This week Jarrod (from the Bromford Comms team) and I visited the Telegraph's head office to check out their user experience (UX) lab.
I can appreciate the differences between the organisations - not least in the signing of an non-disclosure agreement (NDA) when we got there. They are a highly competitive business in which trade secrets have to be protected. In the Bromford lab, the impetus has always seemed to be on open and transparent practices - our public trello boards and website embody this. The Telegraphs iterative, well considered approach meant they had something pretty much ready to launch following a test period, whereas tackling moon-shot ideas is core to Bromford Lab's purpose - we'd be lucky to implement 25% of what we try out.
So, what could we learn from the Telegraph, seemingly worlds apart from our own housing ecosystem?
In both organisations senior leadership identified the need to understand and improve the experience of its users. Neither organisation had the faculty for this, so they created labs where rigorous user testing could take place and valuable insight sought.
The Telegraph UX team were conducting such tests the day we arrived and it was fascinating to see their approach - methodical and scientific , not leaving anything to chance. It's in their best interest to ensure media is well received by customers of all shapes and sizes because that's what generates sales. The Bromford Lab have been implementing a similar testing framework; we know we've really got to understand our products and services inside out if we're ever going to make routine interactions as smooth as possible for our customers. We're not 'competing' for customers in the same sense, but the benefits of great customer service should be felt throughout our business.
We use a 'two week sprint' test phase in the lab, but they've sometimes become unhinged by complex problems. The Telegraph user experience (UX) guys ran a similar process, but were more involved in exploratory testing that we'd been so far, particularly with customers. I'm keen to try this out more in our 'problem definition' stages, which currently rely heavily on colleagues. Opening this up to customers early is a really exciting prospect and something I know we're focusing more on in the coming weeks (Jarrod left the Telegraph with a noggin full of ideas about 'Web 3.0'...).
So, what's on my personal tick list from the visit?
1) Engage with more customers...
2) ...earlier in the design process
3) Help build incremental innovation into the structure of the upcoming squads. Maybe something along the lines of Ricoh's innovation approach?
4) Put my money where my mouth is on points 1, 2 and 3. Yikes.