By Tobias Buchmann
We are spending more and more time in front of software products, especially web based ones. A joint report of the Software & Information Industry Association and OpexEngine found 150% growth among top Software as a Service (SaaS) providers in 2014, and a similarly big increase of 100% the year before. Products like Cint’s buying and selling platform are increasingly becoming central to our workflow and productivity.
So where does User Experience fit in? This can be difficult to establish, as UX is a relatively new profession which is intertwined with different disciplines of design. The Nielsen Norman Group, a pioneer in usability and user experience, defines UX like this:
“«User experience» encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services and its products.”
… Which shows that UX can apply to pretty much any aspect and any department of a company.
For us at Cint, the role of UX is to continuously improve the experience of using our platform. To do this, a deep and dynamic understanding of our end-users is needed.
At Cint’s product development division we aspire to include all users, internal and external, into the evolutionary process of our software. But while for us it’s easy to understand how our company can benefit from this cooperation between users and product development, for our customers and partners this is not as obvious.
To make it clearer we need to look at products not as something static but as an “organism” that takes shape and develops over time. This way it becomes clear how cooperation between who develops the software and who uses it benefits the customer, since the results will be more tailored and better suited to the customer’s use cases.
Think about it: “if you optimize the UX on a series of screens so that what was once a 5 minute task is now a 2.5 minute task, then you’ve increased a person’s productivity by 100%. That’s huge.”
Which customers and partners should be involved in usability testing?
It’s important to understand that the ones who are making the decision to use our systems are not necessarily the ones who end up using them. While the decision makers are the ones who can best judge the value of our platforms for their business, they are not likely to be the ones who interact with them on a daily basis. In market research we are well aware of the influence of biases on study results. This is no different for software and platform development. The only way to minimize bias is to involve the end users as early and often as possible.
When I approach users for usability tests I often face insecurity. It might be because people feel I am there to supervise their work, or because they are afraid to make mistakes – the largely unspoken truth is: many people feel intimidated by software. The good news is: involving users in the development and testing process empowers them as soon as they begin to feel like a co-creator. Joint testing between customers and producers is also a great opportunity to slip in feedback here and there to raise issues that otherwise might have come up on our radar much later, when fixing them would be a much bigger headache.
This is why we are working hard to connect with our user base more often and more efficiently. The benefits are a higher quality feedback loop, a more efficient iteration process, and (we hope!) software that is a joy to use. And teaming up and improving things together is, in any case, a great experience – not only for our users.