Expanding UX knowledge with internal trainings

As the UX (user experience) community at Visma grows, we work to spread throughout our organization the central UX tenet of designing with and for our user. In the Visma Software Product Unit, one way we are increasing domain awareness is by holding biannual UX trainings for our R&D colleagues. This 3-day course targets QAs, team managers and developers, with the goals of improving understanding of UX, establishing a user-centered design process and enabling teams to perform their own UX related tasks.

Visma’s user-centered design process

The training has become very popular as it is an engaging course with a ‘hands on’ approach. We teach how to utilize common UX methods through an imaginary redesign of an existing Visma product. Over the three days, we teach about the tools Visma is using to align interaction patterns and graphic design across our products. We then go through our entire user-centered design process, practicing one method from each of the four essential steps.

The trainings have regularly received positive feedback and have been successful in spreading enthusiasm for UX. In follow up surveys, we have found that the participants report increased usage of the methods learned during the course. It has also been a wonderful way to improve visibility of UX within the organization and for the UX community to learn more about the needs of product teams that do not have dedicated UX resources.

Day One

Sharing UX guidelines and methods

Sharing UX guidelines and methods

The first day we start by going over basic UX theory that is actively used within Visma. We introduce the internal UX guidelines (ux.visma.com) and graphic design principles that Visma products should follow and the participants break the ice by working together to use the guidelines. Next, we take a critical eye to the products the participants are working on by using the ‘Visma UX checklist’ to test them against the guidelines. At the end of the day we look at some typical UI mistakes that are commonly seen and discuss tips for how to solve or avoid them.

In the evening we take some time to relax and get to know each other, enjoying a good dinner out on the town.

Day Two

On day two the real fun begins as we dive into the user centered design process with a mock redesign of an old product. It is an energetic day as we sail through the first three steps in the process: understanding user context, specifying demands and developing concepts.

Participants collaborate to create prototypes

Working in small groups, the groups start by performing user observations of an old Visma product that has quite a few things to improve. The groups document all of the UX problems they see to gain a better understanding of user context and areas of improvement.

In the second step, specifying demands, the groups create a priority list of improvements. We use the problems documented in the first step and play a game called ‘priority poker’ to organize the improvements in order of importance.

Things get creative in the third step when the groups start creating original UX concepts that aim to solve the primary problems found in the first two steps. Brainstorming and designing together, we work with paper and pens to create simple interactive prototypes that can be tested on users.

Day three

The final day of the training we delve into the iterative nature of UX. We practice the final step of the UCD process, evaluate concepts, by performing user tests of the paper prototypes.

After gathering test feedback, we practice using Balsamiq by making an improved, higher fidelity prototype of our concepts. This has proven to be a valuable exercise as Balsamiq is a practical tool that participants often take into their daily work to explore, test and communicate design solutions with the rest of their teams.

At the end of day three the final prototypes are showcased to all. It is very rewarding to see how many interesting solutions and improvements can be designed within only three days. The end results are encouraging as they hold proof that a few ‘fast and dirty’ UX methods can be very effective in improving our design approach and, ultimately, our products.

The training is a lot of fun to participate in, for both the UX designers who lead it and our product team colleagues who come to improve their design skills. It has proven a great tool for sharing UX knowledge beyond the boundaries of Visma’s UX community and encouraging the development of a design-centric culture company-wide.