Design with empathy and insight

Have you ever fallen in love with design? Seen a graphical mock-up that really represented your brand spot on in a way you would not know how to describe with words?

The problem with design in digital projects is that people tend to fall in love with different things. When feelings guide project decisions, life as a digital or project manager doesn’t get any easier. There must be a better way.

A design that you really want or a design that you really need?

Contextual research gives us a systematic way of developing a deeper understanding of our users. Using these insights and uncovering what users might be expressing when you read between the lines is one of the cornerstones of empathic design.

What users don’t say is often key. Contextual research gives us a way of developing a deeper understanding of our users. This enables us to not only design with empathy but to identify latent needs that provide opportunities to create breakthrough products and services.

In different projects in the past years, Paul-Jervis Heath has used diary studies, shadowing, contextual interviews plus some informal contextual research techniques. He’s mapped numerous customer journeys, including of buying and using a new kitchen appliance, inventing a machine that means you never order the wrong size shoes online and navigating the future of Open Access publishing

Paul applies human-centred design to help businesses invent their future and is principal at design studio and innovation consultancy Modern Human

Designing intelligent environments for everyday life

The ‘internet of things’ moves technology out of our hands and into the environments we inhabit. Rather than devices that constantly demand our attention, technology can be embedded everywhere; invisible until called upon. This creates a new relationship between us, the environments we inhabit, and the technology in those environments.

In a session on the UX conference track at the J. Boye Aarhus 17 conference, Paul-Jervis Heath will start by exploring our changing relationship with technology based on ethnographic research with early adopters of smarthome devices. He will then present two case studies of designing smart environments: the product design of a suite of kitchen appliances that work together to create ambient intelligence; and a concept for the retail store of the future.

Finally, he will share a framework for designing intelligent environments.

Designing a fundamentally better organisation

If organisations took more time to do design right – understanding those who will use the deliverables – and do it early in the project, it would fundamentally lead to better digital solutions, which is better for the organisation.

With limited budget and compressed timelines, you probably need to fight hard to get space to do it right from the beginning.

5 questions to ask before selecting a Web CMS

As content management systems largely remain the de-facto digital platform for most large and complex organisations, selecting the right one for your organisation is a critical decision. The new system should ideally last for several years to come, but how do you find the best one?

Analysts crown vendors as winners and losers in the Web CMS market, but it is still a crowded and confusing marketplace for buyers. Typically you are not just selecting a new tool, you also have to factor in important aspects such as references, community, roadmap and support.

5 key CMS selection questions

To help you find the perfect CMS for your organisation, I’ve shared extensively throughout the years on the art and science of selecting the right CMS as well as the future of CMS.

An important part of the process is to ask the right questions to make progress on CMS selection:

  • Budget; how much should the project cost? If your last CMS selection lies a few years back and you are using a CMS crowned by analysts as a leader, you are probably spending too much. Make sure to leave your tender open so that you can get competitive proposals with an attractive price
  • Decision; do you want to make the decision itself or leave it with the digital agency? Unless you have in-house IT resources to commit to the project, we usually recommend that you look for both system integrator as well as new CMS vendor in one joint process. If for example you ask a boutique Kentico partner they are likely to also propose Kentico, but many agencies and system integrators work with multiple systems.
  • Open source; are you ready to consider open source? It continues to surprise me how many organisations are ignoring open source when looking for Web CMS. Most analysts ignore it; what are your good reasons?
  • Implementation; who will do the implementation? Don’t select a tool before deciding who will actually implement it. Are you looking for someone local? Do you want agency or system integrator? Not thinking about implementation up-front is a good way to set yourself up for failure.
  • System; why don’t we just use Drupal? This inevitable question comes up from time to time as one developer on your team might claim to know a given CMS inside out. Tempting as it might seem, is it indeed a sensible decision?

Look beyond the system for CMS success

As you might have noticed, these key questions are not directly tied to how eZ support multi-language or how Magnolia does mobile sites or anything else specific to the features of a given CMS. Those are all valid questions as well, but if you don’t want your CMS selection to drag on in an ever-changing marketplace, you should start with some other key questions.

Today most organisations are into their second or third content management system and some are even running multiple systems within their organisation. Good answers to the key questions will act as decision-support along the way and ensure that you don’t get blinded by hype and marketing, but rather gets you on the right track to a successful CMS selection followed by the smooth implementation we all dream of.

What’s the Point of Your Digital Investment?

