How to #Design an #Online #National #Census

Most people don’t even know that an online census is designed they just think you take the paper form and put it online. Unfortunately it is simply not that easy, the interactive environments, activities and tools are fundamentally different between an offline experience and an online one. Also peoples expectations of a digital experience is higher than a real world experience and that goes back to the notion that “technology is here to help us” which we all know is not really true. Additionally there is a whole raft of legislation pertaining to human rights, ease of access and use for people with disabilities which must be considered before starting (which have always been impossible to add in a retrospective fashion, enterprise systems architects take note).

1.0 Designing an Online National Census – Understand the domain and the Target Audience

Team Structure

So when we started to design the National Census there was just two experience consultants, a technical BA, with a content author (or wordsmith) to join later, we also added someone to manage and conduct usability testing and a very savvy UI developer who actually understood Accessibility W3C and could build it in from the start. There were also a couple of PM’s who did administration, a different time maybe, but we hardly saw them.

Understanding the Domain

Well never having done one before we asked the experts in Canada and Australia and had a number of insightful calls, were sent a load of useful document and we scavenged a great deal more from online sources. We then went through the huge requirements document and found the three pages that related to who would be using the Census by Country, Language, Household Type, and the then three different forms they would be getting due to localised questions. Based upon this we created twenty eight persona groups. We then had to decide who was the Target Audience from the persona groups and found it was not clear who should have piority in the design. So we went back to the client (you’d have thought that the strategy and vision for doing the project would be in the requirements, it was not) and asked the killer question

“Why are you doing this project?”

They looked a bit confused at being asked it but answered after we got to the head of the NGO. The answer was simple they needed more data and more high quality data (quantity and quality) than they were getting from the paper form in order to support public policy and planning of services and resources. We had discovered the problem, but we needed to categorise it better than that to find a solution. So we asked for completion data from the last two census to understand a pattern of behaviours, a nice fun bit of data mining. I was able to dig out my OLAP skills and use Business Objects XI to find the issue. From that we found a group of severely under represented users with a downward trend.

Out Target Audience became men 18 to 24 who don’t fill out the census.

The National Census experience was then designed for the least represented group of users in the completion data from the previous census. And what about everyone else, I hear you say. Well people who fill out the census, fill out the census and if we can make the experience better for the people least likely to do the census we enable everyone else at the same time.

2.0 Designing an Online National Census – Test the Design with the Target Audience

Testing Early and Often

Before the prototype was even complete we tested the login experience with the target audience, the results were a disaster. The problem was limitations set by the planned architecture and SLA’s, a ten minute login session, a one second page load with 60,000 users. Men 18 to 24 were not happy to be so limited, so we tested again, without the planned architecture and SLA’s and got some really useful result that enabled the design team to change the architecture SLA’s.

First Findings and How they changed the Architecture

So what did we find, first we tested in context, your meant to be able to do this in your home, with all the freedom of movement that allows.

When presented with the login, men 18 to 24 tended to shout abuse at the screen, they might get through it but then find they needed documents they did to have or were overwhelmed with the time commitment they perceived it would take to complete it. A common response was to head to the kitchen and make a cup of tea and a piece of toast. We timed this reaction “Login to Tea & Toast back to Census” was around eighteen minutes, from this we proposed a login timeout of twenty four minutes.

We found that men 18 to 24 would spend a max time of 30 minutes doing the form, regardless of government threats to fine them if they did not complete it. So the final form was designed to be completed in 35 minutes for a single person in their own home. The sense of accomplishment and beating the government did inspire five more minutes engagement.

Finally as part of this user testing, finding out that men 18 to 24 would not retry to login unless incentivised by having clear instructions, enabled the design team to get graceful deferral added to the architecture of the project.

3.0 Designing an Online National Census – Usability is a guideline not a set of rules

The Design

The actual design broke several usability guidelines but enabled a user to rapidly complete the forms. They could jump questions and comeback later, provided that the dynamic component of their form was already built. In this way we gave people a sense of accomplishment rather than usual government experience of feeling foolish by failing to do things right when nothing has been explained.

The Results

For a Government IT project it was astounding, there was no negative press response, they system went live as planned, worked and was easy to use. I understand the NGO was overwhelmed by the amount and quality of the final data set.

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How to Hire a Head of User Experience

Head of anything is evocative of responsibility, power and knowledge, but what does Head of User Experience (UX) really mean and how do you know if your getting one?

User experience in its value and effectiveness is geographical and sector based, that is to say it means different things to different people by country, by business and by route to the role (in-house HR or agency service). With this many variants how can anyone be sure that they have hired a Head of User Experience?

One of my colleagues in a recent contract described User Experience as turning the turd (poo) into a piece of glitter covered turd. If this is the expectation it’s not really surprising if the wrong people get senior roles, then the incompetent lead.

