UX knows no bounds

Humans love taxonomies; we love to group things and put them into neat little boxes with easy-to-understand labels.

“User Experience” is one such label; the term was created to give a name to group of disciplines (in my experience, to do with designing and building websites) that doesn’t sit comfortably under any other name.

But nothing stands still for very long – some things change, some things cease to be, new things are born. Although I think the general meaning of “UX” remains the same, the disciplines within it have changed and continue to do so, especially now that we have to consider lots of different interfaces and devices.

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That’s very clever but I’ve got someone else’s piss on my shoes

Marylebone station toilets

We are based in the sticks, in a lovely little Warwickshire town called Leamington Spa, but much of our work is done with clients who are based in London.

That’s no great issue for us, Chiltern Railways run a service every 30 minutes that takes about an hour to get to Marylebone station, and getting around London from there is really easy. In fact, in some cases we can get in and around London quicker than people who actually live in London.

If you’ve ever passed through Marylebone station, you’ll know it’s quite pleasant. It’s bustling but not too busy, with just six platforms. It’s always clean and it’s quite nice to look at (Victorian gothic architecture, I’d say). It also famously appears as one of the stations on a Monopoly board. But, if you’ve passed through recently, you’ll have noticed the toilet situation has been a bit of a debacle (stay with me, this is about UX, I promise).

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Lean UX in practice

Lean UX is nothing new. Smashing Magazine were writing about it as far back as 2011 as can be seen in “Lean UX: Getting Out Of The Deliverables Business”. But the questions still remain: What is it , how do we do it and does it deliver results?

Is it just another buzzword?

Isn’t it often the case in the digital industry that as soon as we get accustomed to a term, someone invents a new one? It’s true, there are already a plethora of terms for User Experience that more or less cover the same subjects - UX, CX, UE, UI, IA, UCD and UID to name but a few wonderful acronyms.

It could be argued that the term “Lean UX” is another way of saying the same thing but that doesn’t make the principles behind it any less valuable. In fact, I think lean UX is essential for any business looking to step away from bloated specifications and over-inflated budgets, and move to a more nimble, iterative approach to solving their digital challenges.

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Severn Trent Water

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Severn Trent Water provides water and waste services to over 8 million domestic and 210,000 commercial customers spread across the Midlands, Wales and Gloucestershire. They have bold ambitions for their digital relationship with their customers. They want to:

  • Make it simple for customers to self-service their accounts and report or track incidents
  • Create goodwill between customer and STW in the communities they serve
  • Show their customers they care by engaging in an open and frank dialogue
  • Continually demonstrate that they provide a reliable service and great value for money.

They know these ambitions cannot be achieved overnight so they looked for someone to help them develop a digital strategy.

In collaboration with Bpi, a Midlands-based digital agency, we conducted extensive customer research and consulted at length with key people at STW and their agencies and got into some serious head-scratching.  Through our joint effort and hard work we grew to understand STW’s specific business challenges and learned how best to overcome them.

The resulting three year strategic plan supported the STW business vision, but also set out in clear achievable tactics how they could digitally deliver this to their customers.

Bpi and your mum have produced a three year programme that is already helping STW develop a market-leading digital offering that includes:

  • A successful strategy for managing customer enquiries via social media sites like Facebook and Twitter
  • A refreshed and responsive customer-facing website
  • A segregated PLC website for shareholders and other corporate audiences
  • An interactive incident map that has drastically reduced the pressure on their call centre teams
  • An digital programme that plays an integral part in how STW do business.

And we have done all this in a a way that is achievable within their business.

Visit www.stwater.co.uk

Pearson Education

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Pearson is the world’s leading education company. From pre-school to further education and professional certification, their curriculum materials, multimedia learning tools and testing programmes help to educate millions of people worldwide.

In early 2012 Pearson approached us because they needed a specialist UX consultancy to help them plan the best possible user experience for myBTEC, an online toolkit to streamline BTEC planning, delivery and assessment.

We worked closely with internal stakeholders to determine how myBTEC should work and we developed a fully interactive prototype to demonstrate how users should interact with it.

The myBTEC project team have constantly referred to the prototype throughout the production process and our work has played a pivotal role in the successful delivery of the first phase of the project.

