I was on the train, on my way to Copenhagen and UX intensive a four day seminar hosted by Adaptive Path. Looking forward to this week I was also contemplating the past year and the projects we’ve been working on. I recently finished a project at a customer service organization at a large company. The objective was to see if the agents (employees) helping customers could benefit from having a search platform. Would the search engine help the users in finding the right content to help their customers?
Our point was off course that it would, but it was up to us to prove it. And we did. The usages tests showed results better than I would have dared to hope for.
- All users found it to be easier to search for information than browsing for it.
- Searching helped the users not only in finding information faster, but finding information they didn’t know where to find or didn’t even know existed.
- All users preferred using the search functionality instead of navigation for information.
- The search functionality helped new employees learn the information they needed to know in order to help the customers, hence they were productive faster.Less time was spent asking for help from colleagues and support since users found the information they needed by searching for it.
These results are all very positive, but the most overwhelming thing for me in this project was the level of engagement from the users. They really enjoyed being a part of the evaluations, bringing feedback to the project team. They felt that they were a part of the process and this made them very positive to the change this project meant.
Change is often a hard thing in development projects. Even if the change is better for the end users of the system, the change in itself can still be problematic making people hostile to the idea, even though it is improving their situation. Involving users not only helps in creating a good product, but also in creating a good spirit around the project. I have experienced this in other projects as well. By setting up reference groups for the development process we have not only managed to get good feedback to the project but have also created a buzz about what’s happening. People are volunteering for being participants in our reference groups. This buzz spreads and creates a positive feeling about the change the project is bringing. Instead of dreading the users are welcoming the change. It’s user research at its best.
So the next time you are asking yourself why you should involve users in your project and not only business stakeholders – think about how not only the end product, but the project and the process as a whole, could benefit from this.