UX (user experience) has been a popular buzzword now for a while and its meaning is a hotly debated subject. I am going to try to give you my interpretation of what it means and then I will explain why it is not just relevant to your intranet project but why it is a vital consideration that should run through the core of your project.
What is UX and what is UX design?
UX is an acronym of user experience. It is usually attached to how a person feels when they are using and interacting with a system such as a website, application or intranet.
UX design is the practice of understanding and meeting your users true needs and objectives in the system you offer.
Why is UX important to you and your intranet project?
It is more commonly accepted that an organisations public facing website must have a good user experience to attract clients or to keep users using a service, However, it is an area that traditionally been overlooked when it comes to intranets.
Ensuring we consider the experience for a user is important because if we fulfill the needs of our users, then the result will be an intranet experience that is positive and intuitive. After all, intranets are often crucial to a business, so you really need to ensure you develop a successful solution – no pressure! There are other benefits that providing a good user experience on your intranet gives us, these include (among many others): time savings, better communication throughout the business, ease of access to resources, information and employee engagement.
What makes a great user experience?
A great user experience can be defined as meeting the user’s needs and desires. However, there are attributes that, combined, build a great user experience. Peter Morville defines these attributes using his “user experience honeycomb”. He explains that for there to be a meaningful and valuable user experience then your system must be:
Useful: The system needs to be useful and fulfill a need.
Usable: The system needs to be simple and easy to use.
Desirable: The Image, identity and design elements need to be visually pleasing to the user.
Findable: Information on the system needs to be findable and easy to navigate. If confronted with a problem, then the user should be able to find a solution, quickly.
Accessible: Your system must be accessible to all and designed so that those with disabilities can have the same experience as others.
Credible: Users must trust your system.
Where to start
People often make the mistake of being briefed in on a problem and then jumping to a solution right away. There are different methods of incorporating a user experience focused process into your project and there are a few listed below that I recommend you undertake, that should help you build a better understanding of your user.
Write a problem statement
A problem statement is a clear description of the problem that is created by the whole team, or at least agreed by the whole team. The aim of building this together is to centre and focus the team and to begin to create a vision for your solution moving forward. Your problem statement should describe the current situation, describe who the users and their needs are and finally outline what questions there are about the problem.
Once the team understands the problem each team member should define what assumptions they have at this stage. Assumptions are the best guess on what you each know today. Stating assumptions at this early stage helps give a common starting point. Just like we need to understand our users we also need to align the teams thoughts and well, assumptions!
One of the first processes you can undertake to understand your user’s needs, experiences, behaviours and goals is to build personas. A persona is a fictional character which is created based on research, the aim is that your personas represent your different users. A persona can include various sections; for user experience these can include demographics, tasks and behaviours, pain points and goals.
Creating needs statements
From your personas you can then create need statements. A needs statement have 3 components
- A user
- A need
- A goal
These 3 components are combined to create a template [a user] needs [need] to accomplish [goal].
For example, Jess an office administrator needs to find a phone number so that she can request help.
The aim of needs statements is to capture the true need of your user and their goal. Try asking “why” at the end of each needs statement, it may help pin point a deep routed need that you wouldn’t have initially found.
Incorporating consideration of user experience into your intranet project will give you and your team an understanding of the people who will be using your intranet and ultimately means you make their lives easier in getting stuff done and you may end up having happier employees, in the long run this will save you time and money.
I’ll conclude with a quote from Steve Jobs, who explained it best:
“How many people are going to be using the Macintosh? A million? No, more than that. In a few years, I bet five million people will be booting up their Macintosh's at least once a day. Well, let’s say you can save 10 seconds off of the boot time. Multiply that by five million users and that’s 50 million seconds, every single day. Over a year, that’s probably dozens of lifetimes. So if you make it boot ten seconds faster, you’ve saved a dozen lives.
That’s really worth it, don’t you think?”
– Steve Jobs, 1983