Give me a U! Give me an X! What does that spell? Let Marc tell you

Ever used a spin bike? Me neither, but my colleague Marc Viau, the digital communications advisor who sits in an office near mine, talks about going spinning every day after work. It turns out that a spin bike is just a fancy version of a stationary bike, but the way Marc talks about it, you’d think these bikes were trees that grew money.

Marc has the unique ability of speaking about things in an exciting and infectious way, and that’s exactly how he talks about his work in UX (user experience) research and design. From talking to him, I’ve learned that UX applies to everyone—it’s about user experience, and we are all users, after all.

UX isn’t just another acronym

Though we work in close proximity, I set up an interview with Marc specifically because I wanted to capture his eccentric spirit and passion in an article. I thought it would only be fair to share his knowledge with others who might gain the same enlightenment I did. This is where Marc tells me what U and X spells: “UX is about understanding the people who use our online services so that we can serve them better,” he tells me, “we do this by putting our stuff to the test with real people who use it, and then from there, we either build or improve our services based on that feedback.” 

Living Digital - Marc Viau - Transcript

Hey I have a question for you!

What’s the use in driving your audience to a website, if it doesn’t work effectively in giving them what they need? Exactly. There's no use.

Understanding UX helps us to serve Canadians better.

That’s why I love what I do.

I’m Marc Viau, and I’m living digital.

So how does one UX?

Marc emphasizes that conducting UX research helps to “build a product that is tailored to our users.” I ask him for a quick crash course on some common research practices that UX researchers would use. Here are four techniques I learned:

  • Card sorting—using cards with terms/phrases to represent specific pieces of content from your webpage. By arranging the cards based on how users group information together, you can plan out how to organize the navigation of your page to effectively lead your users to the content.
  • Usability testing—testing with real users by asking them to perform a task on your website, e.g. subscribing to the Living Digital newsletter (wink wink), and then watching them—either remotely or in-person—navigate your website to see how successful they were at not only finding, but also completing the task. 
  • Journey mapping—mapping out how a user went from point A to point Z (where the task is successfully completed) and identifying how they felt at each step along the way. This helps identify specific problem areas that you may want to correct for your users. 
  • Building personas—creating fictional characters through audience research to represent the different types of people who would use your service. This helps you see your content through their eyes. For example, if “millennial Eric” were the persona I created, I would ask: what devices would millennial Eric use? What tasks would millennial Eric need to complete? What is millennial Eric’s knowledge of the web? And if I know millennial Eric, he would probably respond with “ay it’s lit.”

Seeing UX in action

“it’s not a perfect science, we will continue to do more usability studies in the future to validate the decisions that we made, and to further improve.”

One of Marc’s many successful projects in his current role at the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS) was creating the Digital Government webpage for Canada.ca. Before the page’s existence, digital content was scattered all over Canada.ca. By using the card sorting method, Marc re-grouped the content into an easily accessible central hub that simultaneously promoted the work on digital. Though the page is now up and live, Marc says the work is ongoing, “it’s not a perfect science, we will continue to do more usability studies in the future to validate the decisions that we made, and to further improve.” If you’ve read our article on improving web content, then you already know that David told us it’s a never-ending job to make sure our web content stays effective and relevant. Marc confirms this point. 

One key thing Marc mentions is that in creating a unique webpage, he made sure to take into account the Canada.ca web standards. “As someone who uses Canada.ca daily and respects the templates that have been created to maintain one common look and feel, it’s important to strike a balance between those standards and achieving uniqueness,” he tells me. 

Playing favourites

It’s no doubt that one of Marc’s favourite things to talk about is user experience. To put into perspective the importance of UX, Marc says that proving the worth of investing into UX research and design is as simple as asking yourself: how much does our organization invest in marketing? And the follow-up question: what is the use in investing in marketing to drive your audience to a website that doesn’t work effectively in giving them what they need? The two go hand in hand in their role of providing quality service delivery.

“I like the spirit of working in UX; it’s a function where you work collaboratively, out in the open, and with people.”

The satisfaction of knowing that he has improved something for Canadians, and having the evidence to demonstrate that, is what keeps Marc’s passion aflame. “I like the spirit of working in UX; it’s a function where you work collaboratively, out in the open, and with people,” he says. At the end of the day, UX is about understanding people. “By taking the time to understand our users, we are able to do a better job serving Canadians, and that’s what it’s all about” Marc concludes. 

To celebrate the end of another work day, and another successful Living Digital interview, Marc busts it down with his classic dance moves. Did I mention his passions outside of UX and spinning includes slightly embarrassing dance moves in the office? And though he claims he’s doing “hip hop,” his moves more so resemble the hokey pokey—but alas, it brings him joy, and that’s what it’s all about.

 
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