User Experience Design (UX): Promoting Usability by Making the Complex Feel Simple

Reader Takeaways:

User Experience Design, commonly referred to as UX, is the process of designing intuitive systems built around the user’s needs. By simplifying the user experience of the operator, the system will allow for more efficient sales to drive increases in revenue.

  • By implementing solid UX strategies, enterprises can empathize with their users to find and solve their frustrations, creating a system that allows for intuitive usability.
  • UX has the goal is to build a system so intuitive to the user that training for use would be unnecessary.
  • By collecting feedback data on the pain points from both users and management, UX can easily incorporate both the user’s needs and the company goals.
  • Using initial customer data, stakeholder interviews, and business goals, UX can grow a product in phases, giving enterprises greater accountability while promoting growth.

 

Understanding how customer needs converge with business goals can carry substantial weight in the process of designing effective retail client platforms. User experience design, commonly referred to as UX, is the process that works to build eCommerce platforms intuitive processes in mind by using data to create a user experience that makes the complex feel simple.

 

By solving for complexity, UX design utilizes intuitive task performance to drive increases in revenue. Replacing less efficient operations with UX design allows introspective simplicity, giving enterprises greater accountability while promoting businesses’ growth. An easy to use eCommerce platform will allow for more efficient sales to drive increases in revenue.

 

Leveraging Empathy to Solve for Inefficiency

In terms of design, user experience is based on empathy. By implementing solid UX design strategies, enterprises can effectively improve how they are engaging with customers, driving their behavior toward revenue growth. User experience research is essentially feeling customers’ pain through feedback. By listening to your customers and finding pain points, you can evaluate how the business goals can converge with the needs of the user. If the user is easily able to complete retail purchases, your revenue increases instantly.

 

When creating a user experience analysis for a national retail chain, it is helpful to begin by gathering data from users through surveys, forums, and competitive analysis. The goals include learning the whole process by going to stores, speaking to associates and managers, and finding how the associates use their tools rather than trusting the way they should be used. In researching for the UX best practices empathize with users to guide the design process.

 

Bridging the Gap Between Job and Tool

After reviewing the user’s needs, a UX team will incorporate the enterprise goals for the design into their analysis. By evaluating everything the enterprise needs in the platform and leveraging all of the data that had been collected, the goal is to build a system so intuitive to the associated user that training for use would be unnecessary.

 

By incorporating both the user’s need to have an intuitive experience and the company goals of creating a high-performance application, UX teams can work to bridge the gap between management and users. While blending complicated internal reporting with the efficiency of maximum intuition, the UX design team can create a prototype built around the user experience with the goals of the company in mind.

 

Building the Future With Phases of Feedback

Using initial customer data, stakeholder interviews, and business goals, the best practice in UX design requires building the product in phases. Once an initial prototype is built, the system can utilize further user experience testing to quickly modify. With user feedback, the user experience team creates the modifications, ensuring many versions of the final product with a focus on maximum user benefit.

 

In the case of the national retail chain, PeakActivity used this type of user experience design research to move an outdated paper-based system into a user-centered prototype for a national retail chain. The prototype has been a great success in pilot stores, promoting positive user experiences and driving sales with increased efficiency.

 

While elevating the user experience, UX design can convert inefficient processes into revenue-building task performance. The UX design mindset works to better connect customer intentions and business growth through forward-thinking progression. Investing in UX is the next step in balancing goals with design. Don’t make assumptions about what your customers want; invest in UX to deliver balanced usability with proven results.

Break Through: Implement a 3-Step Methodology to Accelerate Innovation

Reader Takeaways:

  • Real innovation is difficult and often painstakingly slow or nonexistent in many enterprises.
  • Processes that allow teams to incrementally achieve success with clear communication through documentation will help innovation establish a toehold in your organization.
  • Implement a methodology that enables teams to understand and adapt design thinking processes to encourage accelerated innovation with reduced investment.
  • Simplify your innovation methodology into three steps: research & document your current state, visualize your future and develop a clear roadmap for execution.

Building a strategy for real innovation is a daunting task that leaves many companies stuck in the middle between saving cost and implementing technology solutions or process improvements. We at PeakActivity have been experimenting with different techniques that support the simplify and speed up the innovation process. Through our experimentation, we have established a methodology that governs the innovation we bring to our customers, and we’ve decided to share our learnings here. Our methodology has been applied in many different environments, industries, and company growth stages, with the intent of breaking the logjam that holds back real enterprise growth. We firmly believe that enterprises that intelligently accelerate such initiatives will be poised to win in the new business world.

Your methodology at its core should adapt and extend design thinking principles. Design thinking principles have successfully taught teams and individuals to think creatively, an important step in the process of innovation. Read more about design thinking from Google here.

