CUA of the Month – October, 2014

Shannon Hall
"The most exciting and motivating aspect of doing UX is that we are able to empathize with users. We want to actually make users more efficient and to enjoy using the application. That’s where my satisfaction comes from."
Shannon Hall
Director of User Experience and Education

The Road to UX Implementation

by Jim Garrett

Our Certified Analysts of the Month tend to be champions for bringing User Centered Design into their companies. This month’s CUA of the Month, Shannon Hall, is no exception. Shannon is a Director of User Experience and Education at TSYS. The people of TSYS® improve lives and businesses across the world by processing payments 44 million times each day. TSYS provides services in credit, debit, prepaid, mobile, chip, healthcare and more. Shannon has been with TSYS for eighteen years but only the past 3 years has UX come into the company in a formal way. She received her CUA in March 2013 and has been leading the charge in bringing UX into the company.

When did UX enter into TSYS?

The whole concept of UX and usability is fairly new to TSYS.  I work on a strategic project team that focuses on enhancing a cardholder’s customer service experience no matter what channel or device they choose to connect with their bank. We felt that an investment in UX and building a UX team was critical to the success of this initiative. I manage one of the first established UX teams at TSYS and we have incorporated the user-centered design approach to the development life cycle.

Where does usability enter the picture?

Usability is important to provide TSYS clients with an efficient way to serve their customers. It enables a positive customer experience. For example, if we can provide a contact center operator with a good user experience to handle the calls or chats, then that operator will provide a better customer experience. One and done, or first call resolution, is an important goal. Usability is such a key component of the design of contact center applications, online self-service websites, and mobile interactions.

What are some of the challenges that you have found in working with creating the UX for this project?

Well, one of the main challenges we have is to create a simple UI for very complex business processes. Credit card processing and management have complex rules and policies so finding a simple intuitive design has been difficult. We have done a lot of research through observations and usability testing and continue to gain user feedback and refine the design.

You have championed the development of UX there with your team.  What was it like phasing from the technical perspective to more of a UX perspective?

Without understanding the user and their needs, the design will always be driven from the technology. Getting user feedback has been an eye-opening experience for our team. Things we thought were so intuitive were foreign, or unexpected to users. Because we have joint design sessions including UX, BA’s, developers, and testing resources, we have been able to design iteratively. The UX person is able to create Balsamiq mock up or Axure prototypes to gather user feedback quickly and bring it back into the next design session to share what they learned. It has prevented the team from churning on design decisions. We can go with a design, get feedback, and tweak it if needed.

Can you pinpoint the most significant thing you learned from the CUA training?

To understand that there is really a science behind User Experience. It is not merely people’s opinions or just an interesting thing to know — there are psychological experiments to support it. My favorite class was about putting UX into practice and the psychological studies to prove why UX is important. There is a reason why there are programs to study human factors and why companies focus on it.  

The second piece was about usability testing.  We have been dependent on getting written requirements and not understanding how users interact with the applications that we build. It has been very interesting to take written requirements, do some mock-ups or prototypes and see what users do.  You have to be careful in the way you get the input though; you have to make it realistic, make them feel comfortable and don’t make them feel like they are being tested.  It was quite eye-opening to learn about that whole process and see what worked well or where things were not working before development actually began.

 Where do you see things going forward? What is your vision in the development of your role?

Our current initiative will be the showcase project for UX. It is a large initiative and we are still not complete with all of the development work.  As the multi-phases continue to develop we will streamline the core support of the application into the rest of the TSYS organization. I hope as part of that we will see an acceptance of UX and the user center design process, not only for this project but for development into other areas of the organization. I hope it catapults UX at TSYS to become a practice that is embedded into the methodology.  

 What do you like most about this?  What excites you about all of this?

It’s exciting to make it easier for end users to perform their tasks.  I mean the things that we didn’t know people were struggling with, or things that we didn’t even think about during design, we are now aware of these factors. One instructor in a CUA training class kept telling the class, “Don’t hurt people.” Just think about that when you do design…don’t hurt people. Probably the most exciting and motivating aspect of doing UX is that we are able to empathize with users.  We want to actually make users more efficient and to enjoy using the application. That’s where my satisfaction comes from.

On the one hand it seems like it should be so obvious; it should be all about the user. Then on the other hand when it really happens it is like magic and you think, wow, this is the way it should be.

Right!  And, I have realized that no one intentionally tries to build an application that is difficult to use. I don’t think any team out there is intentionally trying to make it difficult but when you hear the truth from the users it is really mind-blowing — what you think might have worked so well but just didn’t.

We really enjoyed working with HFI. I just don’t think we would have been able to build the team that we have and be where we are without the initial start with HFI. And I definitely recommend the CUA program and any engagement with HFI. They were very helpful.

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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