Softrams is deeply entrenched in work at CMS with a variety of prime contract programs. These CMS programs support significant numbers of users both external and internal to CMS. The web-enabled interfaces of these applications are extensive and some of our most significant achievements have been in the design and redesign of workflows in extensive collaboration with users and stakeholders. In these efforts to design human centered software we focus on the Human Experience – the needs, context, behaviors, and emotions of the people that the solutions will serve. Human Centered Design (HCD) is a primary focus for Softrams, as is innovation with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML).

AI Opportunities and Impact

Organizational workforces continue to spend considerable time on administrative and internal facing activities – even after the implementation of IT systems that fulfill many data processing and related tasks. Some of this relates to the need for human intervention with unstructured data – information that AI approaches can now tackle. In all, AI is enabling organizations like CMS to refocus people resources even further on higher level strategic work and external facing consultative work with constituents and customers.

AI brings new capabilities to doing new things and to doing things differently. And, of course, this is not without impact. As AI is implemented, this will change business processes and affect the workforce, users, contractors, stakeholders, and the public as many other IT implementations have done so before. And in the context of these new business processes, humans are now interacting with a different type of system than before. So, it’s useful to explore the implications for human centered design work.

AI may be applied with varying degrees of AI support. One approach is decision support – where AI provides information and recommendations that support human performance. This is augmentation. AI can alternatively selectively filter what requires manual intervention – bypassing or completing some tasks but prioritizing other tasks for human action and decision. Finally, of course, some tasks may be nearly fully automated.

AI Helping Humans & Humans Helping AI

It’s true, that over the next decade, more work will be assigned to machines. However, in nearly all assessments, human-machine collaboration will still be required to effectively use AI. That is, AI augments humans. The fact is that there isn’t expected yet to be full AI replacement of human roles in business processes even with structured repetitive activities like filing documents. And the AI-human collaboration will be more significant for quantitative reasoning skills such as interpreting language, performing analytics, and software programming. And of course, cross-functional reasoning skills such as developing strategy and managing people are expected to be AI assisted in only limited ways.

The human-machine collaboration is bi-directional in that there is often a process of co-learning and co-adaptation. When people interact with AI systems, they can influence what the system will produce in the future. These systems that evolve over time alongside their users are often the most helpful. But as they change too, this also affects how the users interact with them. Human user roles lie in training the AI further, monitoring the AI’s performance, and helping to put the AI’s recommendations into a business context. In other words, I may have an AI at my disposal, but my AI has a human too. How do we best support users in these roles? For both sides of the coin – we have much work to do gain further experience on how these processes will operate, the roles and responsibilities, and the best designs for supporting both users and machines in these roles. And this is what human centered design research can address for us.

Human Centered Machine Learning

Let’s look at some of the areas in which Human Centered Machine Learning (HCML) must focus:

  • Understanding Bi-directional Adaption: This has implications for human centered design. There is possibly a need to go beyond personas and examine the needs and interactions of both human and non-human actors. Some have suggested adopting Actor-Network Theory approaches for example.
  • Designing for Trust: We rely on much to judge our trust of human experts – but not all of that is reliable. What information do we use and biases do we have in basing trust in an AI?
  • Communicating AI Limitations: A top design challenge is communicating and teaching users that machines are limited and may be wrong. What interface designs help users to recognize the limitations of the AI? For example, displaying the level of confidence the AI has in its recommendation. It’s very important to weigh the costs of both false positives and false negatives and communicate them.
  • Addressing Explainable AI (XAI): Deep learning models are largely a black box and questions of why recommendations are offered by the AI cannot be readily made apparent. Some common methods like Local Interpretable Model-Agnostic Explanations (LIME) leverage explainable machine learning models to simulate why an AI provided a particular answer. This makes it possible to design results displays as we have done to date for logistic regression models and other analytics.
  • Working Around the Unknown: Prototyping AI systems can be difficult with the considerable training investments to be made to develop the solution. Some reports suggest that “Wizard of OZ” methods are seeing a resurgence after many years. By this approach, humans act behind the scenes to simulate the AI in the prototyping exercises.

