Methods and Tools:
- Usability Testing
Elemental Technologies (NOW: AWS Elemental), a company that focuses on creating media streaming and streaming management products, had created streaming software that resonated with many customers, but had found themselves basing their front-end and back-end design on one-off conversations with clients about features they wanted in a product, and had found themselves racked up with a lot of features, no usage data, and a lot of conflicting conversations around who their users are and what they’re doing with the products.
I was taken on as the first user-focused employee at the company. I managed and created my own research methods to explore the current user experience at Elemental. I also decided to create my own communication deliverables that would help change the mindset of the company when speaking on who their users are and and how their products can shift to better fit their needs.
Researching the User Experience
I collaborated with two user-centered developers to help expand the knowledge and importance of user-focused design and development throughout the company.
I collected existing research on users and usability testing and interviewed users and customer-facing employees to learn about typical users, and where we might be able to emphasize user experience more in the company. I found out that although we had many clients with many different goals, they had something in common: their utilization of the UI depended on the size of the company, the skill-set of the person uploading and deciding on content, and what streaming, or management product is being utilized. A usage data tool was also in the works, which I lead research and design on, and with that, the company would be able to track what features were being used, and what once could be cut to better serve the users.
One of the biggest things I learned as a researcher is that you can’t just research something and throw it over a wall. You have to utilize your communication practices to convince designers, developers, product managers, and clients that your research is important and useful.
I knew that not only did I have to collect and examine weeks worth of interviews, usability data, and evaluations, but I also had to tell a story. I had to think, “How can I take common thoughts, hard numbers, and stacks of user flows into a usable and interesting tools for multiple employees?”
First, to fully flesh out the general user experience at Elemental, we decided that the UX team should create personas that can be referenced and used in other materials, such as experience maps, style guides, and much more.
I extracted data from interviews with our users and customer facing employees for these personas. To get a good start on who our customers were, I also read countless documentation on user behavior and customer needs to better understand how each customer differs across company size, type of media the company creates and outputs, and what type of product a customer is using.
After I created the personas, I utilized them to flesh out their experience before, during, and continuing use in three similar products. In creating the experience map, I wanted to display the difference between use from when a customer starts using the product, the methods they use to learn, and how they keep up with the company’s goals when using and maintaining the workflows that the products offer. Since the experience of the service differs from the type of people who use the product, whether that be media experts who set up and maintain workflows in the UI vs. developers who only use the product’s back-end. This was important to show so that developers, designers, and product leaders who speak from a specific experience can know the difference between certain experiences and skills and how that affects how they learn, create, and follow-up in the product.
I split up the experience map into three stages that can be fleshed out further in future iterations:
• Product On-boarding
• Workflow Creation
• Maintaining Workflows
I also tried to utilize visual design in the map to communicate memorable information, such as issues, differences in skill-sets, or specific tasks being done in the UI.
After creating everything, I presented by work to the heads of the company and many stakeholders who were making decisions around products that need knowledge on the current user experience. My poster and personas were also displayed in every conference room for reference during meetings and conversations about the users.
I found that I learned a lot about time management and individual UX research and how well a well-thought-out designed deliverable can impact and shift the mindset of people to make them more user-focused. In future projects, I was able to go into other research projects to create interesting deliverables, or just be able to rationalize my quantitative and qualitative data through different ways of getting developers and designers involved early, or creating compelling presentations that people will remember and look back on.