Tag Archives: agile

Wordle of 5S methodology

Using 5S Methodology for Evaluating a Website Redesign Project

As our website design project nears completion, I will take this opportunity to evaluate our work.  Hoekman (2007) discusses the relevance of the Japanese “5S” management approach, to UX design.  Grounded  in a philosophy of minimising waste, I can see its relevance to the largely Agile project management approach which we have adopted. I will give a brief description of each of the 5 features of this model and then outline their relevance to our approach to the project and the website.

5S methodology

5S methodology

1. SORT (SEIRI)

Wikipedia (2012) describes this as a process whereby all unnecessary materials, tools and procedures are eliminated.  This was reflected by our research and analysis of the organisational and user requirements. For example, promoting the festival was a key requirement, whereas setting up e-commerce facilities for merchandise was out of scope.  In an ideal situation, it would have been satisfying to produce a fully functioning site.  However, by defining our requirements we were able to avoid “scope creep” (Bowles and Box, 2011) thus making the best use of our limited resources to produce a site which met the stated key organisational and user requirements.

2. STRAIGHTEN (SEITON)

Hoekman (2007) discusses how this process aims to reduce wastage and increase efficiency by ensuring that resources are accessible and organised so that the most relevant information is prioritised.  We managed our work flow so as to achieve maximum efficiency, as illustrated by our use of social media and cloud-based file storage:

Facebook, Dropbox and Google Drive

Setting up a closed Facebook group enabled team members to communicate despite working and living some distance from campus and we regularly exchanged information  about task progress/completion, support, advice and links to useful resources.  The “alerts” function allowed the group to stay in touch and to respond quickly to messages and queries.The group Dropbox folder for the project enabled team members to access all aspects of the project.  We were able to review our output, thus highlighting areas which had been completed or which required further development. 

In the future I would consider using a closed social media group for a project, although I would prefer to use Google+ for its Hangouts facility and and also for its less public interface.  Dropbox was easily accessed by all team members.  However, I prefer using Google Drive, as it allows team members to work simultaneously and collaboratively on a document, thus reducing time spent in reviewing, discussing and amending documentation.  Given that some team members were unfamiliar with Drive, we opted to use Dropbox but I would certainly use Drive in the future.

3. SHINE (SEISO)

According to Wikipedia (2012), this process ensures that the workplace is kept clean, tidy and organised. This is illustrated by our methodical approach to the management of the project. For example, although we did not number the individual files until the end of the assignment, we maintained a clear folder structure in Dropbox which reflected the assignment’s 5 deliverable documents.

Dropbox folder contents

Screenshot of some of the contents of our Dropbox “deliverables” folder

By doing this, all team members were able keep track of progress.   Hoekman (2007) describes how the graphical elements of a website such as alignment and colour palette should contribute to its mood and personality.  Thus, we chose the font Adobe Caslon Pro for the title of our website:

Adobe Caslon Pro typeface

Adobe Caslon Pro typeface

as it is derived from William Caslon’s first original English typeface; we felt that this complemented the historical aspect of folk music which the festival organisers seek to preserve.  Similarly, the festival logo was subtly adjusted to include the dominant colour from the town’s crest:

Town crest and our redesigned logo

Colour matching between town crest and our redesigned logo.

The use of a pale blue background supported the vibrant colours in the logo and photographs featured on the homepage, thus creating a colour scheme which was both easy on the eye and accessible to users with low vision.  As a result, users described the site as being clear and inoffensive.

In the future I will continue to integrate “seiso” in the management of my work.  This seems almost instinctive, perhaps due to the nature of the information management course I am undertaking.  As discussed in a previous post, I have limited experience of using design principles.  However, I think that that by working collaboratively and then testing and iterating a design, I would be able to support the development of a sound UX-based design for a website.

