We consider three elements to be key in any user experience research we undertake:
We recently worked on a number of projects where we have been developing personas. This can be a powerful tool in bringing focus and clarity about what content to develop and how to present this, especially for larger information sites run by teams with lots of stakeholders.
However, some recent experiences suggest organisations don’t know how best to use these.
Developing effective websites often requires organisational change to a culture where people at all levels in the organisation adopt behaviours that make a 'good user experience' an important goal. A good user experience is one where a user achieves their goals and is highly satisfied with the process; it will encourage reuse and recommendation of the site. If the organisation is not focused on providing a good user experience, they will be unable to build an effective web site. Understanding the user experience, through research methods like usability testing, can be a powerful tool in driving the organisational change needed to develop effective websites.
How people interact with your organisation is likely to change radically over the next few years. The maturing of some key technologies, most notably machine learning and conversational interfaces, means your users may no longer be using your website.
One of the problems of usability testing websites is trying to get testers to behave as they would in the real world. It is a very ‘unnatural’ process. We recruit people into the lab, pay them money and ask lots of questions about the site and why they have done what they have done. Testers focus on the task they have been given, think about what they are doing, try and give rational explanations for their behaviour, and are not distracted by the kids or their phone. This is not what happens in real life where users click through most of the time not thinking very hard about what they are doing. To use Daniel Kahneman terms, in the lab users do more ‘slow’ thinking whereas in real life they are doing a lot of ‘fast’ thinking.
I have always been a bit of a fan of Gov.uk. From a citizen’s point of view, it has transformed many aspects of transacting with Government. Whether it is re-taxing the car, applying for a passport or applying for a patent it is now quick and straightforward. Gov.uk clearly deserves many of the plaudits it has received. The principle that users don’t care about which government body a service is being delivered by - they just want the service - is both sensible and user focused.
I have a confession to make – one that is a bit embarrassing. As a researcher, I know you must not trust your own opinions but should look at the evidence, because often our instinctive view of world - or of people’s behaviour – is wrong!
We were recently approached to do some usability testing on the Financial Conduct Authority website. In order to prepare the proposal I spoke to a stockbroker friend to get some idea of users' goals and the effectiveness of the site. I was rather surprised to learn that he would never dream of going anywhere near the site. Apparently their business has a staff of 40 specialists – mainly lawyers - whose sole job it is to understand the FCA rules and develop policies and procedures for ensuring they don’t run foul of these.
Panic call from an 87 year old relative of mine last week – the TV had stopped working! For 87 she is pretty hale and hearty, she lives independently, drives, goes out walking the dog each day and attends lots of WI, Probus and U3A events so she is not stupid – indeed probably well above average for her age. However the TV had beaten her.
I have been had! I have just been stung for a 52% increase in my business electricity bill and I missed it! After getting over the annoyance at both the electricity company and myself, the lessons to be learnt are about how we all process information whether on paper or screen.