CUA of the Month – January, 2013

Todd Lazurca
"The user experience skills that I’ve learned from HFI fit naturally into the larger picture that we’re painting for the company."
Todd Lazurca
Interactive Project Leader – User Experience

Usability, Canadian Style

by Jim Garrett

This month we look to Canada for our CUA of the Month. Here lives and works Todd Lazurca, a true champion of usability. Todd demonstrates that with the right knowledge and determination, one can advance a career and a company.

Todd began work at SaskPower in June of this year as the Interactive Project Leader - User Experience, within the Communications Department. This is where the interactive channel resides, and advertising activities are driven through this department.

Todd is CUA certified and has taken three of the four CXA courses. Here is his story.

How did you get started on the usability path?

“Before coming to SaskPower, I was in the Communications Department at SaskTel, a telecommunications company based in the province. I was responsible for their intranet environment and assisted the department with not just the intranet, but all of the interactive solutions that were used to communicate to the employees — video, electronic billboarding, and the like. That’s where I built my usability foundation. I was working there when I achieved my CUA and it was because of that that I was able to move over to this position here at SaskPower.”

That helped you get your current position?

“Definitely. SaskPower is an interesting company. They’ve had a lot of CUAs working for them in the past. In fact, on the team that I’m working on right now there are three other people who have their certification, so it was almost a prerequisite for the team.”

After you finished the CUA training, what was your approach?

“After I achieved my CUA in 2008, I needed to champion the cause within my department at SaskTel. I demonstrated why it was important, and we committed to starting the process from scratch. We went right back to the basics with profiling, personas, and testing, testing, testing. It took about a year and a half, but we totally reworked our intranet environment based on that user-centric approach.”

It worked?

“Yes, because I had the methodology and the experience in place, a better understanding of our users’ needs, and we understood the rewards of applying a user-centric approach. Everything that the CUA courses taught held true — which was great because that’s what I was telling the leaders of my department. It was great that it actually proved true… it would have been very uncomfortable if it hadn’t.”

How did you apply the training into the actual work environment and see different results from your work?

“In the ten years that I’d been in the Communications Department at SaskTel, we had re-launched our intranet environment numerous times but it never really worked. Often there wasn’t buy-in from the employees and there were complaints because something didn’t behave the way they thought it was going to behave or they found it difficult to use.

“We went through three versions of the intranet while I was there, and we even worked with consultants to help guide us in building our information architecture. But it wasn’t until I actually adopted the user-centric methodology that HFI teaches, that we were actually able to identify who our users were and what their needs were, and in identifying their needs, satisfy them.

“When we finally re-launched our site, we didn’t receive a single complaint about anything that we had done — and it wasn’t that we just changed a button, or moved something over, or applied a new label. No, we basically started from scratch. We tested labels, we tested the information architecture, we tested the design, we tested the palette, we tested everything that we could, and by doing so, we made sure that we involved our user groups and stayed in touch with the needs we identified. Our employees had made an emotional investment in the process and in the project, so they saw the value in it. Sometimes there were changes which didn’t make sense to us and that we didn’t think were wise, but they were proven true by all of the testing. We committed to actually do what our testing showed. We did it and it worked well. Extremely well. It was crazy, it was a huge success for us!”

Now at SaskPower what are you doing with user experience?

“It’s an interesting time for us here in the Communications Department at SaskPower, because we are looking at our user experience learnings and figuring out how we can weave them into the larger communications experience that our customers are having with the company. We’re trying to use PET (persuasion, emotion, and trust) techniques to direct not only our interactive communications but our traditional media tools as well.”

What are the current campaigns you are working on at SaskPower?

“They tend to be large customer-affecting campaigns for the most part—safety and efficiency programs used to foster generational behavior change. We want people to use less power. We want people to be safe around electricity.

“Earlier this fall, we completed a Farm Safety campaign where we used social media in a bigger way. We used the persuasive elements — the PET elements — in crafting our messages. We’ve just finished a lighting exchange program in which we used those same kinds of techniques to massage the messaging across the board, not only the interactive stuff but also the traditional media. We also used it to help frame the actual experience that our customers experienced in the store when they went to exchange their old lights for higher efficiency bulbs.”

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about user-centered design?

“Well, I think it’s just having the tools in place to understand what is driving our customers to do things, and understanding that needs to be the foundation for everything that you’re going to do. If you don’t understand that, you’re really just taking a shot in the dark. You might be very good at intuitively knowing or having an idea about what you should be doing, but you truly don’t know. There is always something that is going to surprise you. Unless you’re open and actively working to uncover those things, you can’t really be guaranteed success.”

What successes have you seen in your current job from applying your usability experience and principles?

“The first task for me when I came into the company in my current role was to do an audit of our existing external site based on some basic usability guidelines, and in doing so we identified some opportunities. We’re fortunate that we have lots of customer segmentation research for the company, so we were able to delve into that. And, with some UX messaging activities that I help lead the team through, we have realized even more opportunities.”

“It’s a little like the perfect storm here. We’re paying a lot of attention to the brand of the company right now. We’re doing a lot of research. We’re also taking a serious look at our overall customer experience right now. When you combine that with the user experience toolset and strengths that I’m bringing into the company, there’s a lot of excitement within our department about what we can achieve. The user experience skills that I’ve learned from HFI fit naturally into the larger picture that we’re painting for the company right now. As a first step, we’re in the midst of re-launching our website in a really big way. Our plan is to have a new responsive website launched by end of the year which is based on our user-centric methodology.”

What do you enjoy most about usability and your training?

“I think the thing that I like about it the most, and which has been the biggest reward for me, is that we are able to produce really great work— great work that works for us and works for our customers. It just works for everybody. It’s not about egos — we’re just creating a really good product, a product we can be proud of. That is surely the biggest reward in all of this.”

Any future plans for the company that have come out of all of this?

“Like I said before, the company is in an interesting place. Right now usability and user experience is based in the Communications Department. We’re working to institutionalize it — creating some new roles within the company that will use the same learnings and the same methodology. We’ve purchased UX Enterprise and the methodology module from HFI which we plan to use as the standard within the company so that we’re all testing and reporting the same way, and can build a larger experience database of what drives our customers to participate in our programs, and use our tools. This will help us all have a better understanding of who we’re designing for, and will allow us to share knowledge and toolsets to guarantee the company’s success.”

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

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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