At some point a tech company decides it needs a user experience team to champion the voice of the customer. The smart ones start this journey early as it is more challenging to institutionalize user experience in companies with a few hundred employees. The following 7Ps will help you institutionalize UX in your company:
Posters : Use posters to communicate the critical components of the UX message - UX principles, customer segments, etc. For example, Walmart.com had posters of its customer segments on the walls around the office to always remind its employees who they were designing for.
Process: Define the UX Engagement process. Usability.gov has a well defined design process. This may vary based on how departments are structured in your company, resources available and team dynamics but a process is a start to including all the critical elements of the user experience.
Procedure: Create standard UX templates to define the procedure to conduct a specific aspect of the UX. Usability.gov has many templates. For example, a moderator guide or guidelines to conduct and write a heuristic report will establish a set of standards and improve the consistency and quality of work.
Protocol: Create a UX repository on the company intranet to educate everyone in your company about the UX team and their work, how to engage with them, what to expect, timelines, schedules, etc.
Publish: Get noticed in the greater UX community by publishing research and presenting at conferences. This brings visibility and credibility to the UX group.
Proof of productivity: User Experience improves the customer's experience in many ways. For example, it could reduce time, reduce help desk calls, increase enjoyment and trust, improve safety, etc. It is critical to measure this improvement in productivity to translate the value of the UX activity and to communicate it to employees and management.
Partner: This is the most important step in institutionalizing UX in a company. Unless you have a partner in upper management to rally around the UX cause this would be a very difficult struggle. It is critical to get support to ensure the message does not get lost and more importantly give UX the attention it deserves. After all, some of the top tech companies have made it their mantra. Google says "Focus on the user and all else follows" while Apple uses UX to drive its innovation engine.
On July 21st I went for a talk by Bryan Zmijewski, the founder of Zurb a design company. Bryan emphasized that visits to a site mean nothing unless users are engaged or motivated to act. Design must drive action and this is done through three concepts - visual design, content and form elements. Visual design provides context, content guides decisions and form elements are input mechanisms that finalize actions. He gave examples for each concept as seen below.
1. TinyPic is a website where users upload and share images and videos. The company runs solely on ad revenue with ads displayed on the left of the upload feature. Zurb changed the visual design of the page by adding a border (highlighted in red) to the form so that users perceived the ad to be a part of the form as opposed to an ad preventing ad blindness. This resulted in a higher click rate on the ads bumping the cost per click from $2 to $5.
2. Photbucket is a photo sharing site that wanted to increase user engagement by increasing the number of users registering on the site. The tested two visual designs - one with a red register button and the other with a green. The hypothesis was that the green button would receive more clicks as it signaled go but in reality the red button got more clicks due to higher contrast.
3. Basekit creates, hosts and manages websites and wanted to increase user subscriptions by highlighting the differences between their pricing plans and motivating users to make a choice. As seen in the images on the right the design with the colored contrast between the pricing plans indicating the top 3 differences between the plans got 25% more sign ups.
1. Notable Screenshots helps users capture images, websites, etc. deconstruct the media by adding notes and finally helps publish the media. Since each media needed to be captured and posted the tech team thought "New Capture" to be the right label to fit the action of capturing media but a content redesign unraveled that "New Post" got users to capture and post on the website 25% more as it the vocabulary better fit user mental models.
2. TinyPic - I will upload the content and graphic as soon as it's available.
3. Bagcheck, a website that lists favorite user products ranging from computers to phone applications, increased its user engagement by 50% by writing the percentage difference between the sale price and the actual price.
Form elements- I will upload the content and graphic as soon as it's available.
Usability is making a product or website easy to use so that a user can complete his/her goals without getting frustrated. Usability metrics give structure to the design process and inform decision makers. As a usability expert we aim to execute a 'wow' experience by measuring effectiveness (can you complete the task?), efficiency (can you complete it with minimum effort and time?), learnability (how quickly can you learn to do it?) and satisfaction (how happy or satisfied are you with the experience?).
Two people in this field have motivated me- Jeffrey Sauro and Tom Tullis. Jeff wrote an exceptional paper on standardizing usability metrics into a single score. Tom Tullis is a true usability guru with whom I've had the wonderful opportunity to work with at Fidelity Investments. His book 'Measuring the User Experience' is a must read for anyone trying to create a 'wow' user experience. Insights in this post are from his book and my experience. The metrics are defined in detail below.
Efficiency: can be measured through task completion success (successful or not), task completion time, number of clicks to complete tasks, number of page views and comparing user performance to expert performance
Effectiveness: can be measured through lostness (number of steps a user takes to complete a task relative to minimum number of steps to complete a task), intuitiveness (percentage of items placed in correct menu category using a card sort), awareness (did you notice it? a memory test to repeat what the person noticed or an eye tracking test), log data checks (live user data is analyzed to study where users fail or are having issues with the task), A/B testing (test 2 design concepts to identify which is more effective), number of issues based on severity and frequency which can also be categorized into user interface parameters such as navigation issues, terminology issues, interaction issues, etc.
Satisfaction and other metrics: self reported metrics (through rating scales, qualitative feedback and online survey tools) on various factors such as satisfaction, ease-of-use, engagement and enjoyment. It could also measure a call to action such as the probability of purchasing the product or recommending it to a friend. Physiological factors such as heart rate changes, eye tracking and sentiment analysis are some other ways to measure the experience.
Want an easy-to-use metric? The System Usability Scale (SUS) is an easy way to measure the usability of any product/website. Ask users to complete a task or a few critical tasks and give them this questionnaire to rate. You can calculate the SUS Score which could range from 0-100. A score of 80+ is good usability but for a more detailed interpretation read this paper.
Although this project has been added to my portfolio I thought it was also worthy of a post. I spearheaded this project but its success is every bit a team effort.
Web 2.0 tools have done a great job in the social context (Facebook, Yelp, etc.) but not much in the business context. I created an evaluation tool (see below) with features that can also be applied to business-related, collaboration-dependent situations. For example, employees working on a PowerPoint presentation across many functional departments can add comments to a group presentation they are working on or add a new slide to the presentation or comment on others' comments. I believe this tool to be the start of business-related collaborative tools. Possibly even SlideShare 2.0. Let me take you through the tool and give you some context as to how the idea came about.
At Infosys, the company I worked at before joining business school, the usability group was evaluating about 100 websites every year. Around 3-5 designers from a pool of 30 would judge the compliance of a website with regard to certain usability guidelines. For example, one issue with a website could be the shopping cart button is not on the top right corner of the website violating user expectations. This process required 3-4 designers to evaluate the website individually and then collaborate their findings together in the form of a heuristic evaluation report and mail it to clients. Some issues with this process were that it was time consuming, there was an overlap in identifying issues and there was a lack of consistency in terms of wording the issue. Thus, came the idea to develop a collaborative evaluation tool. Over 3 months, we gathered a lot of requirements, prioritized and developed the requirements and tested it over and over again with designers, clients viewing the reports and admins of the tool. The presentation (may need Firefox to view) and the video below should give you a fairly good idea as to how the tool works.
I went for a talk by Steve Blank a few weeks ago. He spoke on listening to your customers to validate the idea for your startup (or a new product for existing companies) until you get to a scalable and repeatable business model (he calls the pivot) and thus be successful. He urges entrepreneurs (or intrapreneuers) to "get out of the building" (see a signed copy of his book to me) and listen to your customers to validate your idea or tweak it based on customer feedback. I highly recommend his book because I have been practicing his Customer Development model (right image) and find it very successful. As a usability specialist for 4 years I made websites easy to use by asking customers for their feedback.
Recently, I wrapped up an internship at HealthCrowd, a telehealth platform that connects holistic practitioners such as therapists and nutritionists to you. I decided to find out for myself what our customers (in this case people who visit a nutritionist, therapist, etc) thought of our service. I asked ten customers and found six in favor of the service and four not in favor or who would not use it the way it was intended to be used. Many would argue that ten customers are not enough to make conclusions but with limited time and resources it always helps to listen to even a few at least for the qualitative feedback if not for the quantitative extrapolation of results to apply to the larger population.
Below, you will see two video excerpts of my interviews (positive feedback video on top and negative at the bottom). Putting together the positive feedback from all six customers it is clear that they would use HealthCrowd for its benefits: convenient consultations that can be taken from work (or anywhere) during lunch break (or anytime), better control of their health through online health monitoring and a more effective way of choosing a practitioner (through common health stories shared in the form of user testimonials). Customers who did not favor HealthCrowd said they would use the service as a directory to search for a practitioner and once they identified a practitioner they would book an in-clinic consultation. Others resonated the fact that the relationship built through in-clinic consultations is integral to the healing process. One customer just didn't trust HealthCrowd (see second video below) based on impressions formed in the under-5-minute interview which goes to show how quickly we form our impressions. By addressing these needs and truly listening to our customers we should be on a less rocky road to success. Specifically, how do we capture the customer segment who will use this service as a directory? How do we substitute the power of relationships formed during in-clinic consultations? In what ways can we build credibility and get patients to trust HealthCrowd?
In conclusion, customer feedback is a critical component for the success of any company and should be done frequently to refine our hypothesis through all stages of product development.