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How UXCG was built

This article describes the process of creating a User Experience Core Guide (UXCG) - a project that was announced in a separate article and which you can explore by clicking here.

This article aims to show the thought process of the project author and what stages the process of its creation consisted of.

For reference: UX Core is a free tool launched in summer 2020. In it, the visitor can see 105 scientifically derived cognitive biases (brain errors), and the same number of examples of the use of these errors in software development. One of the goals of UX Core is to minimize the threshold for understanding thought processes for all those who want to learn more about the work of the brain, but at the same time cannot master the cascades of information on Wikipedia. The UX Core announcement article is here.

Disclaimer: The text in this article may be messy as I didn’t pay much attention to it. I don’t plan to distribute it anyhow. It will be kept only on keepsimple.io, for students, and just curious people.
Thanks!

November 2020.
Given:
I need to come up with something that will allow visitors to use the UX Core more substantively.

18 December 2020.
Solution:
Create a new project called UXCG that complements UX Core with the most popular, fundamental product management questions. Ensure that in each cognitive bias described in UX Core, there are several questions that this bias can answer. Create multiple links between UX Core biases and UXCG questions so the visitor will see the full spectrum of using that knowledge in product development.

Step 0: Prepare the action plan.

From the very beginning, I wanted to make sure that all parts of the project were coherent with each other. I wanted all the biases described in UX Core to have at least a few questions that they answer. The questions, in turn, needed to be general enough for the reader to extrapolate to hundreds of other situations.

By December 20th, I prepared an action plan, which, although changed in the process, generally remained the same. All steps were written out in Trello:

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Step 1: Issues generation

The first step was to write the questions. One evening was spent going through all the popular Russian and American product management-related portals. I had no idea what exactly I was looking for, but hoped to find some kind of "pattern" of questions. Alas, I didn’t succeed. The questions people asked on reddit, stackexchange, Quora and other portals were too specific.

After not finding anything useful, I decided to use the biases already described in UX Core. After going through each of them, I tried to generate at least 1 question to which this bias would be perfectly relevant. I expected over a hundred questions, but in the end got 80.

Question | Relevant cognitive bias (I was working on Russian version first)

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Step 2: Merging the questions

Many questions were similar to each other, so I merged them. So, 80 questions fit into 73. Later, another round of merging was held. This time, because of too similar answers. In the final version 63 questions were posted.

Step 3: Questions categorization

A UXCG visitor shouldn't have felt the same discomfort as UX Core users — seeing a lot of information but not having navigation mechanisms. So I decided to create question labels that would allow the user to filter out the information that was most relevant to him. Having looked at the questions I already prepared, I decided that it would be most convenient to divide them into categories corresponding to the product status. Thus, the following labels were created:

  • Team - Questions related to in-house team members cooperation (product, development teams and others);
  • Development - Questions related to product development stage (from concept to first public release);
  • Pre-SignUp - Questions related to sales, marketing funnels, prospects and leads communication, and overall product packaging;
  • Post-SignUp - Questions related to user interaction with actual product and its features;
  • Analytics - Questions related to product analytical data analysis;

Then I assumed that one question could fall under more than one category.

So, for example, the question "How to make bonuses and promotions more attractive for users?" can belong to both the Development stage and Pre-Signup/Post-SignUp. The reason is that we can plan bonuses and promotions at the Development stage. Also, we can schedule them for potential (Pre-SignUp), or existing users (Post-SignUp).

The categorization of the questions was completed on the afternoon of December 31st. At that time, I spent about 20 hours on the project.

Step 4: UX Core biases matching with UXCG questions.

The next step was a mental torture for me. From December 31st, 2020 to January 8th, I consistently matched every bias from UX Core to every UXCG question. The process looked like this: every morning I approached the laptop, opened UX Core, selected a bias from the list, read its description, remembered related research, and then, with all this in mind, switched to an excel document with UXCG questions. In it, I went through each of the questions, simulating the situation, and assessing the relevance of the usefulness of the bias that I had in mind in discussing this issue in the future. If I thought the bias was relevant, it was recorded in the column opposite the question, and I moved on to the next. This process was done 105 X 73 times (at that time I have not yet merged some of the questions).

Thus, 7,665 possible links of questions with biases were analyzed.

