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July 6, 2015 /UX/UI Design /

UX Design AMA 3: Co-creation, UX Secret Sauce with Andy Vitale

070615_AMA3_AndyVitaleThis is the third in a series of AMAs related to UX Design.

This AMA (Ask Me Anything) took place in Designer Hangout: The UX Community on Slack. Andy Vitale, a senior interaction designer at 3M, answered the community’s questions and shared tips and tricks on how to best utilize co-creation.

Hello everyone! I’m really excited to talk co-creation with you guys. Even though this is an AMA, it’s all about the community so feel free to jump in at anytime because we all learn from each other. Before we open up up discussion, for those who are unsure about co-creation let me tell the backstory:

Co-creation is defined by Professor Thorsten as “an active, creative and social process, based on collaboration between producers and users, that is initiated by the firm to generate value for customers.” So in other words, co-creation is all about solving problems together to produce the most useful end result to the user. Co-creation begins by recognizing that the role of the user has changed from isolated to connected, from unaware to informed, from passive to active. Users today are definitely more connected and informed thanks to social media and the Internet than they ever were. Users are no longer constrained by location—they have access to products that are available anywhere in the world. Real-time feedback is one of the most important things we as designers can take advantage of. Users can experiment with things before deciding to purchase. How many people go into Apple Stores to play with a device before deciding to buy it? As designers, we can see what works before we invest too much time and energy into it; we can find out how to make things better before spending tons of time and money to ship something that users don’t want.

What lessons (tips, tricks, tools, processes) have you learned about gathering and processing feedback in a co-creation model? One thing I’ve learned is the importance of understanding the need of the many versus the need of the individual. It’s great to personalize products when possible but ultimately if you keep trying to design functionality for each user’s desires, you will never ship a product. As you filter feedback you will see overlaps. Set a timeline, deliver a minimally viable product (MVP) and from there you can add things to a backlog for later releases and gather insights as you go.

What’s your viewpoint on dealing with companies uninterested in a co-creation methodology for how products are designed and developed? Is there an effective way to convince a company that this type of practice is beneficial? Always be an advocate for the user but for an optimal experience to be created, urge stakeholders to involve users throughout the whole process and every iteration of it. Just as you continue to evangelize UX, explain the benefits of co-creation as well. It will allow you to create a better experience. Showcase the value of co-creation and measure the outcomes in ways that business and users understand. Sometimes these metrics are productivity, reduction of errors, overall satisfaction and sometimes you can put a dollar amount to them. It’s hard to argue with success.

How does this differ from an agile methodology in UX? Agile is similar in many ways but you can still get away without involving the user. Just like any type of collaboration, we may work with other groups, stakeholders, developers but whether waterfall or agile, often times the users are not a continual part of the process. Sure the users are brought in for VOC (voice of the customer) sessions or observed in their environment as part of design research, and their needs, challenges and pain points are recorded, but they’re not involved in the decision making process. Sometimes at the end of the process, users can be part of testing but a lot of times that happens after the QA team tested the product and it is live. Co-creation is about working with the users to determine necessary features and allowing them to be part of every iteration of the product to make sure the product that ships is the product that the users want.

How would you suggest understanding the needs of many and still keep from losing track? It’s said that after interviewing or observing six users you will experience a majority of their needs and will start to see an overlap. Attack the overlap. Determine the most important things and ship it while continuing to add features. That is where being agile will help with co-creation. Keep a feature list and spreadsheet and go over it with users and stakeholders to help prioritize based on resources.

What’s your favorite thing you’ve ever created or co-created? There are many things from scented business cards, that smelled like pancake syrup, to an enterprise system solution for 3M that involved co-creating with medical professionals.

Is there any difference between co-creation and participatory design? Participatory design, or co-design, and co-creation are pretty much the same thing. The terminology varied in it’s early days. For stakeholders, I plan a workshop. Explain the importance of the meeting and how important it is for everyone to set aside the time. Send out invitations and an agenda early. Create an environment suitable for focusing on the workshop without distractions. Explain the mission and explain how important each person and their ideas and knowledge are to the success of the project. Work towards alignment in direction and expectations of outcome. For users, I try to observe them in their natural environment.

UX/UI Design

Join the discussion

  • By Christine Kantor - 9:48 AM on July 8, 2015  

    Great AMA filled with useful and relatable information. Thank you for posting and thank you, Andy Vitale, for sharing your knowledge.

    • By Jake Rogelberg - 8:00 PM on July 9, 2015  

      I’m glad you enjoyed it Christine! Andy was a pleasure to have and we’re looking forward to the future AMAs.