NUX Leeds: Lee Duddell – Enemies of UX (and how to kill them)

October 6, 2017 7:25 am

NUX Leeds: Lee Duddell – Enemies of UX (and how to kill them)



This week at NUX Leeds, Lee Duddell, UX director at WhatUsersDo kicked, off his talk by engaging the crowd with two simple questions: ‘Who has too much UX budget?’ and ‘Who does too much UX in their company?’

As expected, no one jumped to respond. Lee had hit the nail on the head and identified two of the biggest hurdles for most of us ‘UXers’: a limited UX budget and consequently, a substandard amount of UX taking place. This acted as a good opportunity for Lee to tell us his thoughts on the 10 biggest enemies of UX in reverse order and how they should be killed to overcome these two great hurdles.

Enemy 10: A/B testing

At number 10 was A/B testing. The problem with this is that the ideas put forward for A/B testing are usually based on hunches from the team, so the main disadvantage of this approach is that it does not provide much insight, simply whether one design performs better than another. It doesn’t tell you why. Instead, Lee suggested that the use of Google analytics or qualitative testing may be more valuable to drive a hypothesis and identify real problems which can then be used to inform future A/B testing.

However, before moving on Lee did acknowledge that A/B testing can be great when proving the Return on Investment (ROI) of testing, so if you are going to use this method it is important to keep in mind the advantages of test-led experiments over hunch led experiments.

Enemy 9: Design Agencies

Lee identified enemy number 9 as Design Agencies (especially big ones). He suggested that large agencies who have big clients and are heavily involved with advertising, often don’t believe that they need to do any research, so don’t. Therefore before relying on a design agency to do your UX work Lee shared his Design Agency checklist with us to make sure you choose the right agency:

  • Are they too large? – Being too large makes it likely that they will struggle to embed testing within the design process.
  • How many researchers do they have? – The more researchers, the greater the chance that they are actually doing user testing. This is critical, as Lee reminded us all that a user’s feedback on your design is better than any!

Enemy 8: Doing it all

As UX professionals, Lee suggested that we are often guilty of going into large organisations and trying to change the world without showing the worth of UX. This is why enemy number 8 is ‘doing it all’. Instead of throwing ourselves in at the deep end and introducing new processes and procedures, Lee suggested that we should start with ‘low hanging fruit’ to provide measurable outcomes. Three key ways to do this are:

  • Do it for free – even if this means going out and running small-scale research yourself.
  • Generate Evidence based change – this doesn’t have to be extensive, but generating evidence provides the foundations for driving future change.
  • Build internal case studies – compiling the evidence into a case study is what will grab the attention of the stakeholders to encourage future work.

By starting with this ‘low hanging fruit’ it is more likely to provide you with the metrics to prove the difference UX can make and so increase the buy-in from necessary stakeholders.

Enemy 7: Asking Users

Lee ranked Asking Users as enemy number 7. This one seems a little surprising at first, but what Lee was referring to was asking for users feedback through poorly designed online surveys. Too many questions, ambiguous questions, and multiple answering options (such as ‘from 1 to 10, 1 being poor and 10 being excellent) make online surveys subjective rather than objective and very difficult for users to complete. Instead, Lee suggested that there are two key questions you should be asking:

  • What were you trying to do?
  • Could you do it?

These two questions should allow you to identify the journeys which need further testing, so the key is to use these surveys to identify problems, not address them.

Enemy 6: Labs

Enemy number 6 was Labs. Actually, it isn’t labs but the infrequent use of them for user testing that Lee was referring to as the enemy of UX. When lab use is infrequent research questions are not answered when they are most relevant. They simply get banked ready for the next round of lab testing and squeezed into sessions alongside multiple other research questions to produce lower quality findings. To solve this, Lee argues that lab use should be more frequent and testing done more iteratively to explore issues as they arise, or should be used alongside other forms of research to ensure all research questions are addressed.

Enemy 5: The ‘Re’s

At number 5 was ‘The ‘Re’s’. The list of ‘Re’s is endless – ‘re-platform’, ‘re-engineer’, ‘re-purpose’, ‘re-fresh’, ‘re-imagine’ – Lee explained that the problem here is the attempt to re-design something that is not working effectively rather than, first, identifying the problems to solve with user testing.

Lee gave an example of a company who implemented a re-design on their mobile site after mobile traffic had risen, but conversion remained lower than desktop. After implementing their re-design, conversion dropped further. This was instantly considered a technical issue, however they later discovered that the problem was that users could not pinch and zoom on product images as they could on the previous desktop site and so were not adding items to their basket. Lee suggested that the key problem here was the company’s reliance on analytics and best practice to inform their ‘re-design’ rather than the use of user testing to identify pain points in the user journey.

Enemy 4: Focus Groups

Although the use of Focus Groups as a research method is regulary questioned, Lee said this research method is still heavily used. Relying solely on what users say they do rather than what they actually do, focus groups provide only opinion and not evidence of behaviour, therefore landing themselves as enemy number 4.

To illustrate this, Lee relayed the tale of a focus group where target-market teenagers were asked which colour radio they would prefer to see on the shop shelves, Black or Yellow. All members of the focus group suggested that they would prefer a yellow radio over black, as black was a boring colour. However, when offered a complimentary radio upon leaving the session, guess which colour radio they all chose to take home? Black.

Enemy 3 – UXers – US!

You heard it, Enemy number 3, is us, the UXers! Ultimately Lee admitted that we are not very good at selling UX. We are so passionate about what we do, but generally most other colleagues are not. As a result we are scared of missing out so will settle for mediocre opportunities, budget and insight. Instead what we need to be doing is really selling the value of UX, this may involve saying scary things like: “There is a risk, that if we don’t do UX and check what users really want then conversion/sales could fall.”

What others do you encounter

Over to the audience… Enemy 2 and Enemy 1

For enemy 2 and 1, Lee turned to the audience and gave us a chance to discuss in small groups what we thought were the biggest enemies of UX. Here’s just a few of the suggestions:

  • ‘The enemy within’ – this includes the dark patterns within organisations in attempt to improve sales and conversion. This reflects a business focus to make more money at the expense of improving user experience.
  • ‘Too many cooks’ – when strictly no one owns UX within an organisation and consequently everybody wants to get involved. This can make it hard to make decisions.
  • Emotional attachment – something that senior stakeholders and product owners may be guilty of, as attachments to certain products and content may restrict change.
  • Client expectations –in terms of the number of objectives to be addressed within an unrealistic time frame and often with an unrealistic budget, all of which can compromise the quality of work provided.
  • Phase 2 –a dangerous game which involves not addressing issues head on and putting them into the back log – ‘we’ll address this in phase 2’ – the phase 2 that never actually happens.

But the most popular enemy in the room was without a doubt ‘Agile’. Taking a development centred business approach means user research typically takes a back seat and a holistic approach becomes hard to maintain. In addressing this, research needs to take more of an upfront position, as this provides insight into how users will experience products before investing in development.

Lee ended the talk by joining enemy number 1 and enemy number 2 to rank Agile as the top enemy of UX.