Turning a 10K Into a 100-Meter Dash

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  • 11/6/2018

    Recently, thunder::tech and USA Track & Field (USATF) worked side by side to develop the user experience (UX) for USATF’s new site. We experimented with a new approach, where we worked together to come up with the site structure in a collaborative effort. Through this new method of service, thunder::tech was able to accelerate the UX design process, shaving weeks of work from the timeline. Here are some key takeaways from the new process and what you can do to utilize the process for your next site.

    What is the new approach?

    This approach centered on a multi-day, in-person working session with USA Track & Field. Our approach did not differ from the normal process, except for one major change—the timeline. By bringing USATF into the office, we were able to cut back on the number of iterations needed to come to a decision both teams agreed on.

    Instead of the UX team starting with general ideas and assumptions and then refining them over the course of three or four rounds, we were able to “real-time design” the deliverables while giving the client a voice throughout the process. By working with USATF instead of trying to anticipate its needs, we were able to deliver a solution that did not need review and could, therefore, be approved much more quickly.

    During the working sessions, USATF was intimately involved in the decision-making process. Our UX team utilized hands-on tools to make things more immersive for our guests and let USATF take ownership of the deliverables based on our guidance and insights. Some tasks that brought together the expertise of the UX team and the working knowledge of USATF included:

    • An in-depth walkthrough of the current site, where USATF had the opportunity to explain the purpose of pages, any constraints that needed to be observed and how important each page was to the new business goals.
    • Constructing the sitemap on a whiteboard with moveable notecards representing pages to quickly iterate structural ideas.
    • Using cutouts representing pre-defined modules of the site to “mix and match” templates to develop wireframes of the site.
    Why should our company consider this approach?

    There are many benefits to an accelerated UX process for both you and for thunder::tech, and we’ll list some of the most important ones here:

    • Quicker turnaround time: As mentioned before, we can compress weeks of UX work and presentations into a few days thanks to collaboration with teams.
    • It allows you to understand the user experience thought process and reasoning better: As we’re working through the sitemap, wireframes and any other deliverable with you, we can explain our reasoning better than on a phone call or in a one-hour presentation. This approach can also start a candid conversation about your target users and how their goals align with your business goals.
    • You have more input in this hands-on approach: As pointed out above, if we work together toward a solution, you are able to explain your reasoning as well, giving the UX designer a better understanding of your goals. By collaborating, we can also build trust between your team and ours.
    • We can work on this project together, without any distractions: It happens all the time: You sit down to give us feedback on a deliverable, an email comes through and pulls you away and, two weeks later, you realize you never responded with your thoughts. This happens to us, too!
    What does thunder::tech need from us for this to be successful?

    Just your time, your attention, your resources, your team and for you to provide lunch. Kidding! For an approach like this to be successful, ideally, we’d be looking for these things:

    • Three days to a week of dedicated time. This seems like a lot to commit, but, when you realize we’re cutting a month or more from the project calendar, it makes up for it.
    • The full team of decision-makers. With this process we don’t have the benefit of sending the deliverables out for C-level or executive review to get signoff, so those working with us in the session should be the decision-makers for the project.
    • Working knowledge of the current site and your wants, needs, issues and business goals.
    • Total buy-in from your team. We understand there will be a lot happening during this session, but we promise it’ll be worth it. If everyone focuses, stays engaged and allows themselves to completely focus on the project, we can create an awesome site in a fraction of the time.
    Want to get your hands dirty in a collaborative, accelerated UX design process? Round your team up and get in contact!
    About the author::Jay Mazzone is a User Experience Designer at thunder::tech. He creates sitemaps and wireframes, conducts user research and keeps his finger on the pulse of the UX world to deliver the best possible experience for clients and users alike. When he’s not at the office, you can find him at a microbrewery, vibin’ with friends and family or at the ballpark. He still calls it "the Jake."
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