Ready, Set, Go: How to win the User Experience race

We trust that by now you are firmly convinced of the value of putting humans into the centre of organisational transformations. And why do we make such an assumption? Because you’ve probably read a myriad of articles proclaiming that by focusing on Customer Experience (CX) and Employee Experience (EX) you improve both your top and bottom lines.

At this point, you are almost 100 percent sure that your clients will be delighted to provide you with feedback and, what’s more, they might be willing to find time in their busy agendas to meet with you and co-create together the desired product. At the same time, your employees will be even more engaged with your company when included in the design process. However, let’s be honest, to be convinced – it’s not enough.

Roll up your sleeves and get to work

Now the time has come to roll up your sleeves and get started by materialising the great value of human centricity in organisational transformations. To do that, you need to be ready to dive into an experimental and innovative way of working with Design Thinking methodology.

Here enters the User Experience (UX) role, which is crucial for creating satisfying and compelling experiences for people. But before we get into that, do you know what the role entails, and why various UX profiles are needed?

This blog article tells a story about how User Experience can help you improve the daily life of people — customers, employees, clients — by building new products or improving existing services which address human needs and pain points.

Inside the (great) minds of the User Experience team

The User Experience team at PwC’s Advisory department consists of five UXers, more concretely UX Researchers — who are passionate about conducting research with clients, their customers and employees, to understand their current situation and run ideation workshops, and UX Designers — who like to get their hands dirty with Figma and Adobe XD to build clickable prototypes of websites and apps, test them with users and accompany the digital products until the launch.

Both profiles work together and take advantage of individual super powers for the different stages of projects. In fact, UX Research and UX Design is like a relay race, neither a UX Designer nor a UX Researcher can complete the race (aka project) alone; each possesses their own skills and experiences needed to master their legs of the race.

We are all seeking the great experiences

Your customers, very likely, don’t inherently care about the individual components and inner workings of your product (such as, for example a skateboard); they seek the feeling of excitement, the sensation of speed, the way to move around or to belong to a cool group. In other words, they seek the experience.

What customers really want skate
Source: The designers at Intercom (intercom.com) use this illustration to show what is and isn’t important to their customers.

More and more departments, teams and individuals (not only UXers) at PwC Luxembourg are applying the open source methodology Design Thinking. In fact, design thinking is a mindset that aims to improve people’s circumstances through their experiences. This methodology can be divided into five steps: Research, Analysis, Ideation, Prototyping & Testing, Development of a roadmap & implementation.

Design thinking methodology

In the next paragraphs, we elaborate on each step of the methodology to guide you through the complete process of building new products or services with a user in mind.

How to perform the relay race and reach the finish line
Research

Design thinking researchGetting back to the analogy of the relay race, at the starting line is the UX Researcher who initiates the human-centric approach for the project. During the first metres of the race, she practises empathy to understand the context of the users, their current situation, pain points or unmet needs by creating a safe space to talk and share information. Various methods such as interviews, observations or service safaris* are used to collect the most important insights, often unexpected, surprising or shocking.

*Service safari is a research tool that helps UX Designers get interesting insights by experiencing a service in first person, meaning, acting as users of a product or a service.

Analysis

Design thinking analysisNext, the UX Researcher extracts from the data what is crucial to the users and how they think about the world. The goal of the following metres of the race is to craft actionable problem statements and define a challenge. For instance, “how might we improve the skating experience of our humans?”. The UX Researcher focuses on analysing the friction points of the current experience journey and always keeps the person’s needs in mind.

Ideation

Design thinking ideationAs the race continues, the UX Designer’s adrenaline is pumping up because he will soon take over the baton from the UX Researcher. They come together in the exchange zone for a fleeting moment (not so fleet in the real world though) to take advantage of the collective intelligence. They invite key stakeholders, customers, employees — or a combination of them — to address the burning issues in a workshop setting. The secret is to create a safe space for sharing thoughts and to initiate exercises that encourage divergent thinking to generate ideas for solving people’s problems.

Prototyping

Design thinking prototypingNow the UX Designer is taking over the second leg in full swing. Ideation provided both the fuel and the source material for building prototypes and getting innovative solutions into the hands of users. To maintain the pace of the race, the UX Designer must use tools that allow him to structure the information the UX Researcher collected.

There are several software tools to choose from, such as Figma, Adobe XD, Sketch, Balsamiq or Invision, to make wireframes, which means to place the elements of the new interface in line with the best practices to enable the user to experience the product or a service in an intuitive and easy way.

Think of it this way: the batons used in a relay race can have different appearances, colours, sizes or compositions. All these different possible characteristics are assembled together so that the runner can test them and choose the baton that offers the best grip (and the best experience).

Testing

Design thinking testingIn the third stretch, these early prototypes are revealed to the world. This is done as soon as possible to avoid a costly development before getting the concept nicely matching the target person’s needs.

User tests allow the UX Designer and UX Researcher to check whether the reflections and the information collected and analysed are correct. Following the results of the user tests, there could be two main outcomes: either there are only a few modifications to be made or the flows need to be redesigned entirely.

To go on with our metaphor, we can compare this situation to one of our runners dropping the famous and invaluable baton to the ground. He loses time, energy and, very likely, also some self-confidence. It’s at this precise moment that the runner must put himself together and gather the motivation to remain agile.

Wait! Did we say agile?

Yes! The agile methodology is often used by businesses referring to the IT field. To sum it up, we could say that doing and undoing is always working. To be agile, you have to accept that nothing is set in stone and that constantly questioning your work allows you to evolve, move forward and produce a better product.

The UX team collaborates with departments such as developers, who code digital products based on the wireframes, and business analysts, who have a sharp knowledge of the business modelling. These different people challenge the UX work throughout the process. That’s when the UXers will have to show agility.

Development of a roadmap and implementation

Design thinking Testing - 1We’re soon approaching the finish line, but it’s not over yet. The change management team— now takes the baton and continues the last leg of the race . S/he’s going to conclude the race when s/he releases the solution according to the roadmap to make sure the adoption is secured and the solution is well accepted by the target audience.

But don’t forget: every individual leg of a race is a team effort. The team is successful only if all members are harmonised, communicate well and work together towards the same goal, which is a great user experience (or winning the race).

What we think
Veronika Ondrikova
Veronika Ondrikova, Senior UX Designer at PwC Luxembourg

The value of human (in some cases animal, climate or environmental) centricity is immense. This profound paradigm shift from pure business to people centricity is, however, not getting into conflict with the company’s financial goals. By focusing on the human needs, we design, develop and release products and services that are desirable, technically feasible; products that generate excitement, build trust and loyalty towards brands, consequently resulting in better business performance.

Charlotte Toussaint
Charlotte Toussaint, UX Designer at PwC Luxembourg

Bringing a UX approach to projects changes their conception and design. Thinking about the user, as proposed by the UX vision, allows an approach that is human-centred and therefore closer to their needs. Isn’t that the goal when designing a project? To satisfy the end user as much as possible?
In my opinion, surrounding yourself with UX Researchers and Designers within your projects does not allow you to optimise its durability, but rather to guarantee it.

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