Two methods for early success
When starting a new UX job, there is an abundance of information to process, especially if you’ve gone to a new company. Right away, you’ll need to create and navigate new working relationships, learn (and sometimes change) a new product, and begin understanding the mélange of people who use the product. Additionally, many argue that you only have 90 days to demonstrate your importance and value to the organization.
“…impressing your manager and colleagues within the first 90 days is not only essential to your success in your current role but also for your overall career.”
This can be daunting.
However, conducting the following two UX methods at the beginning of your tenure will help you find early success by quickly getting a feel for the organization’s ecosystem and understanding issues in the product.
Method 1: Interviews
Interviews are a great way to understand people’s goals and challenges, but they also provide an avenue for making unique, one-on-one connections throughout the organization. Contact department heads and set up short meetings to get to know them and their views on the product.
Here’s a quick template that works for me:
Hi ____,I’m the newest UX hire. I am trying to understand how different groups use [product name] and [person’s name] thought you would have some great insight. Would you have 30 minutes to to meet and talk?
In these interviews, you’ll see how departments view and interact with the product and each other. While you should treat these interviews informally, you'll still want to gather a consistent data set.
I recommend interviewing two to three people in each department. However, depending on the size of the organization that may not be possible so try to represent each distinct group as best as possible. Since a detailed interview becomes cumbersome at scale, I typically only track answers to the following areas:
Dive into specific behaviors and stories to understand their usage:
- What task do you complete the least? Why?
- What task do you repeat the most? Why? How often?
- What's the last task you completed?
- How often do you use the system?
- Positive Aspects.
Be sure to evaluate and document the things the systems does well:
- How would you describe the product? Biggest selling point?
- What does the product do well for others?
- What does the product do well for you?
- Pain Points.
We all rationalize the difficulty of tasks so ask about behaviors, not just opinions:
- Describe the last time you lost your work and had to start over.
- What takes the longest to complete?
- What is the most frustrating aspect of the system?
Everyone has feature ideas, but be sure ask about their ecosystem to push discovery:
- What do you wish this product did? What do customers typically ask for?
- What tasks do you do outside of the system?
- What other products do you use to complete your work?
Understand the landscape and what similar products do well:
- If this product suddenly went away, what would take its place?
- Why would someone pick this product vs another?
- What is this product's biggest competitor?
Get a grasp on how employees currently see and understand users:
- What problem does this product solve for users?
- When do they use this product? What are they trying to do?
- Describe the current user base for me. Who doesn't use this product?
Use this opportunity to develop contacts:
- Who in your department should I talk to about the product?
Folks might want to tell you exactly how to fix their issues (“There needs to be a button that…”), but resist the temptation to brainstorm solutions. Remember - you are simply discovering, not solving.
Here’s a simple template to help structure your data.
What you’ll gather
Using these previous areas as your focus, you should be able to gather:
- How employees use and interact with the product
- What they think the product does and does not do well
- How they describe the product to others (language used)
- Their working ecosystem
- View of users and and competitors, and
- A List of other folks to talk to
How to use it
With this data, you might create:
- Needs/wants diagram by department or role
- Feature list segmented by positive and negative statements
- List of areas in which employees want help (how to make their jobs easier)
- List of user goals/stories
- The beginning of a competitive analysis
- Mental modal of how employees see users
Method 2: Cognitive Walkthrough
While beginning to understand the organization’s structure and departmental goals, start demonstrating immediate value by creating a prioritized list of usability issues.
Since you most likely haven’t had deep interaction with the product, this is a perfect time to conduct a cognitive walkthrough, as the only time you can truly represent a new user is when you are one. This method is a structured way to gather usability feedback based on a new user’s perspective. Once you start diving deep into the product or learning about it’s history, your perspective will change.
Use the data you gather in your interviews to prioritize the most important user goals and start with those.
The data you’ll get
With this method, you’ll gather:
- A list of step-by-step tasks for specific user goals
- Identification of tasks that are difficult for users and why
- List of tasks that are roadblocks
How to use it
- Use this list to brainstorm solutions with the development team
- Add the amount of effort each item/solution would need to fix.
- Create a prioritized list of fixes based on effort and user impact.