Usage Maturity Matrix: A Tool for Making User-Centered Design Decisions within Project Constraints
Alesha Arp presented “Usage Maturity Matrix: A Tool for Making User-Centered Design Decisions within Project Constraints” at UX Camp Fall 2020. Enjoy!
Project constraints often challenge our ability to meet user needs. With a usage maturity matrix, which shows a user’s comfort and familiarity with, and degree of use of a product, process or place, as our guide we are better able to focus our design efforts where our users and our business stakeholders need us most.
In this presentation, you’ll learn what a usage maturity matrix is and how to create one. This powerful tool can influence which features and functions we design into our present projects and can serve as a lasting guide impacting our ongoing design roadmap.
Senior User Experience Researcher, Mind Research Institute
Alesha Arp is a Senior User Experience Researcher whose work has informed the design of software platforms, digital and physical spaces, and business processes.
At MIND Research Institute, her plate and heart are full with UX research, CX strategy and impactful design of digital, physical, and experiential products for Kindergarten through high school students and educators.
Alesha earned her Master’s in User Experience Design, Information Architecture and Knowledge Management from Kent State. She has presented at World IA Day, Information Architecture Conference, and Big Design.
The following transcript very likely contains typographical errors. Please forgive any mistakes!
Alright, welcome to fall UX Camp 2020 in this presentation about usage, maturity matrices. As she said, I am Alicia art, senior user experience researcher with Mind Research Institute, and I am double-clicking here, so hard. Ewell, I figure out that worked Hamadan. As she was saying, My York research has contributed to the design of digital and physical experiences, and while the design of each of these goes through different design processes, one common thread is the variation in usage maturity of our end users. See if this little arrow works, it’s cool. Usage maturity is a measure of users comfort and familiarity with and degree of use of a product process or place.
Many of us are accustomed to creating personas that guide our design and our product development.
Often on these personas, we list the sabines of the user, if we’re building a technology product, we talk about their tech avenues, if we’re redesigning a complex cost-functional business process, we talk about their busy business sabines.
So think for just a moment about your own tech sadness and if you had to give yourself a star rating, what would you give yourself? One, five. Somewhere in the middle.
Now, think of a technical program that you have used to have… Frustrates the living daylights out of you. Does that product lower your sabines score?
No, you keep your four star review, right, you just have a low level of usage, an attorney with that product… My current nemesis is the CRM system that we use at mind, I’ve been there three years, I use it several times, every week, and I’m still a novice at my level of usage maturity.
So this point to just one of the challenges of using personas that has led my team and I away from them and toward the usage maturity matrix, so let’s dive into this tool
In my first six or seven weeks of mine, in addition to familiarizing myself with the existing product that I’d be working to redesign, I read and categorized over 300 open support destitute gathered and sought to understand multiple sets of division-specific personas being used throughout the organization, conducted interviews with cross-functional teammates and developed and facilitated a customer experience gap analysis that kept off with a workshop with our executive leadership team.
Several insights, bubble DeSantis one, our users longevity with the product did not correlate with their usage or skill with it the same way my CRM doesn’t. Our organization saw our users through very different division-specific lenses, and our organization that had a singular goal had countless ideas about how to achieve that with this particular product. In the proposition, as I got out in the field, my research revealed the wide range of usage variation among our users, and as we started to define requirements for this redesign, the scope stretched way beyond the timeline that we had to go to market. We started out laying out the functional priorities for our initial release, and it dawned on me that these… The usage maturity of our users, so we replaced our personas with the usage maturity natures as our guide, our usage maturity matrix has become a valuable tool for more than just managing priorities, it has helped us to focus UX research, communicate user needs, make difficult design decisions, prioritize project scope, triage feedback, stack ranked backlogs and plan our future rono. Not surprisingly, the ed tech industry is complex and sticky, and it could take this entire a lot of time to describe its intricacies.
So in a real world situation, we’re not our users, but we’re gonna break this rule just a little bit so that we can all get on the same page, I’m going to illustrate a usage maturity nature using a product that most of us have an experience with. Let’s think through a usage maturity matrix for a TV interface, TV entertainment interface, whatever our favorite content providers, most of us have varying degrees of usage maturity with at least one entertainment interface, perhaps you can consume content from multiple providers through the same UI… The usage maturity of users interacting with an entertainment interface varies widely, and for illustration purposes, I’m gonna introduce you to variation within my own family, a novice, like My 87-year-old mother-in-law at most, can turn on the TV and selections to watch from channels that she’s familiar with.
