User experience, or UX, is a popular field in the software industry as its practitioners hope to create interfaces that are simple, intuitive, and engaging so products are successful sooner. At Widen, we have a UX team with designers, researchers, and content strategists focused on improving how users interact with our software, from searching to uploading to configuring the site. As our research has progressed, we’ve realized that many Widen Collective® site admins have questions and problems that could be informed by the same UX methods our researchers are using.
Just as UX research hopes to reveal insight into how users will use a company’s software, Collective admins are concerned about user engagement and how their colleagues or clients are interacting with the site.
We define DAM user engagement as the actions taken in the DAM system and experiences garnered from that usage. A simple way to get a baseline of what user engagement is like in the form of numbers starts with Widen Insights. Below are a few metrics you might monitor.
Daily logins show how often the site is being used and if people are logging in consistently. This helps admins evaluate the awareness of the DAM system and decisions made in configuring their site.
Daily downloads gives a look at how effectively people are using the DAM. It can also indicate searchability, to a degree.
Search method breakdown will help admins understand what methods users are searching for assets within the system.
In addition to numbers from Insights, admins are already gathering data — from phone calls, emails, conversations, talking with people one-on-one — and translating that into site adjustments. UX research methods can be adapted to gather data more efficiently and dig deeper into the reasons why users are having the experience they report.
The great news about UX research is that it doesn’t have to be time consuming or complicated. “Research” in this context does not involve documenting independent and dependent variables or writing a 50-page report. This research can and should adapt to how much bandwidth one has to investigate an issue and the level of thoroughness that is necessary to inform decisions. When these techniques are followed, changes that are well-informed by research will ultimately save someone time they might spend later on if their initial best guess does not prove effective. In other words, instead of using a “trial and error” approach, spending time up front to verify assumptions will ultimately save time in the future.
So, where does one start if you want to investigate a problem like a UX researcher?
Steps to investigating a problem like a UX researcher
Step 1. Figure out what you want to learn.
Forget how you’re going to learn it. Don’t start writing a survey or drafting emails. Define what your high-risk assumptions are and what knowledge will help you address an issue. Doing this step well prevents surface-level research, or gathering seemingly relevant data that ultimately doesn’t help you make decisions.
Step 2. Define your research pool.
Who do you need to learn from? Try to keep this group as small as possible to keep your sanity (more people = more time sifting through data) and to not over-saturate your users with requests for feedback.
Step 3. Pick your research direction.
Choose the best method to gather actionable data. Consider the amount of time you can invest, which type of feedback is most relevant (observations vs. responses to questions), and the level of thoroughness you need to assure you of your next steps. Here are a few tried-and-true methods to consider:
Survey: Send a list of questions to users to learn trends from their responses. Online surveys are quick and easy to create and distribute. Check out Google Forms, SurveyMonkey, or Typeform.
Use this when:
- You would like specific questions answered
- You need feedback quickly
- You know your audience fairly well
User interviews: Talk face-to-face or over the phone with users to understand how they work and what can be improved. With these conversations, you’ll often gain valuable context far beyond what you set out to learn.
Use this when:
- You want to better understand individuals’ attitudes, goals, workflows, and pains
- You need inspiration for new opportunities or positioning for your site
Card sort: Ask users to sort topics written on cards to better understand how they think about and group content. This exercise can help improve labels for categories or navigation and improve organizational structure overall.
Use this when:
- You would like to reorganize your site’s content to improve findability
- You’re adding new users or content and you want to understand how they best fit into the site’s current structure
Step 4. Set milestones and go!
Setting a timeframe for your research is important to make sure it doesn’t drag on or fall off your to-do list. Divvying up dedicated time for preparing materials, executing, and analysis will help ensure the results are relevant and implemented swiftly.
These four steps encompass the foundation of how to conduct research that reveals more about your users and their motivations.
Guidelines for using UX methodologies
There are a few guidelines you will want to live by to start implementing change from your research.
Break into manageable parts: You may have a lot of info at your hands, but it’s important to start small. Narrow your focus further to something manageable.
Implement the change and communicate: Communicate via your preferred communication channel: email, system message on your DAM dashboard, or via your company messaging app.
Monitor progress: We don’t want to release these changes and expect them to work perfectly. It will be important to keep a closer eye on the improvements for a set period of time you predetermine to ensure the solution is indeed working. Setting up an Insights dashboard or creating a simple reminder a month after implementing the change to follow up with a user to see how it’s going can help you measure progress.
Follow up: When the project is complete, share your findings with relevant stakeholders, leadership, and the users you’re helping.
Document your process: Document any new processes that are now concrete in governance documentation. You’ll then have it available for future reference.
You got this. The next time you notice areas of your DAM system that you want to improve, approach it as a research subject. Employ the previous steps inspired by UX research methods to dive deeper into your users’ experience and successfully implement change.
One interesting (if not a little frustrating) fact about the UX of any product is it will always be an evolving puzzle. Even if you reach a point where you have ideal levels of user engagement, factors are always changing — new users, content, and priorities. Therefore, you will have plenty of chances to exercise these new research skills and gain more confidence creating user-centric updates.