In case you don’t know, I look after the User Experience and Design teams here at TUI Travel, beside Luton Airport. We’re doing some pretty cool and exciting things up here, as part of a large programme of work. This work includes a complete overhaul of two of the biggest travel websites out there, thomson.co.uk and firstchoice.co.uk. What’s particularly exciting is that we, the UX & Design team, are playing a key role in setting, and implementing, the vision for these sites.
This vision is to completely revolutionise the way people book holidays. This isn’t just web, we are neck deep in cross-channel engagement and multi-platform delivery.
So, why am I wasting your precious reading minutes telling you this?
It’s been commented a few times that we’ve created a UX Playground for ourselves up here at TUI Towers! The comments have been prompted by the rich number of UX and Design techniques that we try and use here. However, the term UX Playground can be interpreted both negatively and positively.
Let me elaborate! I firmly believe in the need to employ a varied array of techniques, for both research and design. I am also convinced that you need to try techniques that you think will yield the best results for you (in the environment that you are in). Some of these may not work, others will.
The upside of the UX Playground
We do lots of different types of research, and we try lots of different types of research to get the best possible results. This is for three primary reasons:
- We do research to get insight into customer behaviour.
- We do research to give us a solid foundation for all design work.
- We do research that provides us with the rationale and justification for our design decisions.
We also try lots of different design techniques, again to get the best possible results. Sometimes that means going back over work, trying a new approach and seeing if we can make it better. This isn’t gold plating, but if we have any doubt about what we’ve done, a new approach gives us a fresh perspective on things. And we always refer back to our research.
The positive side of this is that the team gets lots of exposure to new and varied research and design activities. Some which, in other environments, you may not see very often. For example, we are currently in the middle of a digital diary study, where participants post to an online diary; but we’re also using postcards as an extra dimension to this. We’ve researched and created a mental model and done some really exciting emotional response testing.
Our design process involves varied techniques too. From Design Jams involving people from all around the business, to collaborative persona needs and user journey creation sessions.
This is great fun. Exploring new ways of getting insight and new design techniques. It’s interesting, it’s varied and, most importantly, it’s productive.
It allows us to most effectively deliver the best results to the business.
Dispelling the negatives of the UX Playground
There is a negative connotation that could be inferred from the term UX Playground (and I’m in no way saying that the people who coined the term meant it in anything other than a positive way!). There could be a perception that we are just trying things out for the sake of it.
Let me refute that now: we’re not! Everything we do is to give us the greatest insight into customers, and to allow us to deliver solutions that afford the maximum competitive advantage to the business.
When we try new techniques we look for the most cost effective way of testing them. If the results yielded are good, then we invest a more, as long as that investment is returned by a tangible business insight and benefit.
My advice: create a UX Playground
If you can, I would advocate creating a UX Playground. An environment where research is an integral part of the process, and where new research methods can be freely explored (in a cost effective and timely manner).
Create a UX Playground where new techniques for collaborative design are explored. Where Gamestorming concepts are used with the business, so that these sessions are fun for all involved.
By making things a little more fun, we become more creative; we make it more engaging for non UX and Design collaborators; and create an workplace that fosters the premiss of trying new things, an environment where innovation is the norm.
PS: if you’re interested in helping us to revolutionise the way people book holidays online, and having fun doing it, drop me a line (alex <dot> horstmann <at> thomson <dot> co <dot> uk) – we’re always looking for great people to come and join us here at TUI Towers!