UX Designers HQ: UX Hackathon

Have you ever woken up in the morning and wondered “Did that actually happen or was I dreaming?” That was my exact thought as I groggily arose from my warm bed recently, unsure of whether or not I had attended a game-changing event in the world of UX. It wasn’t until I scrolled through the abundance of notifications on my iPhone with the tag #CFUXHACKATHON attached that I realised not only had the event actually happened, right here in central London, but also that I was not alone in my feeling of fulfilment.

Many members of the digital community have often walked away from an event that has a UX focus to it, still with so many questions left unanswered. UX is such a complex discipline, it is hard to keep up or even retain the information being spoken on stage by the UX thought leader of the moment. The digital community in the UK has long awaited an event where they can leave and go to bed knowing more, understanding more and being more than they were when they woke up that morning. As the hope was slowly beginning to drift away, along came the meetup group UX Designers HQ: London. The organisers (Career Foundry) promised an intense, knowledge filled six hours of UX-iness, in the form of a UX Hackathon, which is believed to be the first held in London of its kind and scale. Was this the event that the community had been looking for? We all waited in anticipation for the date of the six hour UX Hackathon to be announced; Wednesday 25th February 2015 at 6pm.

6pm mid week? Haven’t we all go work in the morning?

Despite the fact that it was on a work night 100+ members from the digital community arrived, representing some of the biggest technology companies globally and of all abilities, knowledge and experience in UX.

The Career Foundry team had asked me and six other UX professionals to mentor the twelve teams during the hackathon based on our experience practicing UX in specialist areas related to the briefs that the teams would be working from. The seven of us also formed the expert judging panel, where we provided critique and scored the final presentations from our UX Hackers.

Mentors/Judges:

  • Jay Tulloch – UX Designer at Sopra Steria
  • Yael Levey – Senior UX Designer at the BBC
  • Sandra Sears – UX Designer for TalkTalk
  • Andy Iosifescu – Freelance Interaction Designer
  • Neil Sampson – Professional UX Designer
  • Paola Miani – Senior User Experience Consultant at IG
  • James Walters – UX Lead at Open Inclusion

The night flowed extremely smoothly with the teams getting acquainted and well and truly stuck into the tasks at hand.

The Hackathon consisted of five stages:

  1. User research and prep
  2. User testing 1: User Interviews
  3. Divide, coordinate & conquer: value proposition, user flows and information architecture
  4. User testing 2: paper prototyping
  5. Iteration & pitch

As a mentor, it was my job to add value to teams and help direct them through their design brief, providing them with the in-depth UX knowledge and methodology required for them to really understand the needs and goals of their ideal target users. I soon found myself being called to different tables to provide my insight and expertise. This was great! It meant that the information that I was sharing not only made sense but was indeed valued. By the end of the night, all of the twelve teams had confidently presented their final designs to us judges and there was uproar of applause from the audience for everyone involved.

The feedback from the attendees both directly and on-line has been incredible: thanking Sopra Steria for sharing our expert knowledge and experience in the UX field with them, which they found invaluable during the tasks. Participants and Mentors alike displayed a keen interest in the great work that we are all doing in digital transformation at Sopra Steria. The organisers have been praised in huge amounts for the event, and they are planning a full three day UX Hackathon in nine months time for over 300 participants! This is another event which could provide Sopra Steria with the opportunity to further increase our influence as thought leaders, as we continue to make our own transition from the New European Leader to the New Global Leader in Digital Transformation.

Read on, for a timetable of events

STAGE ONE: USER RESEARCH

Competitor Analysis

Teams researched three competitors who shared the same goals as the teams business concept. It was important for the teams to understand their competitors in order to begin to form a picture of their target users. I asked the teams to think about:

  • Who are their competitors communicating to?
  • How are their competitors communicating?
  • Why are their competitors communicating in this way?
  • What is their competitors message?
  • Is there a story behind their business?
  • Do their competitors values match theirs?
User Personas

After identifying three of their closest competitors, the teams were asked to create a single persona which described their ideal target user of their product or service. It was important for the teams not to be distracted by the look, age and name of their persona. They needed to look deeper into who the person actually was and think to about:

  • What are their interests?
  • Who do they socialise with?
  • Where do they socialise?
  • What are the motivations for using their product/service?
  • Goals, what does their persona want to be or do?
  • Is this why they are using the product/service?
Card Sorting

Card sorting was a fun exercise that really brought the team together. They rolled up their sleeves and got stuck into this task and were asked to maintain focus on their vision for the product. Once they grouped their ideas into categories they carefully prioritised features, ideas and pages that were must haves for the MVP of their product/service.

