Category Archives: UX

‘Think jobs, pains and gains, not build, measure and learn’–Osterwalder

osterwalder

By Dennis Clenente

In the startup world, who doesn’t know Alex Osterwalder, the lead author of the global best-seller, Business Model Generation, the handbook for visionaries, game changers and challengers? Osterwalder invented the “Business Model Canvas,” the strategic management tool for designing, testing, building and managing business models.

Last October 22, Startup Grind in New York City hosted a brief live Skype interview with Osterwalder from Switzerland and his co-author Yves Pigneur about their latest book, Value Proposition Design. Host Bob Dorf, co-author of The Startup Owner’s Manual, gave a short introduction of Osterwalder’s Business Model Canvas before introducing him and Pigneur, saying how it was initially developed for big companies but was discovered and used more by startups through the years.

Taking a cue from that, Osterwalder, speaking from Switzerland, began his talk talking about how the once-mighthy Kodak fell by the wayside. “It failed to create a value proposition for the digital camera.” Now even big companies use the canvas.

In the new book, Osterwalder expands on his canvas concept to include Value Proposition Design (VPD), a guide for creating products and services that customers want

Determining customer needs certainly takes precedence here. For him, it’s about relentlessly taking a customer perspective, listening to customers than selling to them.

It’s not surprising to hear this from him, since he has utmost respect for Steve Blank’s work on customer development. For him, building first is a waste when the way to go about conjuring up your idea is to think about what he calls “jobs, pains and gains,” NOT build, measure and learn.”

“There’s a danger with build measure and learn. You do this you start in the worst possible way to test your ideas,” he said.

To avoid this, he suggests using the Value Map to determine the jobs, pains and gains. They come in a square and circle.

So we have come from the rectangle in the Business Model Canvas to the square (value proposition) and circle (customer development). In this manner, he says in the book, you (see and) achieve fit when your value map meets your customer profile.

“(But) you will want to test the circle first before the square,” he advised.

There is more to explore in this colorful book, including how it states these statements plainly yet clearly, “The Business Model Canvas helps you create value for your business. The Value Proposition Canvas helps you create value for your customer.”

Osterwalder says he didn’t want to reinvent the wheel with the book. VPD goes “hand in hand with the Business Model Canvas.”

The important thing is to turn your ideas into value proposition prototypes with the many available practical tools offered in the book.

Why add more tools?

Who wouldn’t believe Osterwalder when he says, “I believe (why) a surgeon (needs) many tools than just a Swiss knife.” No pun intended even if he’s Swiss.

Still, wondering if the new book is for you, here are some questions to ask yourself:

Are you overwhelmed by the task of true creation?
Frustrated by unproductive meetings and misaligned teams?
Involved in bold shiny projects that blew up?
Disappointed by the failure of a good idea?

If so, Osterwalder believes Value Proposition Design will help you in the following ways:

Understand the patterns of value creation
Leverage the experience and skills of your team
Avoid wasting time with ideas that don’t work
Design, test, and deliver what customers want

How not to overdo on your site or app’s features

cohn-agile-lean

By Dennis Clemente

If studies indicate 50 percent of a product’s features go unused, how do you make sure you don’t overdo it? The answer is quite obvious: You need user testing. What’s less obvious is how you go about this process.

At the Kaplan Center last September 22, The Agile/Lean Practitioners group brought back Danielle Tomson of the Occum Group and Steven Cohn of Validately to discuss various ways of gaining user insights from the prototyping stage.

Tomson said there are three types of user tests: desirability, usability and feasibility.

In terms of desirability, she said it’s important to interview, observe, survey and A/B test. When interviewing, ask for open question, making sure to dig deep.

“Instead of telling the user what specially needs to be done, give them a task,” she said. “Ask the user what he expects to happen. What’s in it for them?”