Congratulations on your investment in the digital workplace. It’s how we do business. Big hitters like Office 365 and Workplace by Facebook, numerous cloud-based collaboration and networking tools. These are now largely the norm for medium and large businesses. But before we get too excited about all this new technology, let’s first ask ourselves a fundamental question: what are we deploying these tools for?

Robot IQ Cartoon

Are we really procuring something as powerful as Office 365 just to create and store documents? Common reasons for deploying digital tools include ‘to be able to work anywhere’, ‘to connect with my colleagues’ and ‘to find the resources I need to do my job’. And is that really the point? To do our jobs? After all, we’ve always needed tools to perform jobs, from crude wooden implements through industrial machinery to the latest in artificial intelligence. These are all tools, yet they all need a purpose. What is the job we need to do with them?

Shovels and pick axes weren’t procured solely to dig holes for the sake of it. They were used to extract minerals, to build railway lines, to plant orchards. And email wasn’t introduced to replace conversations, it was actually intended to leave messages for colleagues to retrieve when they arrived at work.

So why do we see lavish roll-out of digital tools rolled out without a clear purpose beyond a task? When we say we need to find colleagues, we need to ask why do we need to find colleagues? what’s the necessity that makes us want to talk to people outside of our office?

Digital workplace confusion

It’s actually very simple to see why we struggle to find a clear purpose for our digital tools, as the graphic below shows. We try and band everything together as the digital workplace yet our expectations of it change pretty much annually. It’s actually rather unhelpful to try and group all of these disparate things together.

Expectations of digital working

An example of confused purpose is enterprise social platforms commonly being used as communications tools, to disseminate top-down messages. Sure, they are more than capable of doing it but is that the reason they exist? Is that why we should be on there every day? To see our CEO proudly talking about some shareholders we have no connection with?

Communications, networking, finding content, working on documents collaboratively. These are all ‘what’s’. These are what we do to do a job. And with so many ‘what’s’ in play, it’s increasingly difficult to focus on the needs of our workforce and our customers. So let’s dig a little deeper and see what digital tools can really do by thinking beyond the ‘what’. By thinking about the true capability – the ‘why’. Why do we really need these potentially powerful tools? Here are some suggestions that provide a higher purpose.

Empowering the workforce

‘We need these tools to give our workforce a voice.’ Not an occasional opportunity via surveys, but a voice across everything that we do to improve everything that we do. Typically new projects look backwards, following convention, experience and ‘best practice’. Fine. But if we want to change, to raise the bar, we need fresh input, new ideas, candid learnings. Consider digital tools as empowering tools: throw away the shackles of the cubicle and have these discussions out in the open, ‘working out loud’.

Tools alone, of course, won’t fully deliver this. Left alone, people will continue with their existing habits. But using these same tools we can unearth the blockers to collaboration and challenge them. Out in the open, in candid discussions. With these two simple, empowering motivators we can realise the maximum potential of these tools.

And that’s why it’s critical to determine the ‘why’. The high level driver. Once we see and understand that, we can determine the tactics to deliver it. Digital tools will be an important part of this mix, but we may also need other tactics: training, engagement, leading by example. The digital workplace tools become the place where we can safely and honestly put it all out there. To offer a view or to feed in a problem – not a passive workforce, but a workforce with a voice, influencing decision making and delivery.

Network-driven innovation

The quest for innovation often bypasses the collaborative power of digital workplaces in a focus solely for new ideas. Innovation thrives in environments where seemingly unconnected elements combine into new thinking. The organic, spontaneous realisation that we’ve stumbled across something. Digital networks are excellent innovation engines, connecting people with people, allowing half-formed ideas to intersect with other half-formed ideas, opening the door to insights, trends and problems.

Deploying digital collaboration tools to support an innovative workforce is a truly powerful purpose. And again, like any broader business purpose, we use the tools as part of the mix. An innovation strategy needs engagement, training, catalysts and communities powering the way. But then how amazing that we have such great tools to deliver all of these things: enterprise social networks for innovation communities and engagement, team spaces, spaces for disruption, content and collaboration spaces for training.

To be more innovative is a clear high-level purpose. It gives us permission to disrupt, it links bottom-up thinking via the various tools that comprise the digital workplace. This is an environment in which innovation thrives.

Find it yourself

Digital workplace tools open the door to many possibilities. But whichever way we go, we’ve got to get that clear purpose out there. Once we know that, we can plan. Providing hands-on and bottom-up engagement to make us thrive. Getting us to think of how best to make the digital workplace a safe place to work out loud, to be open and honest, to disrupt. As long as we’ve thought about why and how we will work, the digital workplace is an exciting place. Without this, digital tools become a mess of overlapping, under-used and sometimes counter-productive tools.

