The Value of a Mixed-Methods Approach to UX Research

While some user experience research (UXR) problems can be solved using one research method, others benefit from mixed-methods. In this approach, the data collected via one method complement the data collected via another method to provide a more comprehensive picture of customer or user needs.  A mixed-methods design uses the best combination of data collection and analysis methods to answer a complex research question.  These methods can be qualitative, quantitative, or a mix of both qualitative and quantitative methods.  The key thing that distinguishes a mixed-methods approach from a random combination of research methods is that each method's data can be triangulated with data from the other methods to fill any gaps that one method would have. Part of the reason mixed-methods approaches are not more common in UXR, or commercial research generally for that matter, is that mix-methods research is hard to do and can yield muddled insights if not done well.  Even so, the insights gleaned and improvement to product or experience is worth the time and effort in many cases.  The rest of this article highlights some case studies from my own research experience and then elucidates the value of mixed-methods approaches to solving UX and other business problems.

Case Studies

The following case studies illustrate how a mixed-methods research design can improve the experience of a service, technology, or program for its target audience.

Dietary Health Service Design Project in Honduras

Several years ago, I spent a year working in two communities in Roatán, Islas de la Bahia (Bay Islands), Honduras, on a service design project to improve access to food and dietary health for residents.  The research design for addressing this problem blended an ethnographic methodology. It included immersive observation, semi-structured interviews, and contextual inquiry with quantitative data from a dietary diversity survey I created, a validated food insecurity survey, and body measurements such as height, weight, and skinfolds.  This design triangulated quantitative data about food access and obesity with qualitative data about local people's lived experience, mainly how they made a living and obtained food.  With this blended approach, I was able to complement the extent of food insecurity and obesity in the two communities with rich narrative stories about how people made a living and the challenges they faced.  Such a comprehensive picture would not have been possible using only qualitative or quantitative methods.  I found that obesity was highly prevalent in both communities and that steady jobs in tourism were more stable and better paying than small-scale enterprises that depended on tourists' tips. Based on these findings, I crafted recommendations to local leaders for programs that would make residents more competitive for tourism jobs and also programs that would give more reliable access to healthy foods for local households.

Water Quality Service Design Project in Costa Rica

For a service design project in the Monteverde Zone in Costa Rica, the team I was part of used a mixed-methods design to assess local perceptions of surface water quality in the local environment.  The team used a demographic survey that included questions about perceptions of stream water quality and everyday pollutants, a semi-structured interview guide that allowed a smaller sample of respondents to delve into their perceptions of water quality and common pollutants more deeply, and detailed notes and photographs from immersive observations of streams in the area, the local water treatment plant, and a local community meeting.  This approach allowed the team to combine thick data about water quality problems from interviews, insights from a survey about the general state of water quality and everyday pollutants, and vivid images of streams burdened with laundry detergent that had been flushed out of homes directly into the waterways.  This project led to further research into water pollution and recommendations for improving surface water quality.

Tech Startup UXR Project

Of course, mixed-methods designs are a powerful way to answer research questions in the tech space.  At Javelyn Technology, the team used interviews, surveys, and netnography in a discovery research project to conceptualize and inform the design of a property-tech application intended to help residents of large apartment complexes get to know their neighbors better.  The team conducted the semi-structured interviews and surveys in the UK's original target market, with the in-depth interview responses from a small number of respondents being used to refine the survey to uncover better local perceptions of trust and social capital that were crucial in the initial concept of the application.  Later, when the company decided it would launch an MVP in a few apartment buildings catering to expatriate professionals from North America and Western Europe, the research team conducted a netnography, an ethnographic study adapted specifically to observing online interaction.  In this case, we watched the feed of a few Dubai expatriate Facebook groups.  Analysis of images and text from these feeds surfaced critical themes of interest to members of the expatriate groups yielded insights that were instrumental in creating features for the application.  For this project, a mixed-methods approach allowed us to gain a more comprehensive understanding of potential users of the product and to pivot to a slightly different user group to adjust to evolving business needs.

Adapting Mixed Methods to UXR

While UXR projects have different time and budget constraints than other research types such as market research, program evaluations, or academic research, a mixed-methods approach to addressing business and research problems can be adapted to UXR projects.  In some cases, the greater speed and lower cost of using only one method to collect user data might make more sense for a project. Still, often there is significant added value in collecting complementary data by triangulating multiple methods.  Mixed-methods approaches can produce comprehensive and accurate insights when one method's weaknesses are mitigated by another method or methods' strengths.  The specific considerations for UXR mean that methods may need to be adjusted from their original research context and tailored to time and budget constraints.  For instance, ethnographic designs typically include fewer primary respondents and much shorter immersive observation sessions than market research or academic ethnography.  In UXR, data collection via the different methods is often done in parallel in one data collection session. A contextual inquiry may combine immersive observations, a semi-structured interview about the current state of the workflow, time on task, and possibly the number of clicks and a hover heat map.  A usability test may incorporate a semi-structured interview about user needs and time on task metrics.  It is possible that a research design to aid in the development of a digital product may incorporate a usability test of a prototype and then a system usability scale (SUS) assessment to gain a basic understanding of user perceptions on a larger scale, and web analytics to assess potential friction points through click analytics, hover analytics, or drop-offs.

Wrapping Up

For some business problems, a mixed-methods approach to UXR is a substantial value add.  Mixed-methods research can yield more profound and more comprehensive findings that lead to better design recommendations in a competitive timeframe.  Radiant has deep expertise in mixed-methods research designs.  Reach out for a UXR plan to inform your business strategy today!


