Building a UX Practice
Role: Manager UI/UX, Anthropologie
At its core, Anthropologie is a master of "the visual." The brand is known for its spectacular store windows, awe-inducing catalog imagery, and conversational prints of all kinds. Creativity and the expression thereof is at the core of the brand's identity and much of the corporate workflow is based on reviewing fully developed, high fidelity comps. Though it wasn't difficult to "sell" the worth of a UX team within the brand (we need a team focused solely on the customer's digital shopping experience — a group that uses data driven design to ensure the shopping path is fast, easy, and fun), establishing a team structure outside of the visual design world with a completely new workflow was a challenge in and of itself.
PART 01: ESTABLISHING PERSONAS
Personas were initially a very hard sell at Anthropologie. Some team members outside of the design realm felt them to be artificial. Other employees found them silly and couldn't see how they would be used in daily application. However, about 1 year after first introducing them — personas were accepted across the product development teams a regular part of scenario and user story building. So, how did we do it? We proved their value in application by using them to guide data-driven design and research. Ultimately, we showed how personas can be used in the digital product design process to help focus and organize design-thinking.
PART 02: ESTABLISHING A UX DESIGN WORKFLOW
The old phrase, "you have to see it to believe it," used to dominate the digital creative department. For a project to be "legitimate," our team would have to jump right to high fidelity comps for show-backs and executive approval. The problem with this approach however, was that seeing it did NOT mean it was real. Launching right into comps without defining requirements, user needs, and overall project goals led us to solutions that often turned out to be technically infeasible and more focused on the business's request than the best solution for our customer. It also led to scope creep, lack of alignment across product development teams, and unrealistic timelines.
So, together with our product and engineering counterparts, we devised a plan and came up with UX/UI lifecycle.
PART 03: ESTABLISHING A USER TESTING PROGRAM
One of my favorite quotes of all time related to building a mature UX practice comes, oddly enough, from Mark Twain. It goes, "Supposing is good by finding out is better." In general, that's really the reason to test things with our users. At the end of the day, we are not our users. Even if we think we are. Luckily, I found a few great partners who also believed in the virtues of user testing: our analytics manager, our director of engineering, and our manager of product owners. Together, we decided that a guerilla-style approach to user testing would be best to start. Given that we had few resources (ie: no budget and no dedicated staff) this seemed the best way to prove the value of process to the business in hopes that future efforts would be eligible to receive more formal support.