UX strategy – Jared Spool’s two day UX workshop

Creating a UX Strategy Playbook

Last week I had the great pleasure of attending a two-day UX strategy workshop in Manchester, UK, led by Jared Spool, a widely respected and hugely knowledgeable UX practitioner. He is an expert on the subjects of usability, software, design, and research.

Me with Jared Spool on the UX Strategy Playbook workshop

The workshop was about how to lead your organisation to deliver better-designed products and services through a custom UX strategy.

It was a good mixture of the theory of UX, real-life experiences & collaboration exercises. The general theme was to try and source UX skills from within if possible, and get EVERYONE who’s connected to a project involved regularly, especially the ‘influencers’. 

One of the interesting findings that Jared and his team have made is what they call ‘exposure hours’. To encourage team members to take part in field visits to see real users using the solution they are redesigning, or that they are currently building. They suggest two hours every six weeks per team member at a minimum. This doesn’t have to be in a single chunk – it can be spread out. The theory is that the quality of the user experience shoots up! This doesn’t just mean the team hired to work on the solution, but also on the client side too. In fact Jared stipulates in every contract that the customer must be involved. It has to be a partnership. Otherwise he walks away (some of us don’t have that luxury of course!).

He went on to talk about the Kano Model, and in particular ‘excitement generators’. You can read more about that here.

Jared Spool in front of a UX slide

There were many other areas that he went over, such as reframing typical business language, and why user research is SO important. However I don’t want to dwell on these, as there’s a lot of information on his website here.

The UX Strategy

I do want to tell you about the UX strategy side of things on the workshop though. We were sat in tables of four, and typically more than one person from an organisation was present. I however was a delegation of one(!). This made things a little bit more tricky when it came to working on the ‘plays’. I’ll come back to them shortly…

Jared shared insight on how organisations all over the globe have teams from the executive level down, seemingly all with different understandings of what user experience (‘UX’) actually is. On the flip side of the coin if an organisation has NOT invested in UX at all, then there is a high chance they are “stuck in the dark ages” as Jared would say. They can be unconsciously producing highly technical products that are essentially solutions looking for a problem. Both of these issues can result in terrible user experiences. 

Instead you should be looking for problems to be solved, which is where ‘continuous research’ comes into play. You must look hard at the lives of the users. Research determines the strategy of the outcome.

Organisation UX Design

Jared refers to three different levels of understanding an individual goes through on their UX skill set development:

  1. Literacy
  2. Fluency
  3. Mastery
Growth Stages of Organisational UX Design slide

To start building your UX strategy you have to understand the UX maturity of your organisation. Then you look at the various skill levels of the people in your organisation, and how they can fit with your own skill sets.

Growth Stages of Understanding slide

He states it is extremely important that we work to a point where every team member has fluent design skills. This doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone should be able to mock up a UI layout or design a button. We just need all understand what good design is, why we are doing it, and be able to contribute in some way to the solution.

Growth stages - Fluency slide

This takes me back to the ‘plays’. Over the two days we were given sets of cards (‘plays’), of which there were over 130! This was split into various rounds to break it up a bit. We sorted them into three piles each time, collaborating with your colleague(s) if present:

  1. Already done/doing
  2. Unlikely
  3. Could do
Example of a 'play' - Initiate a usability testing program
An example of a ‘play’

Then the next exercise was to take the ‘could do’ pile and score each play as follows:

My plays on the wall at UX Strategy Playbook workshop
  1. Score the ‘impact’ that you think the play will have – (5) big impact > (1) no impact;
  2. Score the ‘feasibility’ of the play (how easy it can be implemented) – (5) easy > (1) very difficult;
  3. Multiply the two numbers to get a final score.

In each round of doing this we were asked to pick 6-8 plays of the highest scores, and stick them up on the wall. You weren’t tied to the highest scoring ones if you were particularly passionate about a play that scored low.

I did find it quite difficult to score the feasibility, as I haven’t been in the organisation long enough, so I can’t be sure how accurate they were.

At the end of the exercise we were asked to select 6-8 plays from the total, and they would be the start of our individual UX Strategy Playbook journey.

Summary

Overall I felt that this gave me a lot more focus on my company’s own UX strategy here in the UK. If you get a chance to go on this workshop do it! You will learn a great deal and hopefully gain some clarity on where your UX is within your own company, and a direction to go forward.

Have a look what is on my UX and design bookshelf. These can help towards building up a UX strategy.

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