Designing With Subject Matter Expertise

It’s clear that significant technical expertise is required for managing AI development. But it ia equally apparent, as with other analytics, that this development needs to be supported by understanding of the business domain areas and the users. This is the age-old problem in developing IT.  It’s the product management balance of building the right product for business value and building the product right for usability.

Machine learning and AI applications still most often fail because user design is not done well. And business value requires expertise to achieve — model building holds risk in the lack of control of all factors. As an example, consider the data scientist who detects suppliers billing anomalous amounts of medical oxygen. However, the cases identified are exceptions. They are due to where the patients are living – in the mountains with high altitudes and thin air. Not necessarily an obvious finding – but unlikely to be revealed with the data scientist working alone. As we transform static business intelligence displays to interactive AI systems, the key ingredient will be training the AI to recognize business significance – when trends and events are meaningful.

Final Thoughts: Managing AI Change

Ultimately our key decisions are human ones that an AI cannot necessarily answer:

  • What are the business problems we need to solve? We need to use real intelligence here, not the artificial stuff.
  • How can I get a solution to my business problem most cost effectively? In many cases, we might ask whether an AI model is even necessary.

When AI is the right solution, user engagement from inception is critical. This helps to ensure that the users’ functional and emotional goals are met. In the end, it supports user acceptance of the AI and its recommendations.

Clearly internal users of business systems will have concerns about the impact of AI on their roles and jobs. It’s important not to take the users away from being actors in the process, and project them into the role of observers by focusing on the benefits that AI offers to them. Change management communications should be effective with users when the focus is on the organizational objectives for the business in using AI. Done correctly this moves towards engaging users in support of how that will happen.

We are honored to have these awards

Tech Industry
Disruptive Tech Fast 50 Award
Inc 5000 Award
75 WD

Background

When Apple’s Don Norman became the first person granted a “User Experience Architect” title in the 1990s, the world did not quite understand the value of UX. Fast forward to 2021: Companies from all industries have invested in the development of UX teams, realizing the advantage of a human-centered design process. However, one thing that remains is the disconnect between stakeholders and users throughout the product building process. At Softrams, we constantly work to connect our clients’ goals with end user needs. In this blog, we outline three tried and tested methods to bridge the gap.

Proven methods to connect users and stakeholders:

  1. Summarize the HCD journey succinctly
  2. Align development timelines
  3. Deploy and test rapid prototypes

Articulating the Research Journey

The first step of the UX process is to align the product team and stakeholders with a clear and concise version of the research plan. Our HCD teams ensure the viability of this deliverable by condensing our research into a one-pager. If your stakeholder doesn’t understand your one-pager, they are less likely to engage in the journey.

Aligning Timelines

In the past, product developers often ignored the timing of the UX team’s process. We work closely with our product analysts, project managers, and lead developers to stay aligned by launching routine update meetings. These coworking sessions help build trust and credibility with key stakeholders.

Deploying Rapid Prototypes

Building and testing new ideas is an exciting part of our role. We work closely within our agile teams to build prototypes that help us validate our assumptions.

Conclusion

The most integral element in connecting clients with users is communication. Beyond defining their own goals, stakeholders must be actively looped into the research regarding their target audience and user needs. Alignment is integral to a successful product development process.

 

We are honored to have these awards

Tech Industry
Disruptive Tech Fast 50 Award
Inc 5000 Award
75 WD

I belong to the first ‘digital native’ generation. As a Gen Z, I do not remember a time where I did not have access to Amazon or Google or was not anticipating the latest Apple smart phone launch. I am part of a generation that was born with technology at our fingertips. My generation has taken to social media, to make careers, to spread awareness, and build an online global community. However, that is not without its consequences.  

