Each day, people in over 37 countries connect with Viamo to access critical information that enables them to make better decisions about their lives and livelihoods. Viamo team members speak with users in person and on the phone to learn about their needs and wants, they examine data regarding how people interact with Viamo’s information services, and they conduct testing to better understand user preferences on style, tone, and message. Viamo is a user-centered organization, and all of these learnings are used to constantly iterate and improve the way that our users engage with our products and solutions.
Yet with teams working across six continents and over 15 time zones, carving out opportunities to share these insights can be challenging. Information from user research, testing results, and data analyses sometimes goes no further than the country it was collected from, or the team that collected it. This means that colleagues who do not engage directly with users don’t benefit from the richness of user data insights that are collected each day.
Six months ago, the Viamo Design Chapter decided to take on addressing this gap by creating Via User Thursdays: an online weekly gathering, where anyone across the organization can come together to share and hear from our colleagues on what they are learning about our users around the world.
We knew we wanted this space to feel casual and engaging, but also informative. We also wanted our colleagues across many different time zones to feel empowered to join, share their knowledge, and actively participate.
We decided to dive in with a quick prototype: a fifteen-minute session linked to a simple slide deck with open slides that anyone could contribute to. We initially held the sessions on Fridays, at two different times to accommodate our global team.
We learned a lot in those first few weeks. We noticed that some colleagues were joining the session, but were hesitant to contribute, so we paused to try to understand why. We had kept the prompt deliberately simple: “Slides are open to all – drop in any pictures, quotes, or stories from users, show up to one of the sessions, and be prepared to share for a few minutes.” Now we wanted to understand: what was it that our colleagues actually wanted from this space? And how could we design it in a way that both met their needs and contributed to a more user-centered culture?
Interviews with colleagues across the company revealed three personas, each with unique needs, constraints, and opportunities related to how they participated in the Via User Thursdays community:
To meet the different needs of these three personas, we created a completely new structure for Via User Thursdays. Instead of keeping all of the sessions open-ended, we decided to rotate through three different themes, based on the three types of Viamo users:
We also made two logistical changes to make the community more inclusive. We started to offer some sessions in French as Viamo has many native French speakers and we operate in several French-speaking countries, and we shifted from Fridays to Thursdays to accommodate our colleagues across the world.
Each week, our designers work together to co-create a unique and engaging Via User Thursdays session. Every session is based on learning about one of our three user groups and better understanding their needs. We intentionally seek out colleagues from around the organization who have interesting stories to share, and work together with them to build the session, always including an element of interactivity and time for discussion at the end.
Recent topics have included:
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For Platform Users
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We are only six months into our journey of encouraging a user-centered culture, but we have already seen tangible results. We’ve had more than 32 presenters from across the organization. Every week, colleagues from around the world engage with the sessions stating they see the weekly sessions as a place to generate creative ideas as a group, serve as a platform for problem solving, and foster knowledge-sharing about all types of users. We’re continuing to experiment and improve, and are excited to see how our user-centered culture evolves over time.
Nikki Brand is Senior Human Centered Designer at Viamo. An experienced designer, implementer, and project manager working at the intersection of technology, innovation, and social impact, Nikki has experience in the government/donor, social enterprise, and the non-profit/NGO sectors with significant field experience across Latin America, Africa, and Asia.