What Happens When UX Is Circumvented or Reduced?

Skype recently announced that its 2017 redesign, which aimed to make it more like Snapchat, was a failure. Users didn’t want, need, or like the new features. The backlash was large enough that Skype made a 2018 announcement that they would redesign Skype again. (https://devops.icu/skypes-coming-redesign-of-their-last-redesign/)

Description: UX agile best practices: Illustration of poorly executed skype redesign.

Skype’s 2017 redesign

UX experts would have known at many steps of their process that these features were likely to be unwanted or fail. Research with target users could have quickly revealed that they didn’t want Skype to become Snapchat. Killing the project or pivoting at this early point could have saved Skype millions of dollars plus bad press and customer alienation.

Even if UX research had been bypassed, testing a UX prototype on users would have made it clear that customers didn’t want Skype going in this direction. With UX still moving through its process, engineering hasn’t written a line of code yet. This could have saved tremendous time, money, and human resources, celebrating simplicity and the work engineering didn’t have to do.

Agile UX Process

Remember the Agile manifesto principles. Your highest priority is customer satisfaction by building valuable software. Give (UX) workers the environment and support they need, trusting them to get the job done. Maximize the amount of work not done. Continuous attention to good design enhances agility.

Projects that are moving forward need to give UX a huge runway so that appropriate research, design, and testing can start. Do not invite UX to your kickoff meeting and surprise them with the demand that final wireframes must be delivered in a few days. That’s not UX.

Don’t look at this as Big Design Up Front (BDUF), which is a term designed to make people cringe and declare that this is something we must get away from. When a project or feature is large or new, it’s necessary for UX to cycle through most, if not all, of the user-centered design process. For UX, the smallest possible piece for a larger feature is the user’s workflow or process. If we design and test something smaller, we run the risk that we’re not getting the big picture of the true user experience.

For example, if we are designing a flow where users register and purchase, we can’t just design password selection fields and submit those to engineering. If UX worked in small pieces, when would the entire process be tested? We cannot know the user’s reaction to the entire flow without testing the entire flow… which means the entire flow must be designed before it goes to usability testing.

Where features, stories, or fixes are small, UX practitioners can do a subset of the user-centered design process and work more quickly. UX will always go as fast as they can, but a great UX specialist will do everything she can to avoid sacrificing the quality of the work being done. In the fast vs good battle, UX will always pick good over fast… and you should too.

Budgets and timelines are what blocks UX from getting fast feedback and iterating. UX practitioners always want feedback and the chance to improve the product, aiming to design what really works for customers. Bringing UX practitioners in as early as portfolio management and planning allows UX to estimate the time and budget they will need; these shouldn’t later be surprises or causes of conflict

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