No Dogs Allowed

Case Study: Putting the User Back into UX

Imagine you’ve planned to go to the beach for the week and take your water loving dog. You’ve found the perfect spots to go. You’ve looked online and found the best place to stay, the best places to eat, and the dog toys are packed.

Just as you get to the entrance to the beach, you see a little sign “No Dogs Allowed”. Your heart sinks. How did you not know this? You did all of the necessary research wouldn’t this be something that you should have known?

That is exactly what happened with a recent client of ours. Not the dog part – they were actually wanting us to build them a mobile application. A quick two-day trip going into the field and interviewing the actual end users proved that was not going to work out.

Welcome to Weatherford, Texas

For those of you unfamiliar, Weatherford Texas is about 60 miles due west of Dallas.

It had been determined that I would be riding around with ‘Mike’ one of the FSTs for the Weatherford region.

‘Mike’ was responsible for about a dozen or so ‘facilities’ across the North Texas landscape.

I met Mike at 6am at the Weatherford office. We made introductions and had a short meeting between ourselves, the stakeholders and our tech lead who had all come along for the trip. Then we set out.

Riding along in the truck, Mike was able to go into detail how his day typically unfolded.

As the day progressed each site one after another had something in common beyond Mike’s scheduled trip.

While standing outside of our third visit someone asked Mike.

“How many of these places that you visit have one of those?”

They were pointing to a sign, clearly posted at the entrance to the site:

  • NO Cell Phones
  • NO Cameras
  • NO Electronic Devices
  • NO Video Recording
  • Steel toe shoes, hard hats and fire retardant clothing must be worn at all times.

In total, we visited 6 sites that day roughly traveling a hundred or so miles and each had a similar sign.

It was fairly clear from this trip that a mobile application was not going to work for the FSTs.

Unique Challenges of Enterprise UX

Too often it seems that there’s no shortage of approaches in UX that help us forget what the ‘U’ in UX stands for. These ‘tools’ can and do help, but they can and will never replace just talking to people and listening.

I made the move into Enterprise UX a few years back primarily for one reason, the challenge. In Enterprise UX, we are faced with challenges that are often as unique as each client. Challenges like building a mobile application for Field Service Techs.

It is because of these challenges that some of the ‘tricks-of-the-trade’ don’t necessarily work.

Guerrilla UX

I spoke a few years back at Houston Tech Fest about guerrilla UX techniques. Each technique is fairly effective for getting user feedback in a hurry and on a budget.

These techniques included:

Sketchboards — Sketchboards allow you to focus on getting a lot of ideas out fast. They make designing an activity that everyone can participate in. They also make design tangible by getting everyone to stand up and interact with the sketch board and one another.

Coffee Time — Coffee time is exactly what it sounds like. This is a very informal method of gathering user feedback. A coffee shop is an ideal place to recruit random users to quickly test prototypes and just get general feedback about an interface.

Online Resources–Services like usabilityhub.com allow various types of anonymous user testing that can be immensely useful when access to users is difficult or not possible.

Each of these can be and still are quite helpful within Enterprise UX however, they won't necessarily identify some of the ‘hidden’ challenges that come with the territory.

Lessons Learned

There are things in our lives that we see on a daily basis that become standards. That sign was something standard in Mike’s life that he didn’t take for granted, but was just a part of his day to day reality that none of us could have been aware of before that trip to Weatherford.

No amount of phone calls, video conferences or user interviews would have uncovered that reality. Sure we could have discussed Mike’s workflow. How he was capturing and logging data. We could have iterated on wireframes, developed a solid application that satisfied the stakeholders that at the end, was not usable by Mike and his fellow FSTs.

This was the type of unique challenge that comes around fairly often in Enterprise UX. This was the type of unique challenge that can only be discovered and overcome by actually getting out from behind the screen or phone and going and talking to your users.

There is so much more to user experience beyond the pixels on the screen that we have to account for.

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