How do you develop your organisation’s User Experience design/architecture capability?

by | Jan 31, 2014 | Articles

Chris Atherton and Simon Bostock from Equal Experts share their ideas in conversation at the #LT14UK Towards Maturity eXchange – report by Dr Genny Dixon

‘Do something well – and then steal from it’

Organisations moving to agile development can find it hard to set aside processes that have been established over many years. They might well benefit from an outsider who can come in like an ‘attack dog’ – a bad guy to challenge assumptions and ask the difficult questions – even embracing the potential failure that might result from an agile approach. This exemplar approach illustrates ‘positive deviance’ – using that person whose uncommon but successful ideas enable them to find better solutions in organisational or network learning.

Managing a supplier relationship when you don’t quite know what you are going to get can be quite challenging! When using rapid development or prototyping tools, the key advantage is the ability to respond faster and launch at scale – at odds with a more traditional model of using a pilot approach to test a new concept or learning intervention.

User ‘satisfaction’ is not enough

Chris drew her illustration from developing services for – particularly immigration/visa products. The audience for the products were overseas but the products needed to meet their needs. The usability testing was done using wireframes online and live via Adobe Connect with the learners themselves. Simply ‘satisfaction’ feedback was not what was needed!

Discussion around the table revealed that for some, user testing was not part of the culture and not built into the workflow. We loved Chris’s approach of taking her ideas on an iPad into Starbucks and asking people for their input when they were on their break. Just watching how three or four learners navigate through wireframes on Powerpoint or simple clickable pdf’s can reveal vital information about system usability. ‘Wouldn’t you rather know at the start than after spending 6 months in development?’ Making assumptions about learners, particularly in one company where the audience was largely made up of older volunteers, influences the design team in what they develop. However, the user experience is not all about the interface design.

Start as close to the end as possible

In one example, huge efficiency savings and improvements in the user experience were made by moving the tops and tails (travel plans, introductions, evaluations) of a 4-day course online. Some great advice from Simon, ‘Start as close to the end as possible.’


Involving trainers

Involving trainers in the design process can offer critical insights from their experience of where the sticking points are likely to be in the content. For one company, educating their ‘static’ trainers, wedded to PowerPoint, is a problem. They need to break down the barriers between them and the ‘techies’. However, the very tools the trainers are already using, illustrate how much they already know about user interface design.


But how to get people to test design ideas at this earliest stage? ‘Offer them biscuits!’ Simple bribery is the answer from Chris’s experience working with civil servants!

Follow Chris Atherton on twitter at @finiteattention.

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