Table of contents
2. Adopting Lean UX for a culture of learning and curiosity
2.1 Different types of research that meet different goals
2.2 A critical review of the whole customer experience
2.3 The Truth Curve for experimentation
2.4 Communication of insights with the different teams
2.5 Continuous check of customer satisfaction
Francesc Pérez joined giffgaff in 2013. Before joining the company, he was working as a front-end web developer for Telefónica’s product development and innovation team in Barcelona. There he was part of the remote team that designed and developed giffgaff.com when they started back in 2009.
In January 2013, giffgaff gave Francesc the opportunity to come to the UK and join their team, to help build and lead the frontend development team. Two years later, Francesc was pushing for the idea of building a team with UX as its primary focus. At that time, there was no one directly responsible for the UX at giffgaff. After convincing the stakeholders of the importance of such a team, he was offered to take that responsibility and build it. Even though Francesc had very little experience in building a UX team at that time, his passion for UX and his eagerness helped him to grow quickly into that role. He was also lucky to have extraordinary people on board who helped him sell the value of good user experience internally.
Since 2015, the user experience team has been growing non-stop. In the meantime, it consists of a product team, UX designers, UX content writers, and a design system team. In his current role as the Product Design Lead, Francesc works hands-on with the product teams and supports the other giffgaff designers.
giffgaff has always believed in a better way to do mobile. They’re the mobile network run by their members. Simplicity and honesty is kind of their thing and their core values. That’s why they don’t do contracts and why they’re convinced that members should stay with them because they want to, and not because they have to. giffgaff runs its network without call centres or shops. It’s all online. The members help each other in the community forums. As a member, you can just type in a question and someone will come back at you within 90 seconds. That’s how lively its community is. giffgaff members can even get rewarded for coming up with good ideas on how to improve the way the network is run. The company believes in listening to its users and has implemented many new ideas and services as suggested by its users. Actually, it’s where the name “giffgaff” comes from. It’s originally a Scots phrase meaning mutual giving. And that sense of community runs through everything they do.
giffgaff offers only one set of tariffs and keeps the tariffs as competitive as possible. Their data plans are called “goodybags”. Unlike many other providers, they don’t offer special tariffs to new joiners. And they don’t offer special discounts to those who want to leave. Every giffgaff member pays the same for the same plan. And this is what makes it special. The members never feel treated differently or unfairly. Oh, giffgaff will also recommend each month what’s the best plan for the member. Even if that means that the member could pay less. That’s fairness.
UX is truly Francesc’s big passion. Even though it’s not something that he studied beforehand, it was something that he was curious about from his early days as a front-end developer. Francesc was lucky to have had the opportunity to work with great designers in his career and learned a little bit from each of them. Thanks to giffgaff’s offer to build a UX team, he has been able to develop his strengths and got the opportunity to do what he loves the most.
giffgaff has always put its members at the forefront of everything they do. And this is a privilege for any UX professional. That doesn’t mean it has always been an easy road but according to Francesc, it was worth every effort. In 2019, giffgaff put a lot of focus on their members’ experience. The whole company was invited to get immersed in UX, including a whole-week Lean UX training with Jeff Gothelf where everybody learned the basic principles of UX and best practices.
As part of their adoption of Lean UX, anyone at giffgaff is welcomed and encouraged to speak to the members of their network. There is no centralised team which is the only one allowed to speak to them. Instead, the employees are embedded in an agile product team, and they’re responsible for the research and design of that product. When someone from Francesc’s team performs a research activity, they often invite different members of the team, other designers and stakeholders to observe. They take notes at the end of the session and run a workshop with all of the observers to evaluate the insights and decide the next steps.
At giffgaff, there are different types of research performed. Currently, they do a lot of 1:1 interviews where they observe how their members interact with their existing products, so they can keep an up-to-date picture of their experience. These interviews are good to identify pain-points and opportunities to improve and innovate.
Project-based discovery is done at the start of the project to evaluate if they need more specific information that hasn’t been captured already. For this, they use a different range of techniques that go from surveys, a simple post in their community forums to gather feedback from members, card-sorting exercises, 1:1 interviews, and user tests. Project-based usability testing is performed as soon as the prototype is ready. It’s being tested with the members to validate that they’re going in the right direction. Usually, this is a 1:1 user test session. But it can also be a card-sorting or tree-jacking exercise. As part of their agile iterations, the team might repeat some of these tests during the delivery of a project.
Any business-critical changes will be introduced through a quantitative A/B testing first, to assess that the change is positive and measure its business impact.