On average, it took me 45 minutes to match one bias with all the questions. The difficulty was in extreme complexity of modeling due to the constant change of context. I could spend 3 minutes analyzing bias in two semantically similar information-related questions, and then 10 minutes forgetting the previous questions and thinking about "release efficiency" or something completely different. The hardest part of all this was keeping the focus on the task at hand. The brain was ready to literally do anything, but not do what was needed. I asked myself "why am I doing this?" a million times. Another complication was due to the fact that I did not allow myself to continue working if I felt tired. I didn't want my laziness or tiredness to affect the quality of my task in any way, so I forced myself to run to relax and get back to work. So, from mid-December to mid-January, I casually ran about 120 kilometers :-))

By January 7, I had completed the matching, having spent 80 hours on this task, and more than 100 hours on the project as a whole.

It turned out something like this: (question | #relevant_biases)

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A screenshot from the main UXCG card in my Trello board:

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After that it took me an hour to manually calculate the number of biases associated with each question, and calculate the average number of those.

It was a very interesting moment. I have never counted the number of possible viewing angles for a certain situation before. If I were asked any of the questions from UXCG, and asked for a number of possible points of view, I would say 3, or 4. But that evening I got an average of 18.2.

Given that most of the cognitive biases are highly intuitive, this essentially means that even in simple questions like clothing choices, our brains operate with at least a dozen cognitive biases. At the same time, the number of biases taken into account by the brain increases with the amount of information that we have at our disposal.

Screenshot from calculations in draw.io: (Question #ID | Question (in RU) | Associated biases number #)

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Step 5: Answers writing

The next step was to write the answers and create the structure of the future UXCG pop-ups. I went through several options, and stopped on the following:

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Question: Question itself;

Tags: Labels indicating to which product state this question is related to (e.g., Development, Pre-SignUp, Post-SignUp);

Aliases: Here I wrote similar questions to add them to the UXCG search engine. I rephrased the same question and written it differently a dozen times in the Aliases section. The purpose is to provide the user with the opportunity to find the content of interest to him by keywords, if the labels were not enough for him.

Answers: Answer options;

Related Questions: Other similar questions from the UXCG.

A separate task was to come up with the structure of the answer itself. I didn't want to write examples of use, because in that case, I would deviate from the original idea of the project. I wanted to show the answer, and let the reader understand for himself how relevant the answer is for his case. I didn’t want to show ready-made solutions either, as they are too specific for each case, and it would take a lot of text to write one correct question-answer pair.

So finally, I decided to use the basic structure "[bias]% answer%". Where [bias] I wrote the bias name from UX Core. At the same time, it had to be clickable and, by clicking in the form of a tooltip, load a description of the bias from the UX Core. The idea was not to pull the reader out of context, letting them quickly familiarize themselves with the bias, and continue reading the answer.

Something like this: (#22 Framing effect. <…answer…>)

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This step took one month. While working on this I merged 10 more questions, by making the final number of questions 63.

I was spending on the project around 4 hours on working days, and +2 extra hours on weekend.

So, by 7th of February 2021 I finished this stage after spending 128 hours on it. (230 hours in total since the project start).

UXCG card screenshot from my Trello board:

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Step 6: “Similar Questions” section development

This had to be last difficult stage in the project. Difficult because the nature of the task was similar to the one I did in step 4 when I linked biases with questions. Now I had to match the questions with each other in order to make the "Related Questions" section as relevant as possible to the readers.

Matching 63 questions with each other required an analysis of 3,906 possible connections. Due to the workload, moving to another country and emotional exhaustion, I was spending no more than an hour a day on this task. The idea was not to burn out, not to reduce the quality of work and not to lose objectivity in actions. So, this task was solved in about 20 hours (250 hours in total), by February 26, 2021.

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Step 7: UI-UX design

After completing the sixth step, I decided to take a rest from the project for a week. Then, after getting all my thoughts together, fully confident in what I want, I asked my friend Dee (who was the one who designed UX Core one year earlier) to help me visualize the UXCG. In total, we worked for about 10 hours, of which 7 were spent only to create the UXCG main page and question pop-up, and the remaining 3 to discuss and implement the UXCG <-> UX Core integration elements.

Step 8: Editing

After finishing work on the design, I started editing the project texts. At this point, only the Russian version was ready. The goal was to make it as readable as possible for the Russian audience before starting the translation into English.

This step took two weeks. Editing was carried out on Monday through Friday evenings, 3 hours a day, and was done by March 30th. At this point, I have worked on the project for 290 hours.

After editing, I re-counted the number of responses in the UXCG. This was necessary because in the process of writing answers and editing, I removed those answers that were too difficult to understand due to the incomplete context. In fact, even now there are answers in UXCG that are difficult to understand without context or expertise in the issue under discussion. This was the biggest dilemma for me. I removed many answers because of their professional experience threshold of the reader. However, I could not remove a number of answers, considering them too important. At the same time, I realized that many would not be able to understand them well enough.