The Essentials to Acing Remote Design Teams Management

The ongoing pandemic has led to the growing trend of working and managing teams remotely. UX managers need to manage distributed teams in digital industries while facing complex challenges like ensuring efficient development, selling the UX vision to the key stakeholders, getting work done, and studying the varying customer needs. Teams need to ideate, design workflows, organize insights and gather feedback in real-time. What becomes a threat to the UX design collaboration environment is the ‘disconnect’ between participants.

The time spent for decision-making and achieving alignment, if more, translates to dollars lost in the process. Remote UX design teams work with diverse people who bring unique skills to the table. Many companies are switching to remote work to lower operational costs, improve work-life balance, retain talent, and reduce carbon footprint. This has led remote teams’ management to become a sought-after skillset for many managers.

While there are many monetary and operational benefits, remote teams’ management comes with a few drawbacks and challenges that include:

  • Collaboration and communication lags
  • Diminished focus and productivity
  • Scheduling shortfalls
  • Complex task management
  • Work culture disparities
  • Scattered data storage
  • Difficulties in tracking performance and revisions
  • Project workflow(s) streamlining issues

If you’re leading a remote team, you’ll need to figure out:

  • The tools your design teams need to keep work moving forward.
  • Ways to stay in the loop about everything impacting the team and their work.
  • Methods to make design team collaboration and communication seamless.

As a remote-first company, Radiant Digital builds tools and offers team management plans that enable distributed design team collaborations. This blog discusses the different aspects and considerations that influence streamlined remote collaboration for design teams.

 

Critical Elements for Managing Remote Design Teams like a Pro

Design Systems: Almost always strive to build Design Systems for larger projects. This is essential if you work for multiple long-term clients.

Design Systems help keep everyone honest as they act as the single source of truth for developers, designers, and other involved parties. They also help make onboarding new team members a snap.

 

Team L&D: Learning influences personal and professional growth, so prioritize spending on employee upskilling. In many cases, with cost savings, team leaders can achieve funding for employee development, especially for remote teams. New design skills’ development and training inspire “Design Thinking” in UX design teams.

It's essential to provide employees with the flexibility to embrace learning based on their interests and the most effective method for the best design outcomes.

 

Collaboration Software: This goes without saying that collaboration software tools are essential to remote working. Video conferencing apps such as Zoom, Teams, Slack are just scratching the surface of what is needed to make remote teams work effectively. Project management, collaborative design, and prototyping such as Figma are all the rage these days. Make sure you're always looking beyond the horizon to see the latest and effective tools and platforms to help take your game to the next level.

 

Whiteboard and Cloud-based Tools: Peer review and feedback are essentials to design work collaborations, and physically conceptualizing ideas filters out a lot of the guesswork and uncertainties.

We recommend using digital whiteboards to accomplish better understanding and decision-making when in a remote space. Cloud-based tools help share notes, documents, and digital resources to keep everything accessible across the team and improve transparency. They even help in the concurrent access of data and instantly implement changes at a centralized file location remotely.

 

WIP Tracking: Communicating work-in-progress (WIP) for active projects is an essential yet painful task. Images shared in project tracking tools can get lost in the noise, feedback can fade away while you can't measure the context or sense of progression easily.

We recommend using a single Paper document created by the designer to track their progress. The entire team can access this document. The designer will have to make an entry for work and share it with the team. They can quickly slide in a few screens and annotate some of the areas for discussion. This can be accompanied by a short walkthrough video as well.

 

Tips for leading Remote Design Teams with 100% Confidence

Collaborate Cross-functionally: A design lead can prevent the fragmented communication between engineering, PM, and design departments using an Artboard with instant messaging features and task tracking features. With cross-functional collaboration, decisions and clarifications come out in the open rather than being buried in JIRA comments and Slack threads.

 

Design Reviews: (or critiques) are essential to put design teams on the right track and fine-tune their work. Individual projects often establish a review cadence, but design teams can also host comprehensive reviews. This would help build trust and strengthen communication channels. We suggest doing it weekly. This allows for the sharing of best practices, learning, and recognizing work overlaps. It provides a significant touchpoint where you can assess people’s moods, behaviors, and general approaches to different design tasks.

 

Remote Design Approvals: Managers must request a review from key stakeholders and designated project reviewers. When everyone gives the go-ahead, the team manager can ask designers to merge their branches. Once all the required components are integrated into the master, everyone gets access to the latest data.

 

Track Metrics: When leading a distributed team, focus on the metrics that matter like turnaround, effort estimation, cost-to-effort valuations, etc. Instead of worrying about how someone works, focus on objectives, outcomes, and behavior in a quantified manner. The goal would be to ensure that a remote UX designer completes their tasks promptly, within the set cost thresholds, and does so professionally. It is essential to focus on what is being accomplished than on how it is completed.

 

Prepare Beforehand to Prevent Poor Performance: Encourage your teams to prepare as many ‘known’ factors in advance to reduce the chances of a poor presentation. It is essential to document what you can control ahead of time.

  • Communicate meeting details like Dial-in information, participant instructions, and video links ahead of time to reduce delays or interruptions during the presentation.
  • Prepare the team: Set a meeting with each designer or group before the presentation to review all necessary information.
  • Have a backup plan: If you're facilitating a live demo, have a plan in place for team members to take over or step in if another is unable to present at that last minute.

 

Create Appropriate Leadership Infrastructure: Depending on how large your remote teams are, UX design team managers may need leadership assistance. Here are some questions to ask before helming the responsibility.

  • Are you the most suited person to lead the team?
  • Are you able to keep up with various design team members and their roles?
  • Do you prioritize your design tasks over management responsibilities?
  • How do your team members perceive your leadership?

