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There is great little book in the Webcredible library called ‘lunch at the shop: The Art and Practice of the Midday Meal’. It’s part cook book, part manifesto and describes the benefits of eating together at work along with a bunch of recipes suitable for communal catering.

This concept really resonates with me because ever since I can remember I have enjoyed preparing and eating food, and at Webcredible I am not alone. We are a greedy foodie bunch! From what I can tell this isn’t unique to Webcredible as there seems to be a UX wide obsession with the social and gastronomic elements of lunch (& breakfast & dinner…).

At our old office the most we could muster was microwaved leftovers, so when we designed our new office space one of the non-negotiable requirements was a full kitchen and café area so that we could indulge ourselves in eating. As soon as we moved in I hatched a plan to have a monthly company lunch prepared by and for the staff.

Month 1

I wasn’t sure how feasible it would be for everyone to stop work and eat together so I decided to run a pilot. We had a series of challenges to overcome:

  • How to turn on the new oven
  • Using an electric hob with a lock that no-one could turn off
  • Scaling up a recipe to feed 30+ people
  • Catering for meat eaters, veggies & vegans

To keep it simple we cooked a large Spanish style sausage Fabada with giant Judion Beans from Borough market, we filled our oven with jacked spuds and made a simple salad. The prep time was short and the food went down well along with a few beers. The pilot was a success.

lunch1

Month 2

The bar was raised when Nirish prepared Nepalese specialties influenced by his grandmothers recipes, with rice prepared by Hua, curry by me and dessert by Scott.

Recipes:

lunch2

Month 3

The office was transformed into a fantastic diner with pulled pork baps, veggie chilli, sweet potato fries and sprout slaw prepared by Rich, Mark, Chi & Tom.

Recipes

  • Pulled pork
  • Chilli. Tipped ingredients into a pot with enough chilli powder to bring down a walrus. Left it to simmer for a bit then served.
  • Sweet potato fries 

In my eyes having monthly lunches cooked by staff at Webcredible has been a huge success. It’s great excuse to get everyone in the company together and socialising. Well worth the effort it took having a kitchen installed in the new office!

If you’re looking for your next user experience opportunity (and happen to be a first class cook!) we might be the agency for you! Check out our vacancies and you might be enjoying an office-cooked feast sooner than you think.

The way you kick-off a project can make it or break it. Yet often, we dive straight into delivering against the project plan and things go awry that could have been prevented by an effective project kick-off.

Here are a few things you can do to kick-off your project in a more successful way than just saying ‘Go’.

1. Get everyone together

I mean everyone – the client, the third party agencies, the core team. Anyone that will be working on the project at some point, not just the people that have the first set of tasks in the project plan.

This is beneficial because it means everyone can meet each other and get to know who they are working with. It wouldn’t be unusual for you to never see these people again (as email & phone communications often take over) so putting a face, as well as some personality, to the email address is important. For junior members of staff this also has the benefit of making the client more approachable.

Having a bonding experience at the very beginning creates a sense of ‘one team’ – and people communicate and deliver better for people they have personal understanding of.

Think you can’t do it because not everyone will be free at the same time or you can’t fit everyone into a room? It doesn’t have to be long, and it doesn’t have to be in person – video conferencing or Skype is a good enough alternative.

2. Talk about over riding objectives

Having a single vision for why this project is happening so that the whole project team understands it will allow better decision making throughout the project, particularly for decisions that have to be made on the fly.

This is ideally done by the client (straight from the horses mouth so to speak) and whoever has had the conversations with the client to shape the project. These are the people who can best explain what problem the project is trying to solve, and why. After all, you’re not really building a website just because someone wants a website, it’s because you want more people to find your products, for example.

3. Clarify roles and responsibilities

Job titles may not describe what someone is actually doing on the project, and job titles often mean different things in different industries or organisations. When you go around the table doing introductions, make sure each person describes their role on this project, not just their job title.

This also helps people know how they fit in to the team, and everyone knows where to go with problems or questions.

