Engineering Project Management June 11,  2021

Users involved in your projects’ processes make the difference

Sofía Acher   •  Communication Specialist   •  Linkedin
Mónica Maltzman   •  Project Manager   •  Linkedin

What is the most optimum way to carry your projects forward? We receive different types of projects, with varied characteristics and objectives. When it comes to UI/UX projects, our proposal to clients and the project’s approach has recently changed. This shift comes from learnings that our work experience with other clients left us, that did not only show but also validated the importance of a key factor in the success of our projects and your digital products in the market. Which one is this? Are you taking it fully into consideration in your products?

When UI/UX projects are carried out from a user experience focus, the methodology being used is recent and still in evolution. This approach impacts not only the way we work with clients but also the organizations’ internal dynamic. In this article we aim to approach the first area of impact; as this is an extensive topic, we will dedicate another article to the latter.

UI/UX has been a present topic for a long time, but it has recently gained presence over Project management and Development. As it is trending more and more nowadays, the request to carry out projects focusing on user experience sometimes comes directly from our clients — and the frequency of this request is growing — . Over time clients began to understand the benefit of having their digital products focused on simplifying and making life easier for users and therefore the necessity to get closer to clients and understand what they need. This is why clients contact us for UI/UX services. However, in general we apply our methodology to work directly with the client as they usually envision themselves as the voice for the user.

For this reason, when working on identifying the problem, the User Personas and their needs, it is really frequent having to rely on the clients’ vision of these or even to have this information already gathered and defined by them in advance. Therefore, that vision comes as a given and getting contact to actual user personas is already not an option because the time for it has passed or sometimes discouraged though asked. When we get to the instances in which we would like to approach users to obtain direct information from them, it is not that easy, even when working with clients that are more open to exploration and new ideas than others.

As an example, we will share an experience we have had. One of our clients had an idea for a product that did not exist in the market, it was a startup. They had done their research, defined the problem they were trying to solve and identified their final users. Then they came to us to work on a UI/UX project to develop this product. From the beginning, we worked together applying UX/UI methodology to better design the product. We arrived at the research stage, designing and iterating to better adjust the functionalities to the needs. However, we were not able to involve the final users into the process. The need was not understood or even seen since the client thought they already had that insight in the information gathered before.This resulted in a product that was closer to what can be easy-to-use for users because it was thought from the user experience perspective but it probably was not that close, in terms of product functionality, to what the users may be expecting because they were not involved.

As time passed, we got the opportunity to work with this client on new projects. We had our previous experience together that gave us a more trustworthy relationship and gave us internally more background on how to better handle methodology with them. We proposed to contact final users from early stages to gather more insights but early on, we could not. We worked with them in the designs, iterated and got feedback until we got to a point when the designs we were getting to did not seem to work right considering the good practices and what is expected from sites of that nature. That being so, we proposed to the client a usability test with real users, something that we had not used with them previously and explained the convenience as well as the advantages of doing so and the importance in this particular case that we were perceiving a big risk.

We got the approval to perform the test and this was a breaking point in the project, since the results we got from talking with real users allowed us to get to a design a lot different to where we were going and to get feedback that proved to be essential. It was deeply useful because we saw that everything that had been defined earlier was not as natural, usable, and as user-experience-oriented as the client had thought. Our methodology based on user experience allowed us to align Development with user experience principles. However, having this instance later in the process, added time to the Project that could have been avoided if we had had the chance to work with users from early stages. We need to learn from this experience that we must educate our clients on the importance of bringing users to the project, to understand them from early stages and how the vision the members of the organization might have from the users’ needs, while useful, is not enough for a complete UX/UI approach. Including final users was our added value in comparison to our previous experience with this client, we surpassed ourselves and we wish to keep working this way with future UI/UX projects.

However, what we could do with this client does not always happen while working with clients in Onetree: being able to explain to clients the benefits of doing discovery processes, or making usability testing processes such as this one sometimes generates resistance on the client’s side. They still do not visualize the advantages of doing that type of process and applying this methodology. Sharing our experiences with clients applying it and their consequent results — such as the one recently mentioned in which, if we had followed another path with Development, the site would have been far from what users needed and expected — is helpful for them to understand the importance of user involvement to ensure the products’ success.

In addition to this, we have been working on our side to achieve that all UI/UX projects are managed together by all the parts involved in the process, from early stages: UI/UX Design team; Development team; QA team, and to work in co-creation with clients to detect aspects as those stated in the example of our experience with the client. This way, we can work with them from the beginning to make the importance of the methodology we propose visible. This is one of the steps being followed in UI/UX, there are two being followed concerning this. The first one is realizing that the user is the center and for projects to be successful, digital products do not only have to be pretty and functional, but functionalities have to be guided by what the user needs. Even though this may seem obvious, it was not always that evident in traditional Development. The second step, to make this really happen, is to involve final users in the process. Sometimes organizations are afraid that the user may have a vision biased with aspects that the company does not conceive as positive, that do not apply to them, or that users are not innovative enough or capable of imagining the future of what the client aims to offer. This leads them to leave the user out of it. What they do not realize is that the purpose of Development is solving people’s problems, and even though there are several different ways of solving them, if we do not communicate with them, we may propose a solution to a problem that users are not actually facing, or in a way that is not the most optimal. We believe this is the path that should be taken by the client and by us to be accurate in our decisions and successful when delivering and launching digital products to the market.

Sofía Acher Communication Specialist   •  Linkedin
Mónica Maltzman Project Manager   •  Linkedin