The remote delegation of tasks and leadership responsibilities requires careful planning. Giving other team members a chance to advance is an excellent quality in a leader. Additionally, there are other effective ways to accomplish your project's design milestones remotely.

  • Show appreciation for excellent work: Remote teams miss out on receiving positive visual cues from the in-person conversation. It's this important to praise sincere efforts on a stand-up call explicitly. After all the dust has settled, take time to reflect on the wins, innovations, and triumphs. Celebrating even the most minor victories can have tremendous effects on team morale and attitude.
  • Incentivizing high performance: Designers can feel detached from work when away from their work environment. Introducing material incentives for high performers can help designers feel invested in the quality of their work.
  • Providing constructive feedback: Leaders need to be explicit when requesting changes or adjustments from employees. Professional feedback and a work-oriented approach enable better cooperation and faster deliveries. Just as crucial as recognizing accomplishments is identifying the shortfalls and devising a plan to tackle them. Constantly challenging everyone to improve helps to keep the team growing and engaged.
  • Maintaining a culture of open dialogue: A manager must foster transparency to avoid employee disconnect with work and colleagues. Take ownership to facilitate the free flow of design, information, thoughts, and ideas.

As much as you can, get everyone involved in running meetings, planning projects, conducting research, etc. Allow your team to develop the skills to take their careers to the next level.

 

Play to your team's strengths: Every UX design team is different, and team members have different styles and approaches to work. Empowering them to do better rather than forcing them to conform to your preferred method is a leadership virtue preferred in remote interactions.

Carefully planning your remote design team management increases design productivity and assures desired outcomes. By doing this, you can:

  • Create the ideal space for creativity.
  • Foster new ideas.
  • Help your team absorb different perspectives.
  • Provide a professional work environment where deadlines are met with shared workloads.
  • Ensure continuous project success.

 

Wrapping up

Remote presentations are convenient and enable seamless communication in different time-zones at a magnitude in-person presenting does not afford. Leading a team that thrives in a creative, collaborative, and visual environment can be extra challenging remotely. With the right strategies and approach, remote management can help set the stage for smoother execution or a call to action. This will improve the mission and vision of your UX design projects.

Your team's output doesn't need to suffer because of distance. You can meet all your daily goals without compromising on work quality. Ask us how.


Making Your Business Processes Efficient and Reliable with jBPM Migration

In our previous blog, "Enterprise BPM Transformation - Embrace the Change," we discussed the transformational capacity of BPM and how it helps organizations gain better visibility that translates into higher productivity. Many companies invest in tools like Lucidchart, Visio, Modelio, Pega BPM, ServiceNow BPM, etc., based on their diverse and specific business needs. While each of them has benefits and limitations, we at Radiant highly recommend jBPM. As a Java-based workflow engine, it leverages framework capabilities and externalized assets like business processes, planning constraints, decision tables, and business rules in a unified environment. Business analysts, system architects, and developers can implement their business logic with persistence, transactions, messaging, events, etc. Automated Decisioning Support in jBPM helps analyze, track, and implement tasks using machine learning algorithms that automatically assess and process them. It facilitates process execution using the BPMN 2.0 specifications and Java’s object-oriented benefits. jBPM is helpful as a standalone service or code embedded into your customized service.

Over the years, jBPM has been increasingly used in the following areas:

  • Business processes (BPMN2)
  • Case management (BPMN2 and CMMN)
  • Decision Management (DMN)
  • Business rules (DRL)
  • Business optimization (Solver)

jBPM lets you implement complex business logic with adaptive and dynamic processes that use business rules and advance event processing. jBPM can also be used in traditional JEE applications, Thorntail, or SpringBoot & standalone java programs. Control rests with the end-users who can monitor and work on which processes (wholly or partly) should be dynamically executed.

The Differentiating Features of jBPM 

Benefits of jBPM

  • Better management visibility on business resources and processes and thus improved decision-making
  • Low cost of inputs (at least 30%), less wastage (at least 40%), de-skilled labor requirements, and standardized components.
  • Quality: Consistent and reliable output quality leads to higher customer satisfaction.
  • Meant for everyone: Non-developers can effortlessly design business processes and obtain a much better view of runtime process states.
  • Support for human tasks: jBPM Workflows can also create manual testing tasks or signing off on releases.
  • Graphs: Complex workflows can be easily modeled with jBPM using a graphical designer and the Java code, which performs the workflow-triggered actions.
  • Resilience: Existing workflow definitions remain unaffected by new processes.
  • Flexibility: More variables relating to the approbation flow can be introduced dynamically in the workflow aligned to the specified rules and conditions.
  • Multiple flows: jBPM helps manage multiple workflows simultaneously for a complex business logic through automation.

How we Implemented jBPM for a Ticketing System at Radiant Digital

This section will discuss how we implemented jBPM for a Ticketing System project of our client. The essential features of this implementation include:

  • This project was deployed on an AWS server.
  • jBPM Business Central was used for workflow creation and execution.
  • Our implementation components included Business Rules, Rest APIs, script tasks, human tasks, Data Modular Forms, and Process level variables.
  • Various REST APIs were developed and integrated with the jBPM use case, and the entire service was deployed on AWS.
  • Dashboard and data visualization features have been implemented using Big Data to monitor and execute all the defined workflows' tasks and processes.

Implementation Steps

  1. Launch JBPM business central.
  2. Business Central has four activity options, Design, Deploy, Manage and track.

  1. Use the “Design” option to create your project space and click to add project and add your required assets by clicking the “Add Asset” option to choose your asset.

