During the early part of 2018, my UX team at Emerald Publishing completed a round of usability tests with staff from our head office. The team completed twelve, scenario-based test sessions with colleagues from various departments across the business. This was the first round of testing for one of the company’s most important projects and proved to be a great success for a number of reasons.
Demonstrating Our Process and Achieving Buy-in
Emerald is in the early stages of its agile transformation and is slowly adopting User Experience as a bona fide function within the business. Over the past year or so, there have been a lot of changes in the ways we work. On this particular project, Product and User Experience are leading our effort to embed an agile approach within our development process.
This provided a great opportunity for my team to demonstrate the kinds of processes we employ for research and testing; show how much time testing takes; and exhibit the level of detail and quality of our outputs and the importance of this work in truly understanding users, identifying their painpoints, and addressing them by iterating on designs or creating new product features.
This demonstration of our UX processes has helped give our colleagues a clearer understanding of what we do and how we work. Testing has also convinced our colleagues of the value User Experience can bring throughout the product-development lifecycle.
A company-wide understanding and appreciation of the value that User Experience delivers—usability testing in particular—is highly important as our business embeds User Experience and agile in the company culture.
Refining Our Ways of Working
Despite its being in its infancy, my UX team is already involved in a number of different projects across the business. The team currently comprises three UX researchers and two UX designers. Our increasing involvement shows that the company recognizes the value and need for User Experience. However, before this project, we hadn’t yet had a chance to do any usability testing as a team. As it turned out, many of us were a little rusty when it came to organizing, moderating, and analyzing usability studies.
This was the perfect opportunity for us to shake off some of that rust, get our heads together, and plan and execute a usability-testing project within a relatively forgiving environment.
We came up with a test plan—including the scenario we were going to test against—recruited participants, scheduled the tests, set up the test environment, conducted the test sessions, analyzed the test artifacts, created the appropriate outputs for the client, and helped them to assimilate our findings into their product backlog.
Levels of expertise vary quite widely across the members of my team. Since we had not previously worked together, this usability study provided a good opportunity to find out how we worked together as a team and how we coped with the stress of an intensive two weeks of testing.
In the end, we were able to create an end-to-end, skeleton process for future usability testing, while shaking off the cobwebs and forming better working practices as a result.