What I want to show is some basic indicators about hiring a Head of User Experience;

Please don’t be offended if it’s what you do for a living (recruitment or employment agent), glean what you can and discard anything you don’t need. 🙂

Who, What, When, Where, Why.

Who do they know and how do they deal with them?

They must know users; understand user drivers and perspective for every project just as they must know the client stakeholders and leaders with the environment that they are working in. The level of knowledge will vary, as much of the information is second hand from Lead and Senior designers or researchers. But the Head of UX will have both their own knowledgebase and be able to elicit extra business and strategic information not visible to other ux practitioners.

Can they let their team work or do they micro-manage? It’s really important when working with a new (to the Head of UX) team that the teams strengths are encouraged and supported. UX is one of those skill sets where diversity of experience is critical in evolving multiple parallel project solutions within a team of peers. Giving the team rights over the group output is critical to maintain quality and to challenge narrow thinking. How they manage, mentor and train people is key to the future of the team? How will they deal with internal applicants for the job they have just got? Conflict is a given in any location where people are, what are their stratagies for conflict? Watch out for people with an ‘I problem’ if it’s all about them they cannot see other people. Get references from colleagues as well as employers, you can find them as connections on Linkedin.

What do they do for a living, how do they describe themselves, their ux work and their colleagues?

How do they describe what they do for a living, a couple of years ago recruitment agencies where told by someone that ux people only focus on the user and that should be their response when ask who they focus their efforts on. Wrong, ux is a service that is based on creating a meeting point between people, organisations/businesses > providers and products/services > content. Any Head of User Experience who does not know this is not a Head of User Experience, it’s a business. It’s a great business that gives an audience access to the content they are looking for, makes it easy to interact with and enables communication with the content provider, but it’s still a business. Watch out for divas they upset clients and stakeholders alike a Head of UX is a savvy business person and knows which things to fight for and which things to mitigate as a risk.

Do they have a process? Can they describe the process and where it came from, how it has evolved through their experiences and which projects made the most change or option routes for it.

When did they acquire their skills?

People involved in user experience who have the kind of experience to be a Head of User Experience come from diverse backgrounds. A colleague of mine started in the US DoD (in the 1980’s) designing graphic manuals for troop training and another NATO information systems. Find out what else they have done and how they evaluate their experiences, because their experience underwrites their other skills and gives them a breadth of understanding about various sectors that may not be on their CV’s. For instance I have had lots of experience setting up business banking accounts, some really lousy (maybe for another post), some grossly inefficient (some excuses of epic proportions) and others utterly fabulous. Ask them to describe an experience, evaluate it and provide a solution to any problem they have encountered. For people like us it’s easy, for example I’ve had a fix for the supermarket self checkout bottleneck for years, it’s obvious.

User Experience in its current form is a fairly recent naming when I meet practitioners with experience before 2005 described as user experience, I know there is something wrong depending on where in the world they say they got their experience.

Where and with whom do they associate?

Confirming the professional level of a person is now quite easy with Linkedin, connect with them and have a look at their connections, if they don’t know any senior people outside of ux they are not senior themselves. It’s a cultural thing we tend to mix with people at or above our own level when thinking professionally, occasionally people come on the radar where they a worth following to see where their career goes. Yes, Linkedin again, if you don’t use it, you won’t know what your missing.

Why do they think they fit?

Based upon their research, they should know enough about the role, the people, the ethos and the clients or stakeholders to be able to pitch a reason why they fit in.

Don’t ask a Head of User Experience;

Don’t ask for a portfolio asks for a presentation. Presentation ability is required when working the board of directors, client stakeholders and when conducting pitches with new business or internal advocacy. Look for the narrative, a really good ux presentation has a story that it’s telling ‘What is UX?’, ‘How can UX help my business?’, ‘Project name UX concepts’, ‘Project name user stories’ etc. Also look for substance over style, the presentation must be meaningful and hint at critical thinking and creative talent, really flashy presentations make me concerned when they lack any real information, interpretation of data or concepts that have a provable pathway from researched insights.

Finally get references

I mean get real references, as if your job depended upon it, because it and your future reputation do. User Experience is still a small field, when someone with little or no experience gets a Head of User Experience role the first question we all ask is what was the agency that did this? When I am really unsure of an applicant (due diligence is critical in client services) I use a private detective, just give them the CV and ask for verification.

 

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#User #Experience #UX #Process

Process thinking in User Experience (UX)

The first step in user experience needs to be the recognition that every problem is different and will require a separate solution. Because if they are not, then every business is the same which they are clearly not.

In effect there is no quick fix or single standard method but rather there is an armoury of methods each with associated risks, limitations and plus points. Anyone offering a standardise method without flexibility should be asked to leave as they about to cost you a fortune.

Karl Smith User Experience Research Testing 200711

Offering user experience services is a bit like dungeons and dragons in that you role your 12 sided dice and hope the business does not throw some trolls at you.

