We have all witnessed seismic shifts in the web and digital over the last few years (any consultant worth his salt will open with that mind-blowing insight). However the most switched-on of us are seeing there is a fundamental change in how we think about what we do as UX practitioners.
The jeans and trainers brigade are venturing out from their headphones, leaving behind their impenetrable language and starting to learn to speak ‘suit’. We have begun to recognise we are designing services. Services for real people, for multiple channels, multiple devices, multiple contexts, that have to interact with the physical world and also other systems. To get this right requires new thinking for us plus organisational and business change for our clients. Only if we understand and influence this change can we deliver the kind of experiences users are now demanding.
A good term for this wider thinking is ‘digital transformation’, and it takes its methods not only from UX design, but also from business consulting and most importantly service design. To illustrate this, a great example is the past couple of years at Transport for London.
Don’t obstruct the doors, it causes delays.
TfL is one of the most high profile transport services in the world but, here comes the history bit, until the new millennium it didn’t exist. We all moved around London on a multitude of separate transport ‘modes’. These, like some uniformed version of West Side Story, mostly hated or didn’t speak to each other. Then in 2000 they were all brought together under a single organization - a massive change in culture that is (to be diplomatic) still in progress. To underline this, in 2007 a first digital step was made with a new website that reflected the users’ needs, rather than the old ‘modal’ structure of the business.
Then, and we’re back to consultant speak, the digital world completely shifted under their feet. It became ubiquitous, cheaper and mainstream. Smartphones arrived, then tablets and now TfL’s users interact with the organisation in fundamentally different ways.
They might pre-plan their journey, checking future service disruptions and signing up for travel alerts. They could then take their results with them, on their personal device, all the while checking live boards and asking staff or checking social media for updates, information and service disruptions. They could use apps built on TfL data and plan in-journey, or use social media to suggest or influence others behaviour (or just moan). They can sign up for services, pay, top-up and manage their accounts online and pay contactless.
They even see where their taxi is, live and pay and tip on their mobile without taking it out of their pocket.
Station, customer service and support staff need the same information as the users see online. This needs to be mobile, accurate and always-on. Engineers need to view and input information into the same systems, location-aware and sometimes in inhospitable places. Analytics on people’s movement, habits and behaviours can help with planning, traffic management and reduce costs. Plus third parties and developers want to experiment and build new services on top of TfL’s data.
This next train departs in…
To drive the transformation we leveraged the new website project, in collaborative, multi-disciplinary teams we engaging with users in the field, plus people all across the actual organisation. We developed a clear and compelling vision of the overall service, and made prototypes for multichannel experiences. Then we refined by designing, iterating and continually testing with users, staff and management.
In parallel we rebuilt the back-end data from scratch to provide speed to market, flexibility, social integration and analytics.
This all started to embed an agile methodology in an organisation not used to such speed of change. We also developed new digital experience principles, bolder and more modern responsive web templates and a design toolkit for building new sites and services. All the while communicating what we were doing both to the public and the organization.
To keep momentum and help our clients manage their stakeholders, we consulted with the leadership team and developed a new overall digital strategy and business transformation roadmap. Helping them move towards a more digitally integrated organisation and to build up their own capabilities.
Keeping London moving.
The new mobile-first website launched last year and was a huge hit with users, the organization and partners. Mobile device usage soon overtook desktop and laptop for the first time early 2014.
It’s an ongoing programme of improvement and change. As I moved on they were starting Oyster integration and single sign-on, enterprise apps for staff and partners and the developer community is beginning to develop the next generation of apps and services on the new API.
I’m immensely proud to be part of the team that improved the way in which millions of Londoners and visitors move around the capital. This was all possible because we got the basics right, understood the users and the organization, appreciated the change needed and that we were designing a service not a website.