Online identity thefts, phishing attempts, ransomware attacks, and much more are at an all-time high. Therefore, Cybersecurity Specialists are needed now more than ever before. My journey into the realm of Cybersecurity was unexpected. While I had always liked the idea of being an Ethical Hacker, a career that I ignorantly equated with the glamorized Hollywood version of the job, I never knew where to begin, how to begin, and if I was even capable of doing it. However, our Security Practice Lead, Bill Jones, and my wonderful Security team at Softrams have made my transition into the world of Cybersecurity, less daunting.  

I would like to share a few tips for Cybersecurity beginners, that I have learned from my month-and-a-half experience of this career. The best way to get started in a new career is to get hands-on experience as soon as possible. Cybersecurity is a broad career field with positions ranging from Penetration Tester, Security Engineer, Cryptographer, to Security Analyst, Cryptanalyst, and Security Consultant. Internships are the best way to decide what career within Cybersecurity you want to pursue.  Here at Softrams, I have been shadowing my fellow team members on their daily tasks. My colleague, Srinivas, took me through how an AppSec is conducted with the Burp suite tool and explained how to report on vulnerabilities, through Bulwark. My other colleague, Nick, went over how security documentation is done and shared his experiences as someone on the policy side of Cybersecurity. These are experiences that I would not have received if it were not for the supportive Softrams work culture. Additionally, in order to supplement my Softrams’ hands-on experiences, I completed an online Certified Ethical Hacking study course. This has given me background knowledge on ethical hacking and has prepared me for the CEH certification that I hope to complete in the future. Studying for such certifications is important as this is a constantly evolving career that requires you to be a flexible and inquisitive. The online educational tool, Burp Suite Academy, can also be used to learn the concepts through interactive labs. 

As helpful as the tips above are, none of this would be as effective without the support of my incredible team. From the lighthearted morning stand-ups to Bill’s encouraging one on ones, from my partnerships with other team members to the company-wide, informative brownbag sessions, I am so amazed by Softrams’ work culture. I have spent a little over a month at Softrams and I have learned so many new concepts, have made connections with each of the team members, and have stepped out of my comfort zone to learn and present a new topic at my own Brown Bag session. My internship, thus far, has been informational, challenging, and exciting. I look forward to performing my own AppSec and reporting it on Bulwark. I look forward to applying this knowledge in the college classroom as I continue my education as a Sophomore at the University of Southern California. I look forward to presenting and learning more advanced concepts in the evolving field of Cybersecurity. I am so grateful for this guidance, here at Softrams, and hope to share many more Cybersecurity experiences with you all in the near future.  

We are honored to have these awards

Tech Industry
Disruptive Tech Fast 50 Award
Inc 5000 Award
75 WD

The Softrams team is excited to join Health Level Seven International (HL7) as a Gold Member, an international standards body that sets standards for data sharing between modern healthcare services and advancing information technology.

Softrams has been building a patient centered health information hub, called “hDrive” (https://www.hdrive.ai) that brings health information of individuals and families in one place for a wholistic and comprehensive view. hDrive will extract meaningful information hidden inside complex healthcare data and reports and present it using plain language and visuals to ensure better understanding of personal health, along with the power to make informed decisions and healthy choices. hDrive will store all data in a secure hub and let users share data securely as needed with anyone including healthcare professionals.

Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) is an interoperability standard intended to facilitate the exchange of healthcare information between organizations and is the core standard hDrive relies on to make patient centered health information hub a reality.

These HL7 standards created by Health Level Seven International, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing comprehensive guidelines for the exchange, integration, sharing, and retrieval of electronic health information. The adoption of these standards supports clinical practice and the management, delivery, and evaluation of health services. It leads to a more efficient, cost-effective, and higher quality of service provided by healthcare professionals.

HL7 is an international initiative supported by more than 1600 members from 50 countries, including 500+ corporate members that represent diverse healthcare providers, government stakeholders, payers, pharmaceutical companies, vendors/suppliers, and consulting firms.

