Me, Macmillan and User Experience – Inside UX

A diagram showing 7 principles of good UX

This is an interview that I did recently containing my thoughts on aspects of User Experience, whilst running the UX / UI team for Macmillan Cancer Support. It lives on the ‘Think. Grow. Create’ website, the Macmillan creative and ideas space.

 2019 Update:

Unfortunately the Macmillan ‘ThinkGoCreate’ where this interview was situated has been taken down. But you can read the original interview below:

The Macmillan Cancer Support interview in full.

I have recently finished up a wonderful six month stint as the Head of UX / UI and Digital Analytics at Macmillan Cancer Support, an organisation far larger than you might at first think, and one full of very dedicated and fine people.
One of my first thoughts and indeed tasks was to look at how we could enhance the User Experience and design knowledge of the organisation, as it goes through an ongoing Transformation period itself; and not just in a digital fashion. My department was already part of the Digital Experience team, consisting of thirty excellent professionals looking after our Digital Engagement, Marketing, Editorial and of course my team. So a good place to start, but not the only area to start some ‘undercover’ UX learning!

1) Digital Transformation is about speaking with people first and foremost:

This is of course obvious on first read as a headline but a surprisingly overlooked facet to helping others learn and do, whether that be specific to UX or other digital learning. Many companies and organisations work in silo’s with responsibilities over zealously guarded, and these barriers can often be broken down by simply finding like minded people to talk with and:

Form alliances. Now, I am aware that the term ‘alliances’ has the connotation of going up against something else. For me it has been more about simply going and talking with people in other departments that yours has had little contact with, but the work is relevant between you both. At Macmillan my first port of call was the large Design Studio who undertake some digital work. We chatted, we had a cuppa, we kept meeting each week in an informal fashion and then started to:

Share projects that would not necessarily have crossed ‘borders’ before. Running workshops together and bringing my team into the overall ‘Brand Review’, simply because I kept heading over to say hello, and vice versa.

Invited each other to informal catch-ups; my twice weekly UX led stand-ups and the design teams lovely showcase ‘Stick it on the wall’ at the end of the week. The Development team manager and the Senior Editors came to our UX stand-ups and this is how information between departments was shared in a quick and informal fashion.

2) Encouraging and helping other staff members to undertake UX lead work:

One of the proudest things I will take away from my time at Macmillan actually involved me doing not so much, relatively speaking! Members of our wonderful Editorial team have a keen desire to learn more about the vast UX world and to undertake such work themselves. And my team and myself were able to make this happen, simply by always being there to talk and give advice, making time to provide specific guidance and always sharing articles and tools to look at with the wider group. Again, this sounds simple but this doesn’t happen everywhere.

Sometimes there are budgetary worries that prevent departments working on specific projects, but sometimes you have to make the decisions, especially in a charity, that we are all working together and let’s spend some time getting on with it and helping each other. Two of our Editorial team took responsibility for a whole section migration with UX led work, including research, workshops, content analysis, site structure improvement, wireframes and testing, all by asking my team and myself for advice and running things past us as they completed each task. It was simple, efficient and a good learning experience for them. And for me!

There has also been a lot of ‘Undercover User Testing’ going on where we circumvented the lack of project budget and simply got volunteers, internal staff and friends and family to run tests face to face, via surveys or online. Always remember that members of your own organisation will be experts on their field of subject matter, but are still users of your website and apps.

(Elliot Harris was instrumental in all of this.)

3) The UX Wall and our ‘What is UX’ Exercise:

Now we were fortunate enough as a department to have a corner with lots of wall space. A dream for a UX / UI person! So we filled this up with work in progress, post-it note exercises and other bits and bobs.

But we also created some beautifully illustrated UX explanations for people to come and read (thank you Ilaria Oberto for the fine designs!) Thus it became a bit of a learning wall.

We also ran a wall based exercise to find the best definition of UX with five explanations stuck to the wall and green and pink little sticky tabs used for voting; encouraging the whole floor to vote and indeed share their views in a bit of an old school fashion*.

*My definition didn’t win. A very keen 23 year old member of the Editorial team won (Hamilton Jones). I am not jealous at all:)

4) Praise!

Easy to forget once more. Yammer or the like is great for praising people’s achievements to the wider group but also please just go to their desk and tell them. It’s really easy to say ‘that’s fantastic’ to someone’s face, especially if they have gone outside of their role to say look after some A / B testing. They will do it again if appreciated.

5) Integrating Analytics:

At Macmillan we brought the Digital Analytics function into the UX / UI team early on. This gave us instant insight and indeed an insight into the mind of a brilliant analytics person, with so many ideas about how to improve our online media (Hattie Biddlecombe). For instance, we found that there was quite a large potential in our e-Cards and indeed the Macmillan shop, and so focused some UX energy that way.

Analytics is not all about what’s going wrong and people forget that sometimes. But of course it uncovers what needs very swift attention too!

6) Editorial Team Workshop:

A very very fun and productive afternoon as part of the ten strong Editorial team awayday. We ran a quickfire workshop in order to get them used to running their own UX lead workshops, and ended up with some fantastic Macmillan mobile app ideas.

The afternoon ran as follows:

An introduction of course and a ‘Design the Box’ exercise, imagining a new Macmillan mobile app as a packet of washing powder on a supermarket shelf. How would you sell it to people and what features would it have?
After taking the team (which also included my UX, UI and Analytics folk through some of the best (or at least very interesting) donation and charity based apps around the world, we split into groups to come up with new app themes for Macmillan, some very useful and some silly! Remember to be silly sometimes.
Finally we used some mobile app templates to design our own apps, an exercise that produced five potential ideas and one silly one!

This is a rather long snippet of how we spread UX throughout Macmillan and does not touch on the other departments such as Fundraising, Innovation and Customer Care that we talked with.

My point really is all about talking, and spreading the word without fear or worry.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.