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Three Ways to Mitigate Design Risk

Posted by Protiviti KnowledgeLeader on Wed, Nov 07, 2012 @ 10:30 AM

Business men with laptop laughing 116x116Often, companies do not consider the risks involved with systems design. To mitigate the organizational risks of systems design, organizations should:

Develop user profiles for each target audience.

The better a company understands its internal and external audience, the more easily it can choose the content, language, and functionality that keep users coming back. For each audience the system is targeting, leading companies create a psycho-graphic profile of typical users. Research helps identify the goals, concerns, and decision-making criteria of each user type. Knowing this, companies can push relevant content and navigation links at every point in the users' journey, making it easier and faster for users to achieve their goals for using the system.

Clearly defined user profiles give system product managers a basis for making content and user experience decisions. Designers can then make a case for the inclusion of specific content on designated navigation paths.

Everything is based on what will help well-defined users more easily reach their goals. One way the system design team can stay focused on the user is to give each type of user a person's name, then to use that name to represent the type when making decisions. For example, when selecting a particular piece of information, the design team might ask, "Would John want to know about that?"

Let user-event-scenarios drive system architecture.

An event scenario is the series of actions a user takes in pursuit of a particular goal when using a system. Scenario-driven system design means including only the content, links, and functionality that help users carry out the required sequence of events and providing those elements at the precise moment users need them.

To identify user scenarios, companies research the habits of targeted users in focus groups or through direct observation of their behavior. Smart companies also interview and observe employees who serve the targeted audience through other distribution channels, for insights into which tasks users are most likely to attempt when using the system.

Of course, the ultimate judges of whether the system succeeds in supporting the target audiences' event scenarios are the users. For that reason, experts in usability ask end users to pursue particular activities. Testers watch every click users make in pursuit of that goal, noting mishaps along the way. Leading companies use such information to reduce the number of clicks required to carry out various system activities.

Lead users to relevant areas of system through clear navigation headings.

Most end users have clear goals in mind when they begin using the system. Navigation tabs and headings are the signposts that lead users to relevant sections of the system. Knowing this, leading companies craft navigation headings based on what makes sense to the user, not on internal structures and organizations. By clearly spelling out the four or five major activities a user can perform within the system. A well-designed system homepage tells users why they should click further, and gives them shortcuts to get where they are going faster. If the initial page fails to pique users' interests, the company may never have a chance to impress them with the features and content that lie deeper.

Of course, navigation cues don't stop at the homepage. Additional tabs, categories, headlines, and brief descriptions on every new system page keep users from getting lost and guide them toward their ultimate destination. Because most users are searching for specific information and solutions, they will be drawn to systems that support their basic search mission.

Be cautious about the headings they use to depict the system’s content. Instead of eye-catching headlines, metaphors, or slogans, good technical writers use simple language that helps users understand the kind of information they will find in each section. If the system targets different user types, technical writers may describe the same contents with language that speaks to the particular interests and understanding of each audience. Thus, users with different goals who tread different navigation paths through the site may eventually link back to the same page, even though different words were used to entice them there. To determine the most effective word choice, leading companies employ communication professionals and consult specialists in motivation, art, sociology, language, and anthropology.

Is your organization susceptible to systems design risks? Download this design review checklist and find out today!

Topics: risk assessment, Design Risk, Systems Design

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