A white, empty plate with a waiting hand holding chopsticks.
A white, empty plate with a waiting hand holding chopsticks.

Deep into the Agile revolution, we’ve still got a rather big problem. Products continue to routinely ship with significant user experience flaws. Why?

Most of us employ Agile processes to define and validate products in digestible chunks. This should help us find usability flaws early and often, right? This should help us make more user-friendly sites, apps, and software?

Not really, no.

Agile is a development approach created to solve development problems. It addresses issues like chronically overbudget projects, delay culture, poor communication, feature bloat, wasted effort, testing chaos, you name it. The Agile Manifesto proclaims that more efficient, collaborative…


A wooden sign in the middle of forked path that says, “New Projectland,” with an arrow pointing left that reads, “Shortcut Trail,” showing dark, ominous woods. An arrow pointing right reads, “Discovery Path,” pointing towards a beautiful path with green grass and a pond.
A wooden sign in the middle of forked path that says, “New Projectland,” with an arrow pointing left that reads, “Shortcut Trail,” showing dark, ominous woods. An arrow pointing right reads, “Discovery Path,” pointing towards a beautiful path with green grass and a pond.

Faced with deadlines and budget concerns, you might be tempted to skip the Discovery process entirely. But it could be exactly what you need to safeguard your project against certain failure.

Want results?

Discovery is the research and planning phase before a project begins, when everyone involved hammers out project requirements and expectations: goals, scope, timeline, and budget. It provides a sure path from the murky unknown to a clear vision of what your project can and should be, which makes it a great investment in your project’s immediate and long-term success.

And it’s much cheaper than failure.

Minimize risks to minimize failure.

When you identify the…


Graphic of a classic car careening off the edge of a cliff formed by the letter X into dark pink clouds.
Graphic of a classic car careening off the edge of a cliff formed by the letter X into dark pink clouds.

Planning a vacation and building or improving a digital product have far more in common than you think.

When you travel, you probably plan out top spots to visit, confirm bookings, and make sure everybody knows where to be and when to be there. You probably keep important details in your phone, too. And why? Because you know that after two flights, a long layover, an Uber, and a faulty Airbnb keypad, you won’t remember your first name, let alone all those important details that will make your trip worthwhile.

Sites and apps are the same — after refining all…


Graphic of a Wild West sunset showdown between two columns, reminiscent of higher-education, in cowboy hats.
Graphic of a Wild West sunset showdown between two columns, reminiscent of higher-education, in cowboy hats.

Consistent UX strategy will take your organization to next-level success online. But getting decision makers on board is easier said than done in the decentralized world of higher education.

Digital experiences for most universities resemble a vast, lawless territory where divisions, offices, and even individuals act as sovereign entities who do as they wish, for better or — more often — worse.

If you have any responsibility for a university’s digital properties, you know how it goes: Thousands of people with varying levels of digital expertise across your organization make interactive decisions all day every day without regard to consistency…


Eight solid-color cylinders extending toward a white plane with a hole in the middle. The plane blocks all the cylinders except the three with primary colors: blue, red, and yellow, which each extend slightly through the hole.
Eight solid-color cylinders extending toward a white plane with a hole in the middle. The plane blocks all the cylinders except the three with primary colors: blue, red, and yellow, which each extend slightly through the hole.

Most sites, apps, and software do too much, achieving nothing more than full-featured mediocrity. Want to make your digital product better from the start? Limit scope. Limit it considerably.

Most digital products do too much.

In the early stages of digital product planning, organizations rarely push back on calls to limit scope. It seems everyone is on board the uncomplicated bandwagon, at least initially. A typical mantra goes like this: “Here at ACME, we believe in being simple. We believe in quality over quantity.”

Well.

This corporate jibber jabber might be easier to believe with actual evidence. Most sites, apps, and software are pretty dang complicated…


A video game character clad in armor holding up a hand in victory while one foot rests on one of many animated mushrooms reminiscent of Mario video games. The outline of a mountain appears over a bright blue background.
A video game character clad in armor holding up a hand in victory while one foot rests on one of many animated mushrooms reminiscent of Mario video games. The outline of a mountain appears over a bright blue background.

Any time you add an integration to your digital product, make sure it’s supporting your users and project goals.

If you’re planning to launch a new site or app, we get it — every bit helps. Externally sourced add-ons and integrations can be a cost-effective way to add critical features and speed up your production timeline. But by adding another player to the game, you’re also adding a good degree of complexity to your project.

Any time you work with an external vendor to introduce a new component to your project, you also risk introducing a new set of problems…


A multicolored unicorn horn stabbing upward to pierce through multiple sheets of paper in front of a starry, purple background.
A multicolored unicorn horn stabbing upward to pierce through multiple sheets of paper in front of a starry, purple background.

UX professionals are naturally dynamic, multifaceted, even magical beings. But hiring one person to solve all your usability problems is just an expensive, unrealistic Band-Aid for a larger UX need.

We’ve seen it before. You’ve identified some serious issues with your digital products. You know those issues have to do with usability, and you’re looking to begin investing in better user experience. Huzzah! But woe to you who believe that hiring a single expert to sweep in and “do UX” (whatever that means) is the fabled answer to your problems. If you or your higher-ups think one person can do…


The Great Search Dilemma

We all search online. By now, we are all used to going to a site or app, typing in the thing we want, and choosing from relevant results. Whether we’re trying to find a friend on social media, pulling up the best recipe for mashed potatoes, or trying to remember lyrics for that song that’s stuck in our head, just about everyone knows the basics of online search, probably even your technology-averse grandpa.

Do We Really Need Main Navigation Anymore?

A digital product team might start to wonder: Search is now so pervasive and so well-understood, is it possible that it’s the only thing people need to…


A user extending his arms towards a large, dark digital display. The digital display features a variety of online content interactions, including: From $799 with a Buy button and Learn more link, a partially visible rating with four stars labelled “…on’s Choice,” one item with Add to Cart and Buy Now buttons above a Secure Transaction label, the question “Are you still watching?” with buttons Continue and Back, and a search field with the question “What is Xenu?”
A user extending his arms towards a large, dark digital display. The digital display features a variety of online content interactions, including: From $799 with a Buy button and Learn more link, a partially visible rating with four stars labelled “…on’s Choice,” one item with Add to Cart and Buy Now buttons above a Secure Transaction label, the question “Are you still watching?” with buttons Continue and Back, and a search field with the question “What is Xenu?”

Chances are, your site, app, or software product is not something people use constantly, all day every day. And that means everything for your approach to UX.

Considering Frequency of Use

Some digital products are used more frequently than others. Some, like the text apps on our phones, we use constantly. Everyone from the most accomplished programmer to my dear sweet mother texts. We text at all hours, during conversations, and dismayingly, while we drive.

Because we text all the time, we know our text apps like the back of our hand. …


Hand holding a magic wand with a pink proofreading delete mark emitting a spark from the end over a background sigil.
Hand holding a magic wand with a pink proofreading delete mark emitting a spark from the end over a background sigil.

Your current site or app isn’t supporting your business goals — which means it’s hurting them. You’re ready for an overhaul. In fact, you’ve already started dreaming up that shiny new site or app.

Want to wave a wand and get that efficient, productivity-boosting project that delights users and stakeholders alike? Good news, you can.

Here is the perfect spell for project success: Start with a content evaluation. UX magic takes time to work, but follow these steps and you’ll evade the traps and pitfalls that mean certain project doom.

Step 1: Consider content from the beginning.

You think there’s just a few weeks between you and…

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Online experiences don’t have to be frustrating. We’re user experience experts making digital products useful, usable, and loved. #UX #UI #userexperience #web

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