Agile Development, Behavior Modeling & Design, Business Analysis, Information Technology, Innovation, Product Development, Requirements Development, User Analysis, User Experience, User-centered Design

It is beyond doubt that the current times of digital, mobile and social age demand professionals who are versatile, agile, sociable and dynamic. Business Analysts and product specialists are no exception to this. Whether its due to the industry demands, peer pressure, market needs or pure evolutionary tactics, BAs today are far more leading-edge, competitive, assertive and visionary contributors to the products, processes and businesses, at large. From an also-ran team player role, new-age analysts have come a long way as the multi-disciplinary, multi-skilled and multi-dimensional professionals. In this post, I will touch upon the many facets of the new-age Business Analyst and how they are adapting to the continual changes happening in the spheres of business, technology, professional and personal lives.

Emergence of the new-age BA/PO

As we discussed in the previous posts, there have been several factors that led to the emergence and evolution of the Business Analyst. The BA today moved on from just a requirements owner and a document expert and is now addressing several facets around products, processes, business and technology. Their focus still remains pretty much around the problem space, compared to the facilitation role in the solution space. The analysts identify problems, dependencies, needs and opportunities. However,  products, processes and business domains. The BAs today have been involved in scoping, release management, continuous engagement with customers and users, strategising, laying out roadmap, and working with multiple teams.  In a nutshell, the Business Analyst of the modern age is much like a leader, architect, soldier, team player…all rolled into one.

NBA_Leader.Architect.Soldier.Team Player_Texavi

Leader, architect, soldier, team player & more – the new-age BA

From being an analyst, the BA needs to transform into a leader, architect, soldier, team player and perhaps many more such roles, all rolled into one. Of course, they need not be all of these roles at the same time. The analyst today has to don one, few or all of these various roles based on the context, time, stage of implementation as befits the occasion. During the initial stages, the emphasis could be on being an architect, while during the scoping it could be that of a soldier. However, throughout the project, or initiative analysts have to keep their hat of leader and team player, no matter what stage the work is in. I touch upon the four primary facets of the new-age Business Analyst in the following paragraphs.

1. Sensible leader, not just an also-ran

You can’t talk enough about the all-imperative skill and art of analysts to work with people. They must have their hands firmly on the pulse of the different categories of people. These include the various stakeholders – direct and indirectly responsible for the product and process, from senior management all the way through to people working on the factory floor. As an able leader, the analysts must not only lead the way, but also set an example by following and working along with the team members. They should  listen actively, take steps pro-actively and be able to put in their efforts with sustainable passion, drive and commitment to achieve this shared vision and common goals.

2. Architect and a builder, not just another player

New-age business analysts must be able to look beyond the near term goals and benefits. They must have a really good and long term vision to not only lead themselves but also the team members and the organisation, at large. They must think far and beyond, using their rich experience, in-depth and specialised domain expertise. The added advantage is that these help the analysts with a “peripheral vision” around the markets, business domains, products, processes and technologies.  Besides, the new-age analyst adds great value by laying a robust roadmap that is flexible, scalable, high-performing.

3. A soldier, well-equipped and prepared

Like a soldier, who is well-equipped and well-prepared to face any kind of challenges, the new-age analyst must be prepared with all the right tools, methods and a positive attitude. The very nature and aptitude of business analysts help them to stay on the top of their game, be it at home or outside their turf. Their ability to adapt easily and quickly depending on the situation helps build on to the agility of the new-age analysts.  Analysts’ skills of being sensitive, scrupulous and open-minded, help them usable insights from ideas and actionable intelligence from information. In addition to these, the BAs try to keep ahead by addressing all possible scenarios, potential challenges and constraints, internal and external dependencies and assumptions – stated and implicit.

4. Team player, not just a one-person show

Business analysts over the ages had been looked at more as specialised consultants who come in, do their work and get out. The contribution of analysts is considered from the prism of a “support” role who comes in early in the project, find problems, specify scope and requirements and exits the scenario. However, with the advent of agile practices such as Scrum, user stories, XP, BDD and TDD being put in place, organisations are increasingly looking for analysts to be well-integrated into the development teams. The analysts today are very much an integral part of the teams and by being  participative, they contribute to the collective value delivered by the team. So, new-age analysts are equally adept at being followers and team members themselves as much as they excel at leading the teams.

I hope this post helped you understand the many dimensions, skills and demands of the new-age business analyst. We will cover more specific details on the tools, and methods for the business analyst/product owner in the upcoming posts, until then, ciao!

Agile Development, Behavior Modeling & Design, Business Analysis, Innovation, Product Development, User Analysis, User Experience, User-centered Design

Innovation, as you all know, is a very powerful concept and tool. It could be used to understand the problems and create improvements in the existing products. Innovation also helps us to create completely new solution(s) to solve the otherwise unimaginable problems. Innovation is not just restricted to the products space, but is equally effective in the improvement of services, processes or solutions.  Just a week ago, I participated in a very interesting workshop on collaboration through Innovation Games. This workshop is based on the concepts and exercises proposed by Luke Hohmann and also the GameStorming techniques by Dave Gray et al. In this post, I will touch upon the key takeaways and useful tips from the workshop. Also in this post, I will make a business case for Innovation Games and how they could be used to boost the productivity and bring about value to businesses and individuals alike.