4. Definition of deliverables

Similar to the lack of consistency in job title terminology, names of deliverables can also mean different things to different people.

Not all tasks need to be explored, but ensure that everyone understands what outputs they’re getting from which teams. Simply saying, the design team will deliver the designs can leave ambiguity – are they delivering them as Photoshop files, for every page or just key pages, with interactions annotated or not…

Key events should be discussed and scheduled at this point as well (key delivery dates and meetings for example).

It can be hard at times if you don’t know what you’re delivering – for instance, if you need to do user research to know what strategy or design work needs to be prioritised. But at this point you can make assumptions even if you don’t have complete clarity, and ensure the teams know who they will be delivering to, even if they don’t quite know what yet.

5. The PLAN

Try and keep it as simple as possible to make sure it’s relevant and understandable for everyone in the room.

In as much detail as possible the plan should cover how and when things happen, but resemble more of an approach than a detailed project plan. When you’re looking at the plan, encourage group discussion, your plan at this stage shouldn’t be concrete so update the document during the kick-off to flex to new information.

6. Risks and assumptions

I always ask “what could go wrong” what are the risks – for all parties, agencies, internal teams, client, stakeholders. Then think over possible solutions as a group.

The difficulty for most projects is the client relationship and how you approach risks in the project. Honesty is the best policy, and starting your relationship in this way will encourage that behaviour for all teams involved, so any issues are confidently brought to light immediately.

7. Be prepared for the kick-off

There are a few things you’ll need to bring or prepare for this meeting to make the most of everyone’s time, including:

  • Relevant sales documents – briefs and proposals
  • Research on domain, industry and client
  • Invite the team to register / log-in to any technology that you’re going to use to manage the project so everyone can get used to it early
  • Send out an agenda, and always run your kick-off’s in the same format – your teams will then know what to expect and it’ll run much more efficiently
  • Do a rehearsal beforehand – then you have a sense of how long it will take

These are the main things I try to do for our kick-off’s to help projects run smoothly from the offset. I’d love to know what you do that you find useful so feel free to pop them into a comment below.

If you’re interested in learning more about project management I teach two courses, digital project management and agile project management.

I’m very excited to announce that after 6 months hard work researching, designing and testing the amazing new brompton.com is live!

As with all user-centred design projects, we always start with a good dose of research (business requirements gathering and user research). Re-designing the website for iconic British brand, Brompton Bicycles was no different.

Their mantra of “Made for you, Made for cities” meant they jumped right on board the user experience philosophy of making sure that their digital interfaces were as delightful to use and well-engineered as their products.

Read on if you want to explore some of the lessons we learnt along the way in case you:

  • a) love Brompton and you’re fascinated for a sneak preview into how the website redesign progressed or
  • b) want to learn from our experience to get a few quick tips from a real project

So, here are the lessons we learnt and a sneak preview behind the scenes of the Brompton “Made for you, made for cities” website redesign, starting with user research.

The plan of action for Brompton user research

The key techniques chosen for the user research were:

  1. Guerrilla user research: We did a lot of guerrilla research, hanging around in bike shops so we could interview bike owners to find out about them and what they thought of the brand. We also talked to many Brompton owners, stopping them on the street to ask questions.
  2. Analytics data: We did research through analytics analysis. We used Google Analytics to work out what the key user journeys through the site were, where people were dropping off, behaviour trends, platform usage etc. It also helped us to identify what was missing from pages and what SEO opportunities were open for Brompton to increase their traffic. Identifying additional keywords to target was key for the success of the website moving forward.
  3. Shop visits (Ethnography): We also visited shops as part of our guerrilla user research to understand how dealers sold them. This was about seeing how dealers needed to use the website in the sales process by watching them use it in real scenarios. This uncovered  the frustrations resellers had with the site as it was and what customers asked them about
  4. Focus groups: We ran focus groups at Webcredible HQ using the old Brompton website as stimulus to explore what people liked and ideas of what we could do moving forward. We then looked at what made ‘owners’ and ‘prospects’ tick and what they each needed from the website so we could make sure that both user groups were designed for.
  5. Stakeholder engagement: We also planned in multiple stakeholder engagement workshops with the senior management at Brompton. This was really helpful to ensure their priorities were considered and everyone came on the same journey. Kicking off with a stakeholder workshop was great, it got the whole company engaged and helped us to really understand what their priorities were. Everyone had an opportunity to share what they had a say.

