In my current role I’ve spent the last 5 years getting usability and User Experience (UX) principles and methods embedded in the organisation. It’s been hard work and there have been lots of small victories and battles on the way. We’ve progressed from an annual usability survey to having a dedicated UX Architect role and standardised methods and tools. I spoke about our journey at a Software East event earlier this year.
I’ll soon be starting a new role as a UX specialist with a private sector company that has a strong committment to UX. So I’ve been reflecting a lot in the last few weeks about the process of getting UX adopted, and then embedding UX thinking and practise in an organisation.
Whilst we didn’t get as far as having a UX strategy, these are the main lessons I’ve learned in 5 years:
You’ll need a committed UX champion
For me personally it was really important to have a very strong interest and commitment to UX, in order to evangelise the benefits to the team and my manager every day. I was lucky to be well supported by my Manager and Director. The whole of our Web team are now committed to using UX methods and tools on all projects. Their interest and enthusiasm never ceases to amaze me!
However, it’s not always an easy sell. I work in a very large and complex, public sector organisation (local government). Even afer 5 years I regularly find myself having conversations with colleagues who don’t understand what UX or usability is and why it’s important to understand (and design for) customer needs and behaviour.
It’s all about the data
Using data to evidence and support design decisions has been crucial. I can think of many times when user data has helped support an argument. But make sure you present your data in a compelling way, using graphs, visualisations like word clouds (hat tip to Craig for showing us that one), screenshots and video/audio clips where possible.
Develop skills and create a UX toolkit
Mentoring team members and establishing a toolkit of standardised UX methods and tools has been important. We have very little budget, so we rely on low cost methods such as expert reviews, prototyping, and remote research tools and web analytics. When we managed to create a dedicated UX role, the first thing I asked the UX Architect we recruited internally to do was to research and create a UX toolkit. This was important not only to provide a re-usable set of tools and techniques, but also as a development exercise, to help the UX Architect get up to speed with what techniques to use and when and how to use them.
Although we can’t afford much training, books have been incredibly useful to us. They are relatively inexpensive and can go round the whole team. We have built up a useful library of UX books that inspire us and act as a good reference point.
Sketch and prototype, but keep it Agile and collaborative
I think we fell into the trap early on of trying to produce fancy looking wireframes and mockups. Prototypes were created in HTML/CSS to make them production ready. But given that we used the Scrum method, we could have produced a lot more design ideas and got solutions in place quicker during sprints by doing more sketching.
Measure and improve
Measurement of UX is probably the one thing we didn’t pay enough attention to initially. But measurement is extremely important if you are going to prove return on investment.
Process, tools and skills are all useful. But, they are really not that useful if you can”t demonstrate how you’ve improved a website or product. And Senior Managers don’t tend to be that bothered about the ‘how’, they’re more interested in the ‘what’. So make sure you have clear metrics defined to ensure UX improvements are tangible and measurable.
Aim to make small, iterative improvements
Ultimately we were never able to make many of the improvements to our website we wanted to, due to various constraints on resources. And being stuck with a legacy CMS system that was pretty inflexible.
There will always be many ideas and re-design work that customers never see and experience. So avoid too much wastage in the design process by concentrating on things you can realistically implement and use the evidence to make the business case for bigger improvements.
I’m very excited to have the opportunity to talk about embedding UX in a large organisation at UX Cambridge on 10 November. But I’d like to learn about other peoples’ experiences before my talk and gather some stories from out in the field.
I’m running a survey to find out more about UX adoption in large organisations until 28 October. By large I mean over 250 employees. But I’m keen to get responses from a variety of organisations, big or small, so don’t let that put you off completing it.
Please do take 5-10 minutes to complete the survey. I’ll publish the results here once I have done some data analysis. Thanks!
I’m very grateful to Human Factors International for letting me use their UX Maturity checklist for a number of the questions in the survey.