Why Your Business Needs UX/UI Strategy—Interview with Jasson Schrock
Jasson Schrock is the Director and Head of Experience Design at BCG Digital Ventures in Berlin. He was the first designer hired by YouTube after the Google acquisition and was able to participate in growing the startup into a global destination with billions of visitors per day. With twenty years of experience in design, Jasson also worked for a variety of startups as both an employee and founder in New York and Silicon Valley. Last June we had a pleasure to host Jasson as the MCE Conference speaker.
Exploring the theme of design, we had a chance to discuss with Jasson the role of design thinking methodology and UX/UI strategy in business.
How would you describe the level of understanding of the importance of UX/UI design among the business stakeholders?
This varies significantly by region. For example, the level of understanding is typically quite high in Silicon Valley. We’re seeing increasing awareness in Berlin and Milan, but still struggling in Bogota and Bangalore. In areas that remain unaware, we often see design in the narrow scope of branding, or even worse, “just make it look pretty.” BCG Digital Ventures (DV) does a great job educating stakeholders. For example, we showcase exemplars in their industries that show how and where design has had an impact. Our focus is on the success of the new businesses we are building, so we are exceptionally honest about where design will help and where it will not.
Why does design thinking give a business advantage over the competition?
As access to tech increases, the differentiator in those that succeed over their competitors is increasingly becoming the design. The use of design also expands thinking beyond the spreadsheet. For example, are there psychological solutions that are being overlooked? Faster isn’t always better. Rory Sutherland told this story at the TEDx event about trains: “Six million pounds was spent to reduce the journey time between Paris and London by about 40 minutes. With 0.01% of that money you could put WiFi on the trains which wouldn’t reduce the duration of the journey but would have improved its enjoyment.”
Do you agree with the statement that “design thinking encourages a spirit of innovation so your company can stay relevant…” (via InVision)?
Generally yes, I agree with this statement—but it depends on two factors: support and balance. If design thinking is not championed by the part of management it can quickly become demoralizing for the team. There also needs to be a solid balance between research and execution. I’ve seen many startups jump into execution without research and the success rate is very low. On the other side, I’ve also seen startups spend too long in the research phase looking for the perfect solution instead of building and testing. Perfection is impossible; find your own “definition of done.”
How is the thoroughly carried out design process reflected in business later on?
When a design process is in place it helps to ensure that real problems—and not perceived problems—are being addressed. For example, startup employees often perceive very different problems than the average user. They often forget that they are the power users and feel that the problems they have with the product are the same as everyone else’s. I like to tell them, “You are a user, not the users. You’re one data point.” Products that successfully tackle pain points almost always do better.
What profiles of team members do you usually involve at the early stage of a project?
This can vary a lot however, there should ideally be a balance of representatives for business needs, user needs and feasibility. At DV, business needs are represented by Venture Architects (VA), Product Managers (PMs), and Growth Architects (GAs); user needs are represented by Strategic Designers (SDs) and Experience Designers (XDs); and feasibility is represented by Engineering. Think of it like a stool with three legs. If one leg is too long or too short, the stool falls. Each can champion their own side, but they need to understand that there must be a balance between all three when defining and prioritizing the product. The key is to build a proof of concept (POC) or minimum viable product (MVP) that does more than just what’s feasible. There must be elements of desirability from the start.
Do you follow any particular processes in your everyday work?
At DV, we have three overarching phases: Innovation, Incubation and Commercialization. Innovation is the research and ideation phase. In incubation, we test, execute and launch. In Commercialization, we essentially ramp up the company. However, we don’t have a one-size-fits-all methodology. We share a variety of processes and let the ventures pick and choose what tools and processes work best for their situation.
At the early stage of the design process the results are usually not tangible and clients often like to jump right into the design phase. How do you convince them to spend some time and money to explore?
I’ve experienced this multiple times in the past as well. It often boils down to showing what is being done and keeping the stakeholders in the loop by sharing research results and journey maps. It’s also important how questions are answered at this stage. Giving analytical answers to an emotional question isn’t satisfying (nor the other way around). To be convincing, the questions and answers need to be aligned. For example, telling someone who is scared of flying the safety statistics almost never convinces them.
The project’s deadline is tight and the client is not too convinced to do research. What would you recommend to do?
We try to avoid this at DV because we always research a problem before starting. However, in my past experience I’ve run across this thinking before. In this scenario, it’s important to frame the situation with the client by explaining that it’s a gamble and to use that as part of the evaluation. One of my former colleagues at Google, Tomer Sharon, has written a book specifically about this scenario, called “It’s Our Research: Getting Stakeholder Buy‐in for User Experience Research.”
Clients usually come with a very strong vision of the product. Do you participate in the very beginning of the design process, when the vision is not that specified?
At DV, we work through the entire process. Some of our corporate partners have specific ideas or problems they would like to solve and others are looking to expand their portfolio. In all cases, we embed members from our corporate partners into our teams as we explore and validate the ideas. This way, they understand the process and the solution we are working towards from the beginning.