And I say at most, because if the TV remote is too complex, she can’t turn on the TV, and if the UI isn’t bare-bones simple, she can’t find those familiar channels. The beginning user, like my dad, is able to channel her or scroll through a guide to find out what he wants to find what he wants to watch each morning each morning. Each morning.
Every morning of every week, my dad slips back and forth between multiple news programs to catch a segment here and interview their sports highlight some place else, and a whole other set of headlines at the top of the hour on a whole other channel.
Now, you might be wondering, how does somebody who can time his channel flipping across multiple programs to catch the exact content that he wants, be a beginning user, and here’s an important point of distinction, he’s an expert content consumer, but his use of the interface is the beginning level, because he limit it to the most basic functions.
A well-designed product process or place moves users along the usage maturity matures and draws them deeper into our design Ecosystem, I’ll explain, but let’s fill in the remaining columns of our matrix. Our proficient user can search for and view or record desired content, I can be recorded content at a time that is convenient for me, and I can pause that content for a glass of wine to get me through the below deck drama.
There are at least two more levels of usage, maturity and advanced and an expert user both live in my house. Once our research has exposed the three or maybe five levels of usage maturity, our next step is to figure out how all these users deeper into our design and further along that usage maturity natures. We might give my mother-in-law a prominent reset button next to a prominent and clearly labeled on off button that takes her to her familiar towels, CBS, NBC, ABC and PBS. She could press these two buttons in succession and the TV wouldn’t be broken by a static music screen, the information architecture is critical here, we have to label this button to make sense to her, but not take away from our expert users needs. And if the IA is simple and places may be seen, Food Network or HGTV, adjacent to who familiar channels, she might view more content.
Satmar-ly designed UI might draw my dad deeper into its ecosystem too, if you’re a proficient user like me, you don’t understand why dad doesn’t use the DVR functions, especially when you see the hoops he jumps through with his channel ping and how much having to take the dog out… Wreck that whole thing. Unfortunately.
The DVR functions are more difficult than his choreographed to channel flipping, in fact, one such DVR UI is so junky, the people I know who get that service for free, still complaining about the bad interface, if we could transition my dad to a proficient level of usage maturity, he can record his six or eight news programs, watch the segments, he wants paused to take the dog out and fast forward through the segments that he doesn’t care about. My mother-in-law will turn off the broken TV if she finds it stuck on a static music screen, but task abandonment happens throughout usage maturity matrix. As a proficient user, I’ve watched my daughter and advanced user access content through other functions in the interface, and I’ve tried to do the same problem as TV time isn’t a frequent luxury for a working parent, my very occasional use beyond the few shows that I record, leaves me re-learning those advanced functions, and I have zero patients for spending my free time re-learning an un-intuitive interface, I’ll bail out and go read instead.
So let’s review and then we’ll transition into using our matrix, we conduct works research and determine that our users fall into maybe three or five levels of usage maturity.
We map the functional priorities, those tasks that they’re motivated to do in our system, as well as their comfort zones and the pain points and challenges that they experience during this discovery phase, we also learn where and the usage maternity major, most of our users pit, we can’t assume that they all fall into a centered bell curve of maturity. In the remaining time that we have together, we can’t work through all of these uses for our sample maturity matrix, but we can begin to explore two of them, communicating user needs and prioritizing projects to imagine that your mighty design team is tapped to architect and design and entertainment interface that usually meets the needs of novice to expert users and includes seamless, intuitive transitions to draw each user deeper into our design ecosystem. Your team might estimate your timeline and the project resources, you might do just as I had done when I started at Mind and familiarize yourself with what exists in your organization’s offerings and or your competitors. You might think through problems that you want to solve and make a plan to determine whether or not your users actually need a solution to those problems, it’s actually you would get your project under way, and along the way, you would build out this…
That maturity matrix, you think after I said it 40000 times that I could say
Easily, one way to help ensure that our users remain our users is to entice them deeper into our design ecosystem, making it ever more difficult for them to leave. And we can do this by designing transitions to draw users into higher usage maturity. Had my entertainment interface been designed with memorable or sticky functions and with an intuitive IA, my four is in the next level of usage maturity, they have been fevers us frustrating, I might have become an advanced… So it’s not uncommon for us to get started on a project and then have our product manager come to us with a ridiculous timeline and drastically limited project resources, what then… Well.