Let’s talk innovation

Innovation would never lose the sheen and shine, despite the numerous changes in work, education, lifestyles and thinking over the last few decades.  This could be partly due to the very construct and meaning of the word, innovation intended to find out “newer, different, better” ways. But then innovation by itself is not just one tool or technique, but a collective application of a whole suite of theories, schools of thought, approaches, tools and techniques. How would you then decide which one of them. That’s where Innovation Games come in and help you choose the right technique, and bring about the right value in a quick, fun, cost-effective way.

Innovation Games_Texavi_Workshop_Items Innovation Games - at play

Innovation is collaborative product development

First off, you would need interested and motivated people who are motivated to pave way for innovation. Also important is a conducive environment to help boost the free thinking and to let the creative juices flowing. Innovation games, as the name suggests, are a fun, interactive and engaging way of bringing out the innovation and creativity among teams. These are serious games played to bring out the hidden problems, create fresh ideas and arrive at plausible solutions. Innovation games are cost-effective, quick-win tools that can be organised with very less effort and minimal preparation and planning. There is no doubt that Innovation Games provide a perfect setting for aiding innovation with supporting collaboration tools and techniques.

What are and what aren’t Innovation Games

A word of caution here…Innovation Games are not the same as gamification or the Game design that you might have come across. So, what exactly are these Innovation Games? Product in a Box, Prune the Product Tree, Speedboat, Show-and-Tell are a few popular ones. While some of these help you in convergence (idea generation), some help in shaping (structuring) and  a few others help support for divergence (prioritising and pruning). You can get more information about Innovation Games and collaborative exercises from the leading thinkers and authors in the innovation, collaboration and product development arenas. A few sources for some great inspiration are “Innovation Games : Creating Breakthrough Products Through Collaborative Play” by Luke Hohmann and “Gamestorming” by Dave Gray et al.

Innovation Games_Consultants and agile coaches

Business case for collaboration through Innovation Games

Now that you are aware that there is a great tool set for you to help in collaborative product development, let us look at the business case for using Innovation Games. In the context of an agile product development, Innovation Games certainly help bring various stakeholders, team members and customers in the same room. They do help in setting common goals and also provide a fun and interactive environment to promote innovation among teams. Another important aspect of using Innovation Games is their adeptness to not only generating ideas, but also prioritising the features and decision-making.

Innovation Games_Collaboration_Benefits

 

When and where to use Innovation Games

You might be wondering in what scenarios you can use Innovation Games and how they can help you and your teams. Well, they can be put to use when you or your business is in need of generating ideas, pruning them, prioritising the features, and understanding the problems and needs of your customers. This means that Innovation Games are a great tool in the context of product development, process improvement, creation of a solution or a service. The collaborative tool is extremely handy not only in the creation of new products, services, solutions or processes, but also in enhancing or re-engineering the existing products, processes or solutions. In short, Innovation Games are of great relevance when you want to bring together people, and create a collaborative environment to help foster innovation and creativity through focus, group dynamics, interaction and yes, most importantly a bit of fun.

Hope this post helped you in getting a grasp of Innovation Games and collaborative product development. In the future posts, I will get into further depth and discuss the details on this topic. As always, drop in with your valuable feedback and advice. Until next, ciao!

 

Agile Development, Business Analysis, Conference, Events, Information Technology, Innovation, Mobile, Product Development, Social Technologies, User Experience, User-centered Design

I am both happy and proud to announce the launch of Texavi’s IMAGINEERING conference. As part of the IMAGINEERING series of events, Team Texavi is hosting the IMAGINEERING – INDIA, 2013 conferences in India. The theme for this year’s event is Technology trends, challenges and opportunities in the times of Digital. Mobile. Agile. Social. The conference will have talks, panel discussions, special sessions, exercises, activities, fun and more. We have got a great lineup of eminent speakers on our elite panel, leaders who have been there, done that in the IT industry. This year, we are hosting the conference in Hyderabad on Friday, 23rd Aug,2013 and in Mumbai on Friday, 30th Aug 2013. In this blogpost, I will touch upon the motivation and bring into fore a few facts about the upcoming Texavi’s IMAGINEERING – INDIA, 2013 conference. Hope these will help in making a strong case and encourage you to be part of the event.

1. What is this conference all about

Texavi's IMAGINEERING - Main Theme

The IMAGINEERING – INDIA, 2013 is a conference for the  IT community organised by the IT community. It focuses on the topics and issues  that matter for IT professionals. The theme of the conference this year is Technology trends, challenges and opportunities in the times of Digital. Mobile. Agile. Social. We are living in an ever-changing world full of digitised and increasingly portable solutions. As they say change is the only constant thing, now more than ever, we have a need to be prepared, respond and manage change in a more effective and efficient manner. And then there is no denying that going social (and using the popular social and professional networks) is not an option anymore, for businesses and individuals too. So, it can safely be argued that the IMAGINEERING conference dwells on the most important, current and pertinent topics and issues for the IT community.