  1. For the ticketing system, we used the following steps.
  • Create the ticket using REST APIs or create a ticket using an email sub-process (to create automatically).
  • We used three REST APIs for CREATE, UPDATE, and DELETE operations, deployed them on this code on the AWS server, and used their endpoints in our project.
  • We then defined the required object(s) separately.

Once the object(s) were defined, the form was automatically generated on jBPM. We could edit and design the form as required.

  • The user needed to enter the ticket details in the form, and the form data was routed to store the “Create Ticket” REST API after submitting the details.
  • This form appeared again, asking the user if an update was required. When the user clicked “Yes,” the user could update the ticket details that got stores on the “UPDATE” REST API; otherwise when the user clicks on “No,” the system directly moves on to the next step in the process.

5. After completing the first two steps, the system initiates the “Ticket Routing” sub-process. This sub-process gets the ticket details based on the ticket ID available in the APIs and checks the user’s country and region based on the business rule definition.

6. Based on the region name, the system ended the process and moved to the primary process again, or the aging user needed to enter the interface team name, and the team checked if the user had already been serviced or not. In case the user was not serviced, an ITT checks the TMG and the TOG business rules and ends the sub-process. It then enters the primary process in case the user is not serviced. This loop keeps happening until the user updates the ITT.

Create Ticket Process Flow

An Auto-assign sub-process automatically assigned the ticket for a particular user and sent the notification to that user. Here’s the process flow.

After completing the Auto-assign sub-process, the data again went to the primary process. Here, the data was retrieved using the “Get Task” Rest API, and the system checked if the Task Completion data was due along with the task status and updated these details using the “UPDATE TASK” Rest API.

After completing the Auto-complete sub-process, the data moved to the primary process the “EVENT-SUBPROCESS” API was used. In the primary process, we used the “intermediate” signal to transfer the data. The “start” signal was used to ask the user if additional data needed to be added.

Again, the user could update data by clicking “Yes” when the form appears or “No” to send the validation data. When the form appeared again, the user had to change the status details and call the “UPDATE” REST API, to update the changes. This completed the ticket.

The Ticket Details Form snapshot is given below.

The snapshot of the analytics-driven Ticketing System Dashboard is given below.

jBPM Migration Steps 

The three types of migration to be carried out include runtime process instance, data, and API calls' migration.

Runtime Process Instance Migration:

jBPM 7.0 comes with an excellent deployment model based on knowledge archives, allowing different project versions to run parallelly in a single execution environment. This is powerful; however, it raises some migration concerns. Some of the pressing questions include:

  • Can users run both the old and new versions of the processes?
  • What shall happen to already active process instances that were started with a previous version?
  • Can active versions be migrated to a newer version and vice-versa?

Active process instances can be migrated, but this is not a straightforward process that can be performed via the jBPM console (aka kie-workbench). You can directly deploy the steps provided in this article to your installation and migrate any process instance. I explicitly use the term "migrate" instead of "upgrade" here because it can move from the lower to the higher version and vice-versa. Few things might happen when migration is performed. These depend on the differences between the process definitions of the two versions.

What does Migration Include?

  • You can migrate from one process to another within the same Kjar.
  • You can migrate from one process to another across Kjars.
  • You can migrate with node mapping between the two process versions.

While the first two options are more straightforward, the third one requires some explanation.

Before we move to the migration scenarios, let's understand what node mapping is.

While making changes in the process versions, we might end up in a situation where others replace the nodes/activities. When migrating between these versions, node mapping needs to take place. Another scenario is when you'd like to skip some nodes in the current version.

Scenario 1: Simple migration of process instance

This case is about migrating active process instances from one version to another.

  • "default org.jbpm:Evaluation:1.0" project is used, consisting of a single process definition - evaluation with version 1.0.
  • A single process instance is started with this version. Once done, a new version of the evaluation process is created.
  • The upgraded version is then released as part of the "org. jbpm: Evaluation:2.0" project with version 2.0.
  • Then, the migration of the active process instance is performed.
  • The process instance migration results are illustrated on the process model of the active instance and the outcome of the process instance migration.

Scenario 2: Process Instance migration with node mapping

Here, we go one step further and add another node to the Evaluation process to skip one of the original version nodes. For that, we need to map the nodes to be migrated. The steps are almost the same as in scenario 1, except that we need to perform additional steps to collect node information and then let the user manually select which nodes should be mapped to the new version.

Data Migration

  • Two types of processes are involved in data migration. One for the external database migration (ex. MySQL, SQL…) and the other for internal data migration.
  • jBPM has a default repository where all the data is stored. You can also import the code to the external repository and perform runtime migration.

API Calls Migration

The Red Hat JBoss BPM Suite 5 provides a task server bridged from the core engine using the messaging system provided by HornetQ. A helper or utility method called "LocalHTWorkItemHandler" helps you bridge the gap until you can migrate API calls in your current architecture. Since the "TaskService" API is part of the public API, you will need to refactor your imports and methods because of package and API changes.

What you get after the jBPM Migration 

  • A high-performing rules engine based on the Drools project.
  • Improved rule authoring tools and an enhanced user interface.
  • A commonly defined methodology for building and deployment using Maven as the basis for repository management.
  • A heuristic planning engine based on the OptaPlanner community project.
  • Better algorithms to handle a more significant number of rules and facts.
  • A new Data Modeler that replaces the declarative Fact Model Editor.
  • Stability, usability, and functionality improvements.
  • Case management capabilities.
  • A new and simplified authoring experience for creating projects.
  • Intuitive Business dashboards.
  • Process and task admin API.
  • Process and task consoles that can connect to any number of execution servers.
  • A preview of a new process designer and form modeler.
  • A new security management UI.
  • Upgrades to Java8, WildFly 10, EAP 7, etc.