I have worked with very well known agencies who are unable to get their clients to understand the importance of user experience – research, testing and solutions as they focus on the solutions component without proper understanding that it is only one part of a three stage process. The reason that clients give for not paying for research and testing is the assumption that user experience people a such great experts that they can do their job in total isolation from the business and the end users.Maybe ‘Super User Experience Person’ does exist but I doubt it, most importantly users change over time, in what they want and mean by their actions.

Some process steps for user experience

This process list is based on personal experience and is open to reduction or extension based upon just how savvy the client is and how much they really want to be successful rather than just being seen to be doing something.

Understand the problem (concurrent with 2.)

  1. Do research
  2. Analyse research
  3. Get validation of what has been discovered by Target Users and Stakeholders

Define the audience (actors) this is the detail level the Target Users

  1. Create personas a tool used by the entire project team BA’s, PM’s and Developers to be acquainted with who will use the systemResearch persona types, activities, attitudes etc.
  2. Define critical tasks Research tasks ecosystem and review engagement strategy
  3. Define key pathways Main pathway
  4. Alternative pathways
  5. Failure pathways

Compose concepts

  1. Create buy-in with Stakeholders

Set the tone of voice

  1. Type of language
  2. Level of formality
  3. Use of jargon, brand identity or subject specific words
  4. Content style
  5. Meta standards
  6. Content object model
  7. SEO if web based

Wireframes

  1. Selection of type & method
  2. Wireframe Concepts
  3. User testing of Wireframe Concepts
  4. Wireframe sketches

Client sign off

Wireframe prototypes

  1. User testing of Wireframe prototypes

Client review

Wireframe & Visual design integration (prior to this point the use of high fidelity images are counter productive)

Functional specification & analytics specification

  1. Instruct development
  2. Usability Test plan
  3. Accessibility Test plan
  4. Functional & Content Test plan

Testing with participant screening document

  1. Review testing results
  2. Modify labels, interactions & structure in line with findings

Done, until …..

Check interactions based upon analytics and more user testing

Offer enhancements to clients

Some people will look at this list and think it takes years, depending on the project complexity it can take days or weeks for simple web or mobile applications and only months on complex software systems.

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Usability and Accessibility Legislation

International projects should be constructed in consideration of the most stringent standards this is expected to be those pertaining to the USA, but also to include ISO9241 guidelines;

Australia

Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission – http://www.hreoc.gov.au/

The Act provides key legal standards which inform their Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_act/dda1992264).

Their disability standards and guidelines are hosted at http://www.hreoc.gov.au/disability_rights/standards/standards.html.

Canada

Canadian Human Rights Act and the Employment Equity Act 1976-1977 (http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/H-6/relprov.html )

Treasury board of Canada Secretariat

The Equity and Diversity Directorate of the Public Service Commission of Canada (PSC) –  http://commissiondelafonctionpubliqueducanada.com/research/world_ps/canada_e.htm

Europe

The Euro Accessibility Consortium, launched in Paris on April 28th 2003 is intended to foster European co-operation toward a harmonised methodology for evaluating the accessibility of Web sites (see http://www.ddm.gouv.fr/dossiers_thematiques/documents/cisi2003f.html). This initiative is a joint undertaking by 23 organisations from all over Europe and the W3C/WAI (http://www.euroaccessibility.org/).

An overview of European legislation, not specific to the Internet, is available at Horizontal European Activities in Rehabilitation Technology (HEART) http://www.w3.org/WAI/EO/heart.html.

New Zealand

New Zealand is served by the New Zealand Disability strategy administered by the Office for Disability issues (http://www.odi.govt.nz/nzds/).

United Kingdom

In the UK, the legislative initiatives are aligned with the Disability Discrimination Act and equal opportunities directives.

Special Educational Needs and Disability Act (2001)http://www.dcs-gb.net/part4dda.html

United States of America

In the United States there is strong governmental support that has led to about 11 pieces of disability legislation. The key legislation, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA, 1990) which applies to all walks of life was effected in 1992 during the George Bush (Snr) administration.

Report on application of ADA –  http://www.rit.edu/~easi/law/weblaw1.htm

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User centered design to ISO 13407

User centered design (UCD) is a project approach that puts the intended users (audience) of a product or piece of technology at the centre of its research, design and development. It does this by talking directly to the user at key points in the project to make sure the product or piece of technology will deliver upon their perceived requirements and align the client with their market.

The following elements operate in a cycle being repeated until the project’s objectives have been attained. This makes it critical that the participants in these methods accurately reflect the profile of actual consumers.

Simple user centered design project lifecycle visualization
Simple user centered design project lifecycle visualization

ISO 13407 outlines four essential activities in a user centered design project:

Requirements gathering – Understanding and specifying the context of use
Requirements specification – Specifying the user, organisational, technological and standards requirements
Design – Producing concepts, architectures, visual designs and prototypes
Evaluation – Carrying out user based assessment of the product or technology

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