Why was user research important?

The most important objective was to cover as many different user groups as we could. A common trait among Brompton owners is that they aren’t ‘typical’ cyclists, and we all know it’s dangerous to pretend we know the thoughts and natural behaviours of our users without observing them properly. So, we spoke to commuters, as well as doing research in bike shops.

It was key for us to cover as much of the international market as we could as well. We did interviews with business stakeholders worldwide, including those from US, China, Taiwan, Holland and Italy to make sure that we considered cultural differences, requirements and needs, how the bike was used in different cultures and how the brand was perceived.

Spending the time doing user research upfront was really important, as with all our projects, and we used it to create a digital strategy based on real perceptions and needs of users. We then addressed the current frustrations and reservations that people had with the website and brand.

Did you learn anything interesting about the Brompton brand?

The findings from our research with Brompton can be split into 3 major themes, one related to the international use and perception of Brompton, one around the UK perception of Brompton bikes, and one around how even rock stars use them…

  • There is a huge amount of commuting by bike across the world, particularly in places where people don’t have much space to live, having a bike that folds up is really useful.
  • The English heritage is hugely important in the Far East market.
  • In the US, people don’t tend to commute by bike but instead like to take bikes away at the weekend. The Brompton meets this need by easily fitting in to an RV and has the performance of a non-folding bike.
  • In China, they have a basket attachment so they can use it in a supermarket and unfold it ready to ride home.
  • Taiwan has meet-up type groups that travel to different street food stalls every Friday on their Brompton’s – they ride and eat together.
  • In the UK, people associate folding bikes with getting a train. “I don’t get a train so I don’t need a folding bike” was heard numerous times during research, despite a person meeting all criteria for needing one.
  • Bon Jovi’s road crew had been in the week before and had all just come back from a gig. The whole crew had bought Brompton’s to get around cities in downtime. When they are finished a gig they threw them in flight cases with the instruments and shipped them to the next place.

All of the above findings were key insights we fed back to the company – they are real perceptions and use cases that we addressed in the project.

What were the deliverables from user research?

The above insights were taken back to Webcredible HQ and the walls were smothered in post-it notes ready for analysis and recommendations. This was used as a basis for creating personas, which in turn aided in developing a digital strategy. The process went a bit like this:

  1. Stick post-it notes to the wall, group things together, map ideas and make suggestions
  2. Create customer journeys and personas
  3. The above is all an iterative process, with the Webcredible team and Brompton stakeholders taking part
  4. Present the digital strategy back for sign-off
  5. Get going on design & build!

 

How research fit into the larger project

  • Step 1. research.
  • Stage 2. Create a strategy and roadmap – we refer back to this at every stage, when you’re designing and you have an understanding of your customers it is much easier to design and make something that will meet their needs.
  • Stage 3. design, iterate, build, test and launch! (OK, probably more than just three stages…)

What we learnt for next time?

The biggest lesson I learnt from the project was to do with Guerrilla user research.

Guerrilla research is hard work, you need to be well rested and clear headed to be able to stop people you don’t know in the street, who really don’t want to talk to you. It’s very hard to document as well, people don’t like having a camera put in their faces, but if you don’t record it then it’s hard to document. So, when you’re trying to do a lot of research in a short amount of time it’s important to think how you can record it. I ended up writing it down in a notepad. Next time, 2 people – one talks, one takes notes.

