CUA of the Month – September, 2013

Agnes Leung
"Everything from the training: scientific research, usability testing, design methodologies and design principles are all applicable to my everyday work. It has enabled me to take a holistic approach to UX design."
Agnes Leung
Senior User Experience Designer

Shining the Wide Angle Lens on User Experience

by Jim Garrett

Our Certified Usability Analyst of the Month, Agnes Leung, comes from OpenText in Toronto, Canada where she is Senior User Experience Designer. Agnes can speak to usability issues from a versatile point of view.

She started off as Creative Director sixteen years ago at a software company where she managed marketing and product creatives. Then with exposure to R & D and the developers, her passion drove her to work with a team of software architects and engineers where she developed complex web, mobile and desktop applications. This led her to user-centered design. This path of experience, combined with five years of usability work at OpenText working with global teams, makes Agnes an excellent choice for CUA of the Month as she can speak from a wide angle lens on user experience. She received her CUA in 2012.

So OpenText does content management?

We have expanded our company mission from ECM (Enterprise Content Management) to EIM (Enterprise Information Management).

What does that mean?

That means a single integrated solution for managing structured and unstructured information within an organization so that people from various disciplines can actually access their information. Then we have a social layer where people can share the information or have conversations about the information and then it’s collaboration on top of this, turning information into innovation.

Is there anyone else in your team or are you the sole usability person?

We have a very established User Experience Design team. It has various disciplines; it has research, usability, interaction design and visual design. UX designers work directly with product managers, software architects and developers. We sometimes work independently and sometimes in conjunction with other UX team members.

Can you talk about some of your current projects?

I just finished a social product offering which was quite a challenge and I’m working on its mobile counterpart. It has not been released or launched yet but it does open up another horizon for me. I have done some mobile design before. This time I’m looking at it with a lot of usability approaches and that’s a benefit from my CUA training.

Is there anything specific that you’re using now for usability with mobile devices?

It’s a lot of testing and I have adopted the Axure Mobile templates so that the interactive prototype can be installed on a physical device and usability testing can be conducted with the device. I work with our usability team on the test script. For the test, we had a camera pointing at the mobile device. The test session was transmitted live and also recorded for further analysis. I’ve noticed that testing with an emulator can yield a totally different experience than testing with a physical device.

Do you work with a lot of users?

We do a lot of usability testing and I sit in on every one of them. We had about 4 rounds of usability tests, approximately 30 participants in total for my current mobile project. It is very interesting to watch because even though some of them completed their task and said “OK, I’m done,” it does not necessarily mean a successful design. The design flaw is often revealed when participants start explaining how and why they accomplished the task. With my CUA training, I no longer rely solely on user ratings and usability scores. I like to watch and analyze to optimize usability testing efforts.

What sort of developments or challenges do you see moving forward?

I think we are going to have another wave of challenges coming up with responsive design. In responsive design, the design is not limited to a particular form factor. A product’s user experience needs to be consistent, yet tailored to fit all. With proper usability knowledge I can readily think ahead: what should be shown and how effective will that information be when the size of the screen is reduced. My graphic and visual design knowledge gave me an added advantage of being able to take on a holistic approach when I prototype. The CUA training has given me a solid backup in the way I think and proceed in the design process.

When you’re talking about the size of screen, you mean going from a website to a mobile screen?

That’s right. Going from a screen width of 1920 pixels to 320 pixels; and going from a landscape to a portrait orientation while retaining an engaging and usable UX is a challenge. On top of that, the UI of enterprise software often gets customized to brand. Therefore the use of color, the size of icons, etc. needs careful consideration so that the user experience will stay intact despite a changed look-and-feel. In terms of interaction, there are companies who focus on media management and others like law firms who focus on documents. The file library UI would therefore have to find a balance and satisfy such diverse needs. These are just some considerations that, with a wider and deeper understanding of usability, can be accurately captured and gets put earlier into the design planning.

After a product is released do you get feedback on how it’s being used?

Yes, we certainly do. When the product is released we get customer feedback either directly from customers or through various internal sources: field engineers, sales, marketing, R&D, professional services, etc. Product management is responsible for managing the feedback.

And then if you get feedback from customers then you might make changes based on that?

Yes, we have an established Customer Design Partnership Program. We collaborate with customers throughout the product development lifecycle to help iterate, and incorporate important business values into our products. We would have internal meetings to discuss customer feedback, and changes would go through product management. We plan, track, design, and work with JIRAs. Everything is filed and there are procedures to follow. UX design is part of the agile IDP (Iterative Development Process) at OpenText.

As you’ve had previous usability experience, what do you feel was significant for you in taking the HFI certification?

I’ve been telling my friends and colleagues if my brain were a disk drive then the certification actually did a disk defragmentation on me.

It actually helps me to understand and consolidate my knowledge and experience. It is a very, very good training for me.

Have there been things from the training that you’ve been able to specifically apply to your current projects?

Oh, absolutely, because we have such an established team, there are experts in every field. As a Lead UX Designer, I sometimes have to work independently while other times I rely on the other UX team members to do what they do best. From the increased understanding of usability the training gave me, I’ve been able to work as a very integral member of the matrix organization. Everything from the training: scientific research, usability testing, design methodologies and design principles are all applicable to my everyday work. It has enabled me to take a holistic approach to UX design.

User-centered design is something we need to focus on and I think the training also provided me the expertise to explain or express design ideas properly to stakeholders.

Do you feel they take you more seriously as a result?

Yes, data is very powerful. I am now able to analyze the usability and translate data into best practices, which can also be used as design guidelines.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

I think I enjoy understanding the science behind usability because it provided me grounds for thinking outside of the box. I also enjoy being creative for a purpose… “helping users achieve their goals.”

Thank you, Agnes, for being a great model for HFI’s CUA of the Month.

I wanted to really thank HFI for such a great course. I’ve been waiting for them to come to Toronto. I was really wanting to do the courses all in one go and I think they’re great. I look forward to having them here again with other courses on mobile.

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

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