4. STANDARDISE (SEIKETSU)

Wikipedia (2012) describes the role of standardisation in the 5S methodology, as illustrated by the standardisation of work stations for employees performing similar tasks. This element was reflected in our project by the standardisation of our  user research.  Thus, we created a template for the questions, format and collation of user research.  We also wanted to achieve consistency within the website (something which was missing from the original site) to improved its usability.  In order to standardise the layout we initially created a wireframe/prototype in Visio by collaborating on the design iterations on campus.  One team member was then assigned to update the changes.  Similarly, when constructing the website, we assigned a (different) team member to be the “keeper of the code”.  Thus, although all team members were responsible for coding content, embedding maps, videos etc. in individual pages, this approach ensured that coding errors were minimised and  that the site maintained consistency. 

Overall, I feel that our approach to the user research and website layout was successful.  However, I think that this was largely due to the opportunity for team members to work collaboratively prior to standardising an approach.  Thus, instead of being “standardised”, I would describe our work style and website content as “consistent”.

5. SUSTAIN (SHITSUKE)

This aspect of workplace organisation is described by Wikipedia (2012) as being an ongoing effort to find ways of improving existing processes.  This is closely linked to the Japanese word “kaizen” meaning “improvement”.  Its meaning has evolved over time to describe an iterative approach to both design and project management and is an inherent aspect of Agile projects (Bowles and Box, 2011).  Consequently, our final round of user testing (pre-launch user journey task observations and corridor tests), revealed user requirements necessitating adjustments to the website.  For example, clearer content layout for the Line-Up” page.

Our website is the result of the iterative (shitsuke/kaizen) approach to our decision-making and design process.  On reflection, although I was not fully aware of it at the time, I can see that evidence-based kaizen was key to supporting our team cohesiveness and confidence.  For example, our original hand-drawn site map evolved through ten versions into its final incarnation:

Site Map V1

Version 1 of our site map

Version 10 of our site map

Version 10 of our site map

By viewing the iterative process as evidence of progress and as a means of minimising errors in the construction phase of the website, we consequently felt more positive as a group.

CONCLUSION

Designed originally for the Japanese manufacturing industry, the 5S model has relevance to other work environments, including information architecture and UX design.  As with all management models however, I think that it is important to focus on the broader rather than the detailed aspects of the model.  For example, standardising work practices would be overly restrictive to UX designers but essential for staff working in a hospital.  Using the 5S model has been useful in describing some of the key aspects in our website redesign project; its elements fit implicitly within the Agile project management approach but is also suitable for the management of projects in hierarchical organisations.

REFERENCES

Bowles, C. and Box, J. 2011. Undercover user experience : learn how to do great UX work with tiny budgets, no time, and limited support. Berkeley, CA: New Riders.

Hoekman, R. 2007. Designing the obvious: a common sense approach to Web application design. Berkeley, CA: New Riders

Wikipedia, 2012. 5S (methodology) [online]. Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/5S_(methodology) [Accessed 26th January 2012].

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Project Management Models

WATERFALL, AGILE, LEAN…

My post last week on the role of iteration in the design process has led me to consider the impact (to date) of the project management approach we have adopted on our task.

It can be argued that the provenance of each of the abovementioned project management models dictates its focus.  For example, the “Waterfall” approach was developed in the manufacturing and construction industries, which are characterised by a need for completion in each phase of production and with little scope for iteration.  Similarly, “Agile” project management was adopted by software companies as a means of developing and adapting products in a fast-changing environment.  This approach is frequently criticised for being product-centric (Bryan, 2012). The “Lean” approach has its roots in Japanese manufacturing and aims to improve value to the customer by reducing waste and maximising efficiency (Wikipedia, 2012).  Moreover, there are numerous variations to each model  (for example, Agile/Scrum and Waterfall/V-model), underpinned by a wide range of certified training programmes.

WATERFALL

A waterfall approach to managing a project is useful where there are accountability, safety standards or legal requirements on the organisation.  For example, a public service, medical or financial service-based organisation would benefit from using this model (Seigel, 2011).

