First steps at establishing a user-centered design culture

When you read “self-starter” on a CV, that can mean a range of things. It could mean that you’re going to have to fulfil your job requirements from day 1, with little briefing. It could also imply that there’s not a lot of training involved, so you’re going to have to learn as you go (thank goodness for Google!).

For user experience designers, I read it to mean that there’s not a lot of UX process right now (or budget!), and you need to take control of it. So how can you do that?

Never forget who you’re designing for

Do a quick usability test

Your co-workers need to see the benefit of an increased user research budget. This is where free tools come in. You can get three usability tests free from Peek. There’s no segmentation or task setting, but what you do get is a very broad view (in the form of a video) from a user that you can share (in my case, in my company’s Confluence space).

I submitted a couple of these in my second week working with Wiggle, and by the fourth week, was getting comments from co-workers asking about segmentation and cost! Here, I was able to explain the limitations and the benefits of an increased budget.

Again — some people have to see it to believe in it.

Who are our users?

I recently had to improve upon a page design. Setting up my project on a Confluence page, I went from listing the Stakeholders, to the Requirements and then considered who we were designing this page for?

This is why last week, I was tweeting about User Personas. There are a few available templates, and even a web app to help make these.

Again, apart from my time (I think it took a morning), this is a free exercise, and the point of doing it is to start a conversation in and around your team on who your users are. Right now, I have about six personas, and that will grow once I understand more about our users.

What I want to achieve with personas is getting alignment and sharing the knowledge. Once I’ve got a complete set, I’ll check with Customer Services — as they have the day to day interaction with our customers. Once we have agreement, I can share with the rest of the business.

Doing something with the feedback

So we’re at a point where we have feedback from usability tests and we’ve started profiling our users — good stuff!

One important point to make is, it is all very well collecting feedback, but unless you do something with it, it’s a pointless exercise.

You could make these into issue tickets and work on them, but if you’re in a business like mine, it’s not that simple. There’s budgets, resources and projects determined by the business. Luckily in my case, a lot of feedback I’ve received can be included in existing projects. For anything that is not included in those, starting conversations is the best way to share feedback and develop next steps.

For example, I’ve had feedback from a first-time user wondering what Wiggle actually do! The homepage at time of testing had a lot of shoe promotions, so he thought Wiggle only sold shoes. After a few minutes browsing around, he understood the offering, but we have to remember that not everyone knows what your business does and sometimes bigger challenges need tackling. Go tackle them!

Changing culture is hard

The more time I spend in businesses, the more I understand how things work. Most things are done a certain way because they’ve always been done that way. Bringing new ideas and excitement is hard, but worthwhile. UX can’t be done in a silo and most of your time will be taken by sharing design thinking and influencing decision makers. Once you’ve got buy-in and you’ve shown your initial work, then you’re on the road to establishing a user-centered design culture.

We’re looking for a new UX designer. For more, see the Wiggle Jobs page.