Jane Murison on experience design at the BBC

Creative Review: How do you structure your teams for projects?
Jane Murison: We have a whole suite of interactive products and services which are ongoing, such as iPlayer and BBC Sport, and for those we have embedded teams. We talk about having an embedded federated model, which is a fancy way of saying we embed the teams and we have a consistent set of behaviours we apply in terms of process and method.

Then there is our own stuff, which is about making things consistent or joining things together in an improved way. For example, the Global Experience Language is a team we look after, and they work with all the product teams to ensure people behave consistently. We also have specialist teams, such as UX architecture, and these get deployed into the product teams and work on strategy together to create consistency.

Jane Murison

CR: In terms of time spent on a project, what proportion is on concepting, presenting, amending etc and what proportion on making?
JM: It depends on the project. We have a lot of stuff in our toolkit. We have used design sprints a lot for concepting and making things real enough so people understand what you’re on about. We also use researchers regularly at an early stage too, but when we get into delivery mode we fall in with agile methodologies, and within that we have a toolkit of things to ensure it is user focused.

One thing we use is ‘rapids’, where we just book in a load of lab based user research, so we know on a Thursday afternoon there will be time in the lab with participants, without necessarily knowing what we are doing in advance. User focus continues to be part of the development process.

CR: How do you involve other stakeholders in the creative process?
JM: In terms of involving internal stakeholders in concepting, we don’t tend to run design sprints without non-designers in the group. We have had the most success with sprint zeros when we have the editorial team, developers and product owners in the room. Without all of those elements, we are not producing realistic design ideas.

How we manage external feedback for broadcast is often extremely different to what we do for a digital product. We have moved away from big bang releases [in digital] to a much more progressive release strategy to allow people to get used to changes in direction iteratively. We have to treat it with sensitivity.

CR: How has the speed at which you must work/complete projects changed in the last five years?
JM: It feels like there is always pressure to do more than we are doing, but the danger is that you try to do too many things and you do them all badly. It is far better to do fewer things more effectively. If you look at our most effective digital experiences they usually have a singularity of purpose, which is what attracts people. For example our weather app is a fantastic utility and, arguably, iPlayer is a fantastic utility.

I‘ve been working in digital experiences for 20 years and there is always more that you could do. You get an injection of technology and you suddenly have to serve the needs of that new technology. Recent ones for us are conversational and voice experiences. We need to understand user needs for voice interfaces quickly so we can provide BBC experiences on that platform.

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The above interview is from Working Lives, a special report on the changing nature of creative leadership produced by CR and Adobe. The report features a series of interviews with creative leaders from the likes of Microsoft, Sainsbury’s and the BBC, revealing how creative-first customer experiences are changing their working lives, with data-driven design, personalised customer-centric UX, and collaborative, agile working at the forefront.The full report includes interviews with the following 10 design leaders:

Adam Roberts, Senior UX Design Manager, Samsung
Lee Schuneman, Studio Head, Microsoft Lift London
Clive Grinyer, Premier Design Director, Barclays UK
Darren Wallace, Head of Design, BMI Healthcare
Charlotte Briscall, Head of Digital Experience, Sainsbury’s
Kresten Bjørn Krab-Bjerre, Senior Manager, Sound Concept, Bang & Olufsen
Jane Murison, Head of User Experience and Design, BBC Future Media
Thomas Johansson, Design Director, Electrolux Group Design, Electrolux
Martin Samuelson, Virtual Design Lead, Three
Jason Gregory, Head of Product Design, iZettle

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