Day 1 of Lavacon 2011
Designing a UCD-Based Online and Mobile User Experience
As the Online Services Manager at Security Service Federal Credit Union, Jay Tkachuk oversaw the creation of an entirely revamped company website, for both traditional online as well as mobile use, using a UCD (user-centered design) approach.
Effective user-centered design begins with the emotional context. You must satisfy the emotional needs of the user. But effective design also includes a rational context in terms of the sales cycle. I found that Jay was able to focus both on the qualitative and quantitative thinking that is required to build a complex website that serves its users. With UCD, you focus on the user’s needs from the start, and you obtain user feedback throughout the development cycle, and thus you build the product correctly from the start. The benefits of UCD:
- You identify the right process early.
- You reduce the risk from significant design issues arising.
- You minimize redevelopment costs. If you identify a problem early in the development cycle, it is much cheaper to fix than later on.
Jay is a witty speaker who gave us some great tips on navigating the politics of causing significant change within a relatively conservative environment. I actually found these tips to be even more useful than the discussion of UCD, good as that was too. In order for such a large-scale project to succeed, you must have an executive sponsor. Without an enthusiastic, high-level sponsor, you will not have the resources and tools you need to succeed. Jay was able to find such a sponsor, and because of that was able to hire a well-known firm to do the initial market research that indicated the ways in which the original website could be improved. Jay discussed the importance of a stakeholder brainstorming session early in the process. One practical tip: Jay found that by keeping these stakeholders up through the night, he was able to break through the usual distractions and make them come to terms with the task. The IT folks also must be involved with the project from the start.
Jay used a variety of prototyping and usability testing methods to develop the website. User-centered design can be used both with waterfall and Agile methodologies, and Jay provided a high-level overview in each case. Like Jay, I have found that Agile methodologies have the potential to shunt UCD aside, but he provided suggestions about how to overcome this problem by ensuring the vision, strategy, and design framework are in place.