How to avoid digital project failure and save £££s
If you have a new website or web application development project on the horizon, you’d think it would be obvious that to achieve success, the right planning is vital. Yet, it is still surprising to see that 70% of projects fail due to lack of user acceptance (1). Businesses are still continuing to develop digital products that are falling short of their users’ expectations and wasting thousands of pounds in the process.
James Dyson created 5,127 prototypes and took 15 years to refine what became the first model of the bag-free, cyclone technology vacuum cleaner (2). Apple created numerous prototypes that were never even released such as the WALT (Wizzy Active Lifestyle Telephone).
When it comes to IT projects, up to 15% are abandoned and at least 50% of a programmers’ time during the project is spent doing rework that is avoidable (3).
Three of the 12 top reasons projects fail are because of
• Badly defined requirements
• Poor communication among customers, developers and users
But all of these issues are avoidable and can be tackled with User Experience or user-centred design work such as stakeholder interviews, the use of research and testing (4).
It is crazy that companies are prepared to spend thousands of pounds developing a new digital product without investing in user experience research and insights. This is especially surprising when spending 10% of your development budget on usability could improve your conversion rate by 83% (5).
Whether you are working on a website, a bespoke web application, an intranet, portal or dashboard, what can you do to increase the chances of your digital project being a success?
User Experience Research
Look beyond those people who are directly involved in creation of the product and talk to other stakeholders with your organisation. Maybe they are content creators, internal users of your system or they interact with the end users. What are their views on the product, its limitations and its opportunities?
Gather insights through workshops and interviews, if you are updating an existing product, what are the frustrations and workarounds that make it difficult for them to use. If it is a new product, what is their wish list of functionality? You may not be able to deliver it all (and don’t be afraid to clearly explain this), but by asking now you will limit change requests later, can potentially create a development road map and also help to increase internal buy-in when you launch.
You would think that gaining insight from the product’s end users would be a no-brainer, yet it is still missing from a huge number of digital development projects. By investing in user workshops and interviews you can reveal wrong assumptions, identify new issues or opportunities and avoid poor decisions being made based on one person’s likes or dislikes.
By uncovering the end users’ attitudes, experiences, pain points and frustrations you can uncover the root of the issues and ensure the solutions meet their needs. It only takes five participants to find 85% of usability problems (6), although according to Human Factors International, there should be five participants per user group (7). User surveys are a useful additional tool that can be used to validate findings from workshops and interviews.
Raw Data and Analytics
Data from analytics tools can provide valuable insights in to online behaviour. Usage patterns, navigation pathways and drop-offs can all be identified. Heat mapping, click trail data and eye tracking tools are also useful sources of quantitative research, however it is vital that raw data isn’t used in isolation. Whilst analytics can tell you what is happening, it can’t explain why and therefore it is essential that this type of research be combined with other sources to achieve balanced insight.
Understanding best practice and current trends in user experience can help to ensure that your product meets the expectations of users and won’t feel dated as soon as it’s launched. The cutting-edge knowledge and expertise of a UX professional will encompass a review of usability, accessibility, navigation, content and design; with the aim of ensuring your digital product achieves your goals.
Analysing direct competitors (i.e. from the same industry) and indirect competitors (i.e. from a different industry) can highlight different and innovative solutions to tackle similar challenges. Also, taking time to review similar digital products will also help to establish a benchmark of what your users will expect based on other sites or products they may have experienced.
Analysis and Insight
Having to analyse huge amounts of qualitative research findings can understandably be a daunting task. Graphs are much easier to translate compared to interview scripts, however that shouldn’t be a reason not to do it.
A UX professional will take the research findings and turn it into actionable insight. User Personas are profiles of key end users based on their attitudes, behaviours and expectations, which help to map tasks and define scenarios for the product to be tested against.
Identifying and testing key user tasks provides valuable insight into how best to optimise the user experience. Whether you want to increase form completion, improve data input accuracy or ensure an effective product search, Task Mapping and Analysis helps the project team to focus on optimising the important tasks.
Scenario development considers the context in which users are interacting with your product. Will users be in the office on a desktop computer, on a tablet at home or on their mobile on the train? Understanding these different scenarios will affect how the product is designed and developed. For example would a Native app be a suitable solution or would a responsive website be more appropriate.
The outputs from the analysis and insights activity are used in a number of ways, including;
• To provide direction on the next stages of the product development process
• Inform decision making so there’s no need to rely on opinions or assumptions
• To continually test and ensure the solution meets users needs and expectations
Structure and content
The next step in a process is to identify and document the Information Architecture i.e. the how the pages of the website or web application are structured. It is useful to include calls to action, interactions as well as navigation development and terminology used.
Process flow mapping is an activity that visually illustrates certain important tasks, such as a sign up registration, an online purchase or a complex form completion. The aim of this is to ensure that these key processes are prioritised when planning for the user experience.
Wireframes & Prototypes
The research, insights, structure and content work are all used to inform the development and creation of wireframes and prototypes.
Wireframes are a method of planning the layout of different page types. It provides a non-detailed visual display of where certain content and buttons will be located on the page.
Interactive prototypes are used to bring the wireframes to life and provide a real-life example of how the end product will work. There are different levels of prototypes from low fidelity (simple labeled boxes on a page) to ultra-high fidelity (incorporating final creative design). Navigation, interaction logic and animations can be reviewed, buttons can be clicked and an accurate representation of the site can then be tested against user personas and ideally with end users.
The key to saving £££s on your digital project
Wireframes and Prototypes are the most important tools that will ultimately save you money on your digital project. Wireframes and prototypes save you time and money on your digital project because they…
• Provide a strong indication of how the final product will look and work
• Clearly demonstrate hierarchy of content and navigation paths
• Enable testing against internal and end-user expectations
• Can be used to gather feedback from real end-users
• Enable changes to be made quickly and at low cost
• Provide UX best practice for visual design
• Speed up the design process
• Speed up the expensive development process
• Offer flexibility of low to ultra-fidelity prototypes depending on requirements
Just as you wouldn’t build a house without sufficient plans in place, why begin the expensive development work of building a new digital product before you have fully defined what you (and your users) want.
The cost of fixing an error after development is complete can cost 100 times that of fixing the error before completion (8). In addition, undertaking UX cuts develop time by 50% (9). So why wouldn’t you make the investment and take the time to get it right first time?
If you are about to embark on a new digital project, at DotLabel we offer a flexible user experience methodology that is designed to meet different objectives and budgets. Contact us to find out how we can help ensure your digital project isn’t one of the 70% that fail due to lack of user acceptance.
1 Forresters Research
5. Jakob Nielson
Blog originally posted at http://dotlabel.co.uk/blog/how-to-save-s-on-your-digital-project/