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.

Avoiding the pitfalls of user experience

Technology developed with an emphasis on User Experience (UX) will create high levels of adoption, increased innovation and the ability to create new cost-reduction opportunities.

However, if poorly implemented, technology with poor UX could be a very expensive mistake, says Caroline Jones, manager of experience design, Aderant.

She shares with CIO New Zealand her guide to the areas to watch out for when implementing software:

Stakeholder bias

‘First and foremost, remember that you are not your user.

In many cases, decision-makers have very different mindsets and behaviours from those that they are making software decisions for.

Making software selections based on your own preferences and opinions is risky business, she states. Some people are visual, some people are more numbers-oriented—and there are one million and four shades of grey in between.

If the aim is to implement a tool that is widely adopted and utilised, involve representatives of the end user in the software evaluation process often, and early.’

Feature bloat

‘Remember the Simpson's episode where Homer Simpson's half-brother Herb let him design a car that was targeted at the average American? In case you missed it, Simpson decided that he didn't like any of the designs, and with Herb's approval proceeded to design his dream car that included every bell and whistle imaginable to man - including two bubble domes, three horns that play La Cucaracha, shag carpeting and optional child muzzles - all at a huge cost to Herb's company. The result was, of course, so incredibly ugly and expensive that it put Herb's car company out of business.

The lesson here is that sometimes more is not better and that one person’s ideas and opinions are just that: ideas and opinions. Take care that you are not trying to cater to every outlier behaviour, especially if this is at the expense of your primary use cases. Keep it simple.’

Take care that you are not trying to cater to every outlier behaviour, especially if this is at the expense of your primary use cases.

Misplaced focus

‘Trying to solve something that wasn't a problem in the first place happens more than one would think. It is not uncommon for organisations to upgrade their software platforms simply because a newer version of the platform exists, offering newer and snazzier features than the previous version. However, it is common for UX teams to uncover large existing issues that are being neglected. As they carry out their observational research activities, UX teams observe a user’s daily frustrations, common workarounds and inefficient workflows. Engaging with a UX team is key to receiving value for your investment dollar, as they can help identify where software enhancements will provide the most benefit to those who use it on a daily basis.’

Art critiques

‘Receiving input on designs from potential users as products evolve is essential to the development process. Seeking feedback early on allows the UX team to ensure that the designs remain grounded in the goals, needs and wants of the user, as well as uncovering any potential issues.

The “show and tell” approach to feedback typically involves presenting the proposed designs to a group, walking through the proposed functionality and then asking for their opinions and feedback on the designs. This is similar to asking a person to share their response to a piece of fine art - and about as helpful. However, there are some pretty stark differences between a piece of fine art and a piece of software.

Unfortunately, software usage is an interactive experience, which in most instances is task-based and time-bound, usually done alone and without direct guidance. While “show and tell” feedback sessions are common, they can be less effective and efficient than other methods. User testing, however, provides a way to elicit task-based, non-biased feedback that allow for the right changes to be made to the designs.’

No change management plan

‘When it comes to adopting new behaviours, the old adage “old habits die hard” rings true. Change is rarely easy and learning any new behaviour requires effort on the user's behalf. And let's face it, learning something new always requires more effort than learning nothing new.

Relying on a superior experience alone to compel people to change their behaviours is, in many instances, simply not enough. So to help people get over the line, consider mapping out the new behaviours against the old behaviours, then consider which steps need to occur between in order to facilitate the transition. Consider the varying motivations of employees and which triggers might be appropriate for different individuals.

Break the change management down into the smallest steps possible, then target one very small and easily-accomplished step at a time. Perhaps you could run an email-based competition that offers an incentive for certain behaviours. How about an inter-department competition with a team dinner as a prize? What can you do to keep reinforcing the new behaviour?’

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