2016 Conference Usability

We Can All “Do” User Experience

Even with a small web team, user experience should and could be a big part of what you do, explained Jason Kammerdiener, Lead Information and Digital Architect, Colgate University, in his “We Can All ‘Do’ User Experience” session.

All universities have forms for prospective student inquiries, college visit appointments, and collecting gift online. “It’s a pretty atrocious user experience,” said Kammerdiener. “We could certainly do better than that.”

The project lifecycle doesn’t always build in time or prioritize user experience.

“Even when you get the experts involved, good is in the eye of the beholder,” Kammerdiener explained. “No one in the process is really representing that end user.”

Step 1: Choose to be the UX Champion

Kammerdiener started representing the end user in the Colgate University giving form process. “It wasn’t hard to convince anyone that we could do better.”

Step 2: Before a project, consult the literature

Not initially being a UX expert, Kammerdiener read up on the subject and encouraged others to do the same.

“If you don’t let people know that you are doing the research, and give them the opportunity to do the research, then everyone’s opinion is equal.”

He recommended taking every field on the form and tracking it back to the human. Ask the people involved in the process if they need the data, and then ask what they do with the data.

Step 3: Watch someone “do”

This is the step that can seem out of reach for teams of limited means, Kammerdiener said, but don’t be afraid to go “down and dirty” (shout out to Rocket Surgery Made Easy: The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Finding and Fixing Usability Problems).

Colgate made it work by:

  • Drafting a few scenarios
  • Recruiting people from across campus and giving them bookstore gift cards
  • Using Apple QuickTime for the screen and verbal recording
  • Using Skype to have a room of stakeholders watch the QuickTime recordings in real time
  • Providing lunch to the stakeholders to debrief the user testing they watched

“It’s better to get a little bit of testing than no testing at all,” he said and it’s important to have stakeholders in the room watching in real time.

Step 4: Sketch and prototype

First Kammerdiener roughly sketched the form process and workflow on paper. Then he built a prototype in the Qualtrics survey tool that used conditional logic to only expose information when needed to the user.

Step 5: More tests

Colgate conducted the user testing this time without the stakeholders watching in real time. The videos were shared asynchronously.

Step 6: Commit. Design. Build.

Colgate adjusted its giving form enhancement plans before designing and building the new form based directly on insights gained from the user testing.

Step 7: Just one…more…test

The last stage of user testing took place after the giving form was built in a web format to test the working design and graphics. Stakeholders also watched this testing.

Step 8: Finish it

From June 2015 to June 2016, there was a 16% increase in Colgate giving. There were a lot of variables that went into the increase, but the redesigned giving form based on user testing was one of them.

In closing Kammerdiener said: “Someone in your organization needs to be representing the user in every project.”

Check out the full “We Can All ‘Do’ User Experience” presentation.

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By Mark H. Anbinder

Mark is the Web Communications Manager in Cornell University's Campus Life Marketing & Communications Office. He works in higher education to pay for his fine food and beverage habits, hockey travel, and dog treats, and publishes 14850 Magazine all about Ithaca.

Find Mark on Twitter at @mhaithaca and his dogs on Instagram at @mhapuppers.