2. Theme and focus areas

With environment-friendly, cost-effective and accessible solutions, the digital, mobile, agile and social solutions are having a significant impact on the way we live, work and relate to each other. They help shape up and make us better equipped to face the ever-changing world. However,alongside the opportunities and benefits, these also bring forth numerous challenges in the form of intrusion into privacy, potential risks to health, hazards to the future generations of humankind and the long term impact on the sustainability of our Planet Earth. There is no better time and place to pause and ponder about these, than at the IMAGINEERING – INDIA, 2013 conference.

 

Texavi_IMAGINEERING_Themes

 

3. Who is the IMAGINEERING conference for

Texavi’s IMAGINEERING  – INDIA, 2013 is a compelling platform targeted for all the experienced, young and aspiring IT professionals in India. From the core IT workforce i.e., developers, analysts, designers and testers to the managers of projects, products and processes, IMAGINEERING 2013 caters to the needs and goals of the Indian IT professionals. The conference has everything you needed and more…from speeches by leaders to panel discussions, from career camps to contests, from interactive exercises to fun games and from useful insights and snippets to great takeaways. With all these interesting and useful programmes, rest assured the IMAGINEERING – INDIA, 2013 conference packs quite a punch!

Texavi's IMAGINEERING - Who should attend

 

4. What makes IMAGINEERING – INDIA, 2013 so compelling

There are a host of things that makes the IMAGINEERING – INDIA, 2013 conference unmissable for the IT professionals. Great line-up of speakers, fantastic panels formed of eminent and prominent IT professionals, current and topical themes are just a few reasons urging you to be there. Besides these, we have planned some really cool, interactive,  informational and entertaining programmes to keep the participants engaged and glued to their seats. Alongside the physical takeaways of swag bags filled with usable goodies, the participants will have great insights and ideas to take away, relish and cherish even long after the event. The conferences will be hosted at centrally located and accessible venues with state-of-the-art facilities. Also, the registration process is kept really simple and straight-forward so that you join us quickly and without any fuss. And last but not the least, the ticket price is kept very competitive so that we get as many people as possible. These are but a few good reasons for you to sign-up for the event, at the earliest.

5. A glimpse at the programme

I am giving below a peep into the package and coverage of the conference. Of course, this is neither full nor final but it’s enough to give you an idea of what the IMAGINEERING – INDIA, 2013 will have. Needless to say, the event is packed with the right mix of programmes, topics and people to offer the participants an enriching and rewarding experience. These are all presented in interesting and engaging formats ranging from talks, panel discussions, exercises, games and fun activities. The whole event is focused on IT professionals and so obviously we have quite a few programmes on the careers such as job hunting support and career camps. I mention here a few topics that we have already identified that form the crux of the IMAGINEERING – INDIA, 2013 conference.

  • What’s the next BIG thing? Advantage IT! A peep into the future of technology and technologies of future!
  • Pervasive, persuasive and personal! How mobile devices and apps are shaping up our world!
  • It’s a connected, changing and shrinking world! Blending technology, people and business for success!
  • Past Perfect. Present Tense. Future­­ ??? Trends, challenges and opportunities in the IT industry
  • Designed in India. Made in the USA! Paradigm shifts impacting the IT industry and community
  • From Promise to Profit! Prioritising is key with the 3 PROs – Products, processes and projects!

Hope this post helps in setting the stage for the upcoming IMAGINEERING – INDIA, 2013 conference. Keep a watch on this blog for more interesting and insightful posts on the themes, topics and focus areas of the event. Until next post, ciao!

 

 

 

 

 

Agile Development, Business Analysis, Conference, Events, Information Technology, Innovation, Mobile, Social business, Social Technologies, User Experience, User-centered Design

I have this question constantly coming back to me and kept playing in my mind time and again. What makes a great product? What is it that creates successful brand, organisation or an individual? After thinking about it from all possible experiences and view points, I finally came to a conclusion. The answer came to my mind when I applied myself to various scenarios, situations,industries and domains. Yes, I found the answer!!! It is balance. I would like to use this connotation of balance to bring forth the importance of IMAGINEERING in our professional and personal lives. In this post, I wish to bring to you the meaning and potential of IMAGINEERING, as a run-up to Texavi’s upcoming conference IMAGINEERING – INDIA, 2013 in August this year.

Imagination is a natural instinct

They say that “Imagination takes you everywhere!”, how true! Yes, with the very mind that we have we can create and weave bundles of thoughts. These indeed can take us places and sitting in London, we can go to Miami or Mumbai. Of course, this same imagination makes us travel across time as well, from the present to the past and lets us dream peep into the  future too, in the form of dreams. This greatest power especially found in abundance in young children, is responsible to make us curious, enthusiastic, inquisitive and exciting. This adds the much-needed zing to our lives, which otherwise gets mundane and monotonous. Though not entirely related, imagination could be mapped to the emotional part of the human instincts.

