Speaking to end users can sometimes be challenging — there are often legal hurdles to overcome, tracking down the 'right' users is always difficult and sometimes clients can be quite wary of an external party speaking directly to their customers.
However, at 383 we feel that without speaking directly to end users, clients are actually posing the question “What does 383 think my users want?” rather than working to understand exactly why their users utilise their service. This will ultimately result in a solution tailored to our studio views rather than users actual needs.
We place great focus and energy on speaking directly to end users and work hard to overcome the logistical barriers to get to the right people, no matter where they are located or the role they perform.
Recently, we worked with two very different clients — Harveys, the popular furnishing retailer with 150 stores across the UK, and Lafarge Tarmac, the country’s largest solutions provider for the building industry. Harveys brief was to define the UX of its future online offering (not yet live) and with Lafarge Tarmac, we were tasked with curating a completely new intranet experience for its entire 3000+ employee base.
For Harveys, we spent a lot of time on the ground in Harveys retail stores around the UK, working to understand why customers had made their final purchase in store and how their online experience influenced their purchasing. We initially found that the barrier to purchase for a major item such as a new sofa or dining set was actually quite high and users were visiting stores to touch, feel, sit on and play with their potential new purchases.
In addition, we found that customers create micro-social groups around new purchases - often in closed circles. It was therefore key that the online experience supported this and led customers to a local store to complete their purchase. By delivering an experience that allows content to be easily shared and enables a user to contextually imagine an item within their home, we are confident we have created an experience uniquely tailored to Harveys customer base.
Lafarge Tarmac took the 383 UX team to completely new territory — literally onto newly formed earth with a number of site visits to quarries and cement factories around the UK.
From speaking directly to a wide range of employees, from plant workers right through to quarry managers and office workers, we quickly recognised the need for the Larfarge Tarmac intranet content to create a centre of internal focus and instil a sense of community across the employee base rather than acting as a standard process repository.
Factoring in the challenges of extremely remote user access, sometimes in quarries and pits far from civilisation, we were ultimately led to a solution that degrades gracefully to ensure we delivered the same great experience to all users, regardless of their connection speed and device type. This has been well received, and we are currently working on a follow up release to deliver further features and content with the Lafarge Tarmac comms teams.
The design solutions for Harveys and Lafarge Tarmac were ultimately very different, with different areas of focus and content delivery to their users. However, at the heart of both experiences is a strong understanding of exactly why users visit their sites, their inherent behaviours and how content can fulfil their needs and expectations within a great user experience.
This can only be delivered through engaging directly, openly and honestly with end users, with key understandings and needs being translated to design solutions within our Design and Make process, which is core to the UX process here at 383.