Sometimes an organization makes a radical change. Sometimes (…OK, usually), the website needs to change too.

Let’s say you’re a Medical Board that is revamping its certification requirements. Some physicians may fall right in line with new rules and the digital process. Others may need more explanation and guidance. In either case, bulletins, booklets, and newsletters aren’t going to work for dishing out the new scoop. Instead, end-user research is going to be your new best friend.

“Nothing endures but change….especially on the web.”

– Heraclitus of Ephesus, and me

Fancy testing tools are fun to use, but they can be expensive. For this article, I’ll stick with a low-cost and effective research activity: The Open-Ended Interview.

  1. Build a model that shows your new idea. If your website is very close already, you may only need to duplicate a page and update a few words. If you’re starting back at the drawing board, you may need to sketch out changes using the presentation tools you have on hand (Powerpoint, Keynote, Prezi, etc.). Or you may be best off with a pen and paper sketch.
  2. Ask users what it says to them… and listen. With as little introduction as possible, show your model to some users, one at a time, in person or in a web meeting. Resist the temptation to explain your mindset. Just show it to them, see how they react, and ask objective questions (see UX Research Tip below for a sample guide). You can always follow up at the end of the interview with your intentions, but what you need most are those fresh eyes.
  3. Modify. You may start seeing exactly what changes are needed after talking to just a couple people. Or your test participants may give contradictory feedback. Either way, you can identify any problem areas or pain points.
  4. Repeat. Whether you can make changes on the fly, or need to involve other team members to update your approach, always leave time for some new fresh eyes. Return to step #1 and repeat the process as many times as you can until you feel confident that they’re hearing what you’re saying.

Changing organizational requirements isn’t easy for you or your users. It won’t be perfect after a couple rounds. But as Hoa Loranger from N/ng says, “If the usability needle moves in the right direction, even if slowly, count each tick as a win.” Give yourself and your users a break: Get their input early and often, and let it guide each update.

UX Research Tip

When we’re mired in the details of changing requirements, it can be hard to step back and ask objective questions. Careful use of language helps draw out a participant’s views without inadvertently imposing our own. This guide shows how to welcome and orient a participant, then ask open-ended questions and pointed follow-ups. Feel free to customize this to your own study and style.