Why do these HL7 standards matter?

All healthcare providers need to access multiple electronic systems to treat patients. This becomes more challenging if these healthcare providers offer services in outpatient clinics that are not integrated with the local hospital system. This is where Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) come in and how HL7 interoperability standards offer value. Interoperability in healthcare leads to quality patient care, as data can flow seamlessly across the gamut of care and is accessible by relevant parties whenever needed. This reduces errors, ensures a comprehensive health profile of the patient, and allows appropriate treatment options.

Abiding by HL7 standards is a huge step forward in terms of an open and collaborative healthcare system. As we start to emerge into a post-pandemic era, we are more aware of the value of human life and the delicate yet complicated relationship with healthcare. An interoperable healthcare system is therefore not only a convenience but a necessity in today’s digital world.

Softrams is proud to join HL7 organization as gold member, as we remain steadfast in our journey of bringing positive change in patient centered healthcare IT solutions.

We are honored to have these awards

Tech Industry
Disruptive Tech Fast 50 Award
Inc 5000 Award
75 WD

TL;DR: User experience is too important to be left to designers. User journey testing that helps to build those great experiences is too important to be left to testers or developers. Read on to see why it must be a team sport and how you can enable your entire team to be part of it.

User Journey, simply put, is (a) path user may take to accomplish a goal. At times, this may involve just a single application like a website, web application or a mobile application. Other times, this may involve multiple applications, accessed in certain sequence. Even in cases where a single application is presented to users, that single application typically assembles all those interactions behind the scenes.

So it is imperative for a team that is striving to build a great, seamless experience to understand the ‘entire’ user journey and build solutions with users at the front and center. This is different from a systems based approach, where the focus is on building and optimizing systems to support and deliver capabilities.

At Softrams, we call the design approach Human Experience (HX) Design, to build engaging and empowering digital services. Our overall approach can be simplified with the following four ideas:

  • Put users at the front and center
  • Design and build with users, not just for users
  • Leverage technology to empower users
  • Build iteratively and learn more about users at every iteration

User Journey tests; tests that mimics and validates a path user may take to accomplish a goal, are hence critical, particularly in this modern world of micro-services and micro-frontends where the final end user experience is assembled from varied sources and backend systems. For almost all non-trivial applications, this end user experience is built by multiple teams.

User journey testing should not be confused with ‘Usability Testing‘. Usability testing is done by real users of the product/service as part of Human Experience Design process to evaluate if solution is indeed useful and usable. Real users are typically asked to complete tasks and/or accomplish certain goals as our teams watch and learn.

While slightly different with respect to focus and objectives, these tests are also referred to as end-to-end tests, acceptance tests etc. In some organizations, there are dedicated teams to perform these tests. Some teams (often referred to as QA teams) perform these tests manually, clicking through as a typical user interacts with a web application for example. Some teams hire ‘Automation Engineers’ to build ‘browser automation’ test suites so that these tests can be run in an automated fashion. Some organizations tend to push this responsibility to developers that build those very applications to build these automated end to end tests as part of development itself and eliminate dedicated QA or Automation teams. Some organizations use a hybrid approach in that continuum.

As building great user experiences is a team sport, we believe that this important aspect of User Journey tests cannot be left to developers, QA, or automation engineers alone, but this must be a team sport as well, where every member of the team must be engaged and be able to contribute.

This requires us to build that culture in the team to begin with and use tools and processes that nurture this culture.

One important aspect of this approach is to use tools that are accessible to everybody and enable everybody in the team, those with programming background and those without programming background. Traditionally any testing or automation tools are left to developers or automation engineers as it requires writing code to build these automation tests.

We evaluated multiple tools and finally chose Gauge framework about two years ago and have been able to successfully implement it across the organization. We also built some supporting tools to enable our teams to successfully adapt the framework in various products.

Gauge + Taiko Framework

Gauge with Taiko driver offers significant benefits to building user journey tests. You may learn more