June 26, 2019

Embedding UX

By Ned Potter, Academic Liaison Librarian 

At UXLibs IV, Michelle Blake and I presented on embedding UX at York and trying to make it part of our culture. We then wrote up the article for the UXLibs Yearbook, and the Open Access embargo period has now come to an end so please go and have a read! You'll find the article here in the White Rose repository, freely available to download.

UX methodology is becoming more firmly established in the Library sector, moving from novelty to maturity. The article focuses on how do we've tried to ensure that our internal processes, systems, and ethos support this, and make UX truly part of our daily ‘business as usual’, rather than being a perpetual project... 

If you're interested, our slides from the conference are here:

To give you a flavour of the UXLibs yearbook article, here's an excerpt:

Top tips for embedding UX at your own institution 

We thought we’d end with five tips for embedding UX. We’re not trying to suggest we’re the experts here, or that we’ve perfected our strategy. But we have gone a long way to make UX part of the culture at York, and here are some of the things we consider to have been most important in achieving that:

You need buy-in from the top. 

Of course you do, this is news to no one. The key is to link UX to the existing aims and strategy of your organisation and management. People are much less likely to buy in to something in UX silo than they are to buy in to something which helps them achieve what is already on their agenda. Persistence is important too. Many institutions have found it’s a lot easier to get permission to diagnose problems through ethnography than permission to try and solve them through actual design changes - but don’t be discouraged, keep suggesting ways to improve things, and celebrate successful changes widely - and publicly. Which brings us neatly to...

Go beyond the walls of your own institution. 

The more you shout about your UX work to the wider world, the more it is appreciated inside your own institution. In a strange way, external validation can influence how valid something is considered internally, and if your work is out there and talked about this can help enormously.

Repeat after me: UX is not cool. 

The sooner UX is no longer framed as this hip new thing, the better. UX is a suite of useful tools that enable us to better know our users and improve our services for them. Nothing about that is faddish. UX is not trendy; UX is essential to improving library services.

Time is SO important for UX. 

It is important to be realistic about just how much time UX takes. We’ve found the 4:1 ratio - the idea that for every hour of fieldwork you’ll spend four hours analysing and making recommendations - to be remarkably accurate. It’s a messy business, ethnography, and only worth it because of how incredibly productive it can be. Investing time in staff so that everyone feels like they can truly understand and utilise these techniques is important. Time to keep up to date through networking at events, attending presentations, and reading the literature. Time for each project. Time to analyse results. Time to act on the data.

You get more impact from quality than you do from quantity. 

Embedding UX at an institution is not about trying to crowbar it into every facet of working life, in fact the opposite is true. Focus the way you use your resources and aim for true impact on the users of your service.

 UX truly takes root not because you do it all the time, but because when you do it you make a genuine impact, you truly learn, and things change as a result.

If you'd like to read the rest of the yearbook article, please download the article here!

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