Reducing Frustration in a Daily Workflow Notes

Notes on a talk by Laura Teeples (@SheTeeples)

  • Key takeaway: UX principles to apply to own tooling & workflows
  • Look at how tools work together (build a cohesive system of tools)
  • Old way: user came to us with a problem, we built a solution, iterated, released
    • Divided requests into need to have, want to have (with nice UI in the latter); prioritized functionality over ease of use
    • Met required objectives, but post release was rarely used… with no speed increase in workflow
    • Conclusions: tools from nation differently in a larger workflow than in a single use test; might be using it just once a week over many weeks
    • Compromises when developing a tool add up in a larger workflow, every time the tool is used
    • This is frustrating the first time, but by the third time you use it, you refuse to relearn it yet again and abandon the tool
    • These compromises compound across more tools in the workflow
      • Lead to frustration, rage quitting
    • Fixing problems in isolation leads to divergent tools, with a particular bandaid for every use case
  • Emotional impact significantly affects tool adoption
    • Philipps Effect: calculate time cost of ineffective tools
    • Time saved = frustration saved
    • Success is not just functionality
    • Tools need to not get more frustrating with more use
  • Addressing problems in isolation leads to bandaid tools; need to address the root of the issue, not the symptoms
  • Look at multiple problems together
    • Develop solutions as a system, not in isolation 
    • Solutions for whole workflows
  • What does success look like?
    • Functionality is still important
    • Time investment in a single use should be low
    • More frequently used tools get more investment
    • Examine other tools in the workflow; how many times does this workflow get executed, what’s its time cost
  • How to look at multiple issues at once
    • Exploration phase first
    • User studies: watch people work (shoulder surfing or screen recording)
      • Most objective data
      • Fewer holes—don’t have to know which questions to ask
      • Can be done by a UX researcher
      • Observe the entire workflow
      • Use Excel for rapid prototyping of form entry tools
    • sticky note sessions
      • Idea generation exercise
      • Spend 1 hour asking a series of questions (3 mins each) designed to explore the problem
      • Everyone generates ideas during that time
      • At the end, vote for the best 3 answers to each prompt
      • Lay out everything: problems, feature requests, solutions
      • Problem first!
      • End with a drawing exercise where everyone wireframes a UI
    • spreadsheet exercise
      • Similar to sticky note exercise 
      • Questions:
        • What problems do the tools have?
        • What do they need to accomplish?
        • How long does it take to use the tools currently? If the tool doesn’t exist, how long does the workaround take? (Rough estimates only… hour, half day, day, week, etc.)
        • Then focus on workflows: which workflows are these features used in? 
          • How long does the workflow take to use?
          • How many times will the workflow be used during the life of the project?
          • This lets you prioritize workflows by time value
        • What other tools are part of this workflow? How long do those take?
        • Emotional impact: order the feature requests by perceived value
        • Urgency: when will you start using this?
        • Dev time required
  • The fastest way to derail progress is a good idea in the wrong place—problem-first approach helps avoid this, so you fix the right problem

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