If you're looking for a seamless jBPM migration or project implementation, we could help you with our industry-leading expertise. 

Connect with us to learn more.

 

 


Applying Instructional Design to Leadership Development Training

The success of an organization is dependent upon many factors, including having a great leadership team. A strong leadership team is a foundation for high-performing teams that in turn generate desired business results.

The need for leadership training and programs increases as organizations realize the challenges in building engaged teams, identifying skill gaps, and scaling learning across the organization. The 2020 Workplace learning report asked talent developers globally what their top three challenges were in 2020. They said that 36% struggle with increasing employee engagement, and 21% experience challenges in identifying skill gaps. This means HR and talent development professionals will turn toward the leaders and managers within their organization to help address these challenges. Often, leaders are required to complete some form of leadership training to allow them to acquire the skills and knowledge to build engaged and high-performance teams.

While there may be some exceptions, most leaders are not born; they are developed. Leadership skills are built through a range of options that include training (experiential, social, and self-directed), coaching, mentoring, and so on. To create long-term success, organizations continue to invest in leadership training to handle key leadership positions from the executive to mid-level and entry-level roles.

When leadership training is done well, the impact can be significant in team collaboration, inclusive building teams, and employee engagement. Leadership development initiatives will also create leaders across levels that are confident, competent, and can create and lead high-performing teams. Well-crafted leadership training helps organizations develop exemplary leadership talent and helps create more engaged, productive, and highly motivated teams aligned with their goals. The question is how to build practical leadership development training, and the answer is in the use of effective instructional design methods.

Here at Radiant, our instructional designers are ready to help you identify learning objectives needed for your leadership audience through a front-end analysis and create an evaluation strategy to assess if your leaders have learned or using the information provided. After all, it is imperative to evaluate the effectiveness of your leadership training as it impacts ROI. This article will outline simple tips and learning strategies you can use to design your leadership training and see better ROI.

 

Identify Your Talent Pool Across Levels

To begin designing practical leadership training, it starts with identifying the talent pool across the organization that needs to be groomed for leadership. The step can be done within your front-end analysis or needs assessment.

 

Identify Leadership Training Needs Across Levels

Since leadership training is provided at different levels that are very wide-ranging, it is essential to map specific training needs for each level. For example, the following three leadership levels are the typical target audiences for leadership training within most organizations. Within each level, the learning content will vary as new managers require different skill sets and knowledge than leaders at the executive level. There may be some common learning objectives across roles, but there will also be some differences.

Early to mid-career leadership training: The leaders at this stage are usually the individuals who are moving to team leads or entry-level managers. At this stage, the leadership training focuses on enhancing communication, conflict resolution, and motivation skills to lead teams.

Mid-career leadership training: The leadership training program needs to help identify individuals to create high-performing teams, building up from the first level. Some of them may be required to lead a business unit or department for mid-level managers, so the training must equip them with the ability to craft business strategies, understand organizational dynamics, and coach team members on driving project plans/ results.

Senior-level leadership training: At this leadership level, the training is significantly different from the levels described above. This audience's program may need to cover content related to business planning, competition analysis, and business strategy.

As you can see, training will vary across the roles of leadership in your organization. During the need assessment phase, identify your target audience to provide the most appropriate content for your leaders. To do a deep dive and uncover the competencies and or learning objectives needed for your leaders, Radiant Digital is ready to help you. Ask about our front-end and needs assessment services.

 

Adopt Strategies That Help You Deliver Successful Leadership Training

Power of Microlearning: Modern learners prefer learning to be bite-sized, focused, and action-oriented. Microlearning enables you to meet all these expectations and more. Each nugget helps learners meet a small outcome. They can be strung together as a series to offer a career pathway. They can also be used as instant job aids, learning summaries, or reinforce learning to offset the forgetting curve.

Bob Pike’s 90-20-8 rule: Design your virtual in-person or e-learning course with Bob Pike’s 90-20-8 rule in mind: Don’t make your training longer than 90 minutes, change the pace every 20 minutes, and involve the learner every eight minutes.

Decide Instructional methods for your learners: Decide which instructional methods will help learners acquire the competence and confidence to use their new knowledge and skills on the job. Typical instructional strategies include lecture, case study, demonstration with practice, review games, role play, self-reflection, debate, group discussion, read and discuss, and simulations—your leaders may need a combination of these learning methods.

 

Again, here at Radiant, we specialize in crafting learning strategies best suited for your audience. Let us help you think of the most effective ways to design your leadership training.

 


Adapting to Digital Ethnography in Virtual UX Research

While traditional approaches to user experience (UX) and customer experience (CX) research prioritize being present in the same location as the respondent, there are situations where in-person research is not feasible, such as during a global pandemic.  Ethnography is a powerful, in-depth research method to capture rich insights about the human experience, including experience as a customer or tech user.  Ethnographers traditionally collect data in person, often over extended periods. As with other UX research (UXR) methods, modern life challenges have accelerated virtual modalities in ethnography.  It is essential to understand a bit about this methodology's historical context to understand both the power of ethnography to generate useful insight and the challenges of employing it in a business setting.  The rest of this article covers ethnography’s historical background in academic research, traditional adaptations of ethnography to business settings, and the challenges and benefits of digital transformations of ethnographic methods.

