Previously on EU Digital… we’ve talked about our quantitative research: the comprehensive user poll we did in 2014, the more detailed user survey on EU strategy and policy, and analytics. We’ll be doing plenty more of that. But we haven’t yet looked at qualitative research, the process that will finally bring us face to face with the people who use our content.

Linking content to purpose

Qualitative research will put flesh on the bones provided by the quantitative data. From it, we’ll build up a more practical, rich and contextual understanding of what content people need - and what they need it for. This understanding will inform what content we provide, what form we provide it in – and what we leave out.

But we have to make sure we talk to the right users. Misdirected research can be worse than none at all. This is where our quantitative data comes in handy, to tell us which of our customers we need to talk to about what to get a rounded picture of their needs – so we can link content to underlying purpose.

Clarity in the service of value

Without the evidence we’ll collect, we risk writing, debating, polishing, and translating content that doesn’t really meet a need. And we risk using the wrong scenarios to test content and assess our digital products’ performance. For many digital services, it’s obvious how to test success - in terms of products shipped, loans granted or passport applications processed. For the Commission, the bottom line is more complex. So we need to think carefully about how we’ll know when we’ve met a user need. That’s a subject for another day but, for sure, a solid understanding of needs is the starting point.

And greater clarity of purpose will help different parts of the organisation work more collaboratively on content, combining perspectives and material from several sources. Without evidence, reconciling opinions is hard work. With it, we can get straight on with the gratifying business of producing something we’re confident will be valued.

How to do it

Most of our users are geographically distant, spread not just across 28 EU countries but throughout the globe. So face-to-face interviews and field studies will have to be the exception. But once we’ve identified the people we need to talk to, we can start conducting interviews remotely, maybe using screen capture to see how they interact with our digital content in the course of their daily activity. In addition, we’ll examine: search terms (what words bring people to our sites and what do they search for once they’ve arrived?);  online feedback; emails and phone calls; social media threads. And we’ll talk to people who come to Commission events.

Armed with all this, we’ll be able to produce some user stories that detail which user profiles want what and for what purpose. Each story will come with ‘acceptance criteria’, a description of how we can check if the needs defined in the user stories have been met. That’s when the quantitative data will come in handy again to rank the user stories in order of importance – so we know what to focus on in creating the content.

And of course we’ll share some of our learnings on this blog.

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P. Vandenberghe's picture

Nice article, but - typically - you've not applied your knowledge to your own site. As I've found out on 2015-10-14 it's very hard to add a new comment on this site and make conversation. And it's not a technical problem but a usability problem, as the friendly Laurent-Jacques Corveleyn (business implementation manager @ Next EUROPA CMS & Webtools) and myself have just discovered when he called me to solve the problem. A bit embarrassing to have a usability problem on a blog such as this, isn't it?

Also, how can it be that is hidden at the bottom of a list of commissioners, if you "breadcrumb back" to ? That's not good IA, is it?

Finally, do guess what one discovers if one "breadcrumbs" one level higher on ... I'm sorry to say that I find all this utterly typical for the European biosphere :-(

Mihaela PETRE's picture

Hello Mr. Vandenberghe, thank you for your feedback. We are indeed aware of the difficulties currently present on the blog when it comes to the ease of conversation. We are working on a revamp that will launch in the near future.

social media marketing plan presentation's picture

When someone writes an article he/she maintains the thought of
a user in his/her brain that how a user can know
it. So that's why this post is outstdanding. Thanks!

P. Vandenberghe's picture

How long does it take for you to moderate reactions ? Users first within which period of time ?

Mihaela PETRE's picture

Hello Mr. Vandenberghe, thank you for your comments, they unfortunatelly got sent into the wrong directory by the spam filter. We are looking into how to solve this problem. We hope that you will continue reading our posts and sharing your thoughts with us.

P. Vandenberghe's picture

Thank you for finally responding, and putting comments from 2015-09-19 online in October ;-) I do hope you'll be looking out for people reacting more than you have been.

Four final remarks :

(1) The comments I made are not solely on the ease of conversation, they're about your baffling IA choices as well. Since you don't discern that in your reply, I'm starting to fear you've read over that. The art of conversation & community management is to give comments & complaints the right reply.

(2) The mail I got from you on 2015-10-23 (18:54) is very hard to understand. It's been generated by a machine, obviously, but that generator hasn't been programmed to create understandable, usable content. Could you please address that ?

(3) As I've told Laurent, you should insert proper instructions on how to enter the homepage since just entering doesn't work. If you can instert a mouseover warning for the e-mail field then surely you can insert a mouseover warning to help people fill out that field the right way, avoiding us losing time ?

(4) And it's strange to see (NOT VERIFIED) next to my name and those of the other commentators, since you don't publish comments without veryfing them.

All the best ...

Mihaela PETRE's picture

Dear Mr. Vandenberghe, thank you for the feedback, your comments address problems we are indeed aware of and working on fixing. The new information architecture is currently being built and addresses the complexity of all content published by the European Commission online. We appreciate your patience as we fine-tune the platform to serve user needs from across the EU, which is a multi-annual programme considering the size of the web presence of the European Commission (450 websites). Regards, Mihaela

P. Vandenberghe's picture

A comment to check on my § (3) and § (4). Have those minor issues at least been dealt with, and do comments get published faster at long last?

Mihaela PETRE's picture

Dear Mr Vandenbeghe, we are working on a solution for both the "not verified" mention and the e-mail field. Usability testing is underway as well. For the comment moderation, please see my last comment. Regards, Mihaela

P. Vandenberghe's picture

Can you please explain why my comment of 2015-11-12 hasn't been published yet ? How long does it take for you to moderate reactions ? Users first within which period of time ? If you publish this page but then don't follow up on it, why is that ? What are the SLA's ?

Mihaela PETRE's picture

Dear Mr Vandenberghe, the moderation delay is due to an update in the content management system. The comments moderation is done on a weekly basis. The updates will be finished this week. Regards, Mihaela

P. Vandenberghe's picture

Thanks again. Maybe you should explicitly communicatie "The comments moderation is done on a weekly basis." - 2015-11-25

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