Breaking it down, asks the what, when and how questions. Does the user want to use it? Would they use it? How would they use it? When is it essential in the early phase and in creating new features on old products? How is the minimum viable service (.i.e. test the service before the product, figure out the interviews, surveys, paper prototyping)

Quantity is not always quality when it comes to number of users. Tomson adheres to Jacob Nielsen’s five-user test method: test more users if they are in a highly different group (egg. 5 students and 5 teachers). Read more here http://www.nngroup.com/articles/why-you-only-need-to-test-with-5-users/

As for usability, ask what does the product fulfill in the user’s needs? Why and why not? Do the features or UI/UX enable them to do so? Does the product do what you intended? Figure out how what tools to track behavior.

As for the feasibility part, ask how this feature can achieve business goals?

Constantly validate, but Tomson says it’s also important to keep two things in mind: the goal and hypothesis. “A goal is something you hope to achieve—what do you want the behavior to be? A hypothesis is something you think will happen—what do you believe the behavior will be?”

Cohn talked next about his startup Validately and how it is supposed to recruit users, create tests and get rapid feedback for different types of prototypes. Demonstrating Validately’s functions, he shows how it can show both low fidelity and high fidelity, including support for Axure and Balsamiq. With Axure, he said you can just add in the URLs and test the prototype on Validately. For safety, he said you can create a non-guessable URL to send to just a few people.

Overall, the validation site should be able to gauge desirability, measure usability, test the look and feel and make custom tests.

Cohn’s key takeways about user testing involved the following:
• Test what people do in their native environment
• Filter qualitative feedback based on actions
• Test on customer segments
• Be open to data

Designing your web or app? Axure can make you a prototyping badass

Danielle Tomson
Danielle Tomson

Click here to view the presentation
Badass prototyping

By Dennis Clemente

Last August 12, about 80 people showed up at Kaplan center to “Learn (how) to Prototype Like a Badass” with the host group, the Agile/Lean Practitioners visibly surprised by the audience’s strong interest and engagement in the demonstration presented by Occum’s Danielle Tomson.

The audience warmed up to Tomson’s presentation style right at bat. She gave an equal dose of expertise and humor (“no slow claps please,” “there’s always a troll”) on a tool not many people use but which is considered the best out there—Axure.

The slow adoption of Axure in the U.S. may account for the fact that other tools are more affordable (it’s too expensive, with the pro version over $589) while the rest of the world may have “copies” to use freely, if you catch my drift. This is just to stress how the tool always intimidates with its price, more than its effective use.

The huge turnout shows the strong interest for it but it’s also surprising how many UX designers in the States don’t know how to use it, even if Axure has been around for more than a decade. It is actually everything that a UI/UX designer can dream of in prototyping a website or app without front-end coding.

But old habits die hard. Some designers use Adobe Creative Suites or even more basic ones like Balsamiq. Among graphic designers transitioning to UX, Omnigraffle seems to be the most popular choice as well, as one designer claimed that it almost mimics Adobe Illustrator which she has used for many years.

Axure does better. It mimics a finished site or app without a single line of code, saving developers from the constant changes a project undergoes. On the other hand, there are developers who prefer to code right away.

They plunge right into coding because they work on their startups and think they have a clear vision of what they want, while designers who work with companies would need Axure to give them more leeway to pivot when a company’s far more complex business needs require it. The coding happens once clarity is achieved.

Still startups would do well to recognize how it’s important to learn lean principles and agile development philosophies beyond its business model. Honing a vision, giving it life with a prototype, and validating it with users first are just as important.

In her presentation, the audience followed Tomson in prototyping a travel booking platform in minutes. She also showed some prototyping tips and tricks and how to test Axure prototype on customers using Validately or share within a network using Axure Share. The audience was receptive to the idea of a possible follow-up meetup.

Tomson, a Yale grad with an international development background, is a product partner at Occum which, in turn, has Avon, Johnson & Johnson, KPMG and the United Nations Foundation for its clients, among others. She echoes the company’s belief that a great idea starts from a real, clearly articulated problem.

As for the title of her presentation, “Learn (how) to Prototype like a Badass.” It’s really more about how the best prototyping tool, Axure, can make you a badass. Like this blogger thinks he’s on his way to becoming one, too—if not yet.