Dilbert on usability (http://dilbert.com/strip/2001-04-14)

Last year I had the opportunity of working with a government organisation at the other side of the world to redesign their current portal. I was a great experience and a first time for me in designing something for a whole city/region.

We did several workshops with different groups of employees where users, needs, journeys, pain points and posible solutions were discussed.

Before the trip I spent some time researching about government sites, usability and accessibility. Two of the most useful discoveries was the brilliant gov.uk site and their Design principles, and the US Web Standards. Both of them inspired me how to drive the workshops.

Based on all the findings I created a little framework and divided my workshops in 3 phases:

  1. Users and needs
  2. Data and behaviours
  3. Accessibility and usability

This really helped me to focus and drive all the workshops with a clear goal and having all the participants engaged and active during the sessions.

The idea is that at the end of all the workshops I will have all the necessary to start mocking up and experimenting the with the first designs.

User and needs

This is where every design should start. The users needs. The needs of the people who is going to use the service.

In the case of a government organisation we can find a big number of users (since it’s for everyone) but we can always group them in order to simplify and know where to focus.

Here we can identify the different personas that would use the system, for example, we can have a retired person, a young and married person and an internal employee. Each of them will have different needs and they will use the service in a completely different way.

At this point can happen that the customer already have all this information from previous designs (and maybe they have to be revisited). Or, most of the times, can happen that they need to be created from scratch. In this case, interviews, feedback or even customer support, for example, will be extremely useful.

This exploration helps to start defining in where to focus.

Data and behaviours

After knowing who are our users and what are their needs, we need to know what are they currently doing and how are they doing it. We can learn a lot from the real world by looking at how existing services are used.

Having access to analytics will give us this information in a great way. We could explore the most visited pages, at what time, entry and drop off points, etc.

If we try to match this data with the current system and trying to recreate the journey, we could discover very interesting details like the potential reason behind of a high number of visits on a specific page: a button placed in a wrong place.

Photo by Negative Space (https://unsplash.com/photos/t5BvA-Q_m_Y)

We will find a lot of times that there are no analytics, for whatever the reasons. In this case, we will need to use the “analogue data” that mainly the employees and also customers can provide to us. This is mainly from customer support, user feedback, emails received, etc. which at this point probably we already got it from the first workshop.

At this point I normally start to take a look the current IA and together with the analytics, come up with an improved version (if it’s needed).

Accessibility and usability

In a world where we are designing for everyone, we can’t forget anyone. There are needs to cover, not audiences to reach.

In order to meet this goal we have to design and build an accessible and usable service. That means that everything should be as complete, legible and readable as possible.

This is very related with the brand style guide, the visual design direction and with the UI elements design.

UI elements from U.S. Web Design Standards

At this point is necessary to mention the need of a style guide (preferable alive) that provides a point of reference for future development of new functionality or even an extension of the service.

Everyone’s design

Accessible and usable design is good design. And we should design services that everyone can use it without troubles.

What I have described here is my way of starting for a customer. This can be done in several different ways, but I believe user needs and data should be the first areas to take a look, so they will define and focus the future decisions.

Rafael Quesada, an UX Designer at Backbase, Amsterdam |www.rafaquesada.com

Senior Product Designer Rabobank

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