When we talk about user experience, we talk about the experienced look, feel and usability of a product or service. But to ensure that we deliver products and services that solve real problems and meet user needs and expectations, we need to understand our customers and end-users – really understand them. We need to collaborate and co-create, test our hypotheses early, iterate and learn continuously. Most of the teams I meet knows that user experience is important when building software. However, we see examples of how the team ends up involving UX Designers, methods and customer feedback too late.
Working in an agile organisation like Visma, where we practice continuous delivery and have a strong focus on customer success, it’s more important than ever for us to ensure that we are delivering value to our customers and end-users.
In Visma we have more than 100 different products and solutions targeting different customer segments and, behind them, many good examples of teams working truly customer centric. With inspiration from them and well-established UX & Design processes, e.g. Design thinking, Lean UX, Double diamond etc. we created the Visma UX Value Loop.
The goal for us when updating our UX process was to:
- Simplify – everyone in development teams and management should understand
- UX is a mindset and team effort – we need to embed UX and customer feedback as a natural and daily part of agile and continuous delivery processes
- Empower co-creation and collaboration internally and with user continuously
- Embrace the Discovery phase and validate our hypotheses with real users
- Focus on outcomes and measurable results
- Speed up the feedback loop with users
Visma UX Value Loop – How we work and create value
To empower teams to succeed, we have created the Visma UX Value Loop, which is our recommended UX process for product development.
The UX Value Loop is a process that puts the user’s needs, wants and limitations in focus throughout the whole development phase. The goal is to build products that give value, are efficient, satisfying and gives a great experience for the user. The UX Value Loop is built upon two parts that are the foundation for building great experiences, Discovery and Delivery.
Discovery – understand, explore and validate
We strongly believe in the importance of starting with the Discovery phase. The process can seem time consuming, but it will be a good investment to ensure that you are building the right things and solving the right problems. And, in many cases, the steps in the Discovery phase don’t need to be heavy or complex. It’s just about working smart and asking the right questions in the right order to the right people.
Within the Discovery phase we recommend the following steps:
- Understand – for who and why are we doing this? Meet your users to understand the problems to solve and/or the opportunities to add value.
- Explore – what is the optimal customer journey? Through collaboration and co-creation with internal stakeholders and customers you will identify the main flows.
- Prototype – create concepts and validate. Visualize and test your hypothesis with real users and sense and respond to feedback.
Delivery – build, test and measure
When you understand your users, have gathered a wide range of ideas, have validated your hypotheses and aligned expectations with your team and stakeholders, you are ready to go into the Delivery phase and start coding. In the Delivery phase you will come closer to the details in your suggested solution and iterate the design of the user experience. You should continue to test your solutions with users and create a plan for how you will release and measure the value that you aim for.
Within the Delivery phase we recommend the following steps:
- Build – how should you build the solution? Focus on detailed user flows to ensure a smooth experience. Remember to design for messy life instead of ideal scenarios.
- Iterate based on feedback – are you focused on solving the right problems? Are you building a great user experience? Iterate by doing usability tests and/or use minimal viable product releases to learn.
- Close the loop – measure and follow up if your customers and end-users are getting the value you intended.
An important success criteria in both the Discovery and Delivery phase is user involvement throughout the development phase, as well as the team’s ability to sense, respond and iterate based on feedback. The most common pitfall for many teams is not taking the time to iterate based on feedback to ensure a better first release.
One of the most common questions we get about the UX Value Loop is if you need to go through all the steps in the Discovery phase and that it seems time-consuming. We wouldn’t say that it’s mandatory- in the end it depends on the scope. We have seen many teams go through the Discovery phase within one week by doing a Design Sprint. It’s important to consider that it’s a big risk to skip the Discovery phase, as it helps you gain valuable insight. The cost of building something only to have to change it later is high, especially since it can be avoided.
Many teams agree that this is the optimal way of working and will try it out in coming projects. There will never be a new project where you will have all the time in the world to do things right. We believe it starts with a change of mindset and culture within management and the development teams, where you see continuous user feedback as the core and always measure outcomes.
When you push for change, we recommend the following three steps:
- Embed UX activities in your development process and let your UX Designer support you in the planning of a project. They have great knowledge and can in many cases help you facilitate and coach others in your development team.
- Find a way to get user feedback early and quickly both in the Discovery phase and the Delivery phase. We have many teams that have established beta-programs, in-app user panels, A/B testing, online interviews and usability tests. Lastly, we shouldn’t forget the great possibilities we have with continuous delivery and feature toggles. They make for the best playground a product can have. We can take smaller risks and release to a limited number of users to test our solutions early.
- UX is a team effort. Meeting customers and doing interviews can be a bit scary in the beginning. Increase basic knowledge around UX methods in your development team and identify the key persons in your team that are the drivers in your transformation.
In Visma we have a team called the UX Studio team. They support teams by providing methods and best practices, run UX trainings for several roles, as well as act as facilitators using our UX superpowers.