We have distilled the myriad of design thinking “thinking” into a 3-step methodology for applied innovation. The three major steps of the process are:

  • Research & Document Your Current State
  • Map Your Future
  • Develop a Clear Strategy for Execution

Research & Document Your Current State

The first phase begins with an observation of the current environment of the business and its customers. Observing the competitive landscape with an innovation point of view allows for a deep review of the current processes, technology, and identifies any underlying issues. While conducting the current state research for a company, you find & identify key pain points for internal stakeholders & end customers. You may also find major challenges that are limiting your innovation delivery that is not easily remediated. Some areas that such great challenges exist are typically in areas such as data modeling, IT systems & security, or human resource processes. The current state research phase provides documentation of historical actions and pain points that have previously held innovation back. The deliverables at this phase allow for a wide review of how the company is operating from multiple points of views, giving innovation a strong foundation.

Visualize Your Future

Visualization of an innovative future is established through the process of reviewing, defining, and strategizing business choices. Bringing in external thought leaders to work with internal teams can significantly help accelerate this phase of the process. In this phase, it’s important to enable teams to focus on spending time reviewing the current state research, then coming up with ideas, prototypes, and ultimately hypotheses that will help the enterprise invent the future from their point of view. Once a future vision is created, teams must then take time to validate their thoughts to ensure stakeholders, customers, and business needs will be met. Visualizing your future eventually should engage multiple teams and stakeholders, all with the intent of creating transparent communication and common understanding.

Develop a Clear Roadmap for Execution

Armed with the knowledge of their current state and a visualization of their future, your team members can now create an innovation strategy roadmaps supported by budgets, resource allocation, and projected financial benefits. The process combines identifying stakeholders, their must-have features, and the key benefits to your business benefits. In addition, you will want to incorporate the resolution of any major operational issues that might prevent your initiatives from succeeding. Once you have established a clear roadmap, it’s time to lead your teams to deliver a small project establishing a framework for success.

This 3-step method focuses heavily on delivering strong business growth through managed digital service delivery. With deep expertise in strategic digital transformation, innovation, and technology delivery, it is easy to support enterprises in the innovation process. With the 3-step strategy at hand, your company can easily build a culture that fosters innovation, creating real enterprise growth

Social Commerce: Boosting eCommerce Revenue by Leveraging the Power of Social Media

With the gap between social media marketing and eCommerce rapidly narrowing, combining marketing and technology has become more important than ever to creating and maintaining visual brand awareness. Social Commerce allows targeted users and brand loyalists the opportunity to engage and purchase products as well as services within their existing social ecosystems. This creates an increase in brand loyalty while attracting new customers through targeted social media efforts. While social media used to be disconnected from direct sales, it is now a fully integrated sales attribution channel. eCommerce sites need to up their game in order to keep up with consumers on social platforms, integrating full omnichannel experiences to drive greater brand affinity and increases in sales.

Reaching New Customers

One great advantage of social commerce is it can reach a global audience, so the influence has no boundaries. Integrating a strategy of social commerce creates more than an opportunity for repeat sales, it drives customers’ trust in a brand or product. Finding new customers is simple when implementing the right strategy. Targeting potential customers who will be interested in a brand supported by real customer engagement builds great trust from new audiences. In the first few months of a targeted social media strategy, an apparel company saw an increase of more than 270% increase in Traffic Referrals. Targeting new customers on social media is one of the easiest ways to boost a marketing strategy.

Creating Brand Awareness

Social Commerce is one of the most rapidly growing commercial markets and can be a great way to showcase more than just products and features. Creating a brand culture and brand lifestyle makes a company more personable to current and potential customers. Social networks open the doors for two way communication between brands and customers. With the right strategy, PeakActivity increased the brand perception of a leading retail furniture chain driving traffic and sales by more than 50%. These continuous efforts to drive engagement through social commerce attract new customers while increasing brand loyalty. This loyalty drives repeat customers and increases the lifetime value of the customer.

Streamlining Customer Experience

Some social networks allow customers to buy directly from the platform. This means businesses can enhance customer experience with a frictionless and streamlined checkout process. This ultimately eliminates the need to fill out long forms and visit the company website to make a purchase. This type of social commerce makes it easier for customers to make purchases on the go and to compare products or consult their trusted network. This new type of eCommerce customer experience requires a specific marketing strategy related to social commerce. Once PeakActivity took over an apparel brand’s Facebook page, the last click attributed sales increased over 112% over the previous year.

Increasing Revenue

Integrating social commerce with existing channels is a proven strategy to increase sales, increase order value, increase repeat customers, and reach new customers. By creating a social commerce strategy on platforms that are already free, you can directly influence the purchase decisions of customers. By integrating a full social commerce strategy an apparel company saw an increase of time on site of over 156% and an increase in conversions by over 75%.

