Emphasizing the U in UX
Whenever reviewing the current state of a system, it’s important to ask, “what is the UX (User Experience)?” Although a vague question, or almost naïve, the answer should provide a good perspective into whether the experience is focused on helping a user complete tasks or is focused on building out a system to complete tasks. Albeit small, there is a difference in the two and it is worth paying attention to! Helping a user complete tasks show investment towards their job and makes it easier for them to complete, while building out a system creates an application to do a job, and typically adds to a person’s daily responsibilities.
Sometimes it is best to create systems, taking into consideration organizational priorities like budget and time resources, but there is always a case to be made that focusing on the user provides internal value and ease of use with minimal effort.
So, where to start? How do you start shifting focus from the system to the user? How can you emphasize the U in UX? To start building a solution that caters to your user, it helps to break down the process into 3 components: The Users, The Job, and The Solution.
Organizations need to identify the users, so they can successfully cater to their needs. This identification is critical in creating a persona – defined as “a representation of the goals and behavior of a hypothesized group of uses.” 1 We group users into personas to avoid generalizing the need of a feature for a broader group. If you were to create a persona for a web application, you might think customers or administrators, but what about sales, customer reps, account reps, or even IT support? Each user persona has a specific need from the system, and a great UX starts with identifying each one and understanding the needs and their ability to perform their job functions.
In large systems, there will be a lot of personas to develop. There’s a mixture of surveys, observations, and interviews to conduct and there is the analysis on that data to determine a final persona list. Remember, this list should also evolve as your organization and people evolve.
Now that the data has been gathered around the users, one of the additional outputs may be their job functions. Not all job functions are relevant to the UX, but it is helpful to understand what a ‘day in the life’ looks like for some of the personas. Particularly, where along their day do they interact, or have the potential to interact, with technology. This is more of an art than a defined process, as not everything should be solved with a technical solution. The output at this stage should be creating a user workflow, which can be tied back to a job function. When mapping this flow out, you can determine the areas which are prime for optimization. Typically, it helps if organizations speak to users and identify the pain points which must be focused on.
Optimization of workflows involve removing steps, which can allow a user to move faster with tweaks to their workflow. Sometimes this means removing the step entirely and replacing it with a feature within an application. It can also be as simple as refining the application workflow, so that a few steps can be done concurrently or automatically. At the end of this, we’ve created potential workflows which will improve how the users do their job.
Finally, we’ve arrived at the solutioning stage, which is typically an easier phase of the process, with determining the users and identifying their workflow pain points taking up most of the effort. Now organizations can start designing new processes, which could include building or buying software.
Most importantly, we’ve reached the solution stage by focusing on the user of the system, instead of the system as a whole. We took the time to learn about user needs and job functions and understood how those job functions could be improved. You also learned that there is more than one persona working with a system and that persona should be included in the design of an optimized process. Here at Strive, we take pride in our Technology Enablement practice, where we can assist you in your UX/UI needs. Our subject matter experts’ team up with you to understand your core business needs, while taking a deeper dive into your organization’s growth strategy.