What is the best way to create a UX roadmap?

First off, let’s discuss the term “UX Roadmap.” I’ve heard it used in a couple of different ways. Here’s one definition, from UX Game Changers:

The UX roadmap defines the stages of the user delivery. And while demands can change deliverables, the roadmap provides guidance and helps set priorities. The term “roadmap” is defined as being a course of action or a plan for future actions.  Roadmaps provide the underpinnings of what should eventually turn into efficiencies and revenue.

Here’s my take on it:

A UX roadmap details where your users are, where they want/desire to be, and when you will provide offerings that will take them where they want to go. It is a timeline of activities and offerings that is driven by user needs and aligned (and, optimally, influencing) product release schedules.

An example: You sell a widget that allows people to instantly see their blood sugar level. This widget does one thing – the blood sugar check – incredibly well. Your users like it because it is simple and effective. However, they want more – they want to be able to log this sugar over time, and they also want to not have to sync this information with their computers – they want to just have the information “beam” itself to there. And as these users get more exposed to similar technology, they will also want to have multi-function devices that supports more than one function.

They – and the world – are heading towards “multitasking enablers” that support  health monitoring. How do you evolve your product to keep up with that? You flesh out a roadmap based on research, understanding, technology, and society trends.

This is what a lot of product managers do, but their product roadmaps are often “keep up with the Jones” efforts, where they strive for feature parity with competitors. The secrets sauce is the UX roadmap, because it looks not at the competitive landscape but user needs and their mental models. If you don’t do that, don’t understand where people’s “heads” are at and where they are going… Well, it can lead to a failed product line and a dead company.

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Is a disruption of the movie theatre experience imminent?

No, but there needs to be.

The movie going experience is (mostly) terrible, for several reasons:

  • Inconsiderate moviegoers (who text and talk during the film)
  • More (and longer) trailers
  • More (and longer) commercials
  • Longer movies, with no intermissions (which is why the whole Runpee app was created)
  • Higher ticket prices (the only reason that Hollywood has had record box office the last two years, because total ticket sales have declined over the past ten years)
  • Stupider movies (because complex plots and dialogue is harder to sell internationally, which is where Hollywood makes most of their money these days)

Some attempts have been made to disrupt the moviegoing experience, primarily the “dinner and a movie” theatre model that has waiters and a full menu for patrons to choose from.This has met with some success, but it’s unlikely this model will ever be built out so that major theatre chains provide such a service at their multiplexes. Hollywood tried to change the moviegoing experience in two other ways over the past decade – IMAX and 3D – which met with limited success (though many analysts blame 3D for increasing ticket prices while reducing ticket sales).

There’s lots of things that CAN be done to make the movie going experience better, but until Hollywood and the theaters HAVE to change, they won’t. And why change? The money is still rolling in (even though the biggest chunk of it comes from expensive summer blockbusters), and international box office allows movies that don’t succeed in the US a chance to be successful (the most recent example is the new Robocop, which flopped in the states but is doing quite well in China, Brazil and Japan). If anything, Hollywood will look to change things for the WORSE for moviegoers in order to maximize profits (they are already doing this with home video releases – putting out multiple store exclusives of films instead of a single “loaded” blu-ray edition).

Not saying that disruption won’t ever happen, but it’s going to take a BIG drop-off in ticket sales for the business owners to look at ways they need to change to lure customers back.

Want to see the moviegoing experience get better? Stop going to see movies. Wait till Netflix and/or home video to see the big blockbusters. If enough people do this, then things might change.

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What is expected from a UX leader (director, VP, etc.)?

Leadership, mentorship, passion, and business acumen.

Leadership in that that person must set the standards and direction for the organizations’ offerings, be they products, services, or both. How much due diligence should be done to ensure designs align with user needs? What process should be defined and followed to do this? What level of design documentation and testing is required? And so on. He/she needs to be the person who says “this is the way to do things” and they need to be able to convince the powers that be that their way makes sense and is the right approach.

Mentorship in that the person in charge of UX needs to provide opportunities to learn and grow to all of their team members. He/she needs to provide a UX “job ladder”, with a list of all roles and what is needed to get there (so the team will have a “target” to hit) and needs to support the training and opportunities necessary to help the team members get to where they want to go.

Passion in that the UX leader needs to be passionate about making lives better by providing user-centered products and solutions to people. This passion needs to be (somewhat) tempered by pragmatic realism, so that the passion will not override or supplant business goals. Unrealistic passion often results in academic exercises that don’t produce useful results.

Finally, a UX leader needs to have business acumen. He/she needs to be able to read people and situations, understand the “politics” of a particular organization, and communicate effectively both “up” and “down”. UX leaders who fail to have business “savvy” usually end up being ineffective in getting things done and supporting their team.

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What is your favorite line in the James bond movies?

“My dear girl, there are some things that just aren’t done, such as drinking Dom Perignon ’53 above the temperature of 38 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s just as bad as listening to the Beatles without earmuffs!” – Goldfinger

My second favorite:

“No, I like sake! Especially when it’s served at the proper temperature… 98.4 degrees Fahrenheit, like this is.” – You Only Live Twice

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“My kids have never watched a James Bond movie. What one should we start with?”

Great question.

I’d start with the movie that (I think) is the most accessible movie to kids: The Spy Who Loved Me. It has a very simple plot, has some great BIG “Bond moments”, it doesn’t have many really “scary” moments (though Jaws may frighten them), and still has a little of the harsh edge we see in some of the best Bonds (Roger Moore is really channeling Connery’s take in a couple of scenes).

Then… well, things get tricky. I’d personally follow up with You Only Live Twice, but that might confuse the kids because a “different guy” is playing Bond. If you don’t want to do that, I’d show them with Moonraker.

Yep, the movie that many Bond fans hate, Moonraker. Again, it has some great big cinematic moments, it’s not too scary, and it’s Bond. In. SPAAACE! The kids should dig it.

Then… Well, I’d skip the rest of the Roger Moore films as well as the Dalton, Craig AND Brosnan films (I think all of them have moments that are inappropriate for kids). I’d jump straight to You Only Live Twice and then Thunderball, for the same reasons stated above.

Finally, I’d actually skip Goldfinger until they get older. It moves at a slower pace than the others and they may get bored. Yes, I know. SACRILEGE! But it’s true.

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What are the job prospects for UX researchers?

Not bad, but not as good as they used to be.

These days, companies large and small are often looking for something know as a “UX unicorn” – a designer that can do research, detailed documentation, research findings, develop the UI, do the graphic design and plug the front-end into the middle layer and back end. In other words, they are looking for something that is as rare as… well, unicorns.

There are many people in the UX discipline who are multi-skilled and can cross disciplines with ease… but even they can’t do it all. The fact that companies are looking for someone who CAN is more a reflection of their desire to keep costs low than the actual existence of such a person.

All this is a (round-about way) of saying that UX researchers need to be more than JUST “UX researchers” these days. You need to bring some design or other UX-related skills to the table in order to be considered. Way back in the beginning of the UX discipline companies were more likely to hire specialists, because they didn’t know anything ABOUT UX, so they relied on straightforward (specialized) roles. Now (and in a softer economy) they are looking to hire less specialists and more “general practitioners.”

So, flesh out your skills and your resume – build up a portfolio of work and keep evolving your capabilities. Just accept that some companies will still be chasing unicorns.

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