User experience, or UX, is a popular field in the software industry. The goal of UX is 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 could benefit from using the same UX methods as our researchers to optimize their Collective sites for users.
Just as UX research hopes to reveal how users will use a company’s software, Collective admins are concerned with actions taken in their digital asset management (DAM) system and how their colleagues or clients are interacting with the site. A simple way to get a baseline on user engagement is to look at Widen Insights.
Metrics that help establish a baseline
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 can reveal how effectively people are using the Collective. It can also indicate site searchability.
Search method breakdown will help admins understand how 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 upfront 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 confirm your next steps. Here are a few tried-and-true methods to consider:
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 on a video call with users to understand how they work with the DAM system 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 pain points
- 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 analyzing will help ensure the results are relevant and implemented swiftly.
Guidelines for using UX methodologies
There are a few guidelines you will want to follow to start implementing change from your research.
Break it into manageable parts. You may have a lot of information at your fingertips, but it’s important to start small. Narrow your focus further to make the process 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 just release changes and expect them to work perfectly. It will be important to keep a close eye on the improvements for a predetermined period of time to ensure the solution is indeed working. Setting up an Insights dashboard that you can refer to regularly or creating a simple monthly alert to remind you to review the impact of the change, can help you measure your 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.
Ready, set, go!
You got this. The next time you notice areas of your DAM system that you want to improve, approach it as a research study. 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 in creating user-centric updates.
To try three classic UX research methods, check out our user engagement best practices and checklist.
Note: This article was originally published in December 2017 and has been updated to remain current.