CUA of the Month – April, 2014

Stanley Brown
"I truly think that UX is becoming more strategy-based, and that this is the trend of the future."
 
Stanley Brown
Usability Consultant
Home Depot

CXA and the Changing Direction of Usability

by Jim Garrett

What drives any top-level professional is the desire to know more and more about their chosen field. Our CUA of the Month, Stanley Brown, is a prime example of this drive for excellence.

Stanley started out as a systems engineer for ten years and then wanted to understand more about the end users. So he got a Bachelor’s degree in graphic design to understand the look and feel for the frontend and the backend design. Then he got his Master’s degree in computer integration as he wanted to talk to the users and pick their brains to see why they used the technology, the way they used it, what was exciting about it — and then how to make it more technologically savvy.

Stanley currently serves as a usability consultant at Home Depot’s headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. He received his CUA several years ago and his CXA last year. Always wanting to expand his knowledge and experience, Stanley is currently working toward his Project Management Professional (PMP) certification.

With his seven years of broad usability and UX design experience, Stanley is the perfect person to ask about how CXA training helps the usability professional to be in step with the changing trends in the UX field.

What is your role at Home Depot?

I work with business owners and customers to design innovative products using participatory and iterative techniques. These include customer interviews, observational studies, cognitive walkthroughs, and usability studies to learn about user preferences and behavior, explore concepts and validate product design solutions. I also provide expertise in translating research, from field studies, usability studies, site visits, market researchers, and customer feedback channels for the Home Depot ecommerce site and mobile applications. Another part of my consulting services includes facilitating observation reviews of qualitative and quantitative research.

Has your CXA training entered into the picture on what you are able to do there?

Absolutely, because having that knowledge allows me to facilitate some of the discussions on the front end when it comes to designing products for many of my clients. At Home Depot, we perform walkthroughs and usability studies to learn about customer preferences and behaviors. We are also able to explore some of the concepts and validate some of the design solutions that our architects and design folks come up with.

Having the CXA certification allows me to be at the table at the front of the discussion when those ideas are being brought forth. It puts UX in the beginning of the process instead of toward the end of the process. It lets us in on the discussion in the beginning of creating a new product, a new web page or adding products to a web page or designing any kind of application or mobile app. When they say, “We want to design this website for our consumers,” we can specifically design this application or the right mobile app for consumers with participatory and innovative techniques.

Tell us about some of your recent projects.

Recently I worked on the mobile check app process. Some of the issues they were having were that consumers were getting lost about the work flow when it came to checking out on the mobile site, for searching for a product, or driving down a product page. And then they were having trouble getting more information to actually selecting that product and checking out through their mobile checkout process. I had to go through the entire process and determine the trouble spots for users who were trying to check out on the mobile app.

How did you solve the problems?

Through CXA training I learned more about strategy. So that helped me as I sat down at the table to talk with the product owners, product managers, and even with some of the senior level leadership.

I was able to understand what their goal was; the particular process or workflow, the checkout process and what they actually wanted their customers to do. I was also able to find out what were the end goals and issues they were having. I took those issues and developed an overall strategic plan on how to go about using usability and user research methodologies to help resolve some of those issues that they were having. And then if needed, I would validate whether or not that design was working by using participatory research without consumers.

The main goal for Home Depot is to make sure that customers are able to perform tasks or goals on the website but also to be able to have them then return and have an overall great experience when they come back to the site to purchase more items. We want them to have a sticky process. They enjoy the experience, they become a presence, and they always come back to us as their first choice when it comes to purchasing home improvement products.

How has becoming a CXA changed your job?

When I go into a company or a client that may not have UX, I can work with them on the importance of having UX and how UX should fit into their overall organizational goals or business goals. I can speak from a high level perspective and then drill down to how usability is a measure because most companies want to know what the ROI is on investing resources and funding it into usability. They are very interested in return on investment.Short answer is — the CUA is more the tactical work and the CXA is more about the overall behavior that a customer may have when it comes to a particular website or mobile app. I have always wanted to be in the strategic realm of things so that is why I went back and got the CXA. It taught me more about strategy and measuring the return on investment and those types of things, whereas the CUA is a little bit more tactical.

Have you seen some kind of validation of the customer’s experience?

We use a lot of their points to validate our design solutions or our research to validate why a design won’t work or to give an alternative solution to the product managers. We use customer satisfaction scores. The customers do not necessarily know that we are actually watching them; we can always see what they are doing. We can’t necessarily know what they are sending because there is no kind of sound. But we get to watch their actions to understand how they went through the process. We take that data along with the customer satisfaction survey and analyze that. We then get performance data and try to make an assumption based on that. Then we go about creating scenarios and trying to make sure we can validate it or discover why a consumer is having a problem with the site.

Have you seen an improvement in the return business based on some of the changes that you have made?

Absolutely, we made quite a few changes to the mobile checkout process. I think that in the last two or three months we have seen a lot more transactions done over the mobile device than actually on the website.

Where do you see UX headed?

I think UX is shifting more toward strategy instead of a lot more of the technical work.

The technical work is going to be there, but I think that more high senior level management understand strategy more now than they used to — how does this fit into the overall picture of what we are trying to accomplish; and then it gets down to the manager and usability researchers and the analysts as far as the tactical portion of it.

I truly think it’s becoming very obvious that UX is becoming more strategy-based. I was invited to a conference for UX strategy and that is the trend of the future.

CUA of the Month

Each month we highlight the successes and achievements of a different member of our CUA community. If you are a Certified Usability Analyst and would like to be considered for CUA of the Month recognition, please send a brief professional bio to hfi@humanfactors.com

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