Tuesday 17 March 2015

Integrating user feedback into development of the 'anywhere article'

Marlo Harris from Wiley on The Anywhere Article
Marlo Harris, Director of Project Management at Wiley, focused on the rise - and importance - of end-user research in digital product development.

The focus and value of end-user research has risen significantly in recent years, particularly as we move closer and closer towards online-only delivery of academic research. As a scholarly service community, we all want to meet our users' needs. Unfortunately, it's far too easy to lose focus on the user once we get into the weeds of technical development and managing other stakeholder interests. With the development of The Anywhere Article they showed what can happen when you listen to users all the way from initial research, through development, and as an ongoing activity to add value to online content.

As humans, why don't we listen? We are preoccupied with our own thoughts. We're tired, distracted or lack interest. Often, it's because we are preparing to speak ourselves. We might be in flunked by personal feelings or opinion or there may be too many speakers.

As publishers, why don't we listen to users of our products? We think we already know what they want/need. We don't ask the right questions. User needs aren't well articulated or there are louder voices. Possibly the most common is that we don't have time.

They subscribe to Nielsen's approach - you learn most of the issues by talking to five or six people. With The Anywhere Article, their research came about following a Quora social media Q&A on why researchers prefer PDF to HTML. Most answers said HTML is too cluttered. They used that as a starting point to try and design HTML to provide seamless experience.

The Anywhere Article had a new team approach to development. The UX architect is a member of the development team. Agile and user engagement practices go hand-in-hand. Feature details evolve and are tested along the way. They brought in new UX researchers as they needed it.

This resulted in The Anywhere Article, directly tackling the criticisms and frustrations around traditional HTML research papers.

They are continuing to get feedback and are using that to feed future developments. They get good, bad and grounding feedback, for example, where is the PDF download button? They realised they needed to change the button to red instead of blue.

Challenges and lessons they have learned along the way include the importance of research and listening. It takes a lot of time and money. In terms of development, incorporating user feedback into development against deadlines is a challenge. The wide and varied landscape of browsers and devices has an impact. Hard to accommodate all and they are constantly changing.

Harris wishes they'd undertaken more ad hoc guerrilla usability along the way. That would have helped them to tweak some features more quickly. You also need to bear in mind that when you ask for feedback you get a lot. You have to manage that. And they have learned that researchers still want the PDF.

Why does the The Anywhere Article matter? Users aren't generally paying for the content. Publishers need to add value to the record as they are competing with other versions on the web. Adding value = usage = revenue.

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