Logic is critical for growth

But then the next question could be “is imagination everything that you  need?”. Well, the answer to this question is a resounding “NO”. It is important to have imagination, but its not just enough. We need logic to back up the emotional appeal, analysis should be the engine that should drive the vehicle forward. Intellect powers the development of human beings and it is the constant churning of WHY and HOW that leads us in the right path to reach the right goal quickly. Its logic that lends support to the otherwise fragile and weak facade of imagination. I would even say that logic and analytical bent of mind provides the string and controls the high-flying kite of imagination.

Imagineering – the true meaning

Having looked at both imagination and logic, by now you would agree with me that we need to make the best of both worlds. To get it right with anything in the world, from building a product to a creating a powerful brand, and from taking an individual from good to great, we need to strike the right balance between balance between imagination and engineering. In the context of developing successful products and services, imagineering, as I refer to it, could be the powerful combination of technology and business.  Whereas in the case of building a brand, balance should be between identity and image of that brand. And in the case of an individual’s personality development, what helps the most is the right balance between left and right brains, or rather harmony between heart and mind.

Why is Imagineering powerful

Simply put, if we take a case of a problem and solution, we need to balance imagination with engineering and that’s what I would refer to as Imagineering, a powerful combination of creativity and logic. I didn’t coin this term though, but found out that this terms was copyrighted by Disney. What one needs today in the world of me-too products is the clear differentiation whose value-add can be clearly seen by your customers and users. While both are equally important to create any product or solution, sometimes Imagination precedes Engineering while in other times vice-versa. What is more important and more prioritised between the two of these, depends on the factors like…

  • Stage in the life cycle
  • Availability of resources
  • Personality and/or mental makeup of the people concerned
  • Business drivers

Digital. Mobile.Agile.Social times

There have been umpteen instances in our careers and personal lives, where the digital, mobile, agile and social aspects have been influencing us either directly or indirectly. These are playing a significant role in the way we live, work, interact, connect and communicate with our customers, family members, friends and followers. I penned my thoughts, views and ideas about the web of influence these 4 themes have on our lives. The diagram below depicts in a sense the various meanings, influences, challenges and opportunities posed by the quartet of Digital, Mobile,Agile and Social.

Texavi's IMAGINEERING conf theme

 

Texavi’s IMAGINEERING – INDIA, 2013 Conference

I take this opportunity to announce Texavi’s conference IMAGINEERING – INDIA, 2013. The theme for this year’s conference is “Technology trends, challenges and opportunities in the times of Digital. Mobile. Agile. Social”. We have good 3 months for the conference, but Team Texavi have started the planning and preparations are in full swing. We have a fantastic lineup of speakers for the conference, and the agenda has been shaping up  pretty nice. I will share more details on the IMAGINEERING – INDIA, 2013 conference in the coming days. As a teaser, I present to you the logo of the IMAGINEERING – INDIA,2013 conference. This logo is the result of the hard work by the team, putting their mind, heart, and soul into creating something splendid and I must say the outcome has been a pleasing experience.

Texavi IMAGINEERING-INDIA, 2013 Conference Logo

 

As a run up to the Texavi’s IMAGINEERING – INDIA,2013 conference, I will be writing more posts in the next few weeks. Watch out for more details not just on the conference, but also around the related themes and perhaps some guest posts too. As always, keep writing and share your feedback. Till next time, ciao!

Behavior Modeling & Design, Business Analysis, Interaction Design, Product Development, Requirements Development, User Analysis, User Experience, User Studies, User-centered Design

“There is no Average Joe Bloggs” – reads the copy on the billboard advertisement of an insurance company. I couldn’t agree more with this, especially in the context of designing and developing new products for end users. No matter how much I like Statistics, we just cannot apply it to all things in our personal and professional lives. While its good to be number-savvy, we need to balance the quantitative with qualitative aspects, to get it right. More so in the case of product design and development, the “law of averages” doesn’t quite contribute to the successful product development. We are all familiar with the concept of user profiles and personas used in the design and development of products. These help a great deal in understanding the real needs and goals of your target audience. In this post, I will dwell on why designing for average users is a misconception and how we can make use of user profiles and personas in developing successful products.

All customers are not users

This is the biggest notion among my clients that customers are well, users of the products. Not always true! The good thing is that both customers and users are both people, the similarities end there.  I think that “Customers” is a favourite term for Marketers whereas Designers and User Experience professionals connect better with the term “Users”. Customers are the people who purchase your products and services, while consumers or users use these. In some cases or well, most cases customers and consumers are the same. As in the case of some daily use products, white goods, FMCG, customers and users are the same i.e., people who buy your products use them as well. But in the case of high-end products, enterprise applications and productivity solutions, buyers could be different from consumers. For instance, office supplies, financial services, technology products like computers etc., the people who pay are different from those who suggest. These in turn are different from the people who decide and yes, the people who actually use the products or services could be completely different from the above groups.

