Project: The website of the “Nationale Apotheek”, co-designed by U-Sentric.
Organisation: U-Sentric, Heverlee - B.
Moderator: Andrea Wilkinson, Priscilla Machils
U-Sentric is a user experience consultancy located in Haverlee, Belgium. Working both locally and internationally with companies in industries ranging from software and hardware to social networking and non-profit, their expertise is to support the creation/redesign of applications that meet user and market requirements. For more information, see: http://www.u-sentric.com.
As with other mapping sessions, our first point was to find out who U-Sentric saw as their users. Users, in the mind of U-Sentric are people who use (come into contact with) a site/service/product. Depending on the project, if one discusses who 'uses' the services offered by U-Sentric, the term user can be inter-exchanged with clients; users are people they interact with, sometimes a webmaster or a marketing manager, or for a smaller company, the CEO. When clients work with U-Sentric, they are choosing to work with them in particular for their skill-set and clients often have a particular question/issue they are wanting U-Sentric to investigate.
The project mapped was a website that U-sentric helped to design for the Nationale Apotheek, a small Dutch KMO. Nationale Apotheek had an existing website built but it was clear that it wasn’t meeting the needs of its users. When the company first started, they built a website quickly; not only web-shop, but also service shop. They were selling not only medicines, but also care/information/etc. Nationale Aptheek had a limited budget, but U-Sentric tried to involve as many steps of user-centred design as possible. Liesbeth Weeghmans, U-Sentric Project Manager and Senior usability expert walked us through the mapping.
The first phase was Presales. In this phase, they tested the current website, the e-shop. They utilised their standard portfolio and references and tailored it for presentation to Nationale Apotheek. After the presentation, they developed a proposal. As with many projects, working with the proposal was an iterative process due to budget issues, making sure that the client would still be able to achieve their end goals.
As part of this iterative process, U-Sentric was asked to include qualitative results which would highlight the advantages of working with user-centred design so that Nationale Apotheek could be assured a return on investment.
Once the project was approved, they moved into an Exploration phase. In this phase they referred to the current website; to see how users reacted to the current e-shop and they also observed how users interacted at a physical pharmacist (the latter was particularly important because of the difference between Belgian an Dutch pharmacies).
To gather this information, they carried out a user test. They were not focusing on usability because the end-goal of the organisation was to create a new website. Instead they were interested on how/what users wanted from the website. To achieve this, they used questionnaires and user scenarios.
For observing the interaction in the pharmacy, the method they employed was contextual observation. Here they utilised questionnaires and keywords so they were able to document what they were observing. During this process they focused on three users: patients, the assistant of the pharmacist and the head pharmacist. Through this they better understood these users and were able to document key issues. They documented this process in a working document that included screenshots/indications/writings/pictures of the process, which was shared with the key stakeholders in the redesign process at Nationale Apotheek. Once agreement was reached regarding these findings and analysis, this document was taken into the design phase.
In the design phase, this analysis was applied to information architecture. Initially card-sorting was included in the proposal, but at this point in the project it was deleted. Weeghmans said that she particularly thought it beneficial to map this particular project because it highlights the flexibility that projects must have; she had to balance what insight U-Sentric needed to gather with the budget requirements of the organisation.
During the design phase, the tools free-listing and priority listing were used in order to turn the key findings into a workable site infrastructure, so that the information that users were after was well organised. Through brainstorming, checking competitor's websites and by carrying out a competitive analysis, they were able to get an overview of the functionalities that worked as well as aesthetic features that those in the company liked/disliked.
At this point, Weeghmans pointed out that it is difficult to work only from the user point of view and then having to go back to the company and present it. For U-Sentric, involving the company form the beginning, perhaps even working in their office, allows for the opportunity to get immediate feedback.
At this stage, U-Sentric began to prototype an ergonomic user interface, emphasising ergonomic because it is not purely a graphical interface. Ergonomic UI is different from Graphic UI. U-Sentric makes suggestions regarding graphical interface, but are more concerned with how users navigate and what information they are seeking. Many companies find this hard to understand and think the layout suggestions (textboxes, colours) are graphic design, but from their point of view it is ergonomic and based on functionality and content.
In order to develop this prototype, they used Viseo to create clickable prototypes. Once an initial draft was created, they involved the company so they could give their own feedback before taking the prototype to the users.
Although U-sentric usually organises their own user recruitment, because the users were based in the Netherlands, recruitment for the Evaluation phase was done by an external company. Tests of a refined prototype, a digital low fidelity prototype created in Visio, were carried with users on-screen, in a web-browser window in the office of Nationale Apotheek. The result being that the new site architecture was deemed a user-friendly service shop.
The results of this test led to the finalisation of a working prototypye, complete with navigation and information architecture; a model for service shop. The webmaster received the Visio files and a guidance document which explained the prototype and the actions that users could do on each particular area of the site.
At this stage, U-sentric's involvement was complete, with a new, separate budget set aside for an expert review to be carried out after the site had been live for some time.
Text by Andrea Wilkinson. See: http://www.usewell.be