User Research at sum.cumo

User Experience (UX) is on everyone's lips. But often it still happens that it somehow works without. At sum.cumo we try to prevent exactly that - with success.

In our series of articles we would like to give you an understanding of UX design at sum.cumo and show you why this discipline is indispensable in our company. We use examples of our way of thinking and working to show you how we are working on constantly increasing the relevance of UX design for users, customers and colleagues.

User Feedback Days at sum.cumo

Last year, Indra Burkart (from eresult) presented the concept of User Feedback Days at our monthly Design After Work session. At the time, we had no idea how valuable and successful this type of usability testing would later become for us.
 We’ve now conducted five User Feedback Days for two clients at sum.cumo, and are looking back and thinking forward to see how to continue this into the future.

Why is user research important?

User research is a crucial tool in discussions of UX, and in talking about how we use UX sustainably at sum.cumo. 
It often happens that users aren’t consulted enough during development, even though it’s their needs that are supposed to be the main focus. Furthermore, usability testing can save a lot of money, since it helps to quickly discover any usability problems, thus averting excessive development costs down the line. And if the product is easier for users to understand, then the support costs will be lower. On the other hand, if a product isn’t well-tailored to its users, it’ll soon lose them altogether.

What does a User Feedback Day look like at sum.cumo?

Here are a few basic considerations:
Our customer teams should not need to expend massive resources in order to conduct usability testing. We want to interview users in order to get to know them better, and to discover any obstacles to usage, as well as points of frustration and giving up. A User Feedback Day should result in actionable recommendations that can be immediately translated into dev tickets to be prioritized. What we certainly don’t want is some overly elaborate, time-consuming documentation that ends up as a dead letter.

So on a test day, we get five external users who are each interviewed for 45 minutes, one after another. The interviewer is someone sent to us by an agency. The test assignment may involve taking out an insurance policy, setting up an account or visiting a landing page. Here, the interview questions are very much focused on the test users’ understanding of what they’ve seen:

  • How can different rates be compared?
  • Please find the best rate for your situation.
  • How do you feel about the health-related questions?
  • Where can you correct your submitted data?
  • Are you now insured?

The interviews are streamed live and also recorded for later study, with three important camera angles: the screen view, the mouse or fingertip movements, and the test user.

From observation stage to go live

In a nearby room, we have six to eight observers (usually made up of the client teams and the client himself) from various disciplines who document everything they see. The result is some 300 individual observations per testing session, leading to perhaps 25 recommendations in terms of implementation or prioritization. In concrete terms, recommendations might include offering more contact options, leading the user to more possibilities, or ensuring that mobile users really get mobile-optimized content only.

Feedback so far from the customer teams has been very positive, as the value of this method becomes clear:

  • User Feedback Days are great for getting qualitative feedback from outside, but without actually doing a live deployment.
  • This also offers a quick way to test different scenarios so we can compare them.
  • It lets us discover aspects that might not be noticed during internal testing.
  • The result is actionable recommendations that can be easily translated into tickets.
  • We also get very convincing arguments for our subsequent client consultations.

Our verdict: "An excellent tool that makes the product and the team better, fun to work with and, ultimately, can be developed more with the customer".

The previously released parts of our UX series:

Author See author profile
Julia Gebauer
#ux Julia joined sum.cumo as a senior copywriter in May 2017. She is now part of the UX team as a UX writer, where she delivers text for the digital products of sum.cumo and clients. Her aim is to produce clear language that makes the use of these products as simple and comprehensible as possible, and to allow a kind of human dialogue to take shape. Julia works across projects and customers and also takes care of content, text, words and language at sum.cumo beyond web applications. Before her time as UX writer in Hamburg, Julia was involved in marketing communications for various companies: After studying literature in Germany and Italy, she worked for several years for the outdooractive.com portal and the logistics company Dachser before moving to the sporting goods industry to join Ortovox and, finally, sum.cumo. Julia appreciates her work at sum.cumo because the way people interact is “truly unique” and she can fully develop and contribute her diverse interests and talents. In addition, she appreciates being able to determine her own work and having a successful work-life balance. 
This is especially important to her because she now lives as a remote colleague in the Bavarian foothills of the Alps, where she spends every free minute in the mountains or at the lakes. She recharges her batteries with outdoor sports and nature, and otherwise she loves the sea and likes to surf, take pictures or read a good book.
 In her spare time, Julia writes for a mountain sports portal, and she publishes her travel photos on juliagebauer.com. All articles by Julia