When we do user research with businesses, we often hear the same things over and over again, regardless of which design, platform or web page we’re testing.
Here are a few things that our customers consistently tell us:
1. Get to the point
Business owners are time-poor. They don’t want to waste time reading through a lot of content. We need to get to the point quickly or we’ll lose them.
They like clear, simple language and bullet points. They hate long paragraphs and jargon.
When it comes to our digital services, we tend to focus a lot of how things work technically and what they look like – which are both important – but so much of the feedback we get from customers is about the words that we use. Words matter. We need to choose them carefully.
“There are a lot of words there and my time is really precious.”
“I don’t have the time to read the whole page.”
“I’m dyslexic – that wall of words is off putting. I’d prefer to see it broken down a wee bit.”
Part of me wonders if I should say this, but…I love it when user research goes wrong.
Sometimes you go into user research with a hypothesis and the research validates it. That’s great. That’s easy. But what I really love is when you go in with a hypothesis and the research totally flips it on its head. That’s when you learn the most.
I recently did some user research on a document that we’re using to support our new approach to helping companies. It outlines what their project is, what support Scottish Enterprise and our partners can offer them, and how we plan to measure outcomes. We went in wanting to know what companies thought about the format of the document and if there was anything about it that didn’t work for them. We hypothesized that:
Some of the language wasn’t customer-focused enough, and people would be put off by it
The second page of the document that lists the support that we offer would be the section that businesses would refer to the most
They would prefer a digital version of the document over a paper version
As part of the recent Green Jobs funding call, the project team asked if the service design team could help with level two system support. This meant helping with technical issues that customers were having if the enquiry team couldn’t resolve them.
I didn’t want to do it at first. I’m not really that technical, and I was afraid that I wouldn’t know how to help. Even though our service adoption team gave us training and a knowledge bank that we could use, I still didn’t feel confident on my first shift.
To my surprise, it was actually an interesting – and eye-opening – experience. Here’s what I learned:
The way that we support businesses is changing. As part of these changes, we’re putting a bigger emphasis on ensuring that the companies that we support meet, or are working towards, Fair Work and Net Zero principles.
What are Fair Work and Net Zero?
Fair work is work that offers all individuals an effective voice, opportunity, security, fulfilment and respect:
Effective voice: employers create a safe environment where dialogue and challenges are dealt with constructively, and where employee views are sought out, listened to and can make a difference
Opportunity: fair opportunity allows people to access and progress in work and employment
Security: people have reasonable security and stability of employment, income and work
Fulfilment: people have access to fulfilling work
Respect: people are treated respectfully, whatever their role and status
Businesses that commit to Fair Work must sign up to these principles:
Appropriate channels for effective voice and employee engagement, such as trade union recognition
Investment in workforce development
Actions to tackle the gender pay gap and create a more diverse and inclusive workplace
No inappropriate use of zero-hours contracts
Paying the Real Living Wage (currently £9.50 in Scotland)
I started my career at Scottish Enterprise as a content designer. Actually, we were called ‘web content developers’ back then, before we really embraced the idea that there is more to content than just words on a web page. Then I joined the service design team as a service designer, and over the past few months, I’ve been doing a dual role as a service designer and user researcher.
The FindBusinessSupport.gov.scot (FBS) website had to adapt quickly when the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic hit to ensure that businesses could access up-to-date information about what they needed to do and what support they could get.
Because new funds were constantly being offered, and guidance kept changing as we moved in and out of lockdown, we just added new content when changes were announced by the Scottish Government. We never had time to step back and think about the complete customer journey, and the coronavirus advice page had become very long and complex.
The Scottish Government asked us to make it easier for businesses to access information about coronavirus funding and support on the FBS website, and they gave us two weeks to do it.
The title of this post is misleading. It implies that I’m going to provide you with tips on doing all these things well simultaneously. I’m not. It isn’t possible. What I am going to do is share how I have been balancing my job as a service designer with homeschooling my 5-year-old and chasing after my 2-year-old during this most recent lockdown.
Like many parents, I’ve been faced with an almost impossible task – do your job while also giving your children an education. If your working day is seven hours, and a school day is six hours, and a parenting day is around 12 hours, that’s 25 hours of work to fit within 24 hours. And that doesn’t include eating, sleeping, cooking, housework and this ‘self-care’ stuff that everyone is so big on these days.
According to our website, “Scottish Enterprise is Scotland’s national economic development agency. We’re committed to growing the Scottish economy for the benefit of all, helping create more quality jobs and a brighter future for every region.”
We recently launched the new GlobalScot website, and I was scrolling through it when I noticed something odd. On some of the case studies and articles, the formatting was off. There were no spaces between paragraphs or styling on the sub-headers.
I had a chat with my content design colleague and one of our developers. Initially we thought there was a technical issue that was causing the content to display incorrectly, but then we found a few case studies without spacing issues. That’s when we realised it wasn’t a technical issue – it was a training one.