As members of the user experience design team at Red Hat, it’s our job to be a little bit obsessed with our users. We aim to weave user needs and goals into every step of our design process.

But, as any product designer will tell you, limited access to customers can make you feel like you’re designing in a vacuum.

Our UXD team wanted a better way to connect directly to the people using our products. Without that, we had no way to validate our choices.

Where to start?

In 2015, we introduced a pilot program focused on two Red Hat products. With help from our Customer Engagement team, we identified and engaged with customers interested in contributing to the design process.

The connections we created with that initial group enabled our team to focus on the things that truly mattered to the user. We were able to get feedback on use cases and initial designs, and then incorporate those changes into our work before a single line of code was ever written.

It’s no shock that this level of collaboration was invaluable for our designers, but the response from the customers who participated was also overwhelmingly positive. At the end of the day, those customers were more than just program participants; they were design partners.

That was the beginning of Red Hat’s Design Exchange Program (DXP).

Methods

DXP uses a few different methods to glean useful feedback from our customers.

Surveys & interviews

We use surveys and interviews as a way to understand customers and their challenges.

  • What are their goals?
  • How are they approaching problems?
  • Who are they collaborating with?
  • What are their pain points with the user interface?

Collaborative design

Collaborative design gives us the chance to brainstorm with our customers. We use it to gain a better understanding of things like workflows or team structures, explore issues and potential solutions from multiple perspectives, and get everyone thinking and communicating freely to solve the right problems.

UI walkthroughs 

Once we’ve had time to work out wireframes or prototypes, we’ll walk customers through those designs and get input about what’s working, what’s confusing, or what missed the mark.

With the knowledge we gain, we're able to:

  • Develop personas
  • Understand how people are currently using our products
  • Identify goals, needs, and pain points 
  • Validate requirements
  • Evaluate concepts, flows, and prototypes

DXP for OpenShift

Most recently, UXD was asked to design a completely new experience for Red Hat’s enterprise Kubernetes platform, OpenShift. The goal of the project was to simplify and automate the fulfillment of service requests, cutting out manual error-prone processes that can occur when a service consumer looks to acquire a service from a provider. 

We started with a list of project requirements, and the first thing we wanted to do was confirm the accuracy of that list. Otherwise, we could spend weeks working on a solution that failed to meet the real needs of our users. Red Hat Summit (the premier enterprise open source technology conference) was coming up fast, and we wanted to seize the opportunity to get feedback on the new service catalog designs. But we also wanted to feel good about what we were sharing.

With DXP, we were able to kickstart the project with feedback from real users. Working with product management and the field, we connected with eight customers who collaborated with us throughout the design process to:

  • validate use cases and requirements
  • brainstorm on conceptual flows, designs, and general ideas, and
  • review and provide feedback on early wireframes and prototypes

As a result of DXP, the designs we tested at Summit were already rooted in a solid understanding of customer needs, and the initial user experience we delivered was closer to what the customer actually needed and wanted.

What's next?

DXP empowers customers to shape the future of Red Hat products. When customers become design partners through this program, they help the entire Red Hat team understand their major challenges, how they’re approaching and solving problems, and what they’re trying to accomplish. We use this understanding to inform every decision we make.

In 2018, we’re continuing to focus on Red Hat OpenShift and Red Hat Satellite, and also hoping to expand the program. We’re always excited to connect with new customers, so if you’re interested in getting involved, we want to hear from you! Whether you’re a Red Hat customer or a Red Hatter working with customers who’d like to participate, get in touch: ux-design-exchange@redhat.com

Help us shape the future of Red Hat.

 

The User Experience Design (UXD) team at Red Hat is focused on creating consistent and delightful product experience that people love to use. To learn more about our team, find us on Twitter @RedHatUXD or visit our website

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