AGILE

Bryan (2012) argues that Agile UX is a response to Agile product development where the requirement for “sprints” in the process have reduced the opportunities for UX professionals to influence the design of a product. The author also argues that in order to produce a “quick fix”, Agile methodology relies on assumptions (e.g. via the use of journeys).  This is in contrast to the traditional UX approach, which relies on researched usability data.  However, by working in cross-functional teams, communication and collaboration is enhanced (Bowles and Box, 2012).  In my experience, this team approach can be difficult to implement in larger organisations with hierarchical structures.

LEAN

According to Gothelf (2011) Lean UX is based on an amalgam of the agile model with the Lean Startup approach as described by Ries (2011).  He argues that UX designers should use traditional UX tools but only test in-depth when necessary.  Moreover, he advises that there should be less focus on “deliverables” (documentation).  As with the previous model, this approach requires a cross-functional, collaborative approach which can be culturally challenging to large, established hierarchical organisations.

CLEARLEFT

James Box, one of the founders of Clearleft describes their project mangement approach as one which takes account of the context of the organisation, generating a high number of design ideas and then synthesising them into prototypes which can be iterated.  He is sceptical about user research, arguing that rational choices are not independent of emotion and that aesthetics can make a user perceive the usability of a product as being better than it is.  I am not convinced about this; visual design is only one aspect of usability and the user research we have conducted has shown how a range of users (with varying degrees of interest in visual design) have been unanimous in their response to the usability of a website.

What Kind Of Project Management Approach Is Our Group Using?

The overall structure of the project has been predefined by the academic nature of the task.  Project tasks are recommended for each week but these are not all compulsory; within the framework, we could potentially have followed any of the abovementioned approaches.

It seems to me as if we are using a UX approach that brings elements from all three models.  Thus, we are using a structured approach with clear, documented phases (waterfall); there are short, low-fidelity iterative cycles (lean) and we are working closely as a team in order to achieve timely completion of the project (Agile).  In my opinion, this pragmatic approach ensures that best practice derived from each model is adapted to suit each client and/or project.

Is Our Approach Working?

The success or failure of our approach will become evident in the final feedback we receive on our project.  However, to date, the mix of approaches used have facilitated the following aspects of the project:

  • the generation, development and iteration of ideas
  • group collaboration and flexibility
  • meeting weekly deadlines
  • remaining on track to complete the project by its completion date

My previous experience of academic project work has not been as successful and on reflection, this has been partly due to a lack of clarity about the project management process.  For example, as discussed in my previous post, iteration is a key aspect of design but it is also an important part of the overall management of the project.  I can now see that in previous academic group projects, this feature was not understood by all team members, thus causing frustration and dissent within the group.

Future Projects

In the future, I would look carefully at any project and clarify the approach being used to achieve the task.  This information may be implicit in the organisational culture or explicitly stated within the group.  This clarity would facilitate the roles and tasks within the project.

REFERENCES

Bowles, C. and Box, J. 2011. Undercover user experience : learn how to do great UX work with tiny budgets, no time, and limited support. Berkeley, CA: New Riders.

Bryan, P. 2012. Is UX strategy fundamentally incompatible with Agile and Lean UX? [online]. Available at: http://www.uxmatters.com/mt/archives/2012/07/is-ux-strategy-fundamentally-incompatible-with-agile-or-lean-ux.php [Accessed 29 November 2012].

Gothelf, J. 2011. Getting out of the deliverables business [online]. Freiburg: Smashing Magazine. Available at: http://uxdesign.smashingmagazine.com/2011/03/07/lean-ux-getting-out-of-the-deliverables-business/ [Accessed 29 November 2012].

Ries, E. 2011. The Lean startup: how constant innovation creates radically successful businesses. London: Penguin

Seigel, B. 2011. A comprehensive website planning guide [online]. Freiburg: Smashing Magazine. Available at: http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2011/06/09/a-comprehensive-website-planning-guide/ [Accessed 29 November 2012].

Wikipedia. 2012. Agile software development [online]. Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agile_software_development [Accessed: 29 November 2012].

Wikipedia. 2012. Lean manufacturing [online]. Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lean_manufacturing [Accessed: 29 November 2012].

Wikipedia. 2012. Waterfall [online]. Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waterfall_model [Accessed 29 November 2012].