Over the past few years we’ve got used to hearing about the benefits of User Experience (or UX) design in the development of charities’ digital services. But usually we hear only the headlines about the boost this can provide to donations.
What’s often underplayed is the extent to which the UX process also removes underlying uncertainty and massively reduces wasted effort and time. Why don’t we shout about it more? This is a message that finance, board members and trustees in charities all love to hear. I believe its high time we did – so here’s a quick guide to how it all works.
Step 1: By understanding your challenge from the outset, you can help to kill low adoption rates
UX research serves many purposes throughout the design process. The most important is at the outset when you’re making sure you understand the challenge you have to solve. You’re asking: is it important for your users? Have you made strategic decisions based on assumptions or facts about your users? The end result of this process is that you significantly reduce the risk of low adoption rates, user dissatisfaction or reputational damage.
Tip: There are number of techniques and tools anyone can use for initial UX research, but nothing will give you better and deeper insight to users' needs and requirements than face-to-face interviews and contextual observation.
Step 2: Build empathy and you’ll be sure that what you're developing makes a difference
In the next stage of development, the UX researcher goes through a process of developing empathy. It sounds a bit spiritual, but it’s actually a proven process by which the UX professional comes up with ideas that are focused on solving the user's problem. When your team really sympathises with the user, they can come up with ideas that will truly make a difference to people's lives. In the process, you reduce the risk of not being able to generate ideas that work.
Tip: Empathy building exercises need to closely resemble the environment that your users will be completing the tasks in. If they are in a low connectivity environment – in certain parts of Africa, for example – carry out your exercise with a restricted network.
Step 3: Prototype, test, and you’ll avoid the risk ‘requirements creep’
This is the most important part of any UX project. You build as many prototypes as you need to ensure your ideas are worth investing in. It’s the easiest way to try out your ideas without the pressure of getting everything right straight away. Crucially, it also helps to finalise user needs and make sure that several design iterations don’t have to occur later during the development of your new service. In other words, you avoid the risk of the dreaded "requirements creep", which slows down processes and builds up costs.
Tip: Rapid prototyping is a highly effective way to make ideas tangible, get quick feedback and learn through making. It also helps to reduce waste because it ensures that you’re building only enough to test your idea.
Step 4: Finally, bring your digital service to life, and do it all with minimised risk
At the end of the UX process, you put your new digital service into the hands of your users. One of the best ways to do this is through a pilot. Pilots will fully expose your solution to market forces. You’ll learn if your idea really is desirable, viable and feasible, and what it might look like to do it at scale. If it’s a success, you’ll head to market, and in the processes you will have avoided a big bang service launch that comes with a high risk to revenue, reputation or both.