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12 Things You Can Do to Get Your Portal to Production Quickly: Part 3 – Don’t Forget Your Users

User Experience MattersDon’t Forget Your Users

Does anyone think it is easy to design a great user experience when you do not involve real users?  I am really suprised at just how many customers think it is and then wind up re-working much of their portal after releasing to production.  While this may be a shortcut to getting your initial production release you will introduce a long delay in subsequent releases because of the user interface redesign you will undoubtably have to go through.  Even the most experienced user interaction designers cannot design perfect user interfaces without proper iterative testing.  This should start as early in the process as possible.

Here are some typical steps towards an exceptional user experience:

  • Engage the users as early as possible.  Users will provide more frank feedback when they feel they are involved in the design instead of testing a completed and polished product.
  • Don’t forget your information architecture.  How is your information categorized?  What does the taxononmy look like?  It is important that users can find the information they are looking for.  This is often implemented using card sorting activities.
  • Paper prototyping and testing.  Draw possible renderings on paper, test use cases with real users, refine, and test again.  It is very easy to redraw and retest on paper.
  • Develop mid and high fidelity prototypes.  Visualization tools (such as iRise) can help speed the process.
  • Test the prototypes with real users and make revisions based on challenges the users have.  Try to leave the things that work well alone.

There are two other key points you do not want to forget:

  • Engage the business.  The solution must not only meet the needs of the users but there are business needs and justifications that fund what you are doing.  Make sure these needs are addressed in the solution.  Business tends to be very excited to be involved in the visual design and testing process.
  • Engage the technical team.  Portal user interfaces are extremely flexible but it is important to have periodic checkpoints with the technical team.  This is important to make sure the UX team does not design something which cannot be implemented in portal.  Furthermore, you want to make sure that you leverage capabilities portal provides and if the UX team does not know the capabilities of the portal product you are using, this may be missed.

And lastly one final word of advice.  This process does not end with the first release.  Your portal will grow, new content and capabilities will be added and user expectations will change.  If you do not keep up with this change, your portal will grow unusable with time.

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Glenn Kline

Area Vice President, Custom Development and Mobile Solutions

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