STAGE TWO: USER INTERVIEWS

The teams went out into the big wide world (the table next door) to find representatives of their target audience, and ask them questions based on the teams assumptions of how their users would interact with the product or service. The task was very insightful and the teams soon realised that the answers that they received were not those that were first expected.

STAGE THREE: BRANDING, USER FLOWS AND IA

A huge task which required the teams to be very organised. Based on the data obtained from the user interview stage the teams went about creating the optimum user journey through their proposed product. From this, they could then begin to develop the information architecture and place in the features and ideas that they had prioritised for the MVP. When constructing the IA, I discussed with the teams the importance of how information is delivered to the user through content (labelling, hierarchy, tagging, grouping), which allowed them to question some of their own decisions and assumptions, and provided a starting point for the next round of user testing.

STAGE FOUR: USER TESTING w/PAPER PROTOTYPES

Another fun task, however, one of the most valuable. The teams tested the paper prototypes of their proposed user journeys and interactions with users from other teams. None of the teams got the design right first time, and that was ok because they gained invaluable insight into how their users actually will use their products and what their expectations really are.

STAGE FIVE: ITERATION AND PITCH

They now had the opportunity to refine their design before the final presentation, it was critical to the success of their product that they utilised the helpful feedback obtained from the user testing stage. The data received from the testing would help them to direct their iterations towards the needs of their ideal target users.

Once they were satisfied that their final design was a perfect fit for the needs of their user the teams began to organise how they would pitch their vision to the audience and more importantly the judges.

All twelve teams pitched extremely well and delivered the goals from the brief. Some of the pitches were long, some were short, some were fun…and some were not so much. At the end of the night, there was not a single person without a smile, and there was a brief moment where everyone could see the satisfaction in the faces of their team mates. The whole room congratulated one another and it was clear to see that the night was one we’d all never forget.

FEEDBACK

Apologies in advance for the “cringe factor” of the following images. Although I feel strongly that this feedback is important for us to know and it does not only reflect the work that I did on the night, it is also reflective of the awesomeness of us as a UX and Innovation team at Sopra Steria and the work that we have all done over the last two years building our Digital Practice from the ground up to get us into spaces such as this one.

Why 2015 is the right time to invest in digital transformation

Through all the hype, buzz and noise around “digital” there are some compelling reasons why organisations should be investing proactively in this area in 2015 to strategically grow their business.

Preparation for an uncertain, disruptive future
Mass market access to digital technology combined with new entrants aggressively disrupting traditional service delivery models means implementation of strategy is increasingly becoming tactical and variable. Digital transformation helps an organisation achieve competitive advantage by integrating business and IT strategy processes together to deliver a shared definition of what “good looks like” for different organisational stakeholders (including customers) in this dynamic environment. Previous approaches where such bottom line objectives were probably separate and often divergent are now unsustainable.

It “forces” an organisation to address difficult pain points in its existing operating model
Successful digital transformation should deliver an optimised operating model that enables a consistent, personalised user experience across different on-line and off-line channels.  For many organisations it is likely there are underlying complex business and technical issues that need to be addressed for this transformation to succeed (poor data quality, ageing IT infrastructure and inflexible, unaligned working practices being typical examples). Dealing proactively with these strategic problems now mitigates future risks of an organisation narrowly focusing on user experience improvements to drive profitability because its structural issues have become too costly, too difficult to resolve.

It’s a buyers’ market right now for innovative digital transformation service
Many consultancies, system integrators, outsourcers, design agencies and start-ups are today passionately trying to sell their own digital transformation services. This is a great opportunity for organisations to lever these market conditions (i.e. “shop around”) to find the right solutions that deliver maximum tangible benefits specifically tailored for them.

If you would like more information about the issues discussed in this post, or how digital transformation can benefit your business, please leave a reply below, or contact the Sopra Steria digital practice

Service design should create a positive and cohesive experience

At Sopra Steria we create digital experiences that people choose to use. Service design is thinking about a holistic experience, engaging with the user at various different touch points and ensuring it’s not just seamless but meaningful too.

