In this introduction to user experience design, Hamilton Jones, Digital Editor at Macmillan, explains what UX is, why it’s important and how it works.
Digital Editor Hamilton Jones unravels the mystery of what user testing involves, and how Macmillan uses it to improve experiences of our products and services.
If you follow any of our social media channels at Macmillan, you may have noticed that we’re often looking for people to come and take part in user testing. We think of user testing as a great way to help us to improve the experience of our products and services, but what does it really mean? This piece aims to unravel the mystery of what user testing involves, what it can and can’t test and why we do it.
What does user testing involve?
User testing (often referred to as usability testing) refers to evaluating the effectiveness of a product or service through observation. In order for us to carry out user testing, we must engage with participants that represent our user base, plan tasks that will effectively test our products, and analyse our findings.
In practice, this involves participants trying to complete specific tasks, under controlled conditions, while we watch, listen and record qualitative and quantitative data about their experience. During the session, users are encouraged to think aloud by talking through their thought processes and decisions. This enables us to make notes on and discuss the user’s journey more clearly, helping to identify any usability issues raised.
After user testing is carried out, we are able to collate the data and work out what changes we need to make to improve future users’ experiences.
What can and can’t it test?
User testing can test how well people are able use our products or services for their intended purpose. This could include websites, micro-sites and apps, and can test interface and content. User testing is just one of the ways that helps us to understand our user’s needs and create holistic user-focused products and services. At Macmillan we also carry out surveys, monitor analytics, gather feedback, visit users in their environments and much more.
User testing does not focus on the user’s opinion, instead it tests their ability to complete a set task and whether this journey is good. Importantly this does not reflect the user’s abilities with digital platforms, but whether or not our products and services are user friendly enough for them to be able to complete the tasks.
Why do we do it?
User testing offers us direct input on how real people use our digital platforms, the issues they face and the changes we can make to ensure they have the best possible journey. It is vital in helping us to understand how people use and interact with our digital products and services. This is predominantly interactions with our website, but user testing can help us understand users’ interactions with any of our digital touchpoints.
We rely on all of these approaches to try to constantly improve our services for people affected by cancer. We often ask for people affected by cancer to get involved, to tell us what’s important to them, what challenges they might have and how we can improve their experience. Ultimately, it’s to make our digital products and services as helpful and supportive as possible for everyone who needs them.
Priscilla McClay from our online community team recently blogged about how we’re collaborating with the services teams to deliver some of our services digitally. This post originally appeared on Together We’re Better. You can follow Priscilla on Twitter at @millionmonkeys.
The Macmillan Online Community is a huge source of support to people affected by cancer. Although we’re part of the digital team, you could say that the site is one of Macmillan’s services, just like our helpline and information centres. So it’s really important that we work closely with services staff.
Macmillan has lots of experts working in services – including nurses, benefits advisers, financial guides, helpline and information centre staff, and editors who work on our booklets and information materials. They’re all very experienced at supporting people face-to-face, on the phone, by email or in printed materials.
We believe digital should become business as usual for these teams – just one more channel that they can use to reach people. With so many of our audience using both our own community and social media sites, it’s about making our services available where people already are. Here are some of the ways we’re working on integrating with services.
Two or three times a month, nurses or benefits advisers from the helpline join us for a live webchat in the Online Community chatroom. At least once a month, we also hold a similar chat on Facebook, and our helpline nurses are also available to help answer queries that come in via Facebook.
We publish a transcript of the chat afterwards on our blog – these reach thousands of people every month, and the majority of people find them through search engines.
Services staff can have input into the Community News Blog by writing guest posts or providing expertise to help me write blog posts.
Some other staff also have their own separate blogs, for example the Cancer Information Development team blog, which they use to promote our information in booklets and on the website. With the right support, they’ve now reached the point where they schedule and write their own regular posts largely independent of us.
For the most part, services teams don’t currently have much of a presence on the Online Community forums, but this is something we’d like to increase.
We’ve been testing out an account for our financial guidance team – they search the site for posts about financial issues and post a response where appropriate.
Image from Talentcove.com