“RITE: Testing and a business driver” - Jim Kalbach & Carola Weller at EuroIA

 by Martin Belam, 30 September 2012

I’ve spent the last couple of days at EuroIA in Rome, and I’ve been gradually making my way through publishing all of the notes I made. So far I’ve covered talks by Gerry McGovern, Peter J. Bogaards, Birgit Geiberger & Peter Boersma, Raffaella Roviglioni, Jonas Söderström and Andrea Resmini & Eric Reiss.

Here are my notes on James Kalbach and Carola Weller talking about the RITE methodology. Incidentally, I first mentioned James on this blog in 2003, when I “reviewed” a CHI paper he’d written that referenced some of my work at the BBC.

EuroIA Rome 2012

EuroIA Rome 2012
by Martin Belam
All of my notes from the 2012 EuroIA conference in one ebook, featuring coverage of talks by Gerry McGovern, Peter J. Bogaards, Andrea Resmini, Eric Reiss, Jim Kalbach, Carola Weller, Sara Wachter-Boettcher and Stephen P. Anderson
Available free for iBooks, for Kindle, and as a PDF

“RITE: Testing and a business driver” - Jim Kalbach & Carola Weller

James and Carola gave everyone green and red voting cards to get us to answer questions in the audience, and pretty quickly established that we thought, on the whole, we were reasonable UX designers, and that, on the whole, the web has bad UX. “How could this be?” James asked.

One reason, he said, might be because UX designers are not always involved in every project on the web. And even in the projects that we’ve worked on, often we feel we’ve done our best, but what actually comes out the other side is not a great user experience. James argued that we feel boxed in and constrained by time, money, resources, and technology. We feel we sometimes can’t do our best. And then we cry about it, and we like to complain about our situations at work, and we come to conferences like EuroIA to be with like-minded people and share our war stories.

If we understand that a great UX doesn’t necessarily follow from great UX design alone, then we have to accept that the solution must be more than just saying that the rest of the businesses “doesn’t get it”. James says that we have total focus on our products, but we need to have focus on working within an organisation too. Carola then went on to explain how the RITE methodology had helped them improve their product development process.

Standing for Rapid Iteration and Testing, RITE is based on a very quick turnaround of testing data into product changes. Typically you might spend some time making a design, and then run two days of user testing sessions. After a couple of weeks a lengthy user testing report with recommendations for changes lands on your desk. Carola described this as “alibi testing” - it doesn’t tell you much, but it reassures you that you won’t die if you launch this project.

RITE condenses this process into a few days. On day one you test, with everybody in the project observing, on day two you iterate the design, on day three you test again, on day four you iterate the design, on day five you test, and on day six you have an improved product with stakeholder input. Bingo!

Crucially, Carola explained, all key stakeholders have to be there for the testing. They note everything down during the day on post-its. During the debrief, print-outs of all the screens being tested are on the wall, and people put the post-its they made during the session onto the screenshots at the appropriate place. You very, very quickly see where the major problems are. People can also use different colour post-its to indicate the severity of the problem. Carola explained that the whole process actually becomes very exciting, can get the whole team energised, and senior managers start turning up because they hear that this exciting thing is happening.

On the downside, it does put an awful lot of pressure on the designers to deliver screens for the next day’s testing. In the case study James and Carola were exploring, they were aided by having an additional design resource available in the US, and the time difference meant that some of the updated screens appeared in the morning “as if by magic” as the team over the Atlantic helped out.

Carola also explained a social side effect - having that many people with different job roles from different parts of the business with a focus on just one product for a couple of days stimulates all kinds of conversations that might otherwise have never taken place. She recommended a couple of tips to help that along. Firstly everyone should wear name badges - some people are just bad at remembering names, and having the badges removes that social inhibition about having got someone’s name wrong. Secondly, take everyone to lunch away from the sessions in a restaurant, and make sure it is a little walk in the fresh air to give everyone a good break and a chance to just chit-chat along the way.

Here is a blog post that James has previously written on the topic which has some good resource links in it: “RITE testing is about team engagement”.


Next I’ll have my notes from a case study of building and testing a discount coupon app for iPhone...

This is one of a series of blog posts about the talks I saw at EuroIA 2012 in Rome. You can download the whole lot in an ebook for iBooks, for Kindle or as a PDF

“The dirty magnet” - Gerry McGovern
“Helping businesses to tackle a ‘wicked problem’” - Peter J. Bogaards
“Process & People” - Birgit Geiberger & Peter Boersma
“An agronomist’s unexpected path to UX Design” - Raffaella Roviglioni
“Responsive IA: IA in the touchscreen era” - Martin Belam
“‘Stupid bloody system!’: Bad IA in the workplace” - Jonas Söderström
“On beauty” - Andrea Resmini & Eric Reiss
“RITE: Testing and a business driver” - Jim Kalbach & Carola Weller
Building a coupon app for iPhone - Hermann Hofstetter & Gregor Urech
“Micro IA and content that travels” - Sara Wachter-Boettcher
“What am I curious about?” - Stephen P. Anderson

You can also download all my notes from the previous EuroIA in Prague as one PDF or as an ePub document.

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