Conducting user research to build innovative HR technology solutions
by Ewa Bilska December 14 2018
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September 27th was a big day for the Design and Product team at PeopleDoc. We visited the Shared Services Center of one of our customers. It was an opportunity for us to see our users at their workplace, talk with them and see how they use our HR technology solutions. Visits like this are always a great source of inspiration and insights. They allow us to better know the people we design for. But let me explain to you why knowing our users is so important and how it allows us to build better products.
Why is it so important for us to know our users?
The UX/UI team receives a lot of valuable product feedback from customer-facing teams at PeopleDoc–from sales to project managers to customer success managers. So why isn’t that enough for us? What’s missing?
Our products are used by over 1,000 customers and at each company there are different HR jobs with different needs. A manager leading a team of HR representatives is going to have different needs than the person managing employee requests. Or, those who have limitations with sight or another disability will have unique needs. It’s important for us to understand the goals, objectives and needs of these different type of users—and the best way for us to do this is through direct contact, as helps us empathize with our users.
What are the benefits of knowing our users?
1. We can build better products. The insights we gain from our customers don’t just sit with the UX/UI team, we actively share that knowledge with other teams in the company. Our research allows us to create personas (representations of hypothetical users, such as Jane Doe, HR Manager) and map our user’s journey. This changes the conversation from, “We need to add this feature to give users the ability to send a message to employees” to “Jane needs a way to communicate with her employees.” When we can imagine a real person behind the need, we are able to build better products for HR.
2. We can validate our assumptions. Thanks to user tests we can validate ideas before developing them. Working all day thinking about a new design, we know all the details by heart. In this situation, it’s sometimes hard for us to see the problems. Something which might seem obvious to us might be difficult for users. User testing helps us confirm that a new feature is easy to use, understandable and provides a frictionless experience.
3. Our users can shape our product. Having contact with the PeopleDoc design team is great for users because they have a chance to be heard. They can feel that the system they’re using isn’t just another product, but instead one they can help shape the creation of. Our users are experts in their domain and we are experts in building digital products. Only by collaborating together and combining our knowledge can we build innovative products for HR.
How PeopleDoc collects user feedback
There are several activities we do to collect feedback from our users. Which one we use depends on the customer’s needs, the product they use, and the information PeopleDoc is looking for. They’re divided between those done in-person and those that done remotely, and include:
User interviews Interviews take about 60 minutes, are conducted one-on-one, and usually focus on one main topic. First we ask very general questions (e.g. What is the first thing you do when you open PeopleDoc?). Then, we move onto more detailed questions and ask about which features the user would like to see.
User tests User tests are performed one-on-one and usually take between 30-60 min. During the session we ask a user to complete some tasks using a prototype (i.e. a simulation of how a finished product will work). This allows us to test our designs before production and helps us eliminate bad ideas early in the proces.
Short testsAs the name indicates, these are quick tests or surveys that take 2-15 minutes. We may ask users to order a list of functionalities from most important to least important, or look at a product screenshot and describe what they would do to complete a certain task, such as send a message to an employee.
User observation User observation involves meeting users at their workplace. This can take anywhere from 15 minutes to a full day. During this meeting we ask users about their job, responsibilities, how they work with our products and what other tools they use in their daily work. One of the most important elements of this meeting is observing how the user works with our product as if we are not there.
Workshops This is the fun part of the research. Workshops involve 4-10 users and give PeopleDoc and the users the chance to be creative. For example, we might give participants (fake) money, assign each new product feature a price and ask participants to “buy” the features they want most.
We were able to sit next to our users, see how they work with our product, ask them questions and listen to their problems. We did a quick workshop where our customers’ employees designed their own version of a PeopleDoc’s Case Management page. We started with a card sorting exercise which gave them the chance to express how they believe the information on a certain page should be organized. Then, we asked users to design their own version of a page using colorful markers and paper.
Aside from having a lot of fun, we left with tons of information and our customers felt heard. As I’m writing this, I’m finishing the new version of the PeopleDoc Case Management page and scheduling more user tests for December :-)
Ready to get involved?
If you would like to help shape our HR technology solutions and be the first to see our new product designs, participate in our user research! Talk with your CSM or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learn more about the products our HR customers help shape. Watch a quick video on PeopleDoc Case Management and Knowledge Portal:
Ewa Bilska is a UX Designer at PeopleDoc. She works on PeopleDoc Case Management and Knowledge Portal and PeopleDoc HR Process Automation. Prior to PeopleDoc, Ewa worked at a software agency helping startups build better user experiences. Before becoming a UX designer, Ewa worked as an architect and urban planner designing schools and cities.