UX (user experience) design arrived in France in the early noughties. This user-centric approach covers a wide range of skills and has become essential for digital projects. But what are the keys to a successful UX approach? “Discovery, learning, efficiency, performance and pleasure,” explained Thierry Raguin at the 2015 Microsoft TechDays.
So how is a UX-oriented project run? Are companies familiar with this type of approach? How to convince the more reluctant ones? Thierry Raguin gave us some insights into his profession.
Thierry Raguin is in charge of the UX design and mobility labs of Digital Application Services, a division of Econocom Group.
What does your job entail?
At the beginning of 2016, we set up Digit-all Labs, an innovation centre of our Digital Application Services (DAS) which features expertise in the field of SMACTS (Social, Mobile, Analytics, Cloud, Things and Security). Like the other lab managers, it’s my job to promote the offering, evangelise, manage the pre-sales team in the service centres and provide value-added consulting services.
The UX design lab, which I’m in charge of, has a cross-functional role for all the Digital Application Services departments and also interacts with the group’s other business lines. We define new uses and identify user needs and business objectives in order to develop digital solutions.
I manage a team of UX designers who work at the DAS service centres. Most of them are based in Villeurbanne but we’re in the process of expanding to Grenoble and Rouen, and probably other towns soon. There are currently twelve of us but we plan to recruit around fifteen more people this year.
What type of projects do you work on?
We work mostly on web or mobile application projects. We also incorporate UX into IoT-related projects because these involve creating new uses and a new experience for which it’s vital to define users’ needs and business objectives very precisely. These IoT projects generally involve mobile apps, which means viewing data and thus requires security. So it allows us to combine the expertise of the Digit-all Labs members as well as other Econocom Group divisions, such as Digital Security.
More and more now, our projects start off with a scoping phases during which we implement a design thinking-oriented approach in order to establish the functional and technical needs and define a solution so we can then estimate the cost before having it implemented by the service centres.
So we start by analysing a situation, observing users, and sometimes conduct surveys, which we complete with pre-existing data. We can then define the different types of users (personas) and their needs in terms of functionalities.
At the ideation phase, we build a user path for each of the personas. That way we can see any causes for frustration, things that can put users off, and find solutions for them. Then we move on to the prototyping stage, starting with UX sketching, before going on to the wireframe, then the prototyping proper. We test the mock-ups with users via iteration in order to constantly improve the process until we get to interactive prototypes that can enable us to develop the solution.
Are clients used to this type of approach? Or do you have to convert them?
We’ve noticed that clients are increasingly well-informed about these methods and understand the advantages of going through these various phases. When I launched the offering, just over three years ago, I did a lot of evangelising, giving presentations and seminars, including Microsoft TechDays (now Microsoft Experiences). This gave our clients the chance to get a better understanding of the approach and see the possible return on investment.
We’re seeing more and more UX design in calls to tender. A lot of clients, particularly in IoT, are rather vague about their needs and don’t really know where they want to go: so the scoping phase helps them build the right solution to address their problems and needs.
How do you convince the more sceptical ones?
We often quote two statistics. The first one is that usability can improve KPIs by 83% (Jakob Nielsen, 2008). The second one is that a business can lose up to 400% of its ROI if it hasn’t properly built the initial phases of the project and centred the design on quality personas (Forrester, 2012). That means that the user target and their needs haven’t been properly identified, that the solution won’t suit them – and you’ll have to start all over again.
In France, there’s still a rather limited understanding of what UX is. To explain it to people, we use the iceberg analogy: beneath the tip, 90% of the user experience isn’t immediately visible but you have to work on this part and gradually move up to the surface, to the tip.
Who do you mainly deal with?
It varies. We work with innovation departments a lot but are also beginning to work more with the business lines. IT doesn’t necessarily instigate the projects but they become partners for the implementation phase.
In terms of industry sectors, we work mainly in B2B and B2B2C, more specifically on very business-oriented or industrial services. We don’t work on purely consumer apps much at all.
What are some of the projects you’ve worked on recently?
About a year ago, we developed a mobile intranet for the SNCF (French national railways, Ed). It was a request from the digital department who wanted to set up an intranet to replace a solution that had been rejected by the users. We started with a UX research phase to find out what the users didn’t like then we implemented a complete UX method to develop, in 5 months, an application that was a great success when it was released.
We have a few ongoing confidential projects. For one of them, we started with very simple specifications, drawn up by the client, to industrialise the solution. When we started working, we realised that the proof of concept worked but a number of points hadn’t been taken into account. There were lots of things we had to look in to in terms of functionalities, security, technical aspects. So we decided to start again with a design-thinking phase in order to get a better idea of functional needs and the technical problems that could arise. So we developed all the user experiences, the technical architecture and the security for the system before we launched the actual project.
After you come along, do clients start adopting UX methods within their own organisations?
It depends. Clients with dedicated teams will try and implement best practices, at least for the ideation and needs-definition phases. After that, they tend to turn to us to design the solution, to make sure they don’t leave anything out and can benefit from our expertise.
UX design changes every day. What will it be like in the future?
The term UX isn’t broad enough to cover the whole field. In marketing, CX (customer experience) is used a lot, and we’re also starting to hear about PX (personal experience) for everything to do with wearables and the quantified self. Then there’s service design and even product design.
So we’ll be hearing more and more about experience design (XD), to refer to all these concepts, rather than compartmentalising each area.
These days, applications are collecting more and more user data to personalise and contextualise interfaces and make our lives easier. That raises a lot of questions and concerns on the part of uses about data security and what companies do with this data. As designers, we’re directly involved in designing these new experiences so it’s up to us to make sure all the issues associated with security, confidentiality and ethics are addressed at the design phase. That’s how the designer’s oath project came about, a sort of Hippocratic oath for designers: the aim is to reassure users about using these increasingly smart, autonomous applications.
=> Also on our blog: Juliette Bron, Macif: you have to incorporate UX across the whole company