by Jim Garrett
When our Certified Usability Analyst of the Month, John Rizzo, started at CDK Global three and half years ago, he hit the ground running. Now Senior User Experience Designer, John had just finished his CUA certification and the company’s newly formed UX team was growing quickly. CDK Global is the largest global provider of integrated information technology and digital marketing solutions to the automotive retail industry. CDK is at the forefront of an industry that is rapidly evolving into a more user-centric car buying process. Car buyers are now doing a lot of research online before ever stepping foot into a car dealership. At the same time, car dealerships are leveraging the use of new technologies like tablets to reduce the time car buyers spend inside a car dealership.
John’s approach has been getting people to buy into the idea of using research to drive design decisions. He likes to educate stakeholders on the importance of research, how research is done and how it can help achieve their goals. He also stresses the idea of having a user-centered approach in their process. This has made a significant shift in the company. They design their products by listening to what the customers have to say, as well as observing them using their software. This has helped them understand how they can develop products that their customers find easy to use, easy to learn, efficient and at the end of the day, allow them to sell more cars. CDK Global recently built an in-house usability lab and they have more positions opening up all the time to add to their growing UX team. They have also added team members in other office locations throughout the United States.
Can you give any examples of what you’ve learned from the certification training?
The biggest thing was learning about all the different types of research that can be used. Our software is not the typical consumer-facing type of product. Our software is pretty complex and that means making workflows that have a lot of moving parts to them. It definitely opened my eyes to a lot of other techniques in order for us to understand these complexities and how we might make our products easier for our customers to use. I see it with the product owners and developers I work with who are usually new to working with any kind of UX team. Their understanding of what UX research is tends to be something like asking a customer if they like the navigation on the top or along the left side. I don’t fault anyone for this. Our craft is just so new that it’s not widely understood. It’s my job to educate them.
Once I show them what it really means and how it can make their job easier, they’re usually 100% onboard. What I learned in the certification training is that there are dozens of different types of research methods and you have to pick the right one for the job and the right one depending on where you’re at in the process. For instance, you don’t want to jump right into doing formal task-based usability studies without first understanding the needs of your users in a particular workflow. After I took the CUA classes, I had an understanding of all of this, which has helped me get the most out of the research I do.
A good example is when we kept hearing an issue regarding reading a credit report, as we were testing the workflows where this step occurred. We decided to take that issue and start testing it in other ways to see if we could design a better solution that was more efficient and easier to use for our customers. We conducted card sort testing, interviews, Contextual Inquiry (inside car dealerships) and finally formal, task-based usability studies. The research was conducted in several different states. We fine-tuned the designs over several iterations until we matched the user’s mental model and the users had no problems using it. We also had to make this solution easy to learn and use for the first time. This was for new employees who had never read credit reports before. We also had to include elements that only the experts seem to need/want.
We wanted to understand how they read the existing reports, what data they required and how they interpret that data. As part of our research, we asked them to highlight the data they thought was most critical to include in the new design and to number those in order of their importance. This helped us design a visual representation of a credit report that only showed the data that was important to the user and to this process.
So I think the ability to understand the different types of research methods out there and knowing which method to apply and when to apply it is critical. We probably wouldn’t have gotten out of it what we did, if not for the many ways we tested it.
Is there anything else that you can share, like the software for the dealers, where any of your UX training came into play?
I think my UX training comes into play for most, if not all, of the products I work on at CDK. The products I work on happen in the sales part of the workflow when buying a car. We are currently redesigning the entire product for these workflows. My CUA training comes into play just about every day. Sometimes I’m just advising my stakeholders on research findings or usability practices in general. Research is becoming part of the process at CDK and my CUA training has helped me get here.
Do you think having the HFI/ UX certification gives you a more official standing?
I think it does. I’ve proven my self and my abilities to the many teams I support at CDK. I’ve also had people ask me what the certification is all about, once they see it in my email signature. I see those as great opportunities to educate them on what that certification is and how my CUA training can help them. It has gotten to the point where my product owners will help me get research to be a priority. I’ve had my stakeholders push for a bigger research budgets too. People see the value in getting research done from the very beginning. They love the idea that research can save them and their developers a lot of rework time down the road. It makes me happy that they are not only trusting in what I can deliver to them, but the fact that they are fighting for research show the value they have in the skills I learned in the certification training.
The knowledge you learn in the certification program is not the same stuff you can find in a blog or a book. The CUA training materials are fact based and/or based on researched papers that have been published. I truly think that the CUA certification is going to help anybody building something that a human is going to interact with. It doesn’t matter if you are the COO or a developer. Everyone will benefit from the certification training.
Where do you find your motivation and passion in all of this?
My passion is doing what is right for our users and making them happy by making usable products. That is probably the biggest thing that I practice and preach. Our industry is still so young and a lot of people I work with either have never heard the term UX or have a false understanding of it. I love being able to open people’s eyes to the world of UX research and seeing what they can learn about their user’s needs.
Overall, what really drives me is building something that I know our customers are going to be excited about, be easy to learn how to use and be more efficient at their job. I try to educate people I work with so they can understand their customer’s needs.
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