First, know your Users

Knowing your users is the most important step in the approach to developing great products. By knowing your users, I mean to say that you must understand the goals and needs of the users. This understanding will help you in shaping your product or service, make it more suitable and appealing for the users. You can’t just create a product in thin air and then retro-fit it to the benefit of some people. As they say, the most important question in any business is asking “whose needs is the idea/concept/product going to solve?” . Texavi’s Unified Experience Framework has a whole phase dedicated to help you get to this. The “Know the Needs of your Users” phase has all the tools, techniques and technologies to ensure that we understand the real needs of the users. These are often unwritten, untold, unexpressed and even unknown to the very users. So, its a big challenge to get to the real needs of the users.

Know the Needs of the Users - Texavi Unified Experience Framework

 

User profiling holds the key

It doesn’t make sense to design and develop your products for all the people in the whole world. There is a danger of missing out on most people, as they think it doesn’t suit their specific needs and goals. Also, on the extreme end, it doesn’t make sense to design your products for one or two users. This argument lends weight for some people to think the middle path and rely on the law of averages. So, they think that the best path is to design and develop for average user. But hold on, what is an average user? How can you get to that person and define the characteristics of average user? The answer to this question lies in the user profiles and personas. User profiles are essentially the characteristic grouping of users based on various properties, traits and behaviours. This doesn’t mean that you are defining an average user. Instead, you are trying to understand the essential aspects of your users.  Using the profiles and personas helps the team to have a common language of understanding. This not only helps them in having a good picture of the end users, but also gives them a great affinity to the users, because of the name, form and physical characteristics.

UserProfiles_Personas_Design

Personas – archetypes not stereotypes

You might have heard of the term “persona” used in the context of marketing, research and product design. A persona is a representative user from amongst the group, but does not point to one user from within the group. It is a powerful design tool that helps the design and development teams and client relate to the target audience. Persona is not a stereotype of the users, but rather an archetype from the user group. In a persona, you give a form, a name and a picture to the representative users, so that all the team members and concerned people can relate to that person more effectively and easily.

Persona - Texavi example

 

Benefits of user profiles and personas

While there are many benefits of using the user profiles and personas in the product development life cycle, I list below a few of them that really stand out.

  • Understand the real users who you should target from amongst the many people in the population
  • Help prioritise the target segments within the groups of people
  • Know the real needs and goals of the target audience
  • Support in connecting and relating to the real needs of the users
  • Design, develop the products in a more practical and pragmatic manner
  • Evaluate and test the products, keeping the real users in mind
  • Minimise the effort, time and cost of development and rework

Hope you agree with me now that the average user is a myth and acknowledge the power of profiles and personas. Please keep writing in with your suggestions and comments. Till the next post, ciao!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Agile Development, Information Technology, Product Development, User Experience, User-centered Design

Today our lives revolve around the mobile, agile and social aspects that have global appeal along with local flavours. Their impact factors  could be attributed to the surge in various platforms, channels and devices that we use for both professional and personal lives. The PCs of the 90s are now complemented with the handy Smart Phones, ubiquitous Tablets and numerous trendy gadgets. Post (Snail mail) is giving way to Email, which in turn is waning in popularity compared to chatting, texting and gaming. There has been a massive shift in the roles of technology, business, products and services. Nowadays, there is one thing on the top of mind for clients, product designers and developers. No prizes for guessing the answer…Responsive Design! How can we deliver similar, if not identical experiences to our customers and users, despite the varied number and nature of the things around us? In this post, I will touch upon Responsive Design, as I see it in the light of delivering consistent and unified experiences.

The case for Responsive Design

Let us try and look at this from a technology perspective, especially computing technology at that. Till the late 90’s we were all familiar with the PC as an alternative to the manual operations. Back then there were only 3 major types – Windows, Mac and the more Open Source flavour – Unix. Applications and programmes had to be written specifically for 2 major mainstream platforms – Windows and Mac. Since the execution of the programmes depended completely on the underlying Operating System (O.S.), these had to be written and deployed specifically for these two platforms separately and explicitly. However with the advent of Java programming language, came the paradigm shift – “Write once, run anywhere”. In the early years of 21st century, Microsoft aggressively pushed its Dot Net platform and associated languages such as C-sharp. Both these were successful in ensuring the universal delivery and adoption of programmes and applications that were platform-agnostic.

The problem of plenty

New Technologies, same old problems

When the PC domination was waning, the cross-platform problem only got aggravated in exponential proportions. Thanks to the explosive usage of laptops in the early part of the 21st century, computing has gone mobile and portable. But this didn’t create many problems to the application and technology product vendors. Largely it was only the foot-print or size of the application that got impacted due to the new addition to the PCs. Following some other innovations in the programming and scripting languages, developers had some respite from grappling with re-writing massive applications to suit for multiple platforms. But it didn’t solve the problem completely. It only took a new shape with the onset of different browsers and their versions, numerous sizes, resolutions and vendors.

