At Making Sense, we understand that it is crucial that not only the UX team takes responsibility: all teams should be involved and aligned with the needs of the actual system users, their priorities, their habits, their views, and their methods. Adopting this strategic approach, will result in good outcomes.
The first step is always a good discovery process: designing a good product without a thorough understanding of the business requirements, the user needs and behaviors, and the mechanisms to align and combine the two is impossible. The designer must be empathetic to deeply understand the working environment, the objectives, and the daily obstacles.
The importance of the environment
Observing the environment (both in person and remotely) often provides hints that would not otherwise be apparent and could change design decisions. For example, if the location is very noisy, it will not be convenient to use voice commands; if the person leaves his workspace 90% of the time, urgent notifications should not be received on his desktop but on a mobile app.
Among the items evaluated in the environment are the devices used, the connectivity available, and the degree of communication and interaction with other users. Similarly, it is necessary to analyze and consider the behavior of users who mainly telework (which is increasingly common).
Limiting research to what business leaders have to say, without observing the workflows of the product’s target users first-hand, can lead to solutions that are biased or disconnected from the way people perform their daily tasks. This may result in lower levels of engagement and adoption.
UX and architecture: teamwork
Product architecture plays a fundamental role and can never be disconnected from UX.
It requires a joint effort to ensure that the experience meets everything a user expects from a product, both the visible elements (that the tool is easy to use, fast, error-free, attractive, and accessible to different types of users) and the non-visible ones (that it is secure, widely available, works well, robust, connects to the suitable systems, can be adapted and updated quickly).
Different users may have different needs in relation to the same product. These needs can often be met by architecture and UX. In accounting software, for example, those in charge of processing expenses need a fast response, integration with multiple sources, and orderly and non-misleading access to heterogeneous data. In contrast, those who perform month-end reconciliation need the flexibility to create reports and efficient and straightforward handling of large volumes of data.
Everyone under the spotlight
Another critical aspect is to consider all potential users: the product must be accessible, attractive, and easy to understand and use for first-time users and experts, i.e., those who have been performing the task for years.
When redesigning an existing product, talking to experienced users is essential to understand shortcuts, workarounds, and behaviors which are different from the tool they use daily. The new tool should make their job easier, which is only possible if it addresses their work comprehensively.
Adopting a user-centric approach also implies knowing that needs may change as the project progresses. Therefore, it is advisable to always keep an active listening attitude, embrace change as soon as it occurs, and keep things simple so they can be quickly adapted or modified. For example, a change in legislation may require users to submit their report by a specific date and provide details later, which shifts the focus from accuracy to speed of execution.
Finally, communication sustained in a common language and away from technicalities is crucial in maintaining a balance between user expectations and the product they will receive.
In short, placing the user at the center of the development process is the best way to offer a great UX translated into business language. The result will ultimately be the successful adoption, use, and engagement with the tool.