Don’t leave the tools to it. A spade won’t dig a hole by itself, likewise SharePoint won’t deliver collaboration by itself. What are we collaborating for? Uploading documents is one tiny piece of a digital future. With a bold vision, we can unleash the power of our workforce to achieve so, so much more.


5 things about the web that we need to future-prove

The World Wide Web has been around for just some 25 years. And we are still struggling to find answers to basic yet fundamental questions regarding digital records management, says Steven Pemberton, a WWW pioneer, chair of several W3C working groups and researcher at The Centre for Mathematics and Computer Science in Amsterdam.

Steven Pemberton speaking at Interaction14 on The Computer as Extended Phenotype


Will we for example still be able to read and access websites made today in 100 years time? Or will all our content be lost to future ages? What is needed to make the web age-tolerant? What do we want from the web in both the short and long term?

Reflections of a World Wide Web pioneer

Steven has spent his career researching issues related to the Web and to prepare for his keynote at the J. Boye Aarhus 17 conference, he tasked himself with reflecting and finding answers to these questions.

In his opinion, we need to look at the following five issues if we want to future-prove the web for generations to come:

1) Content

Despite the use of style-sheets, the current web is almost completely visually-oriented. This locks the content into one particular representation, and makes it hard to re-purpose. What we need is a web that is primarily content-oriented, with a final phase of presentation; only in that way can content be repurposed in the same way that data can be. Design for the web should be like design for a house style. It has a general style that the content can flow into.

2) Multi-device

We don’t want to have to produce copies of our websites for each new type of platform or device. There needs to be a generic method of re-purposing content to the form factor of the device accessing it.

3) Accessibility

Even when we are 80, we will still want and need to use the web. How can we make our 30-year-old selves sensitive to the problem of our less-abled

4) Authorability

With the arrival of HTML5, the web has stopped being about documents, and started being about programs. Now only programmers can produce modern web pages. What can be done to alleviate the problem?

5) Availability

HTTP, the protocol used for serving Web pages, has served us well for the last 25 years, but is beginning to show its age: it has become a single-point-of-failure for content. It enables DDoS attacks, makes it easy for governments and other agencies to censor sites and content, and just when a website becomes super-popular it can fail causing the website to crash and be unreachable.

How do we best approach the future of the web?

Beware of content related risks

King Content has firmly held the throne ever since he was crowned. However, many tend to forget that he is the sovereign when it comes to producing actual content. Jake DiMare, Head of Digital Strategy at LA-based Luminos Labs, has been building websites for the past almost 20 years, and he wishes that more people were aware of the simple fact that content matters.

All too often, project stakeholders are so wrapped up worrying about technical risks or marveling over new designs, new branding, influencer marketing or whatever the latest hype is, that content can nearly be forgotten or worse – treated as an unimportant ‘detail’ to be figured out later.

If you are a project manager, sponsor, or executive stakeholder, this is a far bigger risk than you may realize.

Rise of the content strategist

However, all is not lost. In recent years the profession of content strategy has grown in size and skill at a geometric rate and content strategists have guided their project managers through the troubled waters of content related risks.

According to Jake DiMare you should at least look for these 7 potential dangers on the content strategy map:

1) Failure to appreciate the depth and breadth of a project
2) Failure to recognize the critical importance of content
3) Failure to plan for creating and/or revising content
4) Failure to understand the challenges of designing with dummy content
5) Failure to properly plan for content migration
6) Failure to plan for the disruptive effects of owning a new CMS
7) Failure to understand the gravity of business requirements

Now, one thing is navigating, but you also need to know how to mitigate the seven risks so you too can get through the troubled waters.

Design the author experience

In 2017 customer experience seems firmly planted on the radar screen of management, and most recognize the crucial link between employee experience and customer experience. Clearly happy, empowered and motivated employees will ensure a better customer experience, than grumpy or disillusioned employees.

When it comes to content creation, this means you need to take a firm look at the author experience. Don’t just accept the CMS or whatever else system you are using out-of-the-box. If you want to create killer content, you need to provide an author experience that does not suck

Improve UX with these 3 questions

Investment in digital solutions is growing rapidly both in the public and private domains. These investments are made with the dual ambitions of reducing costs and increasing customer satisfaction as a result of improved digital solutions. But frequently the investments do not deliver the anticipated returns.