We can try to negotiate and we might get a little bit of wit over home, but
What if we’re responded to that ridiculous timeline and drastically limited resources with a… Yes, we are excited to take on this project with the allocated timeline and resources, which one or two segments in the usage… Maturity Mars, would you like us to focus? And
Then in Chris boss style, we shut up and wait for them to build a silence. The Beautiful thing is, we don’t even need to have the usage maturity matrix finished yet to ask this question, because the question exposes a whole that our project would need to first tell.
If we can only focus on the features for the usage maturity level, where most of our users are, we’ll be working to sustain our user base, if the primary goal of the project is to bring in new users, where might we focus… If the primary goal is to keep users from abandoning us and moving on to other platforms, where might we photos… This direction should come from our product managers or project stakeholders.
Focus on meeting users where they are and intentionally draw them deeper into the product ecosystem. Before I close, I wanna share a few specifics that we have derived from using a usage maturity matrix that Mind Research Institute, as I mentioned earlier, once the goals for the new version of our program were established and we started sketching high-level requirements, we realized that there was no way that we could design and our engineers could build all of those features and functions and go to market this 2021 school year. My research was underway and already revealing that despite being robust and feature-rich, an overwhelming majority of our users were in the novice and beginning stages of usage maturity, and even at schools where teachers and students have been using our program every week for over 10 years. We found only a handful of proficient users, robust and feature-rich often means you have more usability work to do. Our design team validated this revelation with our field consultant support team and our sales team, remember, we had started on a re-work of our entire customer experience, beginning with that gap analysis workshop my first month good line.
We prioritize the needs of our novice and beginning users, our prototype studies had to meet those most basic functional priorities, we knew that if our beginning users were successful with the prototypes or proficient and above users would be too… But not vice versa.
Now, this does not mean that we didn’t design and build some of the high priority proficient and advanced features and functions, what we did do was designed these to be progressively discoverable and design… We talk about functions being progressively disclosed, but from a user perspective, they need to be progressively discoverable and easily recoverable, so that if a novice follows their curiosity to a function that they’re not quite ready for, they can easily get back to their comfort zone or use of maturity
Matrix helped us map design and usability, test this discoverability and recover ability
As happens, our engineering team had some hiccups along the way, not the least of which was an immediate international response to covid 19. The
Usage maturity nature helped us help our engineering team determine what could be decoded, it also helped when a function simply couldn’t be built as designed within the constraints of our text stack, when design literally had to go back to the drawing board. Our usage maturity, major it’s helped us ensure that we weren’t straying from the basics, our matrix also helped us triage feedback we gathered during our beta gear and helped us prioritize bugs and backlog items through our piggy back to QA and product acceptance process. And when we began to approach go-to-market, our sales teams began to push back and they began to focus on what was being built now versus what was designed as future features, our matrix help us defend our decisions to focus on functionality versus flashes, UX research and design is fraught with these decision points and milestones, and usage maternity makers quite simply makes them easy.
So now that I’ve introduced you to use, uh, maturity matrices, how do I drive a deep brand and show you the potential value of this tool.
How might I transition you from a novice level to a beginning level of usage maturity?
Will I make it easy for you to move from engaged listener to active participant?
One of the biggest advantages of building out a use on turning Matrix is its power in defining project scope and priorities during World Ida and big design. We capped off this talk with a group exercise on project scope and prioritization, and I would love for you to have this the same experience, so I’m gonna do two things on Twitter, I will post information for you to do this on your own in an un-moderated fashion, if you’re interested, additionally, I am willing to host a moderated virtual session in the coming weeks, I’m on the Slack channel for UX camp, so just let me know if you’re interested and we’ll figure out when to set that up. I look forward to your questions, possibly arranging that moderated group session, and if you care to read more about usage maturity matrices, check out my contributions to boxes and arrows, a publication devoted to the practice innovation and discussion of design. Thank you, fall you camp 2020 in Chenango camps team for extending and sharing the good work that we are all doing and bringing to our troubled world.