We got it! (Really.)

In product development, it’s often easy to envision a product that we THINK users want. However, in reality, users don’t want it or don’t find it as useful as we imagined. This is a problem that user experience (UX) designers and product managers face every day – how do we really know what is valuable? Fixing this age-old problem requires communication, testing, and collaboration.

General touch point communication is what user research and collaborative development are built on. Communicating with the client in regular calls often spurs confidence with development’s progress and the work of the prototypes. Showing a task flowchart during these calls can also assist in producing valuable conversations between a UX designer or product manager and the client. Having engineers and quality assurance sit in on calls help them understand the problems we are solving. Overall, general communication creates a better product in a timely manner. Without it, assumptions, oversights and mistakes are made that could be costly to the budget.

Once we have an idea of what is needed, we can build prototypes to start user testing. Showing prototypes to real product end users and testing their effectiveness and help user experience designers and product managers adjust and correct issues before something goes into code. This saves on costs because retroactively fixing a mistake after coding can cost up to ten times as much. Through user testing and research, we can also determine user personas, which are the stories that identify the role of the person at an organization that uses the software being developed. These personas are shared across teams so everyone has a good idea of who our user is and what they do to improve overall communication. Personas also create a language that help our teams when the begin collaborating on development.

Collaborative development begins with several teams coming together to scope the problem’s use cases. One tool UX designers or product managers may use for collaboration is an activity called card sorting. Card sorting allows everyone to participate in thinking about what the product is and what it should do. Quite often coming together on a card sort produces a larger volume of ideas, overlap, and outliers than an individual could think of alone. The result is cleaner, more robust information that the whole team understands. Collaborative development continues with Agile practices of incrementally developing small chunks while checking the project’s progress. The team convenes frequently to discuss issues and matters at hand, and, if they are at a point where a pivot on a concept is needed, it is often early enough to avoid costly fixes.

At Accruent, we practice communication, user testing, and collaboration in all our development. This has proven to be a way to save money and provide continuous improvement though iteration and incremental development. We communicate with our clients so that we can be confident that the right product is being produced and will be warmly received and used. Product management and user experience collaborates with engineering and professional services, bringing them into the customer calls and other conceptual activities. We research who our users are, test our work, and socialize the findings. We understand what it takes to make great product. We got it, really.