Understanding the changing market environment, analysing customer behaviour and how the customer will use and experience different services, we can gather insight that enables our digital teams to develop effective and innovative ways to engage with the customer. Our innovative thinking is nimble and we want to make sure our customers get the best competitive advantage when it comes to creating and building solutions.

Technology can provide the tools at every touch point, providing lean customer centric experiences. Such tech services can range from mobile and tablet devices that allow the user to interact with a service without the need for staff, or wearable tech that can personalise data and content just as they enter a certain location. Whatever the tech solution, understanding how and why the customer will use the service in context will ensure that the service connects on a visceral level.

Intrinsically motivating the customer creates loyalty and trust to a service or brand. Bringing the data and the tech together means that we can deliver a service that is enjoyable for the customer. So when we want to be innovative with our thinking and quickly respond to market trends, the customer trusts us and sees value in the service we are providing.

This is why I believe it’s not just about the product or the great piece of tech, it’s about the process. Whether the business goal is to save operational costs, support customer retention or enable staff to solve problems more effectively, the end result is simple – to create a positive and cohesive experience for the customer and the employee.

How do we even begin to ensure the process is right? Collaboration…

Have you got your digital transformation strategy defined?

Digital transformation strategy is about enabling enterprise and embracing digital disruptions to evolve new digital business models.

In the digital business ecosystem, there are technovators (technology innovators) who research and innovate disruptive technologies, and there are biznovators (business innovators) who evolve new digital business models. Biznovators leverage technology disruptions such as drone-based delivery or aerial photography and video surveillance, use 3D printers to enable customers to order tailor-made products to their liking or health scientists to print 3D vertebra for corrective spine surgery in humans.

These new digital business models leverage the Nexus of Forces, help enterprises achieve competitive advantage and are recognised as the leaders in technology-led business innovations. For new digital business models to succeed, the DNA of the enterprise needs to change to be able to support the flux of operations triggered by the mix of traditional business models and new digital business models.

Take the case of Amazon and Dominos who might use drones to deliver supplies to customers. While this does not replace the existing delivery model that has been their core business model, the new digital business model opens upa new market segment and an expanded customer base. To achieve the desired business velocity, organisations would have to adopt a bimodal strategy where they continue to support the core business model with existing IT, whilst they evolve lean and agile operations leveraging digital disruptions to enable and support new digital business models.

This bimodal strategy applies to enterprises that want to take on the digital transformation roadmap including the IT service providers who play a major role in helping enterprises with their digital transformation. As IT service providers continue to support enterprises to manage and maintain their existing business models and operations, they will have to develop a parallel IT ecosystem consisting of the young turk technocrats and digital strategists to help customers’ CMOs and CIOs adapt and adopt disruptive technologies to evolve new digital business models leveraging the Nexus of Forces.

The bimodal strategy should only be a tactical approach for the near-term with the long-term objective being convergence of the existing operations and IT with the new lean and agile IT. This will help enterprises to streamline their bottom line with unified operations that are capable of supporting the coexistence of both business models to continuously improve and expand the top line.

To get started, enterprises need to assess where they rank in the digital maturity model and think about their digital business growth.

Digital 2030: user controlled contextualisation?

Contextualisation – the art of successfully blending positioning, relationship and emotional data together to deliver a unique, personalised user experience across all channels – is expected to be a key differentiator for many companies in 2015. But what might contextualisation be like for users in 2030?

In 2030 I don’t have a smartphone – miniaturisation means all information I need (and control) is transmitted straight into my digital contact lenses (the ultimate wearable?) and micro headphones implanted in my ears.  My own personal drone provides me digital connections around the world including a secure continuous link to my cloud AI – my guide, advisor and friend throughout any customer journey.

In 2030 I shape my physical environment using augmented AND virtual reality together – if I want to make a call I use my virtual phone; likewise I can project any content I want on to any surface and share it with friends and other people in any size or resolution. The physical and data worlds are combined and I am completely in control using my cloud AI to make my life as simple as possible and protect me from real or cyber threats.

In 2030 I use contextualisation to add layers on to my customer experience – when I go shopping my cloud AI has already scanned all relevant data sources (including my own mood and friends’ social feeds) to tell me what’s hot or not in my specific location. I can also heat-map previous visits on to the physical space to see what has interested me and my friends before. If the shop doesn’t have what I want I can create a virtual prototype of the product right in front of the retail staff (with help from my AI) to help them visualise and fulfil my needs.  And of course, I don’t take any goods home with me: paid-for digital assets are stored on my cloud AI and created at home instantly on my own 3D printer.

