Avoid focussing the local max. UX strategy helps.

Local Max
Avoid focussing the local max.

A recent project made it evident again, how user experience design research and ux methodology can avoid focussing on the local max. In other words: Instead of finding a mediocre solution in a very limited solution space, we built an innovative, sustainable and valuable product by first going broad with our thinking.

If you ever find yourself in situations where you get asked to do it just like you did before or to do this for mobile, to simply make it an app or to build a presence on iPad you should be curious. There might even be answers for all the spontaneous questions and even proper solutions.

What is wrong with having answers even before a project really has started? The problem is, that these might be answers to the wrong questions.

You are not starting in a world of the unknown. Stakeholders know the product from their very own perspective, they know what they want and they have good assumptions about what their customers want. When it comes to design, everyone has something to contribute anyways. The concept seems to be almost defined before the project has really started. That’s all good! Consider this information as valuable input. But it is not enough.

Take a deep breath and start asking the right questions: What is it good for? How does it help your users? Why should we build it that way? Why not? What if we do this? What if we do not do it? What is the product’s purpose?

Of course, also ask the right people (hint: your users).

There are various situations where focussing on what you already know is a lot easier and sometimes even sufficient. It might be just the right decision to do it good enough. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. But expectations of your users might be higher than you assume and therefore your product’s success lower than you prefer. So you should really consider investing more effort in making sure that you take your chances and build it right. You have to pass a “death valley” in the beginning, but it will pay off quickly. Think twice about what you would measure as (business|product) success. By only translating and improving what is already there, you just get new wine in old bottles. Prost!