I’m excited to introduce Dave Landis, Head of UX Design and Research at Amplero. With a vast amount of experience under his belt in various subfields of user experience, in addition to working for major tech giants such as Amazon and SAP in the past, Dave has much knowledge to share about the world of user centered design.
Throughout his career he’s focused on various subjects from psychology to digital marketing, and worked with all the latest technologies.
In this exclusive piece Dave provides useful insight on topics from the best design methods, to how to achieve a paramount human centered product design.
BACKGROUND: From Psychology, to Digital Marketing and building brand dominance for fortune 500 companies, to Experience Focused Engineering for global enterprise software. I have always been on the forefront of creating and leveraging the latest technologies to be optimized and engaging for people.
Most recently I have joined forces with a pioneer in the applied data sciences and AI (Artificial Intelligence) from the core of the product – Amplero. I head up the UX Design & Research practice there. We are creating the latest advances in technology at Amplero, I am super excited to be a part.
SPECIALTY: I have been blending Emotional Driven Design, Data Supported Design, Experience Outcome (XO) Design, Intuitive Design and now I am learning to master Machine Learning Inspired UX, all for the perfect mix of HCD (Human Centered Design). I am a true generalist with a balanced focus on IA, UI, Branded Experiences and UX Research.
MOTIVATION: I suffer from a deep heart passion for empathically understanding the soul of humans as they seek to get the most from tech. I have a love for bringing Design Thinking into all I do, and an obsession with defining the future by inventing it. These motivations poured me into a wide variety of solutions for the entertainment, B2B, B2C and non-profit spheres of the products, services, and experiences.
A Few of My Favorite Methods I Like to Implement During the Design Process
I am not sure how “unique” my methods are in and of themselves, but rather I have discovered that my uniqueness is in their application. I have discovered a few things that seem to have huge impact in the success my Experience Focused Engineering process.
1. Design Thinking for Agile Cross Functional teams
I have found that most cross-functional teams do not understand how to apply basic design thinking to their agile systems. Developers are often not sure what the best process for “Sprint 0” or the defining what they are to build stage is. I have put together cognitive model that seems to bring us all onto the same page quite effectively. I share it with you here, but fear that it may take some simple walking through in person to fully Grok its usefulness.
2. Scale of 1-5 Decision Making
I have found a curious phenomenon in each company that I have worked. The misunderstood HiPPO Effect. I say “misunderstood” because so often the Highest Paid Person or Executive comes into a room and reviews the UX direction and states their opinion. The consistent problem is that any hint of an opinion from the exec is viewed as a mandate that must be carried out. The HIPPO may have only been making a care free suggestion. Therefore, I ask all my teams to take the HiPPO through this decision filter. Ask the Executive to provide a rating to their input on a 1-5 scale. The I is the HiPPO or Executive.
———– 1-3 Remain the full responsibility of the Designer, PM or Developer ————————
1 = I have a thought about the direction and would like you to consider it, but you totally own the direction and strategy.
2 = I think I have a better direction that should be considered, never the less I have full faith in whatever direction you choose.
3 = I think that my idea is rock solid and needs to be considered seriously, please assess it and then make the call you hold the ultimate responsibility.
———- Anything below this line is the Executives responsibility and is a directive override ————–
4 = I will take full responsibility for going my direction – this is the needed direction that we will take. Open for further input but go with this for now.
5 = I am convinced that we must do my direction over the current options. Please make it so. No further exploration should be taken.
I have personally experienced this being successful and revealing multiple misunderstandings most every time we used it.
3. Work directly with the Programmers
No seriously sit with them at their monitor and design and develop in tandem. I have been part of so many teams where the Designers know the right words to say about their working together with developers and adopting agile practices, yet do not carry it out in daily action. There is a paradigm shift that must happen in the mind and values that cause behavior to actually change.
It can’t be just stating “I get the concept”, then justifying their lack of engaging with “Sure, I do that” but not really. I find it truly unique when a working cross-functional team and business decision makers all live out the entire Think to Make cycle. If they start and continue the journey together till it is complete and delivered; I find that they have zero lost in translation occurring.
Throughout the whole product life cycle…
A Successful Product Design Includes…
Here are some steps I take and tools I use…
I learn what the BXT drivers are before I enter “Make” mode. (Business Drivers, EXperience Drivers and Technology Drivers).
- I actually meet with, discuss with, and observe and validate any and all assumptions, designs and working code with the customer, the real-world end user.
- I actually meet with, and dig into the key business drivers, influences and impacts and get deep understanding for how the product, service and experience will affect the business.
- I actually meet with the Programmers, and PM’s up front and go through the THINK – MAKE cycles together. As I state above I have never had a “Lost In Translation issue” when this has been carried out.
Other Tools that strongly assist the above drivers are…
1. Tenets + Traps: A team of freaky brilliant UX Researchers from my Microsoft engineering days put together this synthesis of all the best practice books on UX Design. The synthesis generated a deck of cards that we used to “score-card” our UX Designs with. Because no one is thinking this comprehensive in a “Design Review” this tool was invaluable.
