could take a few beers or something (water would do these days). Product views for UX are useful but the implementation of them gets pared down. From my current perspective, UX should be driven from Support… which is where you find out how things play out in an existing kluge of things, what happens when stuff breaks and that breakage affects said kluge.
You touched on a key aspect: “…work feverishly to make it… as good as it can be and ship it…” Schedule wins.
Along the lines of language and how it affects design: what’s up with “killer UX”? I know you didn’t coin the term, but what does it mean? Nailing the design point? Shooting the user? (OK, being silly, but that hooks into “targets” rather nicely. Hmm..and it would solve the negative user feedback angle as well. AND, it might even play well with not fixing things. Full circle.)
This response is making me hungry and thirsty for some reason. Food, wine, beer… geez…I sound like I need help. Or a killer app.
Good read, dude
Awesome thoughts, Neale.
Yep, Andy talked a ton about what a great leader is and does, but one of the pitfalls he says was to *only* focus on fixing things rather than growing, creating, and changing.
Personas: I agree it’s a loaded term. We do find value in that even broaching the subject forces all stakeholders to understand even remotely the kinds of humans we want to focus on.
Funny you should comment about ‘killer’…here’s a paragraph from a future article I’m writing on that exact topic!
“For years I struggled with succinctly defining and communicating, “What is a Great User Experience”? I like using “Killer User Experience”, and of course the first problem was responding to, “Killer. That’s not a very corporate-friendly term…seems kind of violent…are you one of those millennials that views the world through metal music and immersive online games!?!”. My 44-year-old brain would quickly respond with, “Actually, my favorite definition of ‘killer’ is, ‘A formidable or excellent person or thing’”. That’s why I use killer user experience…I want our products to be formidable and excellent…not just compared to our competitor’s products, but also in how the product holds up to our technical user’s creative manipulation to make sure their data centers thrive.”
I was kidding about “killer” really, which you know but it’s interesting you have a post on it. It must have come up frequently. And nothing wrong with MMOGs. A lot of good leadership stuff can come out of those environments, in my experience.
Where I was headed with the serious bits in my earlier comment was this: Getting a fresh start on UX is pretty rare. You’re more likely faced with an existing glop to figure out how to add value (notice I didn’t say “fix”) or faced with an acquired which might have a philosophically divergent approach to UX and you need to wrench it to a different way of thinking. What happens in both depends on three things: buy-in, $$ and schedule (not necessarily in that order). And the big variable is the YAT (yet another technology) factor where something *shiny* shows up to switch to midstream. Ideally, UX should be technology independent, but well, you know.
All of this you know in spades. And yeah, we want things to be formidable and excellent (although I’d settle for merely excellent). There was something else I was going to ramble on about but I’ve lost it now.
You bring up a great point about YAT, Neale. The wheels of change in the corporate environment can move slower than the changes in technology. I have been working on a single technology replacement project for the last 21 months…doing the initial research on ballpark replacement technology and costs, requesting funding, writing the RFP, viewing vendor demos, whittling down the field of vendors, requesting a change in funding (less capital and more expense…they come from different buckets of money)…only to have a whole new list of vendors who keep cropping up with newer, viable technology. That’s where Greg’s concept of a mission statement is good for keeping focus. The new technology offers additional features that are different than normal scope-creep where I usually find the clients wanting to pile additional features onto the initial project. I think the features that a YAT adds are usually pushed for by the owner of the technology who recognizes the value for the end users of the new features.