Image showing a visualisation of the kick off event of the SwissICT professional group "User Experience".

UX in the entire ICT industry: the SwissICT professional group "User Experience"

04.03.14

What’s the definition of “User Experience”? Why is UX indispensable? How can it be realised at a company? The SwissICT professional group “UX” aims to answer such questions.

Professional Group User Experience: Create awareness for UX

The first event of the new SwissICT professional group “User Experience”, founded at the end of 2013, took place on January 28 of the new year. User Experience was evidently the topic talked about at the kick off event: What is actually meant by this loosely used term? Why is a good User Experience nowadays indispensable for digital products? How can we create a better understanding of UX in the industry, and how can it be put in practise at a company? The first event of the new SwissICT professional group was well visited and offered many interesting thoughts and approaches.

Philipp Murkowsky briefly presented the new professional group and explained the necessity for a SwissICT group which is dedicated to the topic User Experience. Especially in the software industry, usability and User Experience are often neglected. The fact that software is hardly ever seen as an “experience” is what ultimately lead Philipp to initiate a SwissICT professional group which aims to raise the awareness of User Experience in the entire ICT branch. Other than existing groups such as Swiss UPA, SIGCHI or SI, the new professional group doesn’t address professionals, but instead aims to reach people in management positions: the clients and users, in the end.

Marcel Kessler: Definition and meaning of UX

Following this, Marcel Kessler, Head of UX at Netcetera and member of the new SwissICT professional group, talked about the what, how, and why of User Experience. What does User Experience actually mean? It’s the observation, viewing, usage, experience, or to put it short: the entire look and feel of the product. The new professional group understands User Experience as the “perceptions and reactions of a person resulting from the use of a digital application” - so we explicitly refer to digital products only.

Nowadays, User Experience is indispensable for the success of a digital product. We can no longer present users with an over-crowded screen, even if a most powerful product is hidden behind all of it. A bad experience will discourage if not scare off users, whereas a good experience will encourage them to choose the same product again – stripped to the basics, it’s as simple as that.

The way to a good User Experience goes round in circles: Iteration is the key word. Through constant refinement, the product is being evaluated, rethought, changed, tested, evaluated again, … Tools such as personas, sketching, different types of prototypes or mockups stand at our disposal. Thus, complicated experiences can be devised, sketched out, adapted or changed. The big plus is that cost and time efforts resulting of changes are at this stage still low compared to changes on the finished product, so that an iterative process can take place.

Raphael Indergand: Introduction of User Experience at Migros – an example

Using a practical example, Raphael demonstrated the success and fail factors of realising UX at a company. Good User Experience already starts with the recruitment of the team in charge: Most recommendable is a mix of experienced internal and new external team members, so that a good knowledge exchange can happen. The necessary know-how should then be built up systematically, for instance by collecting and documenting the methods used in a wiki.

Generally, UX always starts simultaneously with the start of the project. Once set into motion, an iterative production process follows, where ideas and concepts can be visualised quickly and errors corrected immediately. Personas are a very helpful tool. Not only are they important for defining the target audience, they can also influence the internal and external communication positively. Furthermore, user testings are essential: thus, 90% of all problems can be identified and if you include stakeholders in the testings, for instance by letting them observe users, they are at the same time an ideal communication tool to sensitise stakeholders for UX.

At best, each step of the entire process should be evaluated, so that veering off course can be prevented. Be it an expert review, a “UX health check” based on ISO criteria or a user survey, there are different options which ought to be used to quantify usability. Standardisations, for instance in the form of interaction design patterns, are recommendable as well, as is the development of a good communication concept to enable and further the interdisciplinary collaboration of employees.

However, you ought to keep in mind that the culture of a company, especially of a larger enterprise, cannot be changed in a trice – it might well take three to five years. You should avoid trying to stick stubbornly to the UCD (user-centred design) circle and not expect everything to go exactly according to plan. Often, a compromise is necessary. Also, it is important not to ascribe success or failure to the UCD process only, as in the end, it’s still the people behind it who are the decisive factor. Quick answers are also looked for in vain: User Experience is a flexible process which does not offer an instant solution, but which comes into being iteratively.

A successful start

The first event of the professional group User Experience was a huge success – the seats were booked out quickly, which proves that there is a great interest in the topic “User Experience” in the industry. The entire event was well-organised and well-compiled, so that it served as a worthy kick off of the group. We look forward to further activities and ventures of the SwissICT professional group User Experience!