This is the usability report presented to senior stakeholders. We conducted research in 4 countries including China, The Czech Republic, India, and the US. I led the testing in China and US testing sessions.
- – Usability report on community beta prototype – [10 MB]
These are a series of sample designs for the community. The first is the base one that was used to launch the community.
My Role: UX Researcher & UI Designer
By the time I joined this project in late 2008 it had already been decided that a community for electronic engineers was needed by an agency that was hired to come up with innovations for a next generation ecommerce experience. However, it was still unclear what the main purpose this community was to serve. I was involved in the following activities before and after the launch of the site; user interviews, usability testing, wireframing, and visual design.
- 3 UX architects
- 1 Business Analyst
- 1 Project manager
- Stakeholders included: Director of UX, Director of Community, Manager of Community Operations, the CMO, and the CEO
Activities and deliverables
- User Interviews
- Usability Testing
- Visual Design
As noted, while it was already decided that we were going to create a web site to host an electronic engineering community, it was still unknown what the purpose of the community would be and what needs it would serve. It was often referred to internally as the “facebook” for engineers, but there was the acknowledgement that we were not going to copy facebook’s features or functionality.
I had just joined the UX team and the very first activity I participated in was a set of interviews with potential users for the community. Originally the external agency was to conduct all of the interviews and had already done the planning for the research, but with the expansion of the internal team with 2 UXAs including myself, it was decided that we could take over the research activity.
The team split into two groups with one heading over to the UK and the other heading to Dallas TX. I was with the group that went to Dallas. Using an interview script provided by the agency we met with users either in their office or onsite at our branch sales office. We asked them about their work and their proclivity for using forums and other social media. We audio recorded the sessions in order to share them with the agency which was to still do the final analysis.
After we returned we attempted to upload the audio files to a server where the agency consultants could listen to them. However, they decided to do a simple debrief session with the other UXA and myself rather than listen to hours of digital audio. This was done over a conference call as they were based in the UK.
Main findings from the user interviews
The users we met were all existing customers of our distribution business and were either senior design engineers or managers. They found the idea of a community to serve the needs of engineers either interesting or unlikely to be useful. Even for those who thought it interesting, it was clear that they did not see it as something that they were likely to visit or really need. One aspect that they did see potential for was a library of technical documents. As engineers, one of the hardest part of their jobs is getting enough authoritative information to be confident that they had the right part for a design.
Global Usability Test
Despite the findings that came out of the user interviews in the US, the stakeholders decided to press ahead as it was felt that we could use the community as a means to build a technical content library that users would find valuable and might also socialize around online. A software platform had already been selected to build the community upon and so we planned to do some usability testing globally to see if the platform would be usable across regions.
One of the other UXAs on the team built a prototype in iRise and we planned the usability testing to take place in 3 regions; the US, the UK, and China. I had the opportunity to do both the US and China testing. For the testing in China we worked with our sales branch in Shanghai to use a conference room in their facility and to recruit users. As I do not speak fluent Mandarin, we also retained an interpreter. I also worked with the interpreter to also translate the prototype which I was able to modify the night before the test sessions would begin.
The original agency was tasked with coming up with a visual design that would incorporate a new corporate branding style developed for the community. We went through several rounds where the agency concepts just did not have the clean and uncluttered look that the key stakeholders where looking for in the design. However, I also feel part of the problem was related to the agency’s lack of understanding our corporate culture and the need to satisfy multiple regional stakeholders. I put together several hi-fidelity concepts that were presented to the stakeholders along with several other designs from internal regional design team members. One of my designs was chosen for the launch.
One of the biggest challenges when working with a global team is communication. It’s one thing when just the development team is remote, but an entirely different level of communication is needed when members of the immediate work team including, the BAs, other UXAs, and even the stakeholders are on different continents. When the timezones are disparate enough, there is limited amount of time that you can have working sessions. It can also be hard to convey meaning when you do not see the face or body of the person you are meeting with. And lastly there are subtle differences of meaning between British and American English. I have learned to navigate these by asking clarification questions and leveraging online tools for collaboration.