June 4, 2013

Why Do We Make Software?


Better Software Conference

We make software because we hope someone will use it, that they find it useful, and that it fills a need — even if they don't know they have it. While we can make many incredibly sophisticated, beautiful software applications, many of them will die a lonely death if no users find them useful enough to buy or use. Each of us has had a product die in such a way at least once in our careers. So how can we make software better, more useful, more likely to go viral with users and not die before it lives?

I don't know, but that's a secret I'd like to figure out. In case you're wondering, this blog isn't about how Perforce can make your products better, it's about a design philosophy called Lean UX that can make your software better. We've been practicing a lot of Lean UX methods on the Swarm project. In some ways, Lean UX is for UX what Agile is for Dev. And at its core, Lean UX is a mind shift in design philosophy that advocates for shared understanding between organizations. Continuous discovery is a principle of Lean UX that encourages frequent customer engagement during the design and development phases, going out to visit users and learning what they're doing with your product. This research is frequent, it is regularly scheduled and the whole team participates.

One of my favorite quotes from "Lean UX: Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience" by Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden is "Why do it? Ultimately, the success or failure of your product isn’t the team’s decision — it’s the customers’. They will have to click that 'Buy Now' button you designed. The sooner you give them a voice, the sooner you’ll learn whether you’ve got an idea that’s ready to be built."

In my experience, the sooner we've started the user research, the closer we've been to succeeding. This customer voice is beyond its weight in gold. Later this week I will be speaking at the Better Software Conference in Las Vegas. In my session, titled "A UX Strategy for Persona Research," I'll share my experience from projects with little persona research to full research cycles along with strategies for how to inject user research into your process as quickly as possible.

I've been lucky to be practicing UX at Perforce, where our customers are great advocates for our products and always a pleasure to collaborate with. Thank you for that!