Accelerating UX optimisation. How ThinkSprint solves a critical bottleneck.

ThinkSprint is powered by crowdsourcing, or more accurately expert-crowdsourcing. The possibility that minds who’ve never met can be plucked out of the internet ether and connected up to solve problems and create value is amazing to me and how I believe many organisations will be designed in the future. But there’s still a long way to go. Just because your gut says you ‘could’ solve challenges in this way it doesn’t necessarily mean you ‘should’.

My advice to anyone designing a business around this type of model is to stop obsessing about the process and start obsessing on the results. Are they substantially better than the current way of doing whatever it is you do?

This has been the mission for ThinkSprint over the last 3 years. What can we point an expert community at that improves an essential job to be done by 10x? We’ve explored multiple areas and one we’re having a lot of success with is UX design.

Here’s why…

UX design is largely about removing friction. Removing stuff to read, removing clicks and removing thinking in the pursuit of higher conversions, engagement and retention.

A great experience is now a core differentiator alongside brand and pricing. Whereas building a brand is a slow burn and competing on price can be a race to the bottom, UX can be improved methodically to deliver value, which means it’s becoming a race to the top.

For example, I still use legacy banks but I’m now constantly cursing every time I open their clunky apps since I created a Monzo account. It’s only a matter of time before I delete them altogether. User centricity is how to win and the organisations who prioritise innovating and optimising it are pulling away from those who don’t. Just look at what Monzo are doing to retail banking. Their ability (and those like them) to speed through product optimisation is what is disrupting the retail banking sector.

The usual process for UX optimisation often looks like this;

  1. Review analytics to shed light on what is happening.
  2. Conduct user testing to gain insight into why this is happening.
  3. Synthesise the data and test solutions to figure out how to iterate and improve.

As per the graph above, moving through each step faster than your competition means faster growth.

  • Web analytics can determine the ‘what’ instantly at scale.
  • Remote user testing is very accessible so there’s access to plenty of ‘why’.
  • But figuring out the ‘how’ is a bottleneck for most organisations.

Matt Isherwood a UX consultant to the likes of Jimmy Choo and UX instructor at General Assembly:

“As a UX consultant I’ve very quickly been able to give clients the what and the why of the conversion issues they face, for example through lightweight analytics and user testing reports. This evidence always gains buy-in from clients about the problems that are to be solved.

However, getting to an answer for ‘how’ to move forward tends to involve running a longer design process, and in my experience a chunk of time will be spent analysing what competitors are doing (rightly or wrongly). This can also kick off a long period of redesigning, where doubt can creep in and the company spends time going round the houses considering the merits of different solutions.”

‘How’ bottlenecks exist when teams are stretched and up so close to challenges that their frame of reference is too narrow. This results in not asking the right questions, missing simple opportunities and slower execution.

ThinkSprint shows teams ‘how’ to iterate and improve faster

  1. Our platform captures a design such as a checkout flow, then relevant experts from around the world are invited to comment on it.
  2. Each new expert comes to the challenge with a fresh pair of eyes and unique experience to draw on, finding and solving issues previously missed.
  3. Their comments are analysed using machine learning and colour coded into a simple traffic light system which makes it easy to see where problems are.
  4. This layering of knowledge effect expands a team’s frame of reference, moving them out of their bubble and away from any bias. The end result being robustly optimised products.
  5. Because the process is delivered through a web platform in 24 hrs, the actionable recommendations are unlocked quickly at scale.

Two years ago I started speaking to Robert Laubacher, the associate director of MIT’s Centre for Collective Intelligence, about quantifying the impact of ThinkSprint. I asked him recently for his take on what we are doing;

“The frontier of collective intelligence is engaging groups in collaborative tasks.

ThinkSprint has been honing the application of expert opinion where the knowledge is mature enough so that a set of experts can come up with a consensus on what ‘good is’, with UX as the focus in an open collective way.

It’s a mode that is working well and creating a lot of value.”

To bring it back to results (not process!), we’ve completed multiple pilots recently and in each case an immediate list of actionable recommendations goes into the roadmap. So if you believe that UX is a core driver of growth, and that getting through the ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ loop as fast as possible is a path to the best UX, let’s speak.

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