A shift of focus from technology to user experience is a gateway to understanding how to create the most amenable digital self-service frameworks.

Journey mapping emerged among J. Boye members back in circa 2013 as a new user experience discipline and has since become a well-established method. Danish digital leader Ina Rosen has asked the below fundamental three questions to reflect on in your projects:

1) How can a journey map create broader value for your company?

The purpose of a journey map is to optimise and develop the experience that your customers have of the different digital touchpoints. It let’s you assess whether sales work or doesn’t work at the different points of contact and it gives you an idea of where you can improve your communications efforts. Also, you will become aware of whether your digital and physical processes are working well together and if they aren’t where the pitfalls are located.

2) What can you expect to achieve with a journey map?

You can expect to achieve three things with a journey map:

  1. Optimisation and/or improving efficiency of your processes
    1. You know where and at what touchpoints you should improve the experience of your customers. And you it gives you an idea of where you went wrong.
  2. Development of your processes
    1. You know where you can change and you can knowingly test your ideas on how to improve your service.
  3. Ease buy-in-process
    1. A journey map is easy to understand. It points out issues and problems and your organisation will more easily buy-in and help you find solutions.

3) What should you be concerned to avoid?

You don’t just make a journey map. It should be based on data and knowledge – not a gut feeling. Through analyses of your data you might locate certain patterns. Let’s say, for example, that you have a self-service website on a government website. In the data, you notice that the completion rate drops drastically at specific point. Here is an indication that you are doing something wrong and here you can initiate improvements.

Also, if you decide to make a journey map you should be sure that you have enough resources to act on the insights that comes out of it. A journey map is only useful if you actually do something to solve an existing problem.

That being said, journey maps aren’t the best tool for everything. It’s meant for the broader picture and more complex things. For example, you might be better off using a split test if you want to see if people are more likely to press “read more” when the botton is green instead of red.

Learn more about journey mapping

In a popular conference presentation at the J. Boye Philadelphia 2014 conference, Ina Rosen covered Journey mapping – building on user insight to deliver results.

We’ll look at journey mapping, how to institutionalise UX and much more on the user experience conference track on November 8 at the J. Boye Aarhus 17 conference.

How to measure the value of your digital workplace

The intranet has long been about internal enterprise collaboration. However, this is only a part of the story. According to Martin White, UK-based intranet expert and founder of Intranet Focus, the value of an organization’s digital workplace is dependent on the extent to which the organization can work with suppliers and customers in an overall delivery of products and services.

In advance of his J. Boye Aarhus 17 conference session on the digital workplace conference track, we have asked him to explain how he connects the value of a digital workplace to the ability to cooperate with suppliers and customers, what makes a successful digital workplace strategy, and what are the challenges of executing a digital workplace strategy. Also, we asked Martin to comment on what we need to know about the digital workplace for 2018 and beyond.

Why is the value of an organization’s digital workplace dependent on outsiders?

If the focus of a digital workplace is only on achieving internal objectives then the organisation will gain no benefit. Every organisation purchases products and services from suppliers, adds value through a range of processes and delivers to clients and customers.

To achieve business objectives the digital workplace has to reflect the way in which clients and customers want to do business. That is why IT should never be driving a digital workplace initiative.

What characterizes a successful digital workplace strategy?

In 2000 Jeffrey Beir, the Founder of eRoom Technology said that digital workplaces should be comprehensible, complete, contagious, connected and cross-enterprise. eRoom was later acquired by Documentum, which in turn was acquired by EMC.

The quote by Jeffrey was almost 20 years ago and we are still struggling to achieve these in first-generation digital workplaces.

What are the most common challenges you see organizations facing when they execute their digital workplace strategy?

If only organisations had strategies! Where there are strategies they are often bottom-up, starting from a given technology platform, and not top-down AND bottom-up led by the Board and Chief Executive. If a digital workplace programme is going to make a significant impact on business performance then it has to be led by the Board. If there seems to be no potential impact then why bother?

I see the biggest challenge as not being ready to work with the entire supply/customer chain. Law firms for example are facing a substantial change in the way they do business.

What should digital professionals dealing with the digital workplace in one way or another know for 2018 and beyond?

Know the business well enough, and in particular how decisions are made and tasks are undertaken, to spot where thinking digitally will have both the greatest benefits and the greatest risks.  It is not just about ‘collaboration’ or ‘enterprise social networking’. By definition enterprise social networks are internal – the conversations and collaboration with organisations and people outside of a business are equally, and maybe even more, important.