Francesc is a big fan of current-experience research. In his experience, it’s very easy to forget about this and get dragged into the day-to-day projects. But these projects only allow you to observe how members interact with a small part of the whole experience. Things change over time and performing qualitative observations of the entire current experience from the point of view of different members, even if it’s at a very high level, often sheds light on many valuable aspects of their experience that could be improved.
giffgaff applies the Lean UX principles to the way they do their research. Instead of planning and spending one or two weeks in one expensive single piece of research (they’ve done this in the past), they prefer to use what Jeff Gothelf names the “Truth Curve”. Basically, they start with little effort research. It could be just testing a paper sketch with a few colleagues. And then they progressively increase the effort required to gain the necessary confidence. The last step is performing a live A/B testing.
giffgaff’s first approach is to try to get the relevant members of the team involved in the observation of research and discuss the insights together after the sessions while running a workshop. That allows them to reduce the waiting time for the researcher to produce a summary of the research. This is still done, but it gets done much quicker this way. Afterwards, they structure the insights as a set of recommendations or next steps. These often will lead to an idea for an A/B testing.
In order to communicate insights with the different teams, giffgaff offers lots of opportunities. Among others, they have an insights group, they run fortnightly experience demos where each product team shares where they’ve been up to. And every quarter they have a science fair where they can expand on the insights gathered. At the moment, there is no central hub where they can store all the insights that are generated. So the verbal communication is key. However, giffgaff is planning to build a hub of insights with their insights group.
giffgaff is a bit obsessed with their Net Promoter Score (NPS). According to Francesc, they check it almost every day. Currently, they’re on 67, which is right up there with Amazon and Netflix. They’re very proud of it and they’re aiming for 70ish.
Besides this, giffgaff conducts regular surveys that are sent out to their members. Their community forums are also a good and important source to find out what they could do better. giffgaff uses the forums to update the members on the new things they’re working on and get their feedback.
On top of that, the team speaks regularly with their frontline of experts, their so-called “agents”. giffgaff’s network members contact those agents in case they need support. Also, their website and apps have tools available for the members to leave feedback, and the feedback is being monitored constantly. The data science and business intelligence teams support the product team in the analysis of the data.
A few years ago, giffgaff set up a mini-lab so they can conduct face-to-face interviews and user tests. Because of coronavirus, everybody at the company is now working from home, so they don’t use the lab anymore. The team uses Zoom as a remote alternative (check this article for more tools). Francesc and his team miss the face-to-face conversations with the participants but doing research remotely still does the job. On the other side, testing remotely has the advantage of being able to speak to anyone far from where the researcher is located. This helps to gather a more diversified perspective of the needs of their members. Most importantly, research is still being done as much as before and giffgaff will continue to do research. A good UX can’t be reached without research.
The company has two sources when they need participants for their research. If they need to speak to giffgaff members, they start recruiting from their internal pool. It’s a selected group of members, which giffgaff calls “Pioneers”. Those members have opted into participating in research activities. This pool is handled and managed by its engagement team.
Their second source is an external pool by TestingTime. We help the researchers recruit any non-giffgaff-members (or prospective members), as well as very specific criteria-selected members, which they can’t find in their Pioneers group.
Recruiting participants to meet specific criteria isn’t an easy task. giffgaff would need a much larger pool of test users. So, having an external recruiter that helps them fill the gaps was the only solution. A former member of the team, who was specialised in UX research, introduced TestingTime to giffgaff. One of the reasons why giffgaff has decided to choose TestingTime over a UX research agency was to reduce the costs. They were already moderating all the research sessions themselves, they had their own lab, and they just needed the participants.
“We love TestingTime. The level of service is of good value. They recruit on time, we’ve never had to delay any session due to recruitment issues. Participants show on time. And if they don’t, TestingTime always provides a replacement the next day. At the end of the sessions, TestingTime will ask us feedback for each of the participants.”
Francesc Pérez, Product Design Lead
In Francesc’s opinion, there is often an undervalue of less formal forms of research. And that makes teams believe that they need to invest a lot of time to do “proper” research. And they end up doing nothing. What Lean UX research has taught him, and the rest of his team, is that you can still learn, and learn quickly with low effort or investment, while doing informal testing. It’s all about the level of uncertainty and risks. Applying a “lean” approach to research is an efficient way to gain more confidence. In other words, reduce uncertainty. When you know you’re in the right path, investing a little more time, resources and effort in more formal testing feel less risky. More agile.