A Very Brief History of Ethnography

Though many people use the word ethnography to describe research methods, a traditional ethnography is a research product; it is a story or set of stories about a culture or community produced through various research methods.  What makes ethnographies distinct from other types of research reports is that they are so rich in narrative that good ones read almost like a short story or novella rather than a typical research report.  In one of the first ethnographies, Argonauts of the Western Pacific, Malinowski interweaves thorough scientific descriptions of culture in the Trobriand Islands with engaging stories of community members' trade journeys. Keith Basso uses short morality tales from the Apache community to illustrate user accounts' cultural traits to teach young people how to be good community members. In more recent years, social justice scholars such as Paul Farmer and Angela Stuesse have done applied ethnographies that addressed the overlap of economic hardship and poor health complementing statistical findings with engaging stories about community members.

The research methods used to produce an ethnography vary by project but usually include observation, semi-structured interviews, and experiential learning of a process. Observations are a vital tool for ethnography as they are for contextual inquiry. Detailed observation of a processor “day in the life” with video recording and a notetaker to augment recording capabilities provides a rich, first-hand understanding of an event or process.   The key difference in using observation as a data collection method for ethnography versus contextual inquiry is that the former usually takes a broader context and lasts longer. In contrast, observations for contextual investigations are more focused on a specific workflow or process.  Semi-structured interviews entail set questions with open-ended responses. This method focuses data collection on themes of interest to the researcher. Still, it allows the respondent to respond freely in their own words and not be bound to answer choices that may or may not be relevant to lived experience.  Experiential learning complements these other methods by allowing the research to practice a task or different process under an expert's tutelage.  For any of these methods, good notetaking (preferably by a second researcher), video, recording, or both is essential to create detailed summaries of workflows, events, processes, or other phenomena for later qualitative analysis.

Enter Business Ethnography

The early ethnography applications for academic, social science and public benefit research may make this approach seem ill-suited to business research. Ethnography has been successfully used to address a broad array of business problems, including business strategy, organizational development and change, market research, and discovery research in UXR and CXR. Andrea Simon has used ethnographic methods to drive innovative “blue ocean” strategies for businesses in various sectors such as construction, healthcare, and government. Elisabeth Briody has used ethnographic methods to drive organizational development and transformation for several clients, including General Motors. ReD Associates is well-known for deep-dive ethnographic research that helps clients tailor marketing efforts to their customers. Sam Ladner pioneered using ethnography adapted for UXR to drive excellent product design and research strategy in high-value tech companies such as Microsoft, Amazon, and Workday.  These are just a few examples of social scientists who have successfully adapted traditional ethnographic methods to solving business problems.  While the conventional wisdom on business ethnography says that data collection is best done in person, there is a growing body of ethnography collected in digital spaces and focused on the digital world.

Digital Ethnography

Digital ethnography is a broad methodological umbrella that encompasses both video links between researcher and respondent(s) in real-time and asynchronous data collection from platforms and websites. Significant forms of digital ethnography include cultural probes, virtual tours, and netnography.  Each form has its limitations, but these modes of doing ethnography also represent powerful innovations in UXR, particularly during a global pandemic or other situation that makes in-person data collection unfeasible.  Digital ethnographic methods are beneficial for discovery or exploratory research for a deep dive into what users or customers need before or at the design process's outset.

Cultural Probes

Cultural probes, also known as diary studies, involve the respondent's data collection as they go about daily work activities.  The researcher then reads, codes, and analyzes these data for patterns relevant to the product design or other business project in which the researcher is engaged.  The mode of data collection for cultural probes is flexible. The respondent may write down reflections, collect artifacts from their activities (e.g., a document, email, lunch menu), or take photographs (these can be device agnostic, camera, phone, or tablet are proper photography tools this case).  Once the respondent finishes data collection over the agreed time, the research team then reads or views the pieces of data and looks for patterns.  Once a couple of team members have coded the data, and the team has built a consensus on coding divergences, the research team can have confidence in the themes that emerge from the diary entries, artifacts, or photos.  This approach's key benefit is that it makes it possible to glean a great deal of context about workflows and about other types of activities (e.g., lunch with colleagues) that may influence workflows or even what work is to be done.  Because the respondent may not think of something that might be important to the business problem, it is good to use cultural probes in concert with another method like semi-structured interviews.

Virtual Tours

Another approach to virtual ethnography that relies heavily on visual data is the virtual tour.  Cultural probes are driven by the respondent writing about or photographing processes over several days. A virtual tour is when the respondent shows the researcher(s) a work setting or process via a recorded video link.  Virtual tours may be used for contextual inquiries as well as ethnographies.  While specific virtual tour methods may vary and encompass methods such as the 3D walking tour or the 360º tour, the common thread is a respondent guiding the researcher or research team through a setting, workflow, process, or other events.  With the combination of video recording in the real-time and conversational description from the respondent, virtual tours combine cultural probes' visual data strengths with the respondent’s ability to provide context with words present in a semi-structured interview.  Unlike a cultural probe, a virtual tour tends to be shorter in duration; a cultural probe may collect data off and on for several days, but a virtual tour tends to be capped at an hour or two.  Due to the shorter duration, a virtual tour may not capture the day-to-day variation that a cultural probe or netnography would. It is best to either do a series of virtual tours of the same organization or combine virtual tours with other research methods to mitigate this shortcoming.

Netnography

Complementary to cultural probes and virtual tours with an active respondent is the virtual ethnographic method of netnography, which does not need an active respondent or asynchronous video tour or record. Netnography is an ethnographic method that focuses specifically on online interactions and communities.  The researcher may collect data via chat interactions or arranged interviews with participants or by combing platform feeds and performing a careful analysis of the text and images to find themes and patterns.  For instance, if a research team is trying to find out about a workflow or process, it might be useful to conduct a netnography of professional groups. Or interest groups on social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, or even Slack channels involve UXR for enterprise software.

