Wednesday 8th May 2019
The user experience (UX) designer at OpenAthens said talking to the relevant audiences is a vital step in creating a product or service that will truly meet their needs.
Speaking about UX, what it is and why it is so important in the Long Overdue podcast by EBSCO, she said:
If you really want to solve a problem for your audiences, you need to go in there and talk to them, and it is as simple as that.
“There’s many ways you can talk to your audiences.”
Vee uses a ‘human–centred design framework’ which involves three steps
It is during the discovery phase that Vee and her team will speak to the ‘users’ and find out how they use the product, the things they struggle with and what they want.
These findings are then used to develop and experiment with different ‘solutions’ or systems designed to facilitate the user needs to work out which ones are the most effective.
The team will then move to the implementation phase, rolling out the most successful solutions but continuing to monitor its performance.
Vee explained the split between UX and user interface (UI) design describing the UX designer as the ‘why’ person and the UI designer as the ‘how’ person.
They are very different functions and they do very different things,”
UI designers are focused on the look and feel, so elegant design, smart animation, bouncy buttons. These are all the result of the craft of the UI designer.
The focus is on answering the question how to make it easier for the user to engage with specific functionality.
UX designers ask the question, why the user would want to use that functionality at all – does that functionality solve a genuine need?”
The two roles should work very closely together to deliver the best results, she added.
UX design is not limited to software development, as in the case of OpenAthens, but can be applied to any product or service, Vee explained.
There’s a separate parallel space to UX design which is service design which uses exactly the same framework but it really captures the whole process, its experts in that field would work on projects that involve physical interactions with their audiences, so for example, walking into a bank or checking through an airport.”
Libraries have an advantage in being able to easily reach and communicate with their target audiences to respond to changing needs or behaviour to enhance their services.
They’re quite lucky in the sense that users come in the library so within that physical space, libraries can really reach out and talk to their patrons about their needs and their preferences.”
If you start with the idea without any touch with your audiences you’re risking inventing something that the audience will not adopt, just not be interested in.”
She praises ‘guerrilla research’ when UX teams go out and question users in the field such as approaching students in a library to ask them about which services are most useful and why.
The teams will collate all the information gathered and look for any trends or patterns that demonstrate user challenges that need addressing or effective systems that can be rolled out further.
Several possible solutions are then tested by end users who provide feedback on whether it solves the original problem or facilitates their use.
In that phase, we are very flexible around the solutions we are putting in front of users and, when I say flexible, I mean we try not to become emotionally attached to them, because those solutions, those ideas, at this stage may not be the right thing to do.
In testing we may find that we have failed, that our solution will not work.”
Vee said it was important this testing was carried out before the development reached its ‘beta’ stage which would require significant financial and time investment.
Asked if the needs of the user came above the commercial needs of the business, she said:
“UX operates on the intersect between the user needs and the business needs.
“If we’re looking only at the business needs, we’ll most likely fail because there’ll be no market, nobody will want to buy that.
“If we’re only looking at the user needs, the business may not be sustainable, so it has to be a balance.”
Talking about OpenAthens she added:
OpenAthens is a specialised product, we know who our customers are and we work to deliver to their specific needs but of course we have to have in mind the business impact of that and we have to be able to make that product and proposition sustainable.”
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