user panels

19 Nov 2004 - 1:38pm
9 years ago
3 replies
392 reads
Ali Scheps
2004

Hi,

Have any of you been involved in the successful use of user panels/advisory
boards in a UCD process? If so, are you willing to share some details about
how it was used and what went well/poorly? My company has a customer
advisory board, but it's made up of executives from customer companies--I'm
looking to create panels of actual users and administrators.

My current (rough) definition of the purpose is:

1) to develop long-term relationships with key users
2) to have a group of users who will make themselves available for cognitive
walkthroughs
3) to have a forum for quick feedback when necessary

This is not designed to supplant, but rather to complement, our usability
testing program.

Looking forward to hearing the wisdom of your experience,

Ali Scheps
User Experience Manager,
Connected® Corporation
A subsidiary of Iron Mountain Incorporated

Phone: 508-808-7347
Fax: 508-879-5968
URL: http://www.connected.com
Animated Connected Solution Overviews

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Comments

19 Nov 2004 - 1:58pm
Listera
2004

Ali:

> 1) to develop long-term relationships with key users
> 2) to have a group of users who will make themselves available for cognitive
> walkthroughs
> 3) to have a forum for quick feedback when necessary

One note of caution here: if you're not careful in balancing things, "key"
customers may come to influence/dominate your approach to product design.

Ziya
Nullius in Verba

19 Nov 2004 - 2:18pm
Chris Whelan
2004

I agree. This all sounds somewhat related to a
problem I'm experiencing with increasing regularity:
product marketing's inclination to fuse usability test
and market research. I'm spending a lot of time
recently maintaining this delineation; arguing that
user testing is not an effective means for obtaining
attitudinal feedback. I've found that what a user
says often contradicts what a user does. When n=8, I
want their performance to do most of the talking.

--- Listera <listera at rcn.com> wrote:

> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only
> relevant quoted material.]
>
> Ali:
>
> > 1) to develop long-term relationships with key
> users
> > 2) to have a group of users who will make
> themselves available for cognitive
> > walkthroughs
> > 3) to have a forum for quick feedback when
> necessary
>
> One note of caution here: if you're not careful in
> balancing things, "key"
> customers may come to influence/dominate your
> approach to product design.
>
> Ziya
> Nullius in Verba
>
>
>
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19 Nov 2004 - 2:38pm
Marko Hurst
2004

Ali wrote:
Have any of you been involved in the successful use of user panels/advisory
boards in a UCD process?
****************

We currently work w/ an several advisory boards for different government sites, external & internal, each panel being between 11 - 15 people. Our panels consist of volunteers who have originally participated in at least one user testing performed for that particular project, who we then asked back. Each panel has a good sampling of each Region / Office being represented and every level of mgt. is represented across all participants, not each Region / Office.

The Good...
Overall the panels have been a great success. We have near constant feedback, we can call someone or a group of people at any time to ask or try something. They are the ears of the users at large (must sift through what’s needed vs. wanted). We can track them at anytime and analyze stats, trends, etc. And possible best of all the participants are the biggest advocates for the end-product to the other end users and let other know how & why things are being done the way they are.

The Bad...
The struggles we've encountered have been mostly political (no pun intended) in nature from those involved in other areas of the projects or from those who wish to be included into the panels (see below). But, being an outside consulting agency has given us some latitude to avoid anything too dramatic.

Also, because this is an “extra duty”, as people get bogged down w/ work or other things obtaining feedback is sometimes difficult. Sending a quick email off was not good enough, in most cases.

The Ugly...
On the first panel we didn't lay down the ground rules fast enough and some high level political people we able to get onto the board. The downfall of this was their motivation for being on the panel was not necessarily to make it better, but possibly personal agendas. These particular people haven't truly participated and when they have it was to get others to “see” things their way.

Lessons Learned....
1) Have your criteria for panelists set in stone well in advance
2) Have a simple way for users to provide feedback (sending an email didn't seem to work for us). Suggest a feedback link on every page
3) Hand picking the panelists seemed to work well, but setting up a clause w/o offending anyone that they can be removed and replaced. I.e. "Your work here is completed, thank you. Next!!!"
4) Of course have actual users, not just (or in a perfect world avoid entirely) the stakeholders, money people, & executives (unless they are the end users).
5) Have a good representation of the types of users

Ciou,

Marko

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