The Role of UX in Hack Week

by Carina Kuhr - 25 Jan 2017

Zalando’s annual Hack Week is the perfect opportunity for engineers, product specialists, UX designers, and user researchers to experiment and play around with ideas. Projects range in scope and focus on improving the customer experience of Zalando, but also rethink the way we work together across our tech department. Many Hack Week projects, especially when UX-savvy people are involved, not only solve design-related problems but also apply user centered design methods in the development process.

For the project Alexandria, a team of six UX designers and researchers focused on a problem that many UX professionals know all too well from working in agile contexts: The sharing of user insights. “We want user testing and its results to be effective, collaborative, and accessible” says Thomas, UX Researcher here at Zalando and the initiator of the project.

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Zalando has its own team of UX researchers and a userlab that hosts weekly usability tests. In the analysis sessions that take place afterwards, product teams collaborate by using post it’s and canvases to transform observations into insights. Afterwards, the challenge lies in bringing this to a format that can be shared with other teams and stakeholders. The tool that the Alexandria project conceived would allow us to document all insights uncovered during the user research process and serve as a library and archive for the whole company.

The team conducted a design sprint during Hack Week to come up with a user journey that explains in detail how Alexandria should work and what kind of functionalities it needs. Jana, Interaction Designer at Zalando explains: “One of the ideation techniques that we use is called ’Crazy Eights’. It’s a great way to generate a lot of different ideas in a compressed time period. Each team member draws eight sketches in a very short amount of time: 40 seconds per drawing. This technique really forces you to scrape the bottom of the barrel of your ideas.”

Hack Week isn’t the only time we’re able to work on challenges that come up through our daily work, but it serves as a great outlet to try new ways of collaboration. Gloria, Interaction Designer at Zalando, who used Hack Week to work with a team looking at Zalando gift vouchers, says: “For me, Hack Week is a way to closely work with new people and teach them UX methods like prototyping. Now I co-design wireframes with my product specialist in Axure. This happens rarely in my day-to-day work.”

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For the In-home Stylist project, which utilized the Google Home device, UX Researcher Franziska and Product Specialist Janet tried out new UX methods they were always curious about. Based on their developed personas and their jobs-to-be-done research, they wanted to come up with a solution that helped people find the right style when they get dressed. For Janet, this project was a great way to learn more about UX for her own work: “Products should be built with UX research throughout the development. Continuously learning and improving”

UX is a growing field and we’re excited to explore it further in 2017. We’d love to hear from you if you’re keen to delve into the UX world via the realm of fashion and e-commerce – take a look at our jobs page for more information.

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