User Experience (UX) design is a set of principles that lay out an end-to-end experience for a designated user or consumer. It uses research, data, human interaction, and emotions to deliver the best client / user experience within a product or service. Typically, when we think of UX, we think of the phone, tablet, or desktop that you are using – and while this blog focuses primarily on software development, UX design principles can be used beyond technology.

When we face a problem, we naturally want to provide possible solutions. Let’s take a look at the basics of UX and ways to apply user-centered thinking to your problem-solving.

1. Discovery: Listen & Empathize
One of the hardest aspects of UX design is the fact that we are not designing for ourselves, instead a highly targeted segment with specific needs and opinions. Before even considering potential design solutions, it is imperative to spend time collecting data, performing research, and empathizing with our targeted audience.

At Greenphire, discovery is one of the most important steps before designing an experience for our users. We utilize a mix of interviews, surveys, various data sources, focus groups, observation, and information architecture as ways to collect feedback. For our solutions, we’re often asking about preferences related to integrations, reporting value, payment modality and more. For example, we just recently held a focus group to validate concepts for enhancements coming to our eClinicalGPS site payments solution.

Being able to organize the data and listen to the results is necessary to fully understand the scenario of the problem we are trying to solve. This step can help define problem requirements that are unknown and even change the initially identified problem statement.

Empathy is also important during this step. A truly good user experience takes into account the end user’s thoughts, feelings and needs. Thoughts and feelings are provoked anytime a user interacts with software and it is imperative to understand how each different user type will feel. For example, our end users span across clinical trial stakeholders – from sponsors and CROs striving for enhanced financial control and visibility to sites looking for a more streamlined way to distribute reimbursements and participants who ultimately receive funds. Ultimately, empathy is not a step to skip.

2. Analyze & Define Requirements
Once all the data points are collected and organized, it’s time to analyze what we know. This part can provide some of the most impactful requirements, as once seemingly unconnected data can truly become a significant insight.

At Greenphire, we use robust data visualization tools to combine data sources and showcase them in an easy-to-understand way. Some of our most complicated user challenges are solved with a journey map exercise, which is a great way to visualize a user or customer relationship with a product or service over time. To create a journey map, start with the end goal. Are you looking for a new product feature, a new workflow, or even a better in-person experience? From there, list out all of the touchpoints your end user will hit before they have finished their journey. This linear map or journey can showcase areas of focus, making it easier to define what requirements are needed for your end experience.

3. Ideate: Design a Solution (or Enhancement)
This is it! At this point, you’ve gone through great lengths to research, empathize, and analyze all of the data needed to problem solve. This part should be the easiest; let the data and journey speak for itself! At Greenphire, we work agile methodology into everything we do. When we have enough requirements for a solution, we get to work. One key thing to know is that the first solution does not have to be made in full. Most of the time a prototype, proof-of-concept or simple printout can bring an idea to life. Most importantly, we know that the first iteration of the solution is likely not the final version, which brings us to the last step in this process.

4. Test & Validate
It’s time to put your idea to the test. Testing and validating your solution and design may take just as long or longer than the first 3 steps. At Greenphire, we believe in continuous improvement. Every piece of the solution should be discussed and tested. A/B testing, surveys, in-app feedback, focus groups, observation, and usability testing are all methods we use to test and reiterate.

You’ll know the time is right to implement your well-designed solution when metrics start to show a positive influence from the old state. At Greenphire, we put the truth into the numbers. Having a benchmark stat to compare your new solution to is the best way to see if it is working! Benchmarks can be anything from survey results, speed in the tool, or even just change in volume. While not a slam dunk, following the first few steps with a research-backed solution should have targeted results.

Putting the Pieces Together to Deliver Tangible Value-add
A recent UX success has been our in-application Knowledge Center, now available within both the ClinCard and eClinicalGPS solutions. We listened to site and sponsor feedback and as a result have delivered on-demand access to workflow guides, video tutorials, feature release notes and the ability to sign up for live training directly within the portals. Once the requirements were identified, we built the solution, tested, and launched the enhancement. We’re actively tracking usage and feedback, and surveys have shown that individuals who access the guides, videos and tutorials are satisfied both with the materials as well as the solution at hand.

Think Like a Designer
UX design thinking should be a cyclical process, one that is anchored by feedback. Feedback should be gathered by internal and external stakeholders every step of the way. To be a good user experience designer is to be able to think and feel like your end user. The closer you get to understanding the way they think, the easier it is to make an impactful decision.

UX thinking and principles can be used beyond technology. At Greenphire, we use this design process to solve internal and external problems, both technical and non-technical in nature, all with a goal to provide continuous value to our clients. Try out some of these methods the next time you have a complicated problem to solve!

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