UX Greatness Part 3 of 3

Three things to have UX greatness.  Last one.

  1. Good enough isn’t good enough.
  2. Eat bad babies.
  3. Invest in your future.

Invest in your future.
It is so rare that anyone does this.  Seriously, everyone talks about it and no one ever does it.

At a previous company (which shall remain nameless), there was a project to redo the UI shell.  Someone (who shall remain nameless) wanted to kill the project.  It wasn’t a feature.  It didn’t provide immediate value.  However, the old UI shell was a mess. (Partly because of  “someones” bad code.)  The bad state of affairs made improving the UI very painful.  Adding features was annoying because you had to jump through hoops.  There were lots of bugs because of the way the architecture was built.  Something could work in 20 situations and fail on the 21st.  Like I said, a mess.  So the project to redo the UI shell would clean that up.  I had to fight hard to get the project finished.  I had to blur the details of the project to avoid naysayers killing it before it had a chance.  I had to put all my chips on that effort.

In the end, it was a strategic and wildly successful/valuable project.  It made all UI projects from that point forward easier to manage and build.  It made the UI consistent and reduced bugs by half.  It sped development and made everyone who used the application feel that it was faster and more responsive.  The new skin also looked more modern and sold/demo’d better.  It transformed the entire application and breathed new life into the team.

Why was it so hard to get that project done?  Why is it so hard for a team to spend their time/energy on architecture and infrastructure.  The reason is that most people and most executives are short-sighted.  They can’t see the end of the tunnel.  They are looking at their feet.  They are caught on Local Max Island.  It takes vision to see the investment turn into value.

The analogy I use is a sports car.  Most people want to put it in 5th gear right away.  You turn the ignition, put the car in 5th gear and back out of the driveway.  Someone doing this will likely kill the engine and never make it to the highway, much less get the car to above 60mph. Sounds silly, but most people I meet think this way about software. The lower gears to get you started pave the way for a faster speed later on.  The low gears are the infrastructure and architecture.

Build the system to build the application first.  Then the application will go much faster.

So what does this have to do with UX?  User Experience is how people interact with your whole company.  You will never get everything right on the first try.  However, if you can react, you can change.  You can take out the bad and put in the good.  You can test.  You can improve the UX.  However, if every change takes a long time, and you are fighting bugs all day, you will never be able to change and adapt.  Only by investing in systems today will you be able to improve UX in the future.

Think about what you are working on, right now.  What if you spent a bunch of time creating a system and architecture to make that much easier to implement so you could change it and add to it with ease?  What would that mean in the long run?  Invest in your future.  The payoff is enormous and almost all of your competition refuses to do it.

There are other ingredients to UX greatness, but these three are ones I think make a big difference.  I hope you can make use of them.

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