How UX Engineering can Fuel Product Development –

A six-step process for incorporating User Experience Engineering to build and test new features and product ideas quickly

Start-ups are scrappy survivors: they must innovate constantly and adapt quickly if they want to have any chance at upending the proverbial status quo. Success hinges on a forward-thinking approach, the ability to use a variety of tools, and an opportunistic approach to learning. As a start-up matures into a larger, multi-department company and development resources are dedicated to support and maintain core products, it’s difficult to fuel the engine of innovation that helped launch the start-up into orbit in the first place.

Without the ability to build quickly and run user tests or other experiments, there’s likely a growing backlog of potentially game-changing enhancements, features, and product ideas that might never come alive. Incorporating User Experience Engineering is one way to re-ignite the team’s spirit of innovation. UX Engineering is relatively new and goes by many names (at Amazon, it’s called “Design Technology”), but here’s the general idea:

UX Engineers combine UX Design and engineering expertise into a single discipline, and are able to develop, prototype, and test innovative UI solutions that push the envelope on front-end engineering and inspire development teams and leaders to invest in new ideas.

In pioneering UX Engineering to Fanatics, I’ve had the opportunity to not only define the role itself at our organization, but to build a process around it, too. While there was a significant investment of time configuring a development environment and setting up the tools that our team uses, the biggest challenge was around strategic challenges like:

  • Which ideas get developed into prototypes?
  • How complex can our prototypes be?
  • How can we quickly build a prototype that works with our existing codebase?
  • How are these features/prototypes tested and measured?
  • What kind of deliverable is useful to engineers? What will they do with it (if anything)?
  • How can we ensure our learnings (from both successes and failures) support further product/feature development?

Bringing UX Engineering to Fanatics was a great learning opportunity — both personally and for our team — and I wanted to share some of what we discovered while developing our process here. Using the guiding questions above, we distilled our process into six steps: Identify, Simplify, Build, Measure, Ship, and Share.

Author: Steve Saul

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