Also, don’t do what I did – I spoke with a woman who was looking at thermal tops, she was a famous actress and just needed to buy some thermals and didn’t seem impressed I didn’t know who she was!

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So, there it is – a quick lesson learnt on guerrilla testing and an overview of how to structure a user research project. If you’d like to learn more then we have a great user research course run by our Head of Research, Isabel – and loads of events, so sign up for our newsletter to be the first to know about them.

If you’re a Brompton customer or are interested in purchasing one of their bikes – take a look at their amazing new website, it’s live now!

Webcredible is one of the UK’s leading user experience agencies with state-of-the-art offices in London. We’re proud of our culture of collaboration, trust & empowerment and are always on the lookout for enthusiastic and talented individuals to join our team.

We’re currently looking for:

As a Webcredible you’ll get some fantastic perks: company pension scheme, personal development budget, travel loan, Monday massages, annual retreat and free fruit & fresh coffee. Oh, and unlimited holiday.

Webcredible is a great place to work, but don’t just take my word for it, here’s what our staff love about working here:

What are you waiting for? Send your CV and cover letter to jobs@webcredible.com, and you could be working here sooner than you think!

I’ve been at Webcredible for a little over a month after ten years at my old job. Being part of a new team has been a very exciting experience!

I used to work in academia and now I work for UX agency. At my old job work was a bit slower; now it’s much faster, very lean, with shorter reports focusing on outcomes rather than processes. I like that!

Week 1

My first week was all about settling in to the new office. New laptop, new desk, new telephone, new colleagues and most unusual of all - getting used to hot-desking (I’ve realised I’m a creature of habit. I always sit at the same desk… I am not sure why!). I had an induction and received a lovely booklet with all the information I needed to get me set up.

The open-plan office kitchen is a really nice feature, it has a cooker, all the utensils you need to cook a proper meal and plenty of space to sit and eat with colleagues. I was also invited to help myself to fruit, tea, coffee and cakes which appear every morning as if by magic.

In my first week I also updated my social networks to let everyone know about my new job at Webcredible!

Week 2

By week 2 it was time to start the real work. I had my first meeting with a client to kick off a project I was going to be working on in the next few weeks.

I also prepared for a user testing project, which was scheduled for the following week. I dealt with the recruitment agency solving little issues, liaised with the client regarding the research plan and carried out a pilot test.

And of course, there was unlimited coffee, tea, fruit, biscuits, cakes, etc.

Week 3

Week 3 was the week of my first project. I moderated and took notes from user testing with 12 participants over two days. We invited the client to come to our new labs and watch the user testing – in total, fourteen people from various teams came to observe the sessions. It was really enjoyable seeing them watch and listen to their users, taking notes on post-it notes and reflecting on what happened over the two days.

The third day of the project was about analysis: going through my notes, listing positive and negative observations and  organising them according to severity and making recommendations.

The next step was to hold a workshop with the client and their developers to go through our work so far, and co-design parts of the prototype that needed improvements.

On the final day, we held another session with the client to present our findings and recommendations, showcasing short video clips from user testing to highlight our main points. This was valuable to the stakeholders who missed out on attending a user testing session.

What I learned from my first project at Webcredible:

  • I need to learn how to use the coffee machine :)
  • I’m responsible for making sure the user testing participant has arrived, welcoming him/her and bringing her/him upstairs to the lab
  • While moderating the testing session, jot down in your notes the exact time stamp when the user says something interesting (you can see this on the device’s screen used by the participant). This will save you time during analysis
  • Be empathetic with the participants: how do they feel about the product and why

And of course, there was always time for unlimited coffee, tea, fruit, biscuits, cakes, etc.

Week 4

Week 4 was time for reflection, what went well and what could be improved from my week of user testing.

Then it was time to prepare for the next project. This included preparing a new research plan: what are going to test, what are the research objectives and how are we going to achieve them?

All-in-all it’s been a great first month, and I look forward to the next! If you’re interested in joining Webcredible take a look at our careers page. You could be writing your own first month blog soon enough!

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