In December 2016, VDAB (the Flemish organisation for job seekers) won an e-gov Award rewarding the user-friendliness of their app “My Coach”. UXprobe is proud to have been part of the project as User Experience experts.
Here is the whole story and what our contribution was about.
An innovation project from VDAB
VDAB is the Flemish organisation that helps people to find a job. The organisation is under a great deal of transformation and they are pursuing change in a creative and innovative way. They’ve created a research lab, called LND (Labo Nieuwe Dienstverlening – Laboratory of New Services) to conduct innovative projects on improving VDAB’s services targeting young people.
In June 2015, Hans Bosschaerts, project manager at the Lab LND, came up with this idea for an app that would help graduated students to find a job by getting daily advice from a digital coach. He presented his idea to a Flemish Innovation Competition and won the 3rd place!
That success enticed Paul Danneels, VDAB’s CEO, to authorize the development of the app within the innovation lab.
The “My Coach” app project was born!
The app provides all the basic information needed about the labor market for young job seekers. Usually they would get that information through live info sessions but here it was available digitally and they could use it at their own pace. The idea was to build it like a fitness app with the possibility to set your own goals and to encourage you to push your limits.
The objective of the project was set on two levels:
- Offer a different way for the job seekers to use basic information – having them tailored to their specific needs and wishes
- Initiate the first steps to a new customer relationship, according to the principles established by the LND (among which: Digital First, Customer Journey, services that people “want to” use instead of “have to” use, Agile working)
Developing the app “My Coach”
Following the LND principles, it was clear that the targeted audience (young job seekers or graduated students) had to be part of the project. Several initiatives were put into place to gather information and feedback about the purpose & conception of the app. As it was a first for the VDAB, each initiative was seen as an experiment to learn more and improve.
- LND organised sessions where graduated students were interviewed by VDAB workers to gather their ideas and feedback
- A Facebook group was created that had 900 members. It was used to ask questions to youngsters about designs and features
- Flow Pilot, a digital agency from Antwerp, provided their services to develop an online prototype using their platform Autopilot. The prototype would allow potential users, recruited through the FB group, to play with the app, as if it was real.
- From there, the app was developed into a functional MVP (Minimum Viable Product)
Bringing UXprobe in as UX professional
All the efforts combined to develop a useful and functioning prototype lead LND to realize that they needed an extra ingredient in the mix: professional user experience.
As we entered early in the project, it was a great opportunity to bring in best practices to deal with UX and our expertise on user testing. Although VDAB had a great start gathering all the feedback from users, all that information had to be translated in a structured manner into the design of the app.
According to VDAB’s needs, we decided to do a moderated user testing. This is typically the process we follow at UXprobe:
1. Preparation (half a day)
Jan Moons sat down with Hans and his colleagues to go through the design of the app and to define the goals of the test. Based on that, they created scenarios (i.e. “You just downloaded the app, and you want to start using it. What would you do?”) and questions (i.e. “How easy or difficult was it to use the app for the first time?)
2. Pilot test (1 hour)
This is important to make sure everything goes smoothly on the day of the real test.
3. Moderated user testing (one day)
VDAB invited 9 testers (graduated students who were looking for their first job). Each test lasted for about 30mn. Together with Kimberly, designer at Flowpilots, Jan moderated the test, while testers were working their way through the scenarios. They encouraged them to share their thoughts aloud and did some probing to better understand their behavior. Each test was video recorded (screen + webcam), and in the meantime Kimberly & Jan were taking notes about the observations they made, the positive and negative remarks they heard, etc.
4. Report – preparation & discussion (one day)
Jan went through their notes, went back to the videos when necessary to refresh his memory and created a slide deck report. The presentation is a list of all problems encountered by the test users, with video proof when necessary, literal quotes from the users and metrics (how many users, how often…). For each problem, Jan gave a recommendation on how the design of the app could be changed to resolve the problem. The report was presented to Hans, his colleagues from the VDAB, and the designer and developer from Flowpilots. The discussion allowed them to align on the changes to be made to the app and provided a hierarchy and a timeline for these.
As you can see, in 2 days and half, you can prepare, run and analyse a moderated user test. It’s a process that gives you reality-based proofs and answers on design and usability issues.
Nothing new under the sun, just best practices delivered in a structured manner with the right tools at hand.
This is what Hans Bosschaerts says about the value we brought to their project:
“Jan Moons introduced us to a proper UX methodology, helping us to start with goals and tips. Jan introduced us to video feedback which was immensely helpful to understand where our users were struggling and why. Seeing Jan at work, the way he would structure his work, and implement an iterative process has been a great eye opening to me. ”
Important learnings from UXprobe’s contribution
- Importance of user informed design. You can’t build anything useful to your users unless you bring them into the process as early as possible. But you need to know how to properly gather and use that information.
- Develop a service that people want to use. It’s not only about the usability of the product: “Can people use it?”. It’s also about the first intention: “Is it something they would be inclined to use in the first place?”
- User experience can’t be left aside. User experience is a must-have for anyone who wants to develop any kind of digital service. Since service is VDAB’s core activity, they are now aware of the importance of UX. For LND Lab, UX methodology, elaborated customer journey and structured feedback gathering has been now integrated into their daily process.
The E-Gov Awards
Finally in December 2016, in reward to all the efforts to bring a great app to young job seekers, VDAB won the e-gov Award with “MyCoach” app for the User Friendliness category!
VDAB is the Flemish organisation that helps people to find a job.
Flowpilot is a web agency based in Antwerp.
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