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Experiences in user centred design at the University of Edinburgh (IWMW2012 workshop A2)
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Experiences in user centred design at the University of Edinburgh (IWMW2012 workshop A2)


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The session I ran at IWMW2012 on 18 June 2012. …

The session I ran at IWMW2012 on 18 June 2012.

An overview of my approach to user centred design, experiences while working for the University Website Programme and a few lessons learned.

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  • 1. Experiences inuser centred designPutting usability on the map at the University of Edinburgh Neil Allison IWMW 2012 Neil Allison - #IWMW2012 - @usabilityed
  • 2. Overview• A quick intro – to UCD & to me• Some things I’ve tried• Some things I’ve learned• How about you? Neil Allison - #IWMW2012 - @usabilityed
  • 3. What is UCD?• UPA definition – …an approach to design that grounds the process in information about the people who will use the product…• For me – It’s about understanding your users – It’s about communicating what you learn – It’s not any one person’s responsibility Neil Allison - #IWMW2012 - @usabilityed
  • 4. UCD is for everyone• Jakob Nielsen: “Usability is like cookery” – You don’t need to be a gourmet chef – Article:• Steve Krug: “It’s not rocket surgery” – Free chapters:• Most practitioners aren’t specialists so dive in Neil Allison - #IWMW2012 - @usabilityed
  • 5. About me• I’m part of a small team managing the University’s corporate CMS service – I do web strategy, user experience, IA, staff training – Also project managing website & CMS development• I used to be: – A website manager – A student recruitment officer – A teacher• I was user testing before I knew what it was… Neil Allison - #IWMW2012 - @usabilityed
  • 6. I see usability problems…• Well, the no-brainers at least… Neil Allison - #IWMW2012 - @usabilityed
  • 7. What works for me…• Who I am and what I’ve done are a big influence on my approach – I’m more interested in people and processes – I believe in education and empowerment• Organisational culture influences approach too – And likelihood of success• So my caveat: – What works for me may not for you… Neil Allison - #IWMW2012 - @usabilityed
  • 8. I Elements of User Experience• Illustrating the layer, the process & the essence of a user-centred design• Depressing and enlightening in equal measure • Neil Allison - #IWMW2012 - @usabilityed
  • 9. Things I’ve tried #1 Card sorting Neil Allison - #IWMW2012 - @usabilityed
  • 10. Card sorting• I’ve never managed to get it to work for me – I’ve done open & closed, analogue & software• Why? – Wrong scale / scope / focus perhaps – Prospective students often don’t know… – The organisation is a difficult rock to move – Analysis is painful – Communicating the results is tricky Neil Allison - #IWMW2012 - @usabilityed
  • 11. Communicating results• Quotes, videos, personal accounts seem to be more influential & immediate than data – Numbers add legitimacy• Resources & alternatives: Neil Allison - #IWMW2012 - @usabilityed
  • 12. Things I’ve tried #2 User testing Accompanied surfing Neil Allison - #IWMW2012 - @usabilityed
  • 13. User testing• Quick, cheap, (almost) anyone can do it• There’s a reason Nielsen & Krug bang on about it…• Video footage works great in presentations• Remote user testing services have amplified the impact Neil Allison - #IWMW2012 - @usabilityed
  • 14. Quick and dirty testing• I have and always will – Taking whoever I can find – Even one or two is better than none – Grade findings accordingly• I try to avoid giving interface feedback to colleagues – I suggest tasks & scenarios for participants instead• I encourage everyone to test – With whatever you have – Back of an envelope? Fine! Neil Allison - #IWMW2012 - @usabilityed
  • 15. Prototypes don’t have to be clever or sophisticated……so long as youcan be when youpresent or test themNeil Allison - #IWMW2012 - @usabilityed
  • 16. Things I’ve tried #3Collaborative CMS design with personas and prototyping Neil Allison - #IWMW2012 - @usabilityed
  • 17. CMS management• I’m the training & support lead• We have a clunky CMS that continues to be developed• It wasn’t getting any less clunky – Which wasn’t great for the user group, or the people dealing with them on a daily basis… Neil Allison - #IWMW2012 - @usabilityed
  • 18. Meet our CMS user group Neil Allison - #IWMW2012 - @usabilityed
  • 19. Why turn to personas?• Better shared understanding of users’ needs and behaviours• Better communication across development and support teams• Building a shared vision of who we’re working for and why Neil Allison - #IWMW2012 - @usabilityed
  • 20. How we use them• We’ve got to know them – They’ve evolved as new data has come to light• They’re referenced in meetings and documentation• We find ourselves saying things like: “I doubt Annabel would want to do that…” – And nobody says: “Who’s Annabel?” Neil Allison - #IWMW2012 - @usabilityed
  • 21. Persona resources• Tons of great articles:• I especially like: – Intro guides: and – 7 questions for your personas: – Essence of successful personas: Neil Allison - #IWMW2012 - @usabilityed
  • 22. Collaboration early on• We also began to prototype collaboratively• Sort of an agile pre-BRD stage – Moving into waterfall when we knew exactly what we were doing• Everyone has to sign off – Developer, graphic designer, training & support rep, user group rep, accessibility rep Neil Allison - #IWMW2012 - @usabilityed
  • 23. Another way to think about it Number Cost of of options making available changes Maximum benefitSpecification Development Deployment Neil Allison - #IWMW2012 - @usabilityed
  • 24. Neil Allison - #IWMW2012 - @usabilityed
  • 25. Iterative testing• Anytime, any place, anywhere… – We meet CMS users most days so we grab 5 minutes here and there• Nothing clever – Mixing screengrabs, sketches & imagination• Weekly meetings to run through findings Neil Allison - #IWMW2012 - @usabilityed
