ARTICLE: Trevor Minton

How EdTech leaders can score quick UX wins without sacrificing the long-term product vision

UX issues are an unavoidable part of digital product development. That’s true whether you’re updating an existing feature or readying a brand-new EdTech product for launch. The real question isn’t whether you’ll encounter usability issues, but what you do about them. 

Identifying the symptoms of your usability problems may be easy enough. Perhaps your CX team is swamped with complaints about a particular task, or maybe you’re seeing a lack of engagement with a specific feature. But diagnosing the underlying problems — the why behind those glaring symptoms — can be much more challenging. Of course, doing so is necessary if you want to find the right solutions. 

At critical points of product improvement, you don’t want to let assumptions about how to fix things guide your solutions. In the competitive, fast-paced world of EdTech, you can’t afford to let UX issues fester. You need to rectify them quickly and accurately. But your product team may not have the bandwidth or perspective necessary to make it happen. An external partner can offer a fresh perspective and cut right to the heart of the problem. 

Rather than offering rigid, prescriptive solutions, a UX agency like Openfield can set up your product for longevity with a flexible, tailored course of action. Initial discussions — before you’ve even signed on the dotted line — empower the best course of action. Here’s how. 

Challenge Assumptions to Discover Underlying Product Issues

Many UX problems have deeper underlying issues that can be hard to identify. When Openfield first meets with your stakeholders, we work to gain a full understanding of your product’s goals and needs. 

We’ll begin by reviewing what you believe your scope of work should be. We’ll also test your team’s assumptions about the nature of your product’s problems by helping you chart a course of action that includes research. And while that may be uncomfortable, it clarifies the path forward. 

Evaluate your scope of work 

We want to make certain you’re considering the best UX approach. Our review may confirm your stated scope of work is spot-on. Or we may recommend an adjustment based on your answers to our investigative questions. Either way, our insight will reassure your team that we will use your UX investment as efficiently as possible. Asking questions like these helps us jumpstart our discovery sessions later. 

  • If you believe your product is outdated, we’ll want to specify how. Does it need a minor refresh? Are there glaring (or not so glaring) UI issues? Are users complaining to CX about particular issues? 
  • If you’re faced with functionality issues, we may need to revisit the mental models that your product taps into. Every few years, mental models and expectations shift, and your product needs to shift with it. 

Answering these questions fully sets up your product for longevity and market dominance, even if the initial UX engagement is to solve short-term, quick wins. 

Address your product’s complexity

EdTech product leaders often report their product is generally “hard to use.” In these cases, product and UX stakeholders will usually have many ideas about what to address. While the default solution may be to simplify, that doesn’t necessarily mean stripping features or functionality. The best solution usually requires managing the complexity better.

For example, if your product is perceived as being hard to use, users may be having difficulty learning how to use it. A more robust onboarding experience may be the solution. A focused effort in UX research can suss out exactly what should be changed. We often determine that the product itself won’t benefit from overall simplification.  

Your product’s level of complexity may not really be a problem at all. In fact, your product’s complexity gives it its level of sophistication and ability to meet users’ needs. Teaching your users how to feel comfortable with that complexity could be the most precise solution. After all, EdTech products can be involved, and often necessarily so for students to achieve learning objectives

Prioritize UX Improvements That Support Short-Term & Long-Term Business Needs

When your product has multiple issues, you’ll need to prioritize. And when you’re in the thick of it, it can be difficult to discern what to tackle first. We are not only able to diagnose the root problems, but we can also help you triage them by taking the following steps.

Align all stakeholders on business objectives

Before taking action, all stakeholders need to start from the same place — with your business objectives. Your objectives should inform every part of your UX investment. Our discussions with you may result in a uniform commitment to your stated objectives. Or we might establish new ones altogether. 

Your transparency in this process is key. When all stakeholders are clear on your objectives, we can create a research plan that prioritizes your most pressing business needs

Create multiple UX roadmaps

Once we’ve honed in on your top business objectives, we can begin creating your product’s UX roadmap. Whether it’s catching up to an evolving market or correcting reputational risk, more than one roadmap can be required to support your priorities. 

For example, we can design a short-term UX roadmap for an immediate release for the upcoming semester. And then we can pair it with a long-term roadmap that delivers a fuller set of improvements or redesign in 12 to 18 months. 

If we discover your central business need is to enter a new market, we can utilize a discovery research phase to learn about specific gaps in the market. In that case, we’ll build a UX roadmap that prepares your product to differentiate and elevate itself from the new competition.

Your UX investment with Openfield pays off well before you’ve made a formal commitment. The time we spend listening and asking deeper questions helps us draw conclusions about your product’s usability issues. And from there, we’re well positioned to nurture your product’s growth and success in the short and long term. 

Want to learn more about how Openfield can help you accurately diagnose your product’s UX issues? We’d love to talk.

  • Photo of Trevor Minton
    Trevor Minton

    As CXO at Openfield, Trevor collaborates closely with our clients and ensures that our team delivers world-class design thinking and execution that results in strong emotional connections between users and digital products. He is passionately enthusiastic about music, local and international soccer, automotive design and racing, and getting under the hood of his old but new-to-him BMW to keep it on the road for another couple of decades.

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