I meant to write this a while back after finishing the first phase of a project with Macmillan Cancer Support. As we’re about to kick off the next phase of the project now is a good a time as any to write about it.
First some background… I’m a UX designer. I work for a creative agency in the City of London called Instinctif. Recently we’ve been focusing on Intranet design for some of our corporate clients. We have a great technical partner, Concentra, who provide Sharepoint development services for commercial Intranets.
I’ve worked on many web projects from corporate websites and investor centres to e-commerce platforms, campaign sites and brochures. Working on Intranets is a fresh challenge. Its also a low hanging fruit as most corporate intranets are a legacy of bad design, poor decision making and off-the-shelf systems combined with custom modifications that make them almost impossible to manage as they get older. Most organisations don’t want to touch them but after a while they realise they need to improve them. Their entire operation can come grinding to a halt due to bad user experiences, inefficient use of information and poor process management.
Macmillan gave a us a gift that few if any corporate clients give us – TIME. I’m not talking about more time to get the work done but time from their own staff and management to take part in a series of workshops to properly scope the project. We were able to go from architecture, through to features, we even ran a design studio, content production and planning workshops, agile project management role play. I was even able to give a little primer on how gamification could help their organisation.
This was a rare opportunity to work closely with Macmillan and really get them to buy in to the idea not only that re-designing their intranet would be good but that they would have a direct input into how it would function and what the experience would be like. In short we were able to start a digital project the right way. So what did we do that we didn’t normally get to do?
- Business Requirements
- Users Personas
- Audiences and Goals
- User stories
- Experience and Journey Mapping
- Contextual interviews
- Touchpoint analysis
- Core Content
- Card sorting
- Tree testing
- Task testing
- Metadata and Governance
- Sample content
- Design Studio
- Iterative design exercise
- Agile Role Play
Looks like a lot of the standard stuff you would do as UX researcher/consultant and while that’s true it’s rare to be able to do any of these exercises in any sort of depth in an agency environment.
Ultimately none of this is useful if it doesn’t lead to a project but unlike most discovery phases which are typically shoe-horned into a pitch or cursory scoping meetings at the beginning of the project it was crucial to do this to win the confidence of the Macmillan team. At every point during the discovery phase we had to justify every minute spent with Macmillan staff members whose valuable time could be spent helping the people the charity was setup to help.
I’ve been in situations where I’ve had to justify the additional spend on UX to a board of usually senior male business leaders. What typically happens is they pay lip service to the idea of user centred design then ‘business needs’ take precedence over user needs and in some cases this translates to an alpha male takeover of the initial discovery process where certain opinions and research is disregarded in favour of a genius design approach. C’est la vie the only thing you can do in that situation is plough on regardless!
Luckily for Instinctif and Concentra we’ll be moving on to the second phase with a comprehensive feature backlog, prioritised and risk assessed along with a clear set of design requirements and user research to back up our decisions. All that remains is to deliver on our promise… no easy task but as long as we continue to collaborate closely with the wonderful team at Macmillan the build should hopefully be as fun and challenging as the research that went into it.
In another post or series of posts I’ll go into more depth about the content of the workshops and how we ran them.