  • 26. All paper based Playing computerQuick resultssummary Writing not typing Neil Allison - #IWMW2012 - @usabilityed
  • 27. Top tips arising• Trial the prototype activities before arranging sessions with participants• Make sure the participants are representative of your target users – Or make allowances with your results• Talk through the full test with development team – before and after sessions – Looking at prototypes sometimes not enough• Prototyping resources: Neil Allison - #IWMW2012 - @usabilityed
  • 28. What has this achieved?• We always get what we’re expecting• No bugs to fix later• Everything either comes in under budget, or with bonus features – The developer’s suggestions are so much nearer to the mark too• A happier user group who feel involved• Real, measuable ROI – Published by Nielsen: Neil Allison - #IWMW2012 - @usabilityed
  • 29. Where is this leading?• We’re currently looking to the future of our CMS and the University website• The techniques we’ve found work so well on a small scale are ramping up• Our personas currently star in a suite of about 30 use cases identifying what we want in the next phase of the CMS Neil Allison - #IWMW2012 - @usabilityed
  • 30. Things I’ve tried #4Collaborative website design withpersonas, user testing & analytics Neil Allison - #IWMW2012 - @usabilityed
  • 31. Taking it out to the University• Some units find it very hard to define their objectives for the website• Fewer can be clear about what is driving their customers• Still fewer can share this effectively among content owners and stakeholders Neil Allison - #IWMW2012 - @usabilityed
  • 32. What is your website for? (A slide I roll out again and again…)• Quick test…• Write down the name of your most important target audience• List the top 3 things you want them to do on your website Neil Allison - #IWMW2012 - @usabilityed
  • 33. Prospective PG experience enhancement project• Personas – Developed collaboratively – Rooted in research data• User testing – Students playing persona roles• Analytics – Backing up the UT with big numbers• Prototyping – Communicating potential improvements – Testing to justify change Neil Allison - #IWMW2012 - @usabilityed
  • 34. What has this achieved?• Group of central content providers with a clearer vision and more defined responsibilities• Schools with greater consensus on target audiences – Managers more focused – can’t be all things to everyone – Frontline workers given a voice• Pilot schools site overhauls – About to review effects of project – Next step to promote case studies Neil Allison - #IWMW2012 - @usabilityed
  • 35. Things I’ve tried #5 Training & promotion Neil Allison - #IWMW2012 - @usabilityed
  • 36. Empowering the community• Doing UCD isn’t enough• Talking about UCD isn’t enough• Talking about what you’re doing is the key – Again and again and again… Neil Allison - #IWMW2012 - @usabilityed
  • 37. Training• Writing for the web – About 1300 attendees since 2007• Usability testing training – About 350 since 2008 (Impact survey:• Prototyping – Supporting introduction of Balsamiq to the University wiki service• Analytics – Getting 150+ with access to see beyond the ‘hits’ Neil Allison - #IWMW2012 - @usabilityed
  • 38. Prototyping for everyone• Balsamiq – Free to all UoE via our wiki service ( – Relatively cheap, big uptake• It’s a great tool, but there are others • Visio (great resources: or presentation software is enough for most • Has to be easy and quick to use • Has to be accessible to stakeholders Neil Allison - #IWMW2012 - @usabilityed
  • 39. Community• We have a web publishing community• We have a techie community• We have a marketing community• I want a user experience community – Currently working on it• I blog for the University community & for me – Link to the blog and exploration goes further – 50+ staff visitors most months, reading multiple articles and coming back for more Neil Allison - #IWMW2012 - @usabilityed
  • 40. Where has this got me?• Influence in my team’s projects – Processes embedded – Supportive boss & colleagues engaged• Some people turn to me – And they’re not always looking for a rubber stamp• Some people avoid me  Neil Allison - #IWMW2012 - @usabilityed
  • 41. So what have I learned? Neil Allison - #IWMW2012 - @usabilityed
  • 42. It’s a constant effort• Running usability tests is the easy bit• How can you: – Keep everyone on board? – Justify time & expense? – Report on progress regularly? – Prioritise and keep improving? Neil Allison - #IWMW2012 - @usabilityed
  • 43. Keeping everyone happy• Uncovering problems is not a sign of failure – Some stakeholders need regular reminders• Involve key people from the start – Agree key objectives – Work together on ways to measure – Personas are a good way to focus priorities• I don’t always use personas, but I never start without documented & signed off objectives – Get in touch if you’d like an example Neil Allison - #IWMW2012 - @usabilityed
  • 44. Why usability problems go unfixed• Steve Krug & Caroline Jarrett: Neil Allison - #IWMW2012 - @usabilityed
  • 45. Justifying the cost• Your website should save you money – Not be a drain on your resources• What are usability issues costing you: – Unnecessary or multiple enquiries? – Unnecessary print costs? – Lost or frustrated customers? – Excessive time on task?• Tie research focus to improving specifics Neil Allison - #IWMW2012 - @usabilityed
  • 46. Prioritising• When prioritising what to fix: – Classify severity of usability issue – How easy is it to fix?• Give attention to the critical usability issues, but don’t forget the ‘low hanging fruit’• David Travis’ prioritising flowchart: Neil Allison - #IWMW2012 - @usabilityed
  • 47. Reporting• Keep it light & • I like: high level – Videos & quotes carry disproportionate weight• Aim for regular sessions• Set targets for improvement Image:• Back up with other data where possible Neil Allison - #IWMW2012 - @usabilityed
  • 48. Employ multiple techniques• How many blind men are there round your elephant? Neil Allison - #IWMW2012 - @usabilityed
  • 49. Thank you Questions?How about you?Neil Allison - #IWMW2012 - @usabilityed