ICYMI: Our DataJam North East workshops in a nutshell

20 Sep 2018 - Maddie Broxup

We had the pleasure of both sponsoring and attending DataJam North East last week, a two-day event hosted by DWP Digital, focussing on combining both data and design to combat challenges relating to health, child attainment and skills.

We decided to duplicate our workshops across both days to give people a second opportunity to join if they hadn’t already had the chance. However - if you’re in need of a recap, we’ve outlined all our workshops here, in a nutshell, for reference:

RESEARCHING VOICE TECHNOLOGY by Dr Miriam Boyles and Holly Allison

Voice User Interface (VUI) is a passion project that was internally funded by Orange Bus. Highlighting a need to research and gather insight into the current use and perception of popular VUI devices - such as Amazon Alexa - Miriam and Holly set out on a journey to explore this key area.

Using a wide range of methods, their user research incorporated a mix of diary study, one-to-one semi structured interviews, live observations and usability tests. Familiar with researching using traditional screen-based devices, Miriam and Holly found they had to adapt their approach since there was now a third listener in the room.. These included:

  • Don’t say Alexa (this activates Alexa even if you don’t need her!)
  • Using participants’ language - he? She? It?
  • Avoiding clues in usability tasks
  • Can’t use the “think aloud” method
  • Unrealistic usage scenarios

Miriam and Holly found that some current users’ perceptions were that VUI devices:

  • Are lazy and gimmicky - not for able-bodied users
  • Are like an encyclopedia, they must know everything!
  • Are always listening - privacy is a big concern
  • Aren’t trustworthy - will they actually obey my command?
  • Handle errors poorly and don’t support recovery

Once they had gathered insights and better understood people’s perception of VUI, design challenge workshops were conducted with different groups of people - ranging from UX professionals, IT service management professionals, and various departments within Orange Bus - with the aim to explore ways in which VUI could be more useful, and less gimmicky.

An open challenge statement was posed - usually starting with ‘how might we…’ or ‘how could VUI…’ to get people thinking openly and without constraints.

Where Miriam and Holly saw the real value of VUI and the potential impact it could have was for people with reduced mobility, visual impairments or cognitive difficulties - this is where the technology had the potential to be really transformative for people.

So what’s next? Miriam and Holly have already began phase 2 of this project, focusing specifically on one user group they feel will benefit most from this technology - the 80+ population. This is the fastest growing population in the UK due to increased life expectancy, meaning that this demographic are facing challenges relating to frailty and age-related illnesses as well as the emotional challenges of ageing such as loneliness and loss of independence.

To read more about phase 1 of the VUI project, see our guide here.

RESEARCHING WITH CITIZENS by Lisa McClure and Dr Miriam Boyles

Bringing user needs into public service software design is often a tricky task. As a part of Capita, we have a lot of products and services that sit within a wide variety of public services - which prompted our exploration into:

  • The current challenges they faced
  • Their perception of their users
  • If there was any shared ground

With a vision to engage with citizens in public spaces, Lisa and Miriam set out into libraries to speak to people about their experiences of public services and to get a greater understanding of their high-level needs. However, this proved difficult in some instances. Such as, getting access to public venues, recording experiences that would be suitable for everyone, and approaching people in a way that didn’t put them off.

Using journey mapping as a preferred method, Lisa and Miriam invited members of the public to map their experiences of using a public service. This method is widely used in UX to identify both positive and negative experiences a user has when they interact with a service or product.

After attending 3 venues and speaking with 30 citizens, they collated their research and grouped their findings into themes. The most common themes could be segmented into human needs and practical needs:

  • “I want to be treated as a whole person”
  • “I need compassion”
  • “I need to be listened to”
  • “I need to have personal contact and continuity in who I speak to”
  • “I need joined up communications between services”
  • “I need to be kept informed”
  • “I need to receive this service without fighting”
  • “I need the service to flex around my situation”

Of course - before carrying out this research, Lisa and Miriam already had assumptions. Every theme that was discovered throughout the process had been validated, apart from two: the need to self-serve and the need to access a product or service on a mobile phone.

So what’s next? Lisa and Miriam plan to conduct more user research, focusing primarily on:

  • Understanding the user’s experience of Capita’s customer facing software
  • What improvements can now be made to have a positive impact on the user experience
  • Discovering any unmet needs that can be filled

SMART CITIES by Hannah Kaner

As an agency with a large focus on user centred design. Using our capabilities to build products and services with users at their centre, Orange Bus work closely with users to understand their needs.

However, to create the future, we cannot rely on designing for needs now, but understanding the context of need right now and also in the next decade.

To create a sustainable and resilient future, we must react to problems as and when they arise - helping the basic functions of the city to be supportive of the citizens. We also envision a future where our citizens are safe and supported, with new opportunities, efficiency and personalisation for citizens - but citizens often come secondary in our infrastructural planning.

We have to actively work towards a smart ecosystem, targeting problems that citizens are facing now and engaging them in that problem. In addition to this, we must create a process by which technologies and tools can be created and validated in your own city. And finally - allow room for growth and change.

Active engagement starts with us.

Special thanks to the team at DWP Digital for allowing us to both sponsor and participate in DataJam North East 2018.

Want to hear more about our user research capabilities? Contact us using the form below.

How can we help?
Get in touch with the innovators at Orange Bus

Thank you, your message has been submitted.