A new vocabulary for start-up UX

While leading design-oriented cultural change at Citrix, a global 9k person company, I whole-heartedly espoused the vocabulary of “design thinking” & “customer experience” drawn from Stanford d.school and Forrester —including “workshops”, “catalysts”, “empathy”, and so forth. Such phrases epitomize a certain POV for customer-centric advocacy and education, tuned for a corporate, distributed constituency not familiar with “design”…and often skeptical of its business value!

Now that I’m leading design at a dramatically smaller start-up of just 20+ people, where “massive cultural change” is simply not the order of the day, a different vocabulary is warranted. A set of phrases & concepts that foster the pursuit of tight integration of design strategy within sales and engineering cycles, one that speaks to pragmatic efficiency and iterative learning. So here’s what I’ve been diving into lately…

** Hooked framework: How do you create a habitually addictive product— minus chemical enhancements? ;-) Nir Eyal advocates his “hooked” model of “Trigger > Action > Reward > Investment” as a way to re-interpret your offering in a more autotelic sense of self-generated desire to satisfy needs/goals—and it’s habitual. The most interesting part for me is the notion of “variable delights” that engender repeat visits with a sense of surprise.

** Jobs-to-be-Done model: Clayton Christensen’s latest thinking around innovation, grounded in the notion of someone has a “job” that needs to be fulfilled by using your product or service. Not entirely revolutionary for the UX industry, I realize, but this frames the product or service offering in a very task-oriented manner. Does your offering deserve to be “hired” by the user for their “job”? What are other candidates for that context? And so forth…

** UX Debt: When there’s a gap between what has been delivered and what was intended to be shipped, in terms of the quality of the UX, there’s some UX debt incurred. This can be itemized, measured, and tracked accordingly per decisions made and circumstances that led to it (ex: deferred a simplified navigation due to lack of time or headcount from engineering). Debt piles up and there may be a reckoning! This is a great discussion point in project meetings: are we ready to accumulate more UX debt by making this or that compromise? (Special thanks to Jim Kalbach for introducing me to this handy concept! Check out more of Jim’s useful, profound thoughts here: http://experiencinginformation.wordpress.com/ )

** HEART and GSM frameworks: Very nice frameworks from Google on measuring user satisfaction, this is an acronym of Happiness, Engagement, Adoption, Retention, and Task Success. Also, GSM is a corollary to determine which Goals, Signals and Metrics would be useful for a feature or product, thus enabling informed decisions in an earnestly data-oriented manner. Sure, A/B testing is fun and fashionable, but what metric are you trying to improve and why? Let’s be clear and open about it.

Finally, I’ve mostly avoided the word “Process”, which conveys negative tones of bureaucracy–definitely not desired in a start-up context. Instead, I speak of “Discipline” and “Focus”, echoing the intense drive of Steve Jobs in shipping the first Mac, and subsequent breakthroughs.

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