Have you ever watched Gordon Ramsay’s kitchen nightmares?
If so, you could say you already know what a good UX process should look like and what it should achieve. The series hosted by the famous British chef with multiple Michelin stars, in which he is invited by the owners to spend a week in a failing restaurant in an attempt to revive the business, was so successful that it was given its US version, as well as 25 international versions (e.g. Brazil, Bulgaria, Germany, France). People fell in love with Gordon Ramsay’s mission and charisma.
Why are these restaurant owners seeking help?
The restaurants which apply for this programme are mainly businesses which are a few years old and do not generate any profit. The owners of these restaurants are often people who spontaneously took on the challenge of creating their own restaurant or people who, in their opinion, had enough talent and knowledge to open their own place. All these people, at some point, came to the conclusion that they are not able to solve their problems on their own and need to seek expert advice. However, it is worth mentioning that not all owners of these restaurants were doomed to failure. In many episodes there were restaurants that had great chefs with great knowledge but lacked experience in other areas. Often such people focused too much on the problems of one area without being able to look at the bigger picture.
The same problems are the bane of businesses in other sectors.
In the case of websites, they are often done on a rushed basis in the early stages of a company’s life and with a meagre budget, which overlooks the need for proper design based on the user’s journey. After the growth of the business, this problem becomes more and more troublesome. Another problem is that when you have been working on your business for a long time, you get used to it and find it difficult to notice mistakes. You focus on one area and overlook another which ultimately also affects performance. The best move at this point is to seek the opinion of an outside expert, someone with a cold eye on the business. Like Gordon Ramsay in the case of the failing restaurant, the UX designer is able to draw attention to problems based on his own knowledge and experience, examine them and propose concrete solutions and a plan of action.
What Gordon Ramsay does in his show that we also do at Bravand:
1. First visit = UX audit
When Gordon Ramsay visits a restaurant for the first time, he takes on the attitude of an ordinary customer. He orders food from the menu, observes the waiter’s work, measures the waiting time for food and service, and finally tries the prepared food. He does all this in order to verify the quality of the restaurant from the position of the real customer.
A UX designer does the same thing; namely, they recreate the path that the user has to follow while browsing your website/application in order to complete a transaction (e.g. purchase products, fill out a contact form, book a meeting). We look at what can currently hinder users from getting through the process smoothly and how this can be improved.
In Gordon’s case there is only one attempt, one scenario, one circumstance and one ‘user’ – himself. Fortunately with web products we have many more possibilities. UX designers can recreate the path of many different profiles of people and many different scenarios, for example, users browsing the product on a computer and those browsing it on a phone, tech-savvy users, and those less fluent with technology.
2. Guest reviews = user research
The next step is to interview the customers who are currently dining in the restaurant. He asks them how they rate the dishes, the service and the overall experience. The customers honestly answer Gordon’s questions and tell him what bothers them about the restaurant and, if it is their first time in the restaurant, whether they would return there again. Consulting new and existing customers is very important in order to gain a deeper understanding of the problem on a larger scale.
As UX designers we go through the same process – and it’s called user research. For interviews and surveys we recruit potential and existing users of the platform. Respondents are selected from customer profiles agreed with the client and then interviewed. The respondent and the researcher conduct a conversation according to a predetermined scenario that aims to verify whether the platform fulfills its tasks, whether it is easy and pleasant to use, and where its pain points are. Interviews are carried out in a safe environment where the user can feel free to express their opinion. The research is an extremely important part of the UX process and is always very well received by our clients. Very often it turns out that the client’s view of what needs to be improved is very different from that of the user. Often the problems that the client wants to solve turn out to be, according to their clients, an asset of the platform and the real issue lies somewhere else. Verifying this at the very beginning of the project saves a lot of money and allows you to focus on the right things.
Check out our Togetherall project, where remote interviews with American users have made a significant contribution to the success of the website.
3. Visit in the competitive restaurant – Competitors audit
Gordon often invites restaurant owners to a successful competitor’s restaurant to better illustrate the problem. He asks the failing business to observe how the kitchen works in a better prospering one. Then they sit down together to taste the dishes prepared by the competing restaurant. The restaurateur who participates in the programme, after simply observing another restaurant, is able to draw conclusions for themself and see what they are doing wrong. Such a visit always opens their eyes.
As UX designers we, unfortunately, cannot invite you to a competing company to see their work, but we will conduct what we call a competitors audit. In short, it is a look at and verification of competitors’ platforms and recording what they do better and what they do worse. On the basis of this audit, together with the customer, we can learn from their product and improve on others’ mistakes and successes. Gordon invites the owner only to one chosen restaurant, while the UX designer has the advantage of being able to look at many different competitors and not only those who do it better, but also those who may be considered less efficient in their work, as there is much to learn from them as well.
4. Redesigning menu – redesigning your platform
The most important element of the transformation is Gordon’s introduction of a new refreshed menu, under which the restaurant will operate after the change. What can be easily observed is that Gordon opts for a very simplified menu consisting of only a few dishes. According to Gordon, this allows the restaurant to maintain the quality and freshness of the dishes and allows the chefs to focus and refine their recipe.
When it comes to designing web platforms, the ‘less is more’ principle also applies. The designer presenting a new design proposal focuses on making the user’s journey as easy as possible and without unnecessary distractions. A common problem with platforms is that there is too much going on which diverts the user’s attention from the essential goal. Focusing on what matters the most and making it work for all kinds of users is what will bring your platform success.
See how we redesigned the Ectopic Pregnancy Trust website to help its users find the medical information they need faster.
5. Première dinner – prototype testing
The highlight of the Kitchen Nightmare’s show is the grand dinner, which is the premiere of the new menu. The restaurateurs are able to test out how the customers like the new dishes and which ones they like best. Gordon and the restaurant owner then go out to the customers and get their feedback on the service, the new meals and the new ambience of the restaurant (because not only the menu is changing but also the interior design of the restaurant). On the basis of this new feedback, the restaurateurs are able to determine whether the change suits the customers and they can fine-tune it further.
The same process can also be carried out by a UX designer. After proposing a new design and assembling it into a prototype, we invite a mix of previously surveyed users as well as those who have not been exposed to the design before. We collect feedback from them by interviewing them again, this time letting them test the new design and perform tasks to observe their reactions, frustrations, and problems. Based on this research we can make final adjustments to the design to make sure the new platform is fit for purpose.
What Gordon Ramsay does in his show that we don’t do at Bravand:
Swearing a lot 😉 [have you never spoken to Jilly? Ed.]
Gordon Ramsay is known for his very direct language which adds to his media persona and makes the show even more entertaining. And while we like to think of ourselves as a laid-back company, we strive to present our knowledge and experience in a more accessible and professional manner. (Not counting internal Slacks or Zoom meetings here though, have you met our founder Jilly?!)
Would you like to try out a ‘Gordon Ramsay like’ experience for your digital platform? Hit us up and let’s talk!
Written by Bravand UX Researcher and website roaster, Alexa Sielaff.
Note: While working on this post I discovered that there are several other designers who have written a similar piece comparing Gordon Ramsay’s work to the UX process, which is no surprise as it is a very apt reference! You can read some of those pieces here: