CIO Upfront: The User Experience guru

CIO Upfront: The User Experience guru

Caroline Jones of Aderant says her job is about striving to marry the complex demands of end users with business strategies. She explains why her field – user experience – is becoming a strategic imperative for organisations.

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From Web design to UX

“I came through more traditional Web design background,” says Jones, who has a diploma in website design.

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Her previous roles included Internet experience manager and e-channel analyst.

As a Web designer, she worked with a lot of stakeholders, and one of the areas they were interested in was ROI. “What do we do to tweak the experience to get more conversions?

“We spent lot of time working with Google analytics. The data would give us numbers on how many people visited and how long they stayed on this page. What the data never told us was why, and understanding why was the context that we needed in order to be able to assess if the data was positive or negative. It was at this point that I realised that we needed to be actually speaking to our end users and having real conversations with them."

“That was a huge moment for me,” she says. “I started doing a little bit of research and discovered this field of user centred design.”

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A lot of software vendors are playing the feature parity game.When you get to that point, user experience is one of the ways you can differentiate yourself from your competitor.

She then completed a paper around human computer interaction at the University of Auckland.

“I started transitioning my career from Web design to user experience,” she says.

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Key differentiator

Jones says User Experience is becoming a strategic imperative for organisations as well.

When companies are selecting their software providers, it can be difficult to determine if a software vendor has created a product that will be highly adopted in your company.

She says this is why it is good to focus on the vendor’s understanding of UX and how it was applied in the product development.

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She says organisations can ask key questions when meeting with the UX team of their potential vendor.

First is whether the vendor has a people centric and evidence based approach that puts the user “front and centre”.

An effective UX team will follow a people-centric design approach, using insights gained from direct research to guide design decisions, she states.

“Ask about the team’s research objectives and look to understand the insights gleaned around the context of users’ goals, wants and needs," she advises. "Look for evidence of a rationalised and data-driven design approach that puts the user front and centre.”

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Another area to consider is whether the vendor has a multichannel focus. When a user interacts with software across different channels, their expectation is that those channels will work together seamlessly, she explains.

Any one channel should feel like a connected piece of a larger, unified whole, she states. In order for user's expectations to be met with multi-channel experiences, it is essential for UX teams to understand how the various channels relate to one another, the varying contexts-of-use of those channels, as well as the user’s interaction and mind-set changes as they move from one channel to another.

The power of internal champions

Jones also has pointers for companies embarking on pilot programs for software deployment.

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Most software pilot programs involve a small group of end-users who trial the proposed software for a brief period.

A lot of time when a pilot is put in place, organisations push out software to pilot users, and just leave them, she states. They then come back several months later and conduct a straightforward survey.

However, in order to get the most out of your pilot, you need to find out from the software vendor if their UX team can partner with your organisation to assist with this phase of evaluation and refinements, she says .

When an organisation is rolling out new software, there can be nothing more powerful than having internal champions for that product who understand it, she says.

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Moreover, if those champions were actively involved in the product’s design, this will increase internal excitement and adoption rates throughout the company.

“The user experience team can come in and observe the users, identify the ‘pain points’ and help make recommendations and design those customisations in a way that won't degrade the existing designs.”

Next: Avoiding the pitfalls of User Experience: Top tips from Caroline Jones

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