Solution to “the problem of plenty”

The good old sayings – “Variety is the spice of life” and “More the merrier” are applicable to most business scenarios and our own lives. However, with the advent of Internet and adoption of Smart Phones and Tablets, customers and consumers today are faced with the “problem of plenty”. This can be witnessed in the exponentially increasing numbers, varieties and ranges of platforms, operating systems, channels and devices. These are all increasing at such an alarming rate that often customers are pushed to the brink of confusion, chaos and frustration. But don’t lose your heart yet, there is a good news – the effective solution for these problems is a comprehensive  methodology  that comprises the approach, tools, techniques and resources. You can now analyse, design,develop, deliver and support solutions, products, applications for multiple platforms, channels, devices and browsers. In the following sections, we will look at how we can approach Responsive Design through the Unified Experience framework.

What is Responsive Design really

Design, by definition needs to meet the needs of the user in the right place, right time and right manner, of course, for the right users. Essentially, it is about creating products, applications and services that work and look the same across all systems, platforms and devices. While there are lot of definitions for Responsive Design, I would define it simply as designing, developing and delivering “Unified Experience“. Whether it is a product or service, the objective for product vendors is to deliver consistent, panoramic and unified experiences to their customers and users. Irrespective of the platforms, devices, underlying operating systems, numerous channels.

Responsive Design is Unified Experience

What makes a Design, Responsive Design

In the context of technology and programming, there had been a perennial debate on graceful degradation versus progressive enhancement.  Despite the growing number of platforms, operating systems and devices, users want consistent experience. This consistent experience can be delivered only when you take care of the underlying navigation, content, presentation, functionality and interactions. Don’t forget that the customers and users are the same, their profiles and personas are not varying across the different platforms or devices. The first step in this approach is to identify, specify and communicate clearly the problems, opportunities and needs. Then the the conception, conceptualisation and implementation of suitable solution will follow through smoothly and in a structured manner.

How to create Responsive Design – Tips & tricks

I give below a few guidelines to get it right with minimal rework, redesign and repurposing. When implemented initially in the development cycle of any product or application, these would help achieve the responsive design and offer optimal experience to your users.

  • Think ahead, far and wide
  • Build eco-systems not just stand-alone products and tools
  • Consider all possible options – short term, medium term and long term
  • Go beyond technologies, assess real business needs and goals
  • Use minimally the platform-specific services and components

Hope you got some insights about Responsive Design that you can take away and implement practically. Love to hear from you on how we can improve the Blog. Until next time, ciao and yes, Happy Easter!

 

Business Analysis, Information Technology, Innovation, Interaction Design, Product Development, User Experience, User-centered Design

When I talk to my clients about developing great products that offer fantastic User Experience, many of them ask me why, when and how to go about doing it. The most frequently asked question from customers is “what is that one thing that makes or breaks great user experience?”. My consistent response to them has always been one simple word that truly wields the real power. Yes, it is “Consistency”. That is the mantra for creating great products and services that stand the test of time, offering delightful experiences to customers and users! However, this by no means is a quick-fix, short-cut approach to creating successful products and services. In this post, I shall touch upon the important role consistency plays in offering compelling experiences to your customers and users.

Think different, but be consistent

In the constantly changing business and technology landscape that we are living in today, it is imperative that you have to stand out from the competitive me-too products and services in the crowded market place. There is a growing need for businesses and individuals to think and act different. This also works when you wish to develop a new product, concept or idea and especially with the start-ups. It is indeed the hallmark of good startups to be able to think differently from the others to cut the clutter and make their presence felt. However over a period of time, the product or service gets adopted and it gains sufficient market penetration and user acceptance. At that stage, having consistency in presentation and overall experience becomes critical for the long term success of the product.

Consistency – experience and expectations

What does consistency mean in a product development context? Does it mean repetition, cliche and mimicking the same, always and in all ways? No, on the contrary being consistent helps your users to focus on the right areas in your products so that they derive optimal usage experience. Consistency can be seen as an antidote to monotony and often the positives of being consistent far outweighs the negatives of being routine and repetitive. Do not restrict consistency to just one specific product of yours, but broad-basing it across the products in a product line would help your customers and users.  Consistency though largely is a broader concept, does vary to some extent based on the users’ culture and geography. The concept of “business” has remained the same all through the centuries. Customers and clients raise a PO (Purchase order) and vendors propose and offer their products /services and then raise an invoice/bill towards the products or services offered.  Customers then make payments to vendors against these invoices. This is a consistent way of engaging in business and doesn’t vary from country to country and also does not change with the times.

