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A usability test offers a solution!

LINKIT is no stranger to being an OutSystems partner of the Vechtstromen Water Board. When employees at Vechtstromen worked on making the planning tool Plato, they developed it more user-friendly. It was, therefore, only a small step to enlist LINKIT’s help for a user experience assessment. UX designer Charlotte Postma set up a user test on location while developers Peter Buisman and Matthijs Schokker from Vechtstromen watched each component. This means that the water board is one step closer to an improved version of their planning tool, and thanks to ‘show, collaborate, do it yourself’, the team can also get started with usability tests.

Are you planning an event, a meeting on location, or emergency response training for a larger group of employees as an employee of the Vechtstromen Water Board? Then you use Plato. People can collaborate for events in the tool, participants can register, and they can book a location. Invitations are being sent from the program, built in OutSystems so that people receive all the information in their mailbox. But, they discovered at Vechtstromen that the tool is not equally useful for everyone. Although the application works exactly as intended, Vechtstromen’s IT department regularly received questions about specific actions and where to find something. For the users, the program could use improvement. But; how do you discover exactly the pain points or why people can’t find a specific action? For that, you need a user experience assessment: a user test that allows you to find out what people encounter in the program and what they think is logical regarding job titles or the placement of certain parts within the user environment.

A UX designer on location

Because the Vechtstromen Water Board lacked specific experience in the field of UX, they called in LINKIT. More specifically: UX designer Charlotte. Because although they know how to test at the water board, it is essential to set up and execute it properly. Only then will it yield useful results that also answer the right questions. So for this usability test on location, Charlotte worked with the Vechtstromen team to include them fully in the process and its elaboration. “Normally, I always do this alone,” Charlotte laughs, “but now it was also a part of transferring knowledge so that in the future they can do this themselves at Vechtstromen.”

Accurate in design

First of all, the team discussed which things needed to be tested. “That goes further than setting up an interview and having people carry out an assignment,” explains Charlotte. “It’s vital to add the right detail to that.” “For us, we also had to think about the output,” adds Peter. “You can’t test everything, so we focused on a few scenarios.” While Charlotte worked in the background on preparing an assessment, Peter took care of finding the right people for the test. “We approached our people for that test,” says Peter. “They have to work with the tool, and we want to improve Plato for them too.” The team selected people with different roles to improve the planning tool from different perspectives. For example, we gave a assignment to an administrator, an organizer and the participant who has to register for a specific event via the application. Charlotte approached those people so they knew what was going to happen and the test’s purpose. Each test subject then performed several assignments, with the team watching how this went.

Real-life testing

“The final usability test took place at our location in Almelo”, says Peter. “That was exciting because, for people, it feels a bit like they are being judged. While we want to look objectively at how people work with our program.” That is why Charlotte led the user test, and Peter and his colleague watched behind the scenes via Teams. Six 1-on-1 studies, each lasting about an hour, were administered over two days. “It is important to do such a usability test on location,” says Charlotte. “That way, you can follow where someone’s gaze is heading, and you can see, for example, how someone changes their approach. You don’t get that from a distance. Peter agrees. “The little things like that are very important to us. By being close to it, we immediately see what people are looking at or how people are reacting. Especially non-verbal! That provides much more information than if we were to see the results alone.” But… is performing only six tests sufficient? “Five to six tests are normal for a usability assessment,” says Charlotte. “That has to do with efficiency; relatively speaking, you don’t get much extra information from more tests.”

Swift adjustments

This became apparent when beautiful insights emerged from each test. Not only because of what the subjects did but also because of the questions they asked when they got stuck. At the end of each session, Peter, Matthijs and Charlotte discussed their initial findings. What stood out, and were there any additional questions? Of course, the Vechtstromen team could already do a lot with that input. “We were able to implement various small solutions immediately. Add a button, change a name… these are things that can quickly lead to major improvements,” says Peter. “Other results are less easy to process because you first have to look at how you are going to approach that.” Charlotte agrees. “A usability test mainly shows you where the pain points are, but not necessarily what the solution is. Sometimes it is straightforward, but if you discover a deeper problem, for example, in the navigation structure, you need additional research for that.”

Insights for the future

What is the most important thing they have learned at the Vechtstromen Water Board? Peter laughs. “Well, what we think is very intuitive, sometimes doesn’t make much sense at all.” Charlotte: “There is a big difference in the approach to how a program works. For an outsider, it is easy to see when something has been approached from the technical point of view and not so much from the user’s point of view. That is something that they have recognized at Vechtstromen.” Peter nods. “By doing this in this way, we have not only been able to experience how testing something like this works, but we also know how important it is that users can indicate what is intuitive to them. By talking about small adjustments and checking whether they think the same as we do, we can see in advance whether it works. We will certainly include that in new developments!”

About the Vechtstromen Water Board

As an organization, the Vechtstromen Water Board is responsible for water management in 23 municipalities. There they deal with, among other things, the purification of wastewater, strengthening of aquatic nature, advice on groundwater and agriculture, water management, permits, supervision and enforcement.