My entire customer experience is powered by location, transactional and social data that I apply in ANY space to create my personalised, unique experience – ‘user controlled contextualisation’.

So what could this digital dream mean for business?

Marketing serves (rather than influences) individual users – to be successful, marketing differentiates itself in terms of the services it can provide users to enable them to tell their own contextualised data powered stories

Retail Spaces could be located anywhere (physical or virtual) – staff will be fully mobilised to move to areas of high user demand as required or could be outsourced anywhere in the world

A complete re-focusing of the supply chain – suppliers will have to radically re-organise their value chain and operating model to enable individuals to manufacture their products on personal demand

Software as a service is king – products and services are developed, marketed and sold primarily as soft digital assets all driven by software/SOA that can adapt instantly to any platform of the individual user’s choosing

Telecommunications become cyber security service providers  – because individuals are managing their own personal data communications across networks they are at constant risk of direct attack. Consequently, telco companies are continually, and fiercely, innovating their security capabilities (including drone services) to protect users

Pure fantasy? Let me know what you think…

What’s the difference between Customer Experience (CX) and User Experience (UX)?

Let’s first define the two…

Customer Experience

The experience the customer will have across all touch points (online and offline), covering the relationship between the customer and the brand, from sales to operations, phone call to online interaction.

User Experience

UX focuses on the touch points with a digital interface, each a subset of the brand. UX encompasses how the digital experience makes a user feel and how usable that experience is throughout the entire process, before during and after.

Collaboration of UX and CX

Depending on what the customer or business requires, the work of the CX and UX person will overlap. In order to achieve a seamless experience the UX designer must first understand how the user will interact with the various touch points by gathering research, design and development material and aligning it to the customer journey map.

The result

Collaborating together on the customer journey we can create experiences that enable contextually aware data to be gathered, understand the goal of the customer, what the user wants to achieve and ensure they enjoy a seamless experience from start to finish, whether they are online or offline.

So what do we call this holistic experience? Service design.

International Hookup

It turns out there is an international effort to turn Sopra Steria into a user driven powerhouse, not just a technology driven one.

During this call we were organised and led by Eli, Head of UX and design at Sopra Steria Norway, who took us through some case studies and live projects while detailing the methods and challenges involved during each project. As we now know with Norway, regulations were put in place last year to heighten the level at which usability and accessibility should be developed for any public facing material. This has led to refined design patterns which the team in Norway now use as best practice, some examples include:

norway site

NYE Metoder

ehelse

Helsedirektoratet

The team there have worked extensively with local government and the public sector, just like we have. Designing for these kinds of clients can be challenging because of regulations and guidelines such as GDS, so having knowledge of their current state and best practices in place for the team is vital.

One of the ‘best practices’ that I saw from the Norway team was an online style guide created in HTML & CSS which meant that, within any project, the development team could access this site, ‘Inspect element’ and re-use the standardised library of elements, object, styles and fonts. A great bit of housekeeping that would prove valuable in any situation.

We gained some more input from Italy by Max Ramaciotti who is Chief digital officer for the company in that locale. He took us through some of the challenges that they have faced, which are much the same no matter where you practice, and he was talking about how “digital design is still quite young in Italy”. We can relate to this in the way that, yes the country knows about it and people are understanding of the main concepts, but companies still aren’t tuned in enough to really understand the true impact and advantage of well thought out strategy in that area.

General trends such as Agile development and responsive design are apparent within all teams in our sister countries, a hunger for defining and refining approaches and resources for these areas is obvious.

I don’t know if it should be obvious or a real surprise that the condition of things is quite similar across the whole of Europe.

This conference call was conducted on ‘gottomeeting’, my first time using it and providing you understand what the ‘mute’ button is for, it was great to link people in for chat, webcam and audio. The call was quickly planned by Eli in Norway just to make contact with the other resources in the company, this can be frequent call however and there is already ambition to keep it going. I think we could gain a lot out of it if we make it once or twice a month and include the whole team, maybe taking shifts per call etc. It could be our version of the ‘Agile coaching call’ which I know no-one here is really interested in because of the topic, I’m sure a UX version would be far more intriguing.

I’ll keep you guys posted with updates and any further developments for this activity.

PS If this really takes off and evolves, I want to be in meetings all day everyday!.. Meeting Wearables