Sample this as a proof of why I think that consistency is of a great help to delivering great experience. People from across the different parts of the world have been driving cars over the last few decades. There have been a lot of  variants like petrol and diesel, differences in engine capacity and volumes.  Cars do come in different models, sizes and shapes  – sedans, SUVs, hatchbacks and so on. They also differ in the transmissions like manual and automatic. The steering wheel could be on the left or right side of the car, depending on which country you drive. However, no matter where you are driving, what type, model, size or shape of the car, the pedals for brake, clutch and accelerator (also called gas) are always in the same place and in the same order. From left to right, it will be clutch, brake and accelerator and its no doubt that this is what simplifies the driving experience for most of the car drivers in any part of the world. This is just one example of how being consistent helps the users to adopt the products quickly to their context, expectations and experiences formed.

Why be consistent?

Consistency when used in the right manner has the power of giving freedom to your users. It ensures that your users put their focus on the goal rather than the medium. I like to draw an analogy for this with the cinema screen and the projected movie. Consistency in your products is akin to audience watching the movie and enjoying themselves without getting distracted and disillusioned looking at the screen beneath the movie. It makes the experience smooth and lends flow and fluency to what the users look, learn and do within the product.

Let us look at some of the benefits of consistency

  • Is shaped on the prior experiences of users
  • Helps direct users’ attention
  • Sets the expectations of users
  • Delivers stability and safety of users, in a few instances
  • Aids users in strong brand and product association

Consistency doesn’t kill creativity

Quite a few people think that consistency kills the creativity and new ideas. I would argue that consistency doesn’t affect the innovative or imaginative thinking. Innovative product companies like Apple, Google implement consistency across their entire set of offerings. You can use standards and design principles as the basis for your product. These are the foundation based on which you should architect, design and develop the product. These are often sacrosanct and non-negotiable. Next in the order of priority are guidelines which are like rules of thumb. They are not prescriptive, but provide direction to what should be incorporated and how. But compelling user experience doesn’t stop at this level. Only when you start referring to heuristics and patterns, can the product start delivering delightful and superlative experiences to users. I drew the diagram below to bring out the main points.

Balance consistency with creativity_Texavi

 

How to incorporate consistency

In the context of product development, consistency translates into the overall user experience and not just the superficial visual design. You need to look at all the various dimensions that contribute to the overall experience and delight of users. The following diagram sums up how you can lend your product a consistent experience…

What contribute to consistent UX_Texavi

 

Through the optimal use of consistency, user should be able to feel that he/she knows:

  • What I can do with this product
  • Where I am now, where I can go from here and how I can go
  • Why something works the way it does
  • What a particular element means when it is in of a certain colour, shape and size
  • How I can press, click, tap an element to get what I want it to do

 

Hope you find this post helpful. As always, please feel free to drop in your comments to help improve the quality and usability of my blog posts. Until next time, ciao!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Business Analysis, Business Case, Information Technology, Product Development, User Experience, User-centered Design

For the nth time, I am mentioning this, at the risk of sounding cliched, “User Experience is not the same as Marketing”. This is more true in the context of referring to customer and user research. While some terms and activities such as profiles, personas and interviews do happen to be common to both User Experience, that does not give us a blanket permission to assume that they both are one and the same. The very use of the words “Customers” and “Users” says it all – marketing is all about customers and prospects, whereas User Experience is well, about “users”. The importance of this topic came into the fore once again, thanks to a recent conversation with one of my clients. In this post, I wish to draw the main differences between User Experience and Marketing/Sales. Hope what you read and see below, will help shatter a few myths and misconceptions out there in most people’s minds.

Marketing helps build brands

I am not Philip Kotler to define what Marketing is. However, to my mind, Marketing is about the planning, activities and the outcomes related to understanding the needs of customers. The function of marketing helps organisations to create products, services and offerings to meet the needs of the existing and potential customers. And yes, marketing is about the brand that encompasses Marketing is a function of the 4Ps – Product, Price, Place and Promotion. And of course a fifth P was later added, which stands for Positioning. But I would say why stop at 5Ps? The sixth P that I would add for Marketing is “People”.

MarketingMix_Focus on Customers_Texavi

User Experience helps create Products

Like Marketing, User Experience is also about people and understanding their needs. However, as the words have it all it is about “users” and usage experience and not customers or prospects. However the focus for UX is on the consumers of the products and services more than anything else. It tries to look at the various elements of the experience such as satisfaction speed of performing the tasks. The 5E model of User Experience focuses on Ease of use, Easy to learn, Effectiveness, Efficiency and Error-free nature of the products and services. Over the years, UX has been catering to products more than services.

User Experience_5E_Focus on Users_Texavi

Similarities between Marketing and User Experience

While most of the other disciplines help provide the perspectives internal to the organisation. These range from operations, administration, finance and other support processes etc. Whereas Marketing, Sales and User Experience offer an external perspective on the organisation, brand, products and services. Both Marketing and User Experience are cost centres. Both of these rely extensively on quantitative and qualitative data. They use similar tools and techniques such as interviews, discussions, tests, among others. Both can be used to test the concepts, ideas and new products in their early stages.  In marketing, you call it as Market Testing or test marketing, whereas in User Experience, we refer to it as User Testing.