Social commerce is the future of eCommerce, and without it, businesses are losing out on the conversions from targeted social media demographics. Along with creating a cohesive story across all channels, PeakActivity consistently has been able to reach customers through social media and increase engagement for a wide range of clients including apparel, furniture, healthcare, and industrial businesses.

In order to keep up with consumers, any company planning on investing in eCommerce and social media must also ensure Social Commerce is added to the strategic plan as soon as possible.

The Size and Performance of Agile Teams

In discussions around Agile team sizes, conventional wisdom holds that teams should be made up of seven, plus or minus two people.

The Scrum Guide, developed by the co-creators of Scrum, Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber, actually advocates for a number between three and nine. Three people may seem absurdly small, but more than once, I’ve worked with high-producing scrum teams made up of exactly three people.

Here’s the guide’s take (page six, for those of you with your PDF’s handy):

Fewer than three Development Team members decrease interaction and results in smaller productivity gains. Smaller Development Teams may encounter skill constraints during the Sprint, causing the Development Team to be unable to deliver a potentially releasable Increment. Having more than nine members requires too much coordination. Large Development Teams generate too much complexity for an empirical process to manage.

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos advocates for what he calls “the two pizza rule,” which asserts, simply, that you should be able to feed your team with two pizzas. I was able to eat a whole pizza in college, which could have thrown things off, but the premise makes sense.

So where do these numbers come from? Many in the Agile community will refer to Miller’s “magic number,” although this is a misapplication of Miller’s term; and, it’s not really the concept he was trying to illustrate (and in Scrum, it’s not even the same range).

In Fred Brooks’ “The Mythical Man Month” (if you haven’t read it, go read it right now), Brooks writes:

If each part of the task must be separately coordinated with each other part, the effort increases as n(n–1)/2. Three workers require three times as much pairwise intercommunication as two; four require six times as much as two.

In Brooks’ math, where n is the number of persons on a team, a team of one (let’s call her Alice) only needs to communicate with herself. This is easy for any self-actualized person (though self-actualized persons may be, in and of themselves, a rarity).

Now let’s say Alice is on a team of three. Alice now has to communicate with two other people (Brian and Chris) who each have to communicate with two people (including Alice). You can map their communication by drawing a line from each person on the team to each other person on the team. Their communications network looks like this:

Team_of_3 (2)

Three people, three lines, three possible (and necessary) vectors of communication. Simple.

Ramp it up to five. Each person has to communicate with four other people. Their new communication network looks like this:Copy of Team_of_5

If you are counting, there are now ten possible communication channels in this team’s network.

Now let’s do 8. That’s 7 connections per person. Since connections go both ways, it’s 28 lines total.Copy of Copy of Team_of_8 (1)

What happens in a team of ten? Forty-five possible lines of communication in the team’s network. To quote The Scrum Guide again:

Having more than nine members requires too much coordination. Large Development Teams generate too much complexity for an empirical process to manage.

Often, I see organizations pushing for teams larger than this. Sometimes, it’s because they don’t have sufficient budget or human capital to scale their product ownership resources to accommodate more teams. (This causes problems that we’ll address in a later article.) Other times, management assumes that more people = more productivity (which seems reasonable, on its face). Other times, it’s an innocent matter of trying to make sure good people have good projects or teams to work on, whether those teams need more people or not.

In the mid 2000s, QSM published a study, oft-cited by members of the Agile community, which examines the effects of team size on schedule and productivity. In studying nearly 500 projects, their observations feel intuitive to anyone who’s ever worked on large projects. Yet the solutions to the problems they highlight still run counter to accepted wisdom in most organizations.

Firstly, the team found that productivity per person drops as team size grows, with a sharp drop after the team crosses into the 9- to 11-person range.

From Brooks’ math, we know that a 9-person team’s communication network is significantly more complex than an 8-person team’s network (36 channels of communication vs. 28). The 9-person team assumes almost 30% more communication overhead, simply by adding one person to its roster. This scales similarly in both directions.

Further, they found that projects with teams of 9 to 11 take nearly 2.5 times the effort, as measured in person-months, than project teams of 5 to 7 (167 vs. 69 person-months, respectively). Of course, much of that effort can be parallelized; so the projects, on average, take approximately 40% longer to deliver.

In all, they found that individuals worked most efficiently on teams of 3 to 5, but teams of 5 to 7 people were able to deliver projects slightly faster. Whether the faster delivery justifies the extra headcount is highly situational.

So why are smaller teams more effective?  In addition to the problems with communication overhead that arise in larger groups, we’ll take a look at the Ringelmann effect.

Ringelmann (1913) found that having group members work together on a task (e.g., pulling a rope) actually results in significantly less effort than when individual members are acting alone. Furthermore, Ringelmann discovered that as more and more people are added to a group, the group often becomes increasingly inefficient, ultimately violating the notion that group effort and team participation reliably leads to increased effort on behalf of the members.

