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By Cindy McCracken | LexisNexis UX Research Lead
Six in 10 workers said new business software had frustrated them in the past two years, according to a November 2021 survey published by Gartner, Inc. In addition, 56% of respondents said new software had made them wish their management would bring the old software back. If business software tools are becoming faster and more sophisticated, how is it that new iterations are causing so much frustration among users? In most cases, it’s that the developers of these products failed to focus on the user experience.
User experience, or “UX,” refers to the various ways users interact with software. The basic premise is that even the most advanced technological innovation is not helpful if the product is difficult to use. A product can have robust capabilities that go untapped if users are unaware of them or unable to unlock those applications.
“A good — even great — user experience is an essential component of a quality software product and provides a sustainable strategic advantage that differentiates a product from those of a company’s competitors,” writes Pabini Gabriel-Petit, editor in chief of UXmatters. “Thus, user experience is a core competency within today’s software companies, and an expert in UX strategy and design is an indispensable part of a software product team.”
LexisNexis has built a global team of UX researchers and designers who strive to create products that are not just easy to use, but also solve user problems they didn’t even realize could be solved. The team includes experts in psychology, human computer interaction, design, and of course software development.
When considering a new product idea, we’ll first conduct what we call “discovery research” in that space to determine the most important jobs users need to accomplish, and whether they need help performing it. We may talk with 8-10 users about their needs, then run a survey with 100 or more participants to get additional feedback. If it looks like there is a need for the product or feature, we’ll then run multiple rounds of design concept testing with 8-10 users each to get their input. Depending on the information needed to feel confident about a new product, it’s likely we’ll test the idea with a few hundred people over time. This is all because we feel it is critical is to talk to the right people – those who would be the prospective users of our products.
Different research methods are used at different stages of product development. Initially, if we’re trying to really understand the problem space, we might interview customers, run diary studies, or field exploratory surveys. To gain more insight and clarity around the space, we might map out users’ workflows (“journey mapping)”; run card sorts to understand how to organize information; or get feedback on design concepts. Finally, once a design is more fleshed out, we’ll have users try to complete their tasks using a prototype to see how well it works well for them. Once a product is released, we also work with data analysts to create success metrics that we can track with product usage data, then we track users’ product ratings and comments.
The need to research customers before creating or modifying products is similar across industries. One aspect that is different in the legal market is it can be harder to access our customers and potential customers because their jobs are very demanding and time-consuming, so the truth is they may not want to take the time to participate in research. We can’t, for example, use general research panels, because they typically don’t include many attorneys and legal information professionals. To address this issue, we invited customers to join a participant panel that we created – and that has been working well for sourcing our studies.
One of the keys to the LexisNexis approach is integrating the UX and product teams with an agile software development process that is fast and efficient. Our team doesn’t build products based on a list of features created by a manager; they conduct research with customers to understand their challenges and needs, then design products and features that meet those needs.
Legal professionals don’t buy software for the features and functionality. They want us to fulfill a need they have right now. We believe that is what drives innovation in the legal industry.
Ultimately, a modern user experience in research and information products for legal professionals should be one that allows them to quickly and easily answer legal questions to gain greater clarity. If we can deliver products that achieve this goal, legal professionals can spend more time on high-value tasks, develop tighter legal strategies, and provide greater value to their clients or enterprises.
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