To get best results you need to take all your project team with you.
Sometimes the most difficult part of the research process can be getting full buy-in from the project team. This can be especially true when the team have strong opinions on what needs to be done and the research is contradicting this. This can lead to conflict and the validity of the research being questioned. However, there are ways to bring the project team with you and get their buy-in and support at every stage of a project. Let’s explore these.
Applying for a job seems simple enough, right? Set out your own expectations on a job and employer, find something that meets your expectation and apply! However, in the 6 months I have spent with the service design team at Scottish Enterprise (pretty new right!) I have learned that very few things are as simple as we say or think.
Following several queries and concerns relating to our Current vacancies page on Scottish-enterprise.com, the team kicked off a project to research, understand and act on the needs of our customers (potential applicants) and colleagues (those involved in recruitment).
I wanted to find out if, and to what extent, Scottish businesses are purpose led. As part of this process we wanted to explore businesses’ attitudes and actions towards Net Zero and Fair work initiatives
As a user researcher working at Scottish Enterprise, I joined with my colleagues in strategy to explore this in more depth and to provide insight to help shape the organisation’s approach going forward
Working with the strategy team was a really positive and enjoyable experience. We worked very closely together to clarify the objectives and desired outcomes of the project and the strategy team were involved at every stage.
Companies and consumers both have a part to play to create more sustainable economies which help people to flourish.
As an organisation we are committed to do more testing with people with accessibility needs. This will ensure that our services can be easily accessed by everyone and to meet our legal obligations as a public sector organisation. We aim to recruit participants with accessibility needs in every round of research that we do to ensure that accessibility is considered at every stage of the project.
We tested extensively the prototype for the Green jobs grant which was launched in the summer of 2021.
We had a number of aims for this research:
To test the application journey with users who have a range of accessibility needs and to find what the challenges were for them in our journey
To get clarity on what areas worked well
We wanted to discover if different needs give conflicting priorities
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.
On Wednesday 9th November, our Export Service Design team packed up our post-its, pens and whiteboards and pitched up for the day at the Get Connected 2016 event at the Radisson Blue Hotel, Glasgow.
282 delegates registered for the free event. In between attending one-to-one sessions with advisers or one of the 9 seminars that took place throughout the day, the footfall to our Export Service Design stand was non-stop and a great opportunity for the team to launch the new ExportSavvy eLearning tool and showcase our latest service developments with new and existing Scottish exporters.
Launching ExportSavvy eLearning
It’s our job as an Export Service Design team to talk to and listen to our customers. Feedback told us that our customers wanted more flexibility to suit different learning styles. Now, more than ever, individuals and companies are turning to eLearning courses and online training events to achieve their personal and professional goals (just look at the explosion and uptake of so-called “MOOC”s – Massive Open Online Courses).
Our customers told us that access to training and development tools is invaluable to their export success. But in this fast-paced business world, time is always precious and we recognised not every business can afford the time away from their core business to attend classroom training and seminars.
Reading Time: 5minutesOn Friday 6 November the Digital First Service Design team packed up post-its, whiteboards, sharpie pens and blue tac from our Paisley offices and set up shop at the UKTI Explore Export event in Edinburgh.
We’ve been busy over the last few months, developing and launching the new Export Health Check.
In September we launched our first version of the tool on the SE website. Based on results of customer testing on Version 1, we made changes to the design and how the content is displayed on both desktop and mobile versions.
So, it was time to give Version 2 a thorough road test and get real-time feedback from exactly the customers that we built the tool for. The Explore Export event gave us the opportunity to get in front of more than 200 of those customers in one hit.
Getting to know and understand our customers is fundamental to my role as Export Product Owner. It’s my job to represent their voice in all the digital export services we develop.
Reading Time: 3minutesIn the 1930s, the German physicist Erwin Schrodinger proposed a thought experiment.
I’ll spare you the detail, as it was an experiment about quantum mechanics, and quantum mechanics is a bit weird. And it involved a cat, in a box, which may, or, may not, have been alive, or dead, or possibly both, or possibly neither.
But the upshot was this: If you have an equal chance of an event happening or not happening, a cat my or may not be alive or dead. And you won’t know which is actually happening until you look, at which point you destroy the possibility of the outcome you did not observe and therefore make the outcome you did observe real.
Schrodinger concluded that, until you actually observe the outcome, the cat is neither dead nor alive, but both.
In August 2012 we produced a report to share our findings with partner agencies. This was to show them common issues and also set a baseline for acceptable usability.
At the same time we also collated observations from Neilson’s usability week lectures that several staff members attended.