Smiley_face_User Experience_Marketing

 

Differences in Marketing/Sales and User Experience

I give below a table with the differences between Marketing and User Experience, for your quick reference. After all, its important for me to market my User experience skills :)

Marketing vs. UserExperience - By Texavi's Unified Experience Framework

 

Hope this post is helpful to you. As always, I welcome your feedback for the improvement of the blog content and coverage.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, 2013! Happy Holidays :-)

Agile Development, Behavior Modeling & Design, Business Analysis, Business Case, Information Technology, Innovation, Interaction Design, Product Development, Social business, Social Technologies, User Experience, User-centered Design

This post walks you through with an overview of Texavi, what we do, who we are and where we serve. You will also get to see the core services and offerings, practices and focus areas of Texavi. With this presentation, you will know how we can help you and the benefits for you, working with us.

– Team Texavi

Information Technology, Product Development, Usability Testing, User Experience, User Testing, User-centered Design

Google recently announced the official withdrawal (or some would say the unfortunate death) of  a few products which could not deliver their promise. These include but are not limited to Google Wave and Google Buzz, which failed to create the waves and the buzz in the market. Remember, these came from the stable of none other than Google, which is a leading product vendor renowned for innovation, simplicity and user experience. Why then, do you think they could not measure up and survive? I think one of the main reasons is that they failed the litmus test. And the real litmus test for your products is when they reach the real users who use them to address their needs. Popularly called as usability testing, the user testing of your product reveals a lot of insights into the success or failure of the features you have created newly or changed in your products. In this post, I wish to touch upon a few key aspects of Usability testing that you must know, but that is difficult to know!

       

Why usability testing

Usability tests help the product owners and developers to understand the performance of the product from the user’s needs, goals and tasks. It helps validate and verify the structure, layout, navigation,interaction and overall experience. Also, they help in identifying the task related details:

  • User’s goals
  • Tasks to achieve their goals
  • Time taken to perform the tasks
  • Challenges in completing the tasks
  • Breakdown areas/points in the performance tasks
  • Confusing or ambiguous areas on the interface of product
For more details on usability testing, refer to the write-up on Usability Testing at Texavi’s web site.

User testing methods – Similarities & differences

I often hear people referring the terms usability testing, user acceptance testing (aka UAT) and accessibility testing in the same vein. While all of these may be related to product, and most often involve users and/or customers, they are different in their objectives, scope, and target audience as well. In this post, I wish to dwell upon the user testing which is also known as usability testing, and bring to fore its importance and the key differences between user testing, user acceptance testing and also market testing. Usability testing is often confused and compared with UAT( User Acceptance Testing). Sometimes people do compare with several marketing related activities. I give below a table comparing and contrasting among these various methodologies. I am sure this will be a handy reference for you, when in doubt.

Engage and test with users early

Defects and mistakes are like cubs, the younger you catch them, the better and quicker, you are at taming them. The later they are identified and closed in the product life cycle, they will turn into wild tigers and pounce upon the functionality, resulting in the failure of the products.  Same with usability testing as well. UT can be done at various phases, across the development cycle of the product. Most product companies do realize the importance of involving users in the product development, but often this realization dawns upon them much later  than required. There is not much use in testing the product with users, after it is all set to be delivered in a few days. You really cannot do much to rectify the defects identified, as the time to fix is less and the pressure to deliver is more.

So, a smarter step is to start testing the product earlier in the cycle for the user experience. This would help immensely with ample time to fix the defects and ensuring that they don’t grow too  big  to solve, much like taming the younger cubs. There is  a second advantage to testing early, and that is to enable users to have a go at the product early on and this gives them a feeling of getting engaged with the product development. This in turn makes them feel that they do have a stake in the product and that they are being cared for and listened to. Another big advantage with the early testing is to do with the development team’s readiness to accept the changes and make them quickly. This is because they did not put in a great effort to churn out the artefact and so, they are far more willing to accept changes and rework, as compared to the later stages.

Secret of success – test more!

Testing early does help in identifying and resolving the defects to settle down, but it does not mean that there will be absolutely no defects coming later into the product. Well, the fact remains that the numbers might be minimized thanks due to the early testing, but still defects and erratic decisions do seep in due to various other factors. The only way to ensure that these are identified and resolved asap is by testing more of the product with the users.  Most people have this question hovering in their mind as to how much of the product really needs to be tested with users. Well, the more the merrier. The more areas, functionality, modules and dimensions you test in your product, the better for you and your product.

Note that what you are going to test for, differ from time to time, and the level of completeness of the artefact. For instance during the early stages when you test the wireframes with your users, you might be looking for an assessment of the broad level concepts. As you move on into the product life cycle and test a complete, fully functional module of the product,  you might be looking up to users for validating the interaction, information architecture etc. I give below the  the areas you can focus on while testing the product at various stages in the life cycle.

Hope this post helped you in getting the facts right about usability testing. Don’t hesitate to write back your comments/queries. Until next post, ciao!