In one case study of a UXR project I did for a previous startup client, I conducted a netnography to explore the market-need for a property-tech application purporting to help people build trust and relationships with their neighbors in dense urban areas. The management team wanted to launch the app within a month on a pilot site in Dubai's target market.  When this tight deadline was given to the research team, we had to rapidly adjust our research plan to eliminate the semi-structured interviews we were planning to do and focus on observations of Facebook interest groups that closely matched the target market.  Gleaning insights from the Facebook group data involved doing a detailed reading, coding, and analysis of excerpts from the group feeds. We collected enough data in a few weeks to give reliable recommendations about the application's key features even without interviews.

Courtesy of https://racinemarcusbrown.crevado.com/

As with the other digital ethnography approaches addressed in this article, it is not always possible to know what one is missing by doing just an observation-based netnography.  The case study above involved samples from the feed, not the entire feed.  Incorporating interviews into a netnography or using netnography in concert with other UXR methods such as contextual inquiry are ways to mitigate these deficiencies.

Challenges of Digital Ethnography

Regardless of the specific methods used, digital ethnography presents some common challenges relative to ethnographies that incorporate in-person data collection.  Limited perspective and online communication friction are two critical challenges.

Limited perspective: For any of the three approaches described above, the researcher’s view is limited to what the respondent thinks is essential or chooses to show.  An in-person observation session gives the researcher or research team much more latitude on observing and recording potentially crucial data for later analysis.  It is difficult to know what is occurring off-camera, and therefore difficult to know if something important is being missed.

Online communication friction: As with the Zoom meetings with which so many have become familiar in the last year, remote data collection makes rapport building with a respondent harder and more awkward than it would be in-person.  Interruptions, talk-overs, and technical difficulties happen in research sessions as they do in business meetings. Video conferencing and device fatigue may also be a problem for researchers and respondents alike.

Power of Digital Ethnography

Despite these challenges, digital ethnography is a powerful tool for UXR and other types of business research.  The main benefits are cost, safety, and flexibility.

Cost: The most apparent benefit to doing digital UXR is cost.  A business stands to save substantial amounts of time and money by researching the web compared to the travel, equipment, and supplies needed to research a person.  This cost and time savings means that it is possible to research organizations or users via digital ethnography that it would not be feasible to do in-person.

Safety: Another significant benefit to digital ethnography and other digital forms of UXR is that they are safer and more feasible to do during the current COVID-19 pandemic or any future pandemic that dictates social distancing and remote work.

Flexibility: A more subtle benefit of digital ethnography is its flexibility to the respondent and the researcher.  Data collection for a cultural probe can be accomplished over multiple days, focused on events the respondent thinks are most relevant, and done in a manner that fits the respondent’s schedule.  A virtual tour requires synchronization between researcher and respondent but takes less logistical coordination and time than an in-person ethnographic data collection session.  A netnography affords excellent flexibility to the researcher, as all or part of data collection may be asynchronous.  Even a semi-structured interview may be accomplished via asynchronous questions and responses through a portal.

Wrapping Up

Though the traditional conventional wisdom holds that in-person data collection is superior in every way to virtual data collection, the current business reality has shown that digital ethnography can be a powerful tool in a UX researcher’s toolkit. The current crisis has spurred innovation and widespread adoption of digital ethnography to solve business problems.

Radiant Digital has strong digital ethnography expertise. We can uncover insights and transform business strategy, product lines, and more for any size or type of enterprise, from Fortune 500 companies to startups to government agencies.

Connect with us for customized digital ethnography plans today!


Gestalt psychology – Inspiring Exceptional UX Design with the Power of Perception

White space, grids, information architecture, principles, and purpose are all good UX design staples. An often-overlooked tool of UX design, however, is that of the subconscious. The human brain has a fascinating ability to observe an image and create a 'whole' more significant than the sum of its parts. It is wired to see structure, logic, and patterns that don't exist but are perceived by the onlooker. That's why we see children (and adults) often finding patterns and entities in things like abstract designs, trees, nature, etc.

Gestalt Principles – The Background

Gestalt Principles were initially devised in the 1920s when a group of German psychologists Max Wertheimer, Wolfgang Kohler, and Kurt Koffka developed theories around how people perceive the world around them. They aimed to understand how human perception can meaningfully interpret the chaotic stimuli surrounding them. This observation led to a set of descriptive principles, called Gestalt Principles, that connected the dots on human perception of objects and addressed the natural tendency to find order in disorder. These principles are at the heart of nearly every graphic design, adding inspiration and technique through well-placed elements, perceived as a "whole" in UX designs.

Why should Designers care about the Gestalt Principles?

Great designs are based on the best understanding of the influential role played by psychology in visual perception. Influencing how someone sees your design creations is a UX designer’s superpower. To achieve this, you'll need to understand how their mind reacts to the message given by your design.

Gestalt Principles allow designers to strategize and plan out their designs from the multiple lenses of the observer. They also help associate meaning to design complexity in the following ways:

  • Determine which design elements are the most effective in a given situation based on visual hierarchy, background shading, gradients, and contour. They also help in grouping similar items and distinguish discrete ones.
  • By influencing visual perception, designers can direct their attention to specific focus and actions while creating behavioral change.
  • Enabling the design team to solve a customer problem and meet user needs in a pleasing, relevant, and intuitive way.

