A User Experience Playbook

Business Challenge

When I was brought in as the UX Manager for The Home Depot Quote Center in 2017, the group was facing a significant problem: how can UX, PM and Development work together seamlessly to drive world-class experiences?

Specifically, teams were suffering recurring mis-alignment and impacts to productivity:

  • Dev and UX complained that PM was bringing them solutions, not problems
  • PM complained that UX was taking too much time on research
  • Expectations for deliverables or timeframes were inconsistent and unpredictable
  • Stories were poorly written with insufficient acceptance criteria
  • Epics were not well defined or not based on real-world data


Background Double Diamond Diagram for Playbook
Double-diamond with flow chart symbols all "yes"
Double-diamond with Mega-plays
Final playbook image showing DoubleDiamond with feedback loops
UXPlaybook Game Board illustrating the full double-diamond in context
UX Playbook MegaPlay example: Problem Identification Description and Levels of effort
UX Playbook microplay example - Presumptive Design

Aligning the organization and addressing issues with management and operations was a multi-year effort, requiring the participation of the entire company.

As a part of that effort, the UX team developed its UX Playbook:

  • a single "placemat" (game board)
  • a 10-page short form (for PM/Dev and leadership) and
  • a 45-page long form illustrating a detailed set of "micro-plays" (for UX onboarding and guidance).

A key breakthrough in the solution was the single-sheeter placemat: a simple, easy to navigate game board that situated the Software Development Lifecycle in the context of a Design Thinking framework. 

Through the process of asking four simple questions, UX, PM and Dev determine where they are in the process, proceeding only if they are able to answer "yes."

If the answer to a question is "No," the team drops out of the main flow, entering a separate Design Thinking process flow (one of four "Mega-plays").


Flow chart describing left diamond decision

Inspiration for creating a game board

A list of questions that need to be answered when in the left diamond
Design Thinking Framework showing Problem Validation Mega-play activities

Problem Validation Mega-play

Design Thinking Framework showing Concept Visioning Mega-play activities

Concept Visioning Mega-play

Design Thinking Framework showing Epic Definition Mega-play activities

Epic Definition Mega-play

Design Thinking Framework showing Feature Delivery Mega-play activities

Feature Delivery Mega-play

I started developing the playbook in mid-2017 at the request of the Sr. Manager of Product Management. In addition to recognizing the general mis-alignment among the teams, leadership also perceived confusion about roles, responsibilities and sequence of work:

  • Who should be authoring Epics, based on what information?
  • Who should be authoring User Stories and the associated Acceptance Criteria?
  • When should we be doing field research and based on what requirements?
  • What specific deliverables could the PM / Dev teams expect from UX and how long should those take?

The playbook went through several iterations throughout 2018 until the team's breakthrough in mid-2019 with the game board metaphor.

To learn more about the process, see my Product Craft article.

Collaboration | Contributions

I played several roles throughout the development of the UX Playbook:

Creative Director—driving Design Thinking as the fundamental framework
Manager—supporting and enabling the team to work on the playbook
Designer—developing layouts, visuals and assets for the book

The majority of the work was completed by my UX team at QuoteCenter (in alphabetical order):

  • Mike Baran—UX Researcher
  • Chris "Cervo" Cervenka—UX Designer
  • Jisu Choi—Sr. UX Designer
  • Patricia Colley—Lead / UX Architect
  • Aaron Gillihan—UX Designer
  • Tyler Havener—Sr. UX Designer
  • Ben Misky—Sr. UX Designer
  • Scott Mount—Principal UX Designer
  • Kamrin Peterson—UX Designer