CUA of the Month – March, 2015

Jeff Werness
“There has been a fundamental shift from treating digital as a new advertising medium to digital being intrinsic to the human conversation. A big change occurred when we started to move into digital and understand that it is all about giving the customers what they want and need, whether they expressed it or not.”
Jeff Werness

Fomer Digital Creative Director
Verizon Wireless

Building Full UX Power

by Jim Garrett

In the past year and a half, our Certified Usability Analyst of the month, Jeff Werness, built an internal UX team at Verizon in New Jersey. Like many companies that embrace the value of great customer experiences, Verizon believes in having creative teams dedicated and certified to deliver on that goal.

As Digital Creative Director, Jeff led an e-commerce design team of 35 people consisting of copywriters, interaction designers, visual designers, design strategists and usability testers. The team identifies, designs and delivers meaningful experiences for Verizon customers and value for the company and works across desktop, tablet, mobile, and apps, in addition to many kinds of new digital experiences.

What are some of the projects that you focused on?

In the last year we completely redesigned our desktop, tablet, and mobile sites. We redesigned the mobile self-serve app and that was probably 80% of the work. And there are a bazillion projects that are the other 20%. We made significant strides qualitatively and quantitatively in improving the customer experience while delivering value for the enterprise. Looking forward, the goal of the team is to continue to deliver transformative customer experiences that make a difference.

What kind of feedback did you get that tells you if the customer is having a good experience or not?

The team does all kinds of usability testing up front, including concept testing, and usability testing through design and development. Experiences are tracked through formalized measurements like Forrester, Brand Checker, JD Power and opinion labs. 

Did you have your own testing lab for your testing methodologies?

Verizon has an in-house usability lab but primarily works with external providers. The team runs about 200 usability tests each month. That is a huge amount. We test things as they are in development and then we test things after they have launched. We are in a constant track of gaining feedback from customers.

Is there one significant thing that is most important in determining a good user experience?

At its most simple level, perhaps it is really a matter of determining if the customer was able to do what they wanted to do. I think that is core, but I think it is a little more complex beyond that. Just because I can do something, does not mean that it was a good experience. It may have been a satisfying experience, I may have been able to do something, but what was the quality of the experience? If I am able to do what I needed to do and able to measure the quality of the experience, and perhaps have the desire to come back and do it again, then it is a complete experience. I can design things that people can do, but it is more important to design something that people want to do.

What have been the most significant changes you have seen over the years in UX development?

There has been a fundamental shift from treating digital as a new advertising medium to digital being intrinsic to the human conversation. A big change occurred when we started to move into digital and understand that it is all about giving the customers what they want and need, whether they expressed it or not.

That took an entirely new kind of skill set as it applies to digital. It became more about behavioral economics and understanding why people do what they do. In order to use digital, as the medium for that conversation, there are a lot of companies who are incredibly good at being analytical and understanding what customers do. But that doesn’t tell you why customers do what they do.

As we’ve come to recognize this distinction, it plays a significant role in how we set direction for designing meaningful experiences. The new part is not necessarily new, but relatively new within the last five to seven years. It now plays a significant role in the way we understand why customers do what they do. When we understand what they do, and why they do it, we have a much deeper insight into the human condition and we can design digital experiences that deliver what they need.

Do you use persuasion techniques?

Absolutely. HFI formalized that perspective in its persuasion engineering courses, which led to my team’s ability to deliver great user experiences.

You took your CUA in 2003. Looking back, how was it significant for you?

It gave me grounding for everything. The CUA presented the context of usability and customer experience as something to be engineered. For example, in one study, we had people on their phones, walking back and forth, up and down in a room, through the hall, trying to send a text message as they are walking. Then we timed people not walking and trying to send text messages. These are revealing experiences. The context of the human experience is paramount in delivering those experiences that make a difference.

Are there other CUAs on the Verizon team?

The whole team is certified as CUA and CXA – and many people outside of the design team get certified, too.

What difference does that make with the team?

It is incredibly helpful. What it does are two things. It both standardizes functions like language and methodology for solving problems and also it gets people asking the right kind of questions. So you get very divergent kinds of thinking that complement and improve the problem solving approach.

This was a comprehensive role that you played there. Where do you find your passion and enjoyment in all of this?

I am very passionate about improving the human condition, and digital done right has the potential to achieve that. The other is creating new stuff. Digital can do that, too. And being able to work for a wireless carrier and create those digital experiences from a service standpoint, and from an e-commerce standpoint, meant that I get to do what I love. It is incredibly satisfying to create new things that go to market and result in changing customers' perception of value, just from interacting through a brand.

CUA of the Month

Each month we highlight the successes and achievements of a different member of our CUA community. If you are a Certified Usability Analyst and would like to be considered for CUA of the Month recognition, please send a brief professional bio to

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Reviewed: 18 Mar 2014

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Reviewed: 18 Mar 2014

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