It forced us to take a detailed lens through the experiences we had designed and ask if they met the criteria for being UNDERSTANDABLE – where the person knew what to do, or PHYSICALLY EFFORTLESS – where they are able to do the thing quickly and comfortably, or RESPONSIVE – where the user doesn’t have to wait, or EFFICIENT – where the user takes fewer steps and must process less information, etc.
2. One Sheets – a. PI [PI=Project Initiator] and b. Vision– These single sheets are created immediately after the project is “Kicked Off”, giving us all (working team members and stakeholders) a tangible frame of reference to work from. This practice has proven invaluable every time. Every project I had worked on before doing these started off with everyone hearing and valuing different aspects of the product, or experience direction that we were designing. We needed to ensure that everyone was consistently on the same page and it could not be a lengthy document – no one would read it. So, I used these “One Sheets”.
3. User Journey’s with XO’s (Experience Outcomes):
This is where once we have the primary user’s journey through the experience they are doing with the technology, we pin point each Experience Outcome that supports the users need and expectation.
4. UX Design and Research Status Guide:
The developers and PM’s and even stakeholders are constantly asking where we are at on the product experience or research. Most of them have heard of the terms we use like “Ideation”, “Sketches”, “Wireframes”, “Mock Ups and Comps”, “Fit and Finish”, or “Score Carding”. Yet most of them have no idea what it takes to craft them, and when it is a first thought or a plan of record.
This is a continual confusion. I have developed this Deliverable Status Guide to assist in what to expect by when. I deliberately made the milestones flow across percentage of project done makers to provide a general sense of what is done to define what % of the project is completed. I do this so that there is some understanding of what is upcoming but also an understanding that each project is different and the milestones can be different.
It is up to the designer on the team to define the % complete. This has become an invaluable reporting tool for setting expectations and keeping the entire working team on course.
Implementing Accessible Design:
Here is some of what I do. First, I determine what level of accessibility is needed by the company, Government standards and target user needs…
508, ADA, WCAG Compliance – What is my experience going to affect, and how does it meet the standards required? I find that depending on the product/service or app – there are a variety of levels and concerns that I may need to address.
While at SAP/Concur we developed these guidelines for our product to align with…
- Provide text alternatives
Providing text alternatives for non-text content ensures that individuals with visual impairment are still able to understand your site or application.
Concur recommends providing short text alternatives for images, which makes your image content nearly as accessible as your text-based content. This allows special technology such as screen readers (which assist the blind) to read your content aloud to a user with visual disabilities.
- Distinguishable content
Concur’s design focuses on making it easy for users to see and/or hear content. Concur manages this challenge by:
Clearly separating foreground from background
Making sure color is not used as the only visual means of conveying information, indicating an action, prompting a response or distinguishing a visual element
Using readable fonts (suggestions?), making sure any text is at least 14 points and has good contrast
Providing a highly visible highlighting mechanism for links or controls when they receive keyboard focus.
These design elements help make the user experience better for all users, but especially those who are visually impaired or color-blind.
- Keyboard control
All functionality of your site or application should be operable through a keyboard interface without requiring specific timings for individual keystrokes. Providing keyboard input mechanisms helps users with visual impairments or mobility issues to use your site without having to point-and-click on objects they cannot see. The keyboard interface can be combined with mouse input or other input methods, to support all users.
- Predictable structure
Concur’s design attempts to make all pages appear and operate in predictable ways. Concur manages this challenge by:
Positioning labels to maximize the predictability of relationships
Navigational mechanisms that occur in the same relative order each time they are repeated within a set of Web pages
- Input assistance
Concur aims to help users avoid and correct mistakes by:
Hiding optional form fields
Validating form submissions on the server
Re-displaying a form with a summary of errors, if necessary
Providing error notifications as the user enters information, including error notification information in the page title
Highlighting or visually emphasizing errors where they occur
For further information on accessibility for you and your team, I recommend:
A Few Words of Advice for Beginners
- Become a Generalist. Most of what I am seeing in the hiring of UX Designers currently is the need for Generalists. Yes, it is always good to define your passionate expertise like Visual or Prototyper, but having solid experience across several UX Disciplines seems to be increasingly required. And difficult to find.
- Master how to define and defend your designs. Persuasive Speech and Debate courses can help a Designer better defend their work. In the meantime, I suggest you come into every presentation with a solid case that you articulate why you created what you did. And a case for how it aligns with the BXT, Business, Experience, and Technology objectives.
- Take steps to grow your E.Q. Emotional Quotient/Intelligence. Not only is this critical for understanding the heart and soul of the customers that you design for; but you will find that it is mission critical for better understanding your cross-functional team mates. If you do a search on growing your E.Q. most of the articles will be focused on you personally. I would recommend you seek out the myriad of articles on E.Q. in the work place.
What I Wish Someone Had Told Me When I Was First Starting Out
- Office Politics and how to succeed in a moral-ethical constructive manner.
- How to influence and move a manager who is a “Diminisher” to a “Multiplier” gracefully.
- It’s not just about the business needs, or people’s needs or the customers’ needs or the technology constraints and opportunities in silos. UX is about all of it munged, balanced and integrated all together. A blend of science and art.