Opening up to UX

Government development teams are realising the value of User Experience and Customer Experience to ensure that their apps and services deliver results and satisfy users

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Opening up to UX User experience and customer experience are helping to tailor government services into more user-friendly designs and functionality.
By  Mark Sutton Published  September 27, 2016

Government organisations are seeking to expand their UX/CX capabilities, both by developing inhouse talent and sourcing external resources, however there is skills gap, Al Azzawi added.

“In this region the biggest challenge is talent — there are just not enough people. There is a huge demand for [UX], but in order to be good at UX, you need some experience.”

As part of efforts to tackle the skills gap, Smart Dubai Government recently ran a CX Project Manager course for project managers and middle managers, to provide a good grounding in CX. The training is important not just for building skills, Al-Azzawi said, but also in building awareness of the importance of UX to any project, helping project managers to understand what they should be considering for good UX/CX, and incorporating UX and CX thinking into the design of new projects from the start.

“As a project manager, you need to know that these things are important, so when you have that next project, you know what you need to do, how the process goes. You should at least know what [expertise] you need to get, whether it is in terms of training for your own staff or consultancy,” he said.

In adopting UX, there are a number of codes and best practices that cover various aspects of the discipline, including industry association guides such as those issued by the UXPA, vendor- and device-specific guidelines from manufacturers and vendors, and methodologies developed by consulting companies.

To be better equipped for UX, organisations are also deploying their own UX labs, which typically include hardware and software to run the app or service being tested, and to accommodate observation and recording of the test user interactions.

More important than the guidelines or equipment however is the awareness, and the need to consider UX and CX from the start of the program. Kadam said that there is a well-established myth that UX is complex, mainly based on lack of awareness, but early introduction of UX into a project can minimise the complexity.

“In general, things do get time consuming and end up impacting the project budget if these practices are introduced late in the overall lifecycle of the project,” Kadam said. “If we learn to adapt and include both these concepts in the early stages of the project, or better, in the planning phase, then these do not come as a burden. The complexity comes when these are introduced as an afterthought.

“It is a well-established fact that every minute of time and every dirham/dollar spent on usability returns itself fivefold,” he added. “One needs to identify right methods at the right time of the project life-cycle to address the objectives and to ensure the impact of the outcome is maximised.”

Trying to fix a poorly designed app may run into business constraints, Dr Al-Azzawi noted, as personnel, budgets and priorities may have moved on to a new project. However, failing to fix a poorly designed service or app will create ongoing costs.

“Typically people spend a lot of time and money creating a thing, and then they get to the point where customers are complaining about it, they are getting support calls, people are confused by the UI, and it costs money to answer the support calls, or fix the errors, or fix misentry of data into a badly designed form — it has consequences for the customer and for the organisation,” he said.

UX is increasingly becoming built-in to development processes by software vendors, and leading organisations that are following Agile development principles are also putting the focus on the user from the start of the process. For Smart Dubai, the aim is to reach a point where the customer is automatically included in the design process for any service, Al-Azzawi explained. For increasingly complex apps such as Dubai Now, which combines over 2,000 services into a single app, creating a usable app without UX would be impossible. Perceptions of UX are shifting accordingly.

“There is a business case for UX — it is not a ‘nice to have’. When you can see that you can reduce support costs, that is a positive thing from a budget point of view and an experience point of view,” he said. “It is easy to see why UX is a good expenditure, and more and more people are seeing that it is a good thing to do — they get it.”

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