Jari and Hannu from the dev team visited UXDX Conf in Dublin early in October. One topic that came up in many talks was continuous improvement (Kaizen), which is about improving the process and the product by learning and analyzing them constantly. A Good product obviously needs a good design so that users can find it and understand how to use it intuitively. Almost everyone has some an opinion on what is good design and what is not, but usually the best solutions come from experience. However, especially when building something from scratch, even the most educated-guess might not be the best approach. That’s when it’s good to start analyzing the product and learn from those analytics, and incrementally improve the product based on real data and then challenge those assumptions.
On the development-side of things that usually comes down to terms like Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery. Basically meaning that we add a new feature to our product, continuous integration checks that the new feature works and the product overall still works after adding this feature. Continuous delivery is basically delivering the product to somewhere where customer or end-users can see and access it. Those both are basically about automating the process so, that team has less or none manual work when it comes to verifying and releasing the product and instead can focus on just building the features. It also allows teams to release more often.
In my opinion, there is nothing too new about continuous improvement but more just business as usual. However, I think it’s good to remind our self of that but also our customers. Many non-technical people might not be aware of these benefits, so next time someone suggest you a waterfall project, maybe you can suggest them a different approach instead where you build the product incrementally for the best possible outcome.
Progressive Web Apps are “Websites that progressively emulate an application“
Progressive Web Applications are still overall a hot topic and it also came up in the conference a couple of times. Progressive Web Application (PWA) as name itself can be easily misunderstood or not understood at all. The title above is a loosely quoted take from one of the talks. Another related quote directly from one of the slides says:
“A best in class website that emulates an app whilst retaining the accessibility and sharing ability of the web”
I think both of these summarise the term PWA well, since that’s what they essentially are. They are just websites that you can access with your browser, on your desktop computer or on your mobile. If you’re visiting the website on a new device and new browser, the website can tap into some new features available via the browser, e.g. access your Bluetooth to make your website experience better. Then again, if your browser does not support Bluetooth, you’ll still see the website but just without Bluetooth-related features this time.
Designing Progressive Web Applications require some new type of thinking and creativity. Basically you are designing both a website and an application at the same time, so to bring it all together as a one seamless experience surely requires some new thinking. A designer also needs to understand what both of these can do, in order to design them properly. For example, websites by default have the following features
- Safe – contained in the browser’s sandbox
- Fresh – always receive the latest version directly from the server
- Linkable – each site has their own specific URL which user can bookmark or share
- Responsiveness – same website can work on different devices and screen sizes
Applications on the other hand have some of these features
- Discoverable – through a application store or similar
- Installable – user may install the application to their home screen
- Connectivity independent – user can use the application after installing even without a Internet connection
- App-like interactions – for example swiping
Progressive Web Application then brings features from both of these worlds together so the landscape for design is also much wider.
UXDX Conf also brought in a lot of topics about lean thinking, design thinking and UX overall. While it was good to hear and learn about these topics as well, for a developer it wasn’t the most interesting part.
What I would’ve liked to hear more (and expected to hear more), was how design and development could better work together for best possible products. This expectation was mostly based on UXDX Conf website and their vision of the model.
At redandblue, development team is handling the “Dev” and the “Ops” and our process on that is already quite far. We also of course have our strong UX and design team. While we work together daily and our customers are rather tightly in this loop as well, there’s always room for improvement on how we can better work together, build better products and generate more value for our customers. UXDX Conf had separate tracks one basically aimed for developers and other for designers. What I wanted to see was maybe third track, on how this all comes together with some practical examples.
One interesting concept that was mentioned was “micro frontends”, basically a microservice concept applied to the frontend development. Development is done by basically splitting the frontend to multiple independent parts which together make up one full site. I can easily imagine this being something that’s required for huge services, like Netflix and similar. However, currently maybe not that relevant still for us at redandblue. Interesting idea and concept nevertheless.
One interesting side note got stuck to my mind, saying: “Designers should know how to code. For example, if you’re a painter, how do you paint a human without knowing the anatomy?”. I believe there’s a fair point to this. Especially if you’re building something on pre-selected platform, the platform may have some technical limitations to take into consideration. Working closely with a developer could also be one solution to the problem though.
Overall, we enjoyed the conference and we got new insights and learning, however it missed the point a bit why we went there for. Duplin itself was very nice city to visit, can recommend!