I constantly made a choice between readability, the amount of information, and my desires, and in the final version I left 896 answers only (out of about 1300 supposed).

Step 9: English version

Due to the increased workload, I stopped recording the exact time spent on further steps. However, I kept task completion dates in Trello.

By April 20th, I had completed a rough translation of all UXCG content into English. It was imperative to return to text editing, but I needed to distract myself from the UXCG content because I could no longer keep my concentration reading this text again.

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Step 10: UXCG Intro article writing

By this time, my friends had already started the technical implementation of the project, and I started writing an introductory article. From the very beginning, I planned to publish its English version on Medium, the Russian version on Habr, and keep a copy of it as archival material at a Keepsimple. The introductory article was completed on May 3rd.

Step 11: English content editing

The next ten days were spent on the major editing of the English content of the UXCG, as well as the compilation of SEO materials (keywords, descriptions) for both, UX Core and UXCG.

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I also purchased uxcg.io domain as I thought it may be more comfortable for the visitors in terms of link sharing.

Step 12: Final editing of Russian content

I constantly wanted to make the content readability as high as possible, so I showed snippets of UXCG to different people and studied their opinions. In some cases, I would literally read a paragraph from UXCG and then ask the listener to explain to me what I had read.

After the feedback, I decided to spend another two weeks on meticulous content editing. About 15% of the material was edited in this round, and I realized that I should do the same with the English version.

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Step 13: Final editing of English content

Every free minute of the next week, including the entire weekend, was spent going through each sentence in the English version of UXCG, and maximizing its readability. A good friend helped me in this matter. She managed to endure my nervousness and irritation that I experienced while rereading the same sentences that I had reread a hundred times. We managed to significantly increase the readability of English content, after which I promised myself that I would not re-read UXCG content anymore.

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Step 14: UXCG Technical Implementation

By July 25, we've completed the first stage of the project's technical implementation. The admin panel was ready, and now I had to upload all the UXCG questions, aliases for their search, and all the answers. Also, I had to fill in the "similar questions" section for each question. Because I didn't want to make mistakes, I decided to avoid using scripts that automate this process. Therefore, it took me a week to manually enter all the data. The only thing we decided to automate was the "Mentioned in UX Core Guide" section on the UX Core bias pages.

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Immediately after that, we released the project and protected it with username-password so that we could have internal testing of project usability and find bugs. We shared the password among project participants and some friends who desired to help with testing.

It took us nine days to fix bugs for each of the three projects (keepsimple.io, UX Core, UXCG). On July 11, after ensuring that all project pieces are coherent, we decided to configure the analytics modules (GTM + bias and question-based "usefulness" analysis). It took us two more days to do this, and by July 13, I decided to finish writing this article and prepare for the release. At the moment, while I'm writing this text, the Trello project card looks like this:

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Now it is Jul 13, 2021, 10.24 pm (Abu Dhabi time). The only remaining task related to the project looks like this:

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Now I will finish this article. Within an hour, I will translate it into English and ask Artem to update it to keepsimple. The project will be open to the general public on July 16th when I arrive in Yerevan. In any case, I hope that I am soberly assessing the situation and the planning fallacy will not affect the timing. If you see a different release date in the lower left part of the UXCG page, then, with all my care and calculations, I was wrong again.

At the end of this article, I want to thank my dear friends, without whom this project's complexity would have grown tenfold. Many thanks to Vahan for emphasizing the importance of the back-end system for the project and writing it. Many thanks to Artem for once again supporting me and taking on the implementation of the front-end. I appreciate your patience with which you endured my flawed irritation and whining at different stages of the project. Thanks to Karen for the excellent visualization and support simply because it was important to me (although I hope you also got into the spirit of creating a scientific project). And, of course, thanks to Lusine for helping with the editing of the texts. My close people know how painful I perceive working with text, words, and meanings. And I am grateful to you that we did not fight because of my overreaction to every word-related change in the project. Special thanks to Sargis for help with DevOps work and Narine for reminding me once again that text in a speech and a letter are two different things.

Thanks to all of you for being who you are. I hope that everyone at some point in their life will be able to experience this incredible pleasure of working with such professionals who have no ego problems.

I wish all of us the realization of how primitive we all humans are. No matter what we know, and no matter how we behave. Regardless of our social status, wealth, and level of education, we are one big family, with single documentation for all. Today these are cognitive biases, and at some point, it might be something more comprehensive, where biases will be only a small element of the general framework that describes our system.

Thank you.