AOO UX Design - About Opportunity Backlog

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Great Products

Great products are really all about a great user experience. To deliver a great user experience, we need to design, develop and deliver great products that feel fresh, are personally relevant, and deliver individual value to each user. We need to design, develop, and deliver office productivity tools that help people capture, organize and share their thoughts and ideas in a way that compliments how they integrate technology into their daily lives.


Technology is build on the idea of the "refresh" - the tech term for the process of upgrading existing products to keep them felling new and relevant. How do we apply the "refresh" concept to our products to create the kind of continuous reinvention required to stay competitive and relevant? How do challenge existing assumptions, the status quo, the way it worked in the past, and make room for new concepts, ideas and approaches?


What we need are new choices. Design is choice, development is choice. We need to match our user's needs with available technical resources within the practical constraints of our community. We need to understand what is desirable from a human (user) point of view with what is technologically feasible and economically (community time and energy) viable.



Designers and developers know that there is no "one best way" to move through a process that delivers a great product and a great user experience. There are useful starting points, and helpful landmarks along the way. The continuum of innovation is best thought of as a system of overlapping spaces, and activities, rather that a sequence of orderly steps. We can think of them as insight, ideation and delivery.

Insight comes from the problem or opportunity that motivates the search for solutions. Ideation is the process of generating, designing, developing, and testing ideas. Delivery is the process of generating design work products and deliverables, including detailed design guidance and recommendations, to serve as an input into development's implementation activities.


The reason for the iterative, non-linear nature of this approach is not that design and development is disorganized or undisciplined, but that design and development is fundamentally and exploration process. When done right, it can invariably make unexpected discoveries along the way, and it would be foolish not to find out where they lead. Often these discoveries can be integrated into the existing products without disruption. At other times the discovery can motivate our community to revisit some of our most basic assumptions.

Opportunity backlog

Starting point

Unlike a product road map or release plan, which traditionally seeks to map specific proposed features to a schedule, an opportunity backlog is collection of insight and opportunities discovered throughout the project life cycle which serves as the starting point for further product innovation (research and design).


Opportunities in the backlog can come from anywhere -- AOO certainly has no shortage of sources for user feedback and product insight. To focus efforts, a backlog should also seek to prioritize our design and development explorations to align with our broader product vision and community goals. The opportunity backlog is a snapshot of UX-oriented insight and opportunities for improvement, as identified through our research and feedback activities. Backlog serves and a pool of exploration candidates.



A backlog item should have a brief title to describe the item. Anything works, as long as it makes sense. It could be in the form of a question, a comment or even a user story. No wrong answers.


The opportunity brief is the classic starting point of any project. Brief is the backlog item description. Almost like a scientific hypothesis, the brief is a set of attributes that give the project members a framework from which to begin, and a set of objectives to be realized. The brief is not a set of instructions or an attempt to answer a question before it has been posed. Rather, a well constructed brief will allow for serendipity, unpredictability, and the whims of fate - for this is the creative realm from which break through ideas emerge. If you already know what you are after, there is usually not much point in looking.

Opportunity backlog item brief should include seek to describe:

  • What problem are we trying to solve? (why are we doing this)
  • Who are we trying to solve this problem for? (target persona or user)
  • How will we know if we succeed? (what is the outcome we are hoping for

Backlog drives design exploration


Through ideation (design and development explorations), we can untangle the initial ideas or assumptions about the solution from the problem that this feature is intended to solve. The reason this is so important to do is that so often our initial attempts at solving the problem don't pan out, but the problem still remains. We want to make sure we solve the problem, even though we may have to try several different features or approaches. Ideation is about opening up and closing down. It is about opening up the possibilities to creative thinking, exploring the future potentials, generating ideas from many different perspectives, stretching the context and exploring the extremes. It is then about closing down, focusing in on the best ideas, evaluating them in terms of user and community needs, and driving an informed design decision. Once an idea is ready for feedback, it can be shared with the community for discussion on the mailing list.


When an idea or design enhancement has been discussed on the mailing list and has been updated to reflect community feedback, it can be promoted as a formal enhancement proposal. If successful, the enhancement would be created in Bugzilla and included in the product roadmap. Around the same time, design work products and deliverables, including detailed design guidance and recommendations, could be to serve as an input into development's implementation work. Once implement, the item would be removed from the UX opportunity backlog.

Backlog Items

See AOO UX Design - Opportunity Backlog for more information.

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