Collaborative UX — an interview with Dieter Wallach and Toni Steimle

Dieter Wallach Managing Director & Founder

Toni Steimle UX Director • Head of Site Zürich & Basel

Esther Barra Senior Communication Manager

30/11/2022 • 7 minutes reading time

The second edition of the book "Collaborative UX" by Toni Steimle (UX Director & Head of Site Zurich) and Dieter Wallach (Managing Director) has recently been published. To mark the occasion, there was a short photo shoot with the proud authors. Senior Communication Manager Esther Barra grabbed the two to ask them a few questions about Collaborative UX, the improvements in the second edition, and the collaborative writing process.

What is the most significant advantage or added value of Collaborative UX Design?

Dieter: Collaborative UX design includes different perspectives and goals of all stakeholders involved in product and service development. The cross-functional collaboration helps us to develop innovative solutions. We understand successful UX design as a careful balance of different — sometimes conflicting — requirements. For example, needs arise from users, technical framework conditions, or requirements resulting from the business model.
These different perspectives are introduced in methodically supportive collaborative workshops — even if this is perhaps shocking news for some UX designers who see themselves as heroes: we have heroes who want to be solely responsible for product or service development not matter. In UX design, we see ourselves more in the function of conductors. We orchestrate the collaboration, promoting methodically supported, emphatic cooperation in product or service development with a shared goal. I see this as the central concern of our process model.

How did the first book come about?

Dieter: Toni and I have been friends for a long time and are also professionally connected. In our discussions, we found that neither of us knew of a textbook in which we saw all the perspectives that we consider relevant when developing innovative systems combined in a practice-oriented way. So the idea of ​​writing a textbook to fill this gap came up. Our book follows a case study that runs like a red thread through the application of a process model. Our goal was to link lean UX, design thinking, agile development, and human-centered design in their interaction. In our lectures, we noticed how much students appreciate it when we present methods, practices, and theories in a practice-oriented manner using concrete examples. That's why we developed a case study for our first joint book, which we use to illustrate precisely what we want to convey in terms of content on a theoretical and methodical level. In the book, readers accompany a team that is revising existing software. A process model shows the ongoing determinations during the project and the target-oriented selection of the next activities. In our case study, we deliberately chose not to design a product or service from scratch because product revisions occur more frequently than completely new developments.

Toni: In our book, we have described both established, and lesser-known methods — particularly important to us was their interaction with collaborative workshops. The application of UX methods is often a challenge for designers - our book is an attempt to describe them practically and pragmatically and thus to structure the cooperation with other stakeholders. Visualizations are important for this, so we've used maps throughout the book to record steps in a way that everyone can understand. Of course, collaboration is not required or even valuable for every situation: some methods work better in individual work - we then combine the results.

Dieter: To use all presented UX methods is not necessary or advisable for every project: The specific selection depends on the respective starting position and the goals pursued. In our book, we have presented methods with which we have had positive experiences. Of course, there are other practices that we have not considered here because, from our point of view, the methods presented form a solid framework for an agile, human-centered process model. We wanted to explain why the workshops outlined are in a logical sequence to each other, their results building on each other. We used the first edition of "Collaborative UX Design" in teaching and thus understood where additions were necessary for better comprehensibility and where more theory was required for the foundation.

It's great that you were able to receive direct "market feedback". What's new in the second edition?

Dieter: The color! (haha) Overall, we have strengthened the theoretical foundation. In doing so, we addressed an issue that bothered us when we submitted the manuscript for the first book: The topic of the agile interlocking of UX design and development came up a bit short. In the second edition, we corrected this weakness. We have also integrated new methods that provide valuable insights in practice and are lightweight and easy to implement.

Toni: In fact, we incorporated lots of feedback from the first edition into the new edition. We explained activities between the joint workshops with the project team and presented practices that can be carried out more efficiently and effectively alone or in groups of two. Some content is entirely new in the second edition, such as the chapter on research or the previously mentioned integration with development. Overall, we have rewritten a large part and revised a lot.

Great! That sounds like a lot of new content. Who should read this book?

Dieter: According to the book cover, the book speaks to UX designers, product designers, software designers, product managers, and innovation teams. This list can be expanded because the book aims at all people interested in developing innovative, human-centric products and services. These can, but do not have to be UX designers - it's all about working together in cross-functional teams.

Dieter Wallach and Toni Steimle in an interview about their book 'Collaborative UX Design.'
Dieter Wallach and Toni Steimle in an interview about their book Collaborative UX Design

Writing such a book together is certainly not easy. How did the German-Swiss collaboration between you two work out during the writing?

Dieter Although we truly wanted to do it this time, we didn't manage to get together to write - not once. We worked online on the same document and often communicated via the comment function, wrote messages to each other, or coordinated in the video meeting. This process worked even better than with the first book. Toni and I have known each other for a long time and have great trust in each other: when one writes, the other edits. After meetings or discussions about a text, it could look completely different — or stay almost the same because we could convince each other with good arguments, project experiences, or literature sources.

Toni: For the first book, we first had to develop the process model in its basics. Meaning we first had to agree on the structures and processes of the procedural model before we could start with the actual description. And this required quite a few discussions.
The second edition was more about refinements, improvements, and additions. That made it easier because we could get started straight away without discussing basic principles, which enabled us to work more in a more targeted manner. The cooperation between Dieter and me is characterized by great mutual respect. Working together couldn't feel any better. There was never a case when Dieter corrected something online where I had the feeling: I have to undo it now, or he has now done it wrong - this never happened. And vice versa, it was always the case that he also accepted my arguments.

So much harmony in cooperation sounds enviable! Finally, I'm interested: Would you write the book together again?

Dieter: Yes, definitely!

Toni: Yes! We already have a plan.

Dieter: I really enjoy writing with Toni — it's just good fun. Of course, we like to discuss things with each other - wanting to learn from each other and contribute our different experiences. Even if we work in the same area: our exchange is ultimately an example of cross-disciplinary collaboration. We respect and value each other's perspectives. I think that's where part of the "magic" comes from.

Toni: It's also nice when both have the same degree of flexibility: to let go of their ideas, to question them again and say, "Yes, that's right. Actually, you have a point." That's crucial. It makes me happy to hold the book in my hands physically. When someone writes you an email saying: In our company, we have introduced the collaborative design process and are working according to it. This is really amazing!

Esther: Crazy good! Thank you very much for the nice conversation and the interesting background information. We are very excited to see your next work and wish all readers a good read with exciting insights for their everyday work.

Anyone now interested in purchasing the book can either do so in their trusted bookshop or order it right here from the publisher.

Dieter Wallach and Toni Steimle proudly present the 2nd edition of their book 'Collaborative UX.
Dieter Wallach and Toni Steimle with the 2nd edition of their book Collaborative UX Design