03-01-2017

At The Next View we regularly have User Experience design sessions. We often host these sessions in the Design Thinking Center, the first member of the SAP AppHaus Network. The team for an UX design session usually consists of one or two facilitators who know how UX works and will advocate the users, and add several business specialists, technical developers, and of course some end-users. All these people then come together in one location; a room, design thinking center, or any other space where we can collaborate. This can take a morning or afternoon, a whole day, or even an entire week. But the process is the same. And it all entails asking the right questions; read more about the five questions that are most often overlooked.

We need to find out ‘Who’ will do ‘What’ ‘Where’, ‘When’ and ‘How’. And most importantly, the reason behind all of them: ‘Why’? (though also a question, we don’t count it amongst the five. It is the entire reason for doing User Experience Design). After gaining all this information, we can start drawing out a solution and get feedback on our ideas to make them work even better.

Why

To begin this process, we start with collecting information about the users. Who is it that we are trying to find a solution for? In a recent session, we were designing a system for sugar beet farmers. They needed to see what the conditions were for their beets, to maximize the production of sugar later in the refinement process. If they deliver better beets, they get more money. (Why) We usually refer to the why question as the design challenge and use this as focus during all the activities of the session.

What, where en when

But What do they actually need to do? They need to know when to plant their crops and when to add nutrition to them. When there is too little water and they will need to start spraying. And most importantly, when they need to get the beets out of the ground. They should also move the beets from the land into the trucks for processing as soon as possible, so they need to inform the truck drivers when to come and pick them up. And all of this they want to be able to do “on the land” (Where) “while they are working” (When). This entire context of the users and the way they behave is then visualized in a customer journey. The customer journey maps the different parts of the story onto the different touchpoints with the solution we envision and gives a direction to the next steps.

How

The How was still very open for the sugar beet case, apart from the idea that “maybe we could use a mobile app?” and this was a good thing, because it left us room to think of creative solutions.

Sketching

After we found out all these things (and more), we start sketching together with the customer and trying to find out if our ideas are correct. This is a combination of ideation (thinking of different solutions), prototyping (the sketching), and validation (because we immediately check with the customers if the ideas are correct). Below you see the initial sketches during a design thinking session.

Figure 1: The initial sketches during the sugar beet case

The sketches show a scenario for one of the users in which he was able to see what the weather was, know what crops he had on the land before this year, and make requests from the experts on sugar beets about things he saw while walking on his fields. The latter is of importance, because it also combined the information of the farmers in the field with the knowledge of the experts who weren’t there and thus make it much easier and faster to solve problems with the crops.

These sketches are the product of just one morning of collaborative design in the SAP AppHaus in Amsterdam, and were moved into a mock-up with several screens worked out in high definition. These were the starting point for the development. Together with all the information we documented about the use cases for the application.

Figure 2: High Fidelity mockup of the app

After a total of about 50 days of development, we developed a version ready for testing and went out onto the land together with several farmers to see if it would enable them to do what they wanted. And the end users were very happy to see (and use) the app! Overall they rewarded it and the way of working with a satisfaction score of 8.5 and are very willing to expand the functionality and scope of the application. In the future they want to extend the app with Internet of Things capabilities, collection of more data, and predictive models about when to harvest the crops. And all these features will again be designed; the user needs (what) need to be defined as well as the when, where, and how. And we will probably start sketching again, during this process… but that’s just in our nature.

Figure 3: The final product, showing several incidents that have been noticed

And this is the way we do User Experience design sessions.