A body of knowledge is crucial. Over the last few years I have observed that one of the biggest challenges facing UX teams and organisations more broadly is the ability to track and maintain information collected about customers, and specifically from a UX Research perspective. I firmly believe that in order to be able to deliver more effective design we need to understand our customers and to do this effectively, we need to be able to build a body of knowledge over time. That is, piece together various information gathered from different sources to be able to gain a holistic understanding of the customer in an on-going manner. Too often I see disparate projects being undertaken without enough consideration for the big picture; this isn’t anyone’s fault, it is the function of individual projects with tight timelines and a lack of easy access to important knowledge.

Building a body of knowledge is important from a product perspective; with this customer knowledge we should be able to build better products that genuinely meet customer needs. It also makes sense from an efficiency perspective; readily accessible information should reduce the duplication of research and data collection.

Body of Knowledge, 2010 from Jaume Plensa

Body of Knowledge, 2010 from Jaume Plensa, steel sculpture, at Westend Campus of Goethe University Frankfurt.

My strategy to build a body of knowledge while running a UX team was to start small. I simply put together a spreadsheet of UX Research projects with key take-outs and a means to locate research previously undertaken. This provides a great alternative to having information stored in someone’s head, who may not be on hand for every project decision. This information quickly became a valuable resource of customer information.

I also collected a couple of key metrics including NPS and the System Usability Scale, which allowed comparison between interfaces across the organisation. The spreadsheet became really powerful for reporting back to senior management on our successes and the volume of work we had completed. It also supported calculations of the dollar value the UX team provided to the business.

While there was substantial value, the solution still had drawbacks at its inception:

  • -Original documentation had to be found in another location which took time
  • -Documents then needed to be searched to locate key information such as quotes or specifics from the actual documents
  • -Adding content and updating the spreadsheet required time and to be added to the workflow

Based on my experiences it was great to come across a presentation by Aaron Walter from Mail Chimp on connected UX (thanks to the UX team at SEEK for alerting me to it). Aaron tackles the important challenge of connecting customer information in a meaningful manner.

The key points made by Aaron Walter after identifying the same problem are:

  • -That without a means of saving information they were loosing information and having to research the same thing over and over. Plus they had limited means of retrieving the information
  • -He outlines how they used Evernote to create a repository of information which included:
    • -UX research
    • -Customer feedback
    • -Transcripts of interviews
    • -Web analytics data
    • -Social media data
    • -Surveys
    • -Blog comments
    • -Delivery stats
    • -Industry research
    • -Support team
  • -A key benefit of Evernote was its’ effective search function to be able to readily access important information
  • -They managed to create a UX tool which became a company shared resource owned by the entire business
  • -They were able to quickly and easily add information via email
  • -They were able to engage people in the organisation with the value of the information and ease of contributing

As with all things in organisations, success depends on PEOPLE. Clearly Aaron did a great job at engaging people in the value of the connecting disparate data sources.

I loved the fact that what started out as a UX tool become an important resource across the MailChimp in utilizing a variety of customer centric data from numerous in house teams.

The presentation itself is well worth watching, albeit a little slow, it contains some great ideas about solving this important business problem in a clever and relatively simple manner.

Great content from Aaron Walter on Connected UX:

http://alistapart.com/article/connected-ux

http://www.webdirections.org/resources/connected-ux-video-presentation-by-aarron-walter/

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