Gestalt psychology and the Key Ideas Behind it

Gestalt psychology is a school of thought inspired by various principles associated with it. Taking advantage of the principles can help in thoughtful design creation that leverages the user’s subconscious mind's power. "The whole is other than the sum of the parts." — Kurt Koffka. This quote is Gestalt psychology in a nutshell. 'Gestalt' is German for "Unified Whole." When humans see a group of objects, we perceive them as a whole rather than seeing them as individual objects or the sum of the parts. Even when the parts are unrelated entities, we still end up looking to group them as some whole. Some critical concepts behind Gestalt psychology include:

Emergence (The Whole is Identified First)

Emergence includes forming intricate patterns from simple rules. When trying to identify an object, we first seek to perceive its outline. This outline pattern is then matched against shapes and objects already known to the user to find a match. When the whole emerges through this outline pattern association, the user starts to identify the parts that form the whole. When designing, UX designers must factor in that people will first identify the general form of elements. A well-defined and easy-to-spot object contour will communicate more quickly than a complicated one that is hard to recognize.

Reification (The Mind Fills in the Gaps)

Reification is a perception aspect in which the object (based on perception) contains more spatial information than what exists. As we try to match what we see to the familiar patterns in our memory, we find a close match and then fill in the gaps of what we should be seen.

Reification suggests that designers don’t need to present the complete outline for viewers to see it. We can discount parts of the outline while including enough to make for a close enough pattern match. Taking advantage of this principle is vital for creating minimalist designs.

Multi-Stability (The Mind Seeks to Avoid Uncertainty)

Multi-stability inspires ambiguous perceptual experiences to move unstably back and forth between two or more interpretations.

For example, the image above is perceived either as two faces or a vase, but never both at once. Instead, you switch back and forth quickly between the one that is your dominant perception and the other, the less dominant one. From a design perspective, it's essential to find a way to get users to see an alternative. Then, work to strengthen that view while weakening the insignificant view.

Invariance (Inclination Towards Recognizing Variants of the Same Object)

Invariance is a perception attribute in which simple objects are recognized independent of their orientation, scale, and translation. Humans may encounter objects from different perspectives. This has led to the ability to recognize them despite their varying appearances.

Recognizing someone you know when they stand directly facing you but not from a different facial profile is a prime example of this property.

The 7 Guiding Gestalt Principles in Design

When humans see a complicated arrangement, the brain tends to look for patterns and fill in the missing pieces. This principle takes advantage of the negative space between components and allows users to perceive shapes and patterns based on their arrangement. You can use cleverly placed elements (lines, dots, shapes, etc.) in different and imaginative ways to let users appreciate them when they recognize pleasing “wholes” in them.

This principle is excellent for graphic design and logo creation.

Facebook applies this principle for elements of likes, comments, shares, etc., that appear within the boundaries of a post while standing apart from others. Using this principle, designers can exhibit a connection/relation between elements by enclosing them somehow. Everything outside this enclosure is seen as unrelated. Combining this with the Law of Similarity, which we will discuss shortly, can help emphasize the relationship between component groups. Placing a border around a series of components creates a visual indicator and a subconscious connection with those components.

This principle is predominantly used for designing social media and web pages.

This principle states that when objects appear to be similar, users usually group them. Additionally, they also tend to think these elements function the same way. This grouping may be done based on size, shape, color, orientation, dimension, texture, and other object attributes that appear the same.

For example, by coloring your form fields on your login page or your buttons the same color, an association is formed between them, and a user will understand that the form fields are related. When similarity prevails, an object, different from the rest, can be emphasized and called ‘Anomaly.’ It is usually used to create visual weight or contrast that draws the user’s attention to specific focal point discoverability.

Elements arranged closer to each other or grouped are perceived as related than those placed further apart. White space is vital as it creates a contrast to guide the user in the intended direction visually.

Element spacing boosts visual hierarchy and information flow, contributing to easy-to-scan layouts. With proximity, users can achieve their visualization goals faster and delve deeper into the content.

This principle states that the element/object that stands out visually will be the first point of interest that grabs the viewer's attention. This may include on-screen elements breaking from a pattern, such as a square within a series of circles. Buttons, checkboxes, and radio buttons are excellent examples of Gestalt's Focal point principle put into practice. Users immediately notice and focus on these elements because they have a different size, shape, or color than the other aspects.

Elements arranged in a soft curve or line are perceived as more relatable than those set in a harsh line or randomly. The human eye naturally follows a pattern in orientation, making a more decisive relativity aspect than the similarity of color, size, etc. This principle strengthens the perception of grouped information, guiding users through different segments by creating an order. Disruption of continuity can signify the end of a section drawing attention to a new content segment.

Tabs on the top of a web browser or the navigation options of a website are great examples. These options are generally vertical or horizontally aligned.

People instinctively perceive objects as either present in the foreground or the background. Design components are either prominent in the front (the figure) or recede to the background. The human brain will interpret the larger image area as the ground and the smaller as the figure. This principle can be useful when product designers want to highlight a focal point as an active or in-use element. The figure/ground relationship can stable or unstable depending on how simple it is to determine each element.

The aspects guiding this principle include:

  • Area - The smaller of two overlapping objects is seen as the figure while the larger is seen as ground.
  • Convexity - Convex patterns tend to be perceived as figures while the concave ones become the ground.

An on-screen component like a tooltip or a popover appearing on top or in the foreground exemplifies this principle.

Wrapping Up

Learning to implement any visual heuristic into your design can help elevate the user experience. Understanding the human brain's workings and leveraging a person's natural tendencies creates a more seamless interaction. UX design is about communication, convenience, and performance. Gestalt principles help achieve these goals while taking advantage of the subconscious of the mind. Gestalt principles are relatively easy to incorporate into any design.

Want to improve a design that seems haphazard or isn't grabbing your users' attention? 

 

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