Since its launch, myBTEC has received positive feedback from many teachers who are confident it will become an integral part of their working lives and will allow them to spend more time with their learners.

Our work continues on myBTEC; we have held a series of workshops with teachers and other departments within Pearson to understand how we can expand and improve on the good work we have delivered so far, and we will support the project team in delivering the next phases of the project.

Beyond myBTEC, we have demonstrated to Pearson that good UX adds value to their business and we have been involved in a number of other projects for other departments and projects within the organisation.

Visit http://www.edexcel.com/btec/mybtec/

Homeserve

Homeserve

Homeserve are a FTSE 250 company; they provide home emergency insurance cover and domestic repairs to many of Britain’s homes. They responded to over 700,000 call-outs in 2012 for UK customers.

Homeserve have a solid in-house web design and development team who manage their website from their head office in

Walsall, West Midlands. They approached your mum because they needed someone to help them test some of their ideas for improving the website.

We worked with their web team to develop a testing plan that suited their needs, we recruited relevant test users on their behalf and we ran test sessions from our usability lab, in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire.

We recorded user interaction during the test sessions via Techsmith Morae and many Homeserve employees from a wide range of departments observed the sessions, first hand, via our purpose-built observation room.

After the sessions, we delivered a comprehensive report with video evidence of our observations and recommendations for improving the intended functionality for the Homeserve website. This report has been well-received within the business and will help to deliver a better user experience and improve sales conversions.

Visit www.homeserve.com

Imperial War Museum

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The Imperial War Museum has a wide and varied audience, many technical systems and a plethora of digital channels. So when they started to create a common online strategy for handling everything, they needed someone to share the headache.

Using our tried and tested project methodology we were able to identify the most important online objectives and create an interactive prototype that demonstrated how these objectives should be met online.

What we delivered has allowed IWM to focus their attention on only designing and building what is absolutely essential to their organisation and their audience.

Visit http://www.iwm.org.uk

Looking for a usability testing lab in the Midlands?

Midlands-based usability testing

your mum offers full website and mobile application usability testing in the Midlands:

  1. Consultation and planning for user testing
  2. Test user recruitment
  3. Management and facilitation of user testing
  4. Usability test labs in Leamington Spa and Birmingham
  5. Observation rooms with one way mirrors and breakout rooms
  6. Interaction recording and reporting with Techsmith Morae
  7. Video playback in observation and breakout rooms
  8. In-house catering for test users and observers
  9. Web streaming so clients can watch usability testing remotely

Contact enquiries@yourmumux.co.uk if you want to know more.

It’s all very exciting!

Bloomsbury publishing user testing

Bloomsbury Publishing

Bloomsbury Publishing has a web team with plenty of ideas but they needed unbiased opinions from real users about how to improve the online buying process on their websites.

We provided them with a comprehensive user testing programme:

  1. We met with Bloomsbury to explain our plan for user testing and to give them the opportunity to tell us about their sites, their audience and their ambitions for the future
  2. We profiled the users to be involved in testing, created scripts that explained how we would test the buying process, and recruited test users via our specialist test user recruitment partner
  3. We tested the live sites and recorded on-screen interaction and commentary, and we produced a comprehensive report of our findings with prioritised recommendations for improvements to key features, functionality and content
  4. We took the priority recommendations from our initial report and created fully interactive prototypes. These prototypes were used extensively during a second round of testing sessions
  5. We produced a comprehensive report of our findings and a final interactive prototype that demonstrated the improvements to features, functionality and content.

From our recommendations Bloomsbury Publishing were able improve the user journeys through their online shop and increase sales.

Visit http://www.bloomsbury.com

UX is dead, long live Iterative UX!

At your mum, we have recently seen a big shift in the way we help our clients. There has been a conscious move away from “The big fix” where we develop comprehensive site maps and a vast array of page templates. We are more frequently asked to help address usability in bite-size chunks, one feature at a time.

And this isn’t unique to our consultancy. If you read blogs and press coverage on UX you will soon learn that many other UX-focussed businesses have seen the same trend.

Here’s what we’ve seen and why we think it’s a great time to be involved in UX…

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