Maximilien Ringelmann proved that, as teams grow, individual contribution shrinks, caused by lack of motivation and loss of coordination. One possible cause of coordination loss may be accounted for by network overhead, but on a task like rope pulling, there isn’t much to communicate. Agile methods try to fix the motivation problem by involving people in the reasoning behind their work, though this could be an article unto itself. We mitigate the loss of coordination simply by limiting the number of things we need to coordinate: tasks, user stories, and in particular, people.

On paper, the corroborating evidence in support of keeping teams small seems pretty overwhelming. Yet organizations who endeavor to design the structure of their Agile teams (which may be, in and of itself, problematic for self-organization), will frequently over-staff teams, and as project importance increases, so does the probability of making such a miscalculation and often the probability of failure.

Leaders, Teams, and Agilists alike should understand the cost and benefits of scale. But for anyone who’s ever seen a small team become hyperproductive, it’s not even a discussion worth having.

Agile for Executives: Using the daily standup meeting as a C-Suite tool

Recently, the Harvard Business Review did a featured set of articles on the practice of agile. Initially created as a better framework for building software, agile has begun finding its way into business functions — today you see it in use across marketing, operations, and even sales teams. Senior executives looking to improve communication amongst their leadership team, remove organizational silos, and increase their organization’s velocity, should strongly consider taking a look at agile processes.

One specific example of an agile tool that works well with senior leaders: the daily standup, also known as “the daily huddle.” The daily huddle gives busy senior executives a common time and place to discuss issues, challenges, and team activities. The ultimate goal is to identify blockers between organizations and find ways to quickly and effectively mitigate them.

How it works: A dedicated time is set on the calendar for 15 minutes per day for the leadership team to get together. Each team member makes every effort to attend at the time; the meeting is not rescheduled or moved if individuals can’t make it. In the busy world of executive travel, it is ok for team members to skip if needed. During the meeting, each team member answers 3 simple questions:

  • What are the highlights from your organization yesterday?
  • What is underway today?
  • What blockers are being raised that could be addressed?

Here are the 4 keys to making an executive huddle successful:

  • Educate, educate, educate: It may seem like a simple 15-minute meeting, however, the more you educate and coach the team on the goals and structure of the meeting, the better it will perform. If the CEO has an impression that the meeting is just time for them to provide a general update, the meeting will not be successful. Instead, educate the team on how to best run the daily huddle.
  • Commit to 15 minutes and stick to it: The meeting should be short and sweet. It should not seem like a chore or just another calendar meeting.
  • Use an independent and trained agile coach to implement the meeting: Don’t go it alone, executive time is too valuable. To get the maximum value out of the meeting, bring on an executive agile coach for a short period of time to get going.
  • Don’t make it a strategy meeting: The meeting is intended to help department heads serve as servant leaders and address issues that their teams may have. Strategy meetings should continue to remain separate.

 

Blogging 101: 5 Things Every New Blogger Should Know

So, you want to start writing a blog? Ok, great! What now?

Getting a blog going can be incredibly exciting. It’s a constructive way to express your thoughts and share them with anyone who wants to read them. It can also be a bit overwhelming, especially for bloggers who have never actually done it before. Here are 5 important things to keep in mind as you get started:

  1. Write the way you speak.

Keeping it conversational can help you connect better with your readers. When things are a little more loose and relaxed, your blog is an easier read, and it can also help break down some of your more specialized topics into ideas that everyone can digest.

  1. Find your niche.

It’s important to find blog topics that will resonate with your target audience. There are millions of blogs out there. The only way to stand out from the pack is to find something specific that you’re passionate about, and write about the most interesting aspects of that topic. You’re not going to be loved by everyone, but that’s not realistic. The main goal is to appeal to those folks who have an interest in what you’re writing about, and keep them coming back for more.

  1. Research, research, research.

It’s not just about the writing… reading is just as important. Even with a topic that’s in your wheelhouse, you still need cited facts to back you up. There’s always more information out there that can give your blog a little something extra. Linking to articles where you found quotes, statistics or data to support your point will go a long way toward establishing the kind of credibility that you crave.

  1. Share and share alike.

Whether you love it or loathe it, social media is going to be a driving force behind marketing yourself and your blog. Share links to your writings on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and any other place that will push traffic to your site. You’re starting from scratch, so it will likely take a little while before the readers are coming in droves, but social media is always one of the best ways to get noticed.

  1. Keep at it.

You’re new at this, so try not to get discouraged, especially early on. Gaining a following will take time, so be patient. Make an editorial calendar, so that you know what topics you’ll be covering and when you’ll be tackling them. It’s important to generate content on a regular basis, with whatever frequency you chose to post. If you don’t like the direction things are heading with a particular topic, change gears to something that suits you better. Trial and error is just part of the process.