Tag Archives: ux_design

Managing The Higher Ed User Experience

A better library experience in an academic institution would hopefully be part of a more holistic and superior experience designed to provide students with an overall learning experience. That experience would be memorable, different and would encourage students, if asked, to indicate they had received a superior educational experience. But if the experts at Bain and Company are right “80% of organizations believe they deliver a superior customer experience but only 8% of their customers agree.” Not good.

So we all need to do a better job of creating an environment in which our community members – many more than just 8% – believed they had a great experience at our institutions. According to Robert Sevier, writing in University Business, great experiences don’t just happen. There has to be intent. A superior customer experience has to be designed or managed as Sevier likes to put it. In his article “Managing the Experience” Sevier shares ideas on how organizations can move from just letting experiences happen to actively designing them.

Right at the start Sevier makes an important point that we’ve also made here at DBL: user experience is not the same thing as customer service. He says “experience management is much more strategic and begins with the big question: Are we offering the right experience?” But it’s more complex than that because the student college experience includes “the academic experience, the campus life experience, the resident life experience, the athletic experience, and myriad others.” That list would also include the library experience. In fact, in research conducted by Sevier’s firm they discovered 13 sub-elements of the academic experience. The library is on that list.

You could also think of the library experience in the same way. It is made up of sub-elements: circulation; reference; study space; media services; and more. Each sub-element is a touchpoint in the total user experience, and according to Sevier improving the touchpoints most essential to the community can dramatically enhance the overall experience. As you might expect with a design process, identifying what the “right” experience is depends on understanding the community member. Sevier recommends focus groups and individual interviews. Once the touchpoints are identified Sevier offers tips for how to create the right experience.

* Pay special attention to the boundaries between touchpoints; that is where the “broken” stuff happens when no one knows who is responsible. A student gets confused going from the reference desk to the book stacks. Who helps, the desk or stack attendents? We should know if advance how to fix that.

* Best practices are there to borrow from, but from time to time remember to invent.

* Remember that if it cannot be measured, it cannot be managed. What are the metrics for determining the quality of the experience?

* Assign responsibility and authority for each touchpoint to a single person.

Sevier makes a good point though. It’s important to have the right experience well defined and to know all the touchpoints involved. He also points to the importance of engaging, equipping and empowering the people who provide the experience. It’s critical for organizations to acknowledge or reward the individuals who make the experience happen. Put it all together and you’ve taken a step away from letting an experience (probably a bad one) just happen and moved towards designing the right experience for your library and academic institution.

A User Experience Is Like A First Date

My last post focused on understanding what UX is and isn’t, and offered several resources for further reading. This post follows up on that with a link to another resource worth exploring if you would like to expand your understanding of UX and in particular the importance of design in creating a great user experience. Jesse James Garrett, president and co-founder of the design firm Adaptive Path, recorded an interview about UX that is available at the blog Tea With Teresa. The podcast lasts about 20 minutes and is well worth listening to. Garrett is one of the leading experts in the field of UX design.

He describes himself as an information architect, and he shares how he became interested in user experience design. We all engage in experiences throughout our lives – every day. An experience occurs when we interact with a product, technology or service. It’s all around us. But do the products, technologies and services work for us in a way the improves the quality of the experience? That’s what most interests Garrett. He says that UX is about designing products and services in a way that takes into account the psychological and behavioral needs of the end-user. If we aren’t paying attention to this the experience we offer can be a dismal one. We need to, Garrett tells us, put the human elements first in the design process.

I certainly enjoyed his use of the first date analogy. It’s something we need to pay attention to in our libraries, and perhaps we should ask ourselves if our students and community members would have a second date with our libraries. On the first date individuals have a set of expectations for what they want to get out of the date and the experience. They expect someone will treat them well, take an interest in what they have to say and treat them respectfully. If these expectations are not met the chances for a second date are slim or non-existant. Our users have a similar relationship with our services, and building a good one requires a design that incorporates an understanding of the person with who we want to have that second date.

Garrett is entertaining and easy to listen to, so even if you usually avoid podcasts I think you’ll find this one of value. What I take away from it is the importance of constantly working and reminding myself that I need to get out of my own paradigm for how the world operates and the way things should work, and that I need to pay attention to my user community so that I can comprehend their expectations and perspectives on the library experience we must offer. Thanks to Garrett and his insights I just might get that second date.