Web App Masters: Turning Back to the Future

by March 25, 2010

In his closing keynote, Turning Back to the Future, at the Web App Masters Tour in San Diego, CA, Jared Spool outlined the role of an experience vision in keeping design teams focused and innovating.

  • If you focus on what people ask you for, you’ll only make incremental adjustments. How do we move beyond 10% improvements? How do we get to 300% improvements?
  • The key is vision. Can everyone on the team describe the experience of using your design five years fro now?
  • Not asking people to describe the design in five years but the experience of use in five years.
  • The vision has to be far enough out to escape the current constraints of your technology, users, and organization. But not too far out to be completely unreachable.
  • Everyone on the team should recite the same story.
  • Apple’s 1987 Knowledge Navigator video was a vision of what portable computing could be like. The progression of Apple’s products has slowly gotten them closer to the vision in the video.
  • Vision is big enough that everyone can see it –it’s a huge flag in the sand. If things change a lot, the flag can be moved but everyone can still see where it is.
  • Vision should be very specific to an organization’s goals and be measurable so people know when it has been achieved.
  • Vision should focus on an inspirational experience and ultimately live in people’s heads. A video or artifact is only an envisionment not a vision.
  • Innovation happens in between the current experience and the inspirational experience.
  • Steps for creating a vision
  • 1) Identify the design agents –everyone who will influence the final design outcome. Make sure they are all involved. We want to get to the point where everyone can say the same thing. Every design agent needs to see the envisionment.
  • 2) Conduct some research –figure what you are going to build and for who. The amount of research you need depends on what you already know. Research can help you identify behavioral-based personas.
  • 3) Craft the personas and scenarios –this helps you model the actors in your envisionment. Look for the personas and scenarios that can benefit most from your vision. Scenarios are the framework for understanding your current experience and future aspirational experience.
  • 4) Script the envisionment
  • 5) Produce the envisionment. Most envisionments are not highly produced or expensive to make.
  • 6) Inoculate the team with the vision
  • Regular discussions and reviews can help you determine if you are moving in the right direction. Its ok if you are not (for a bit) as long as you have the conversation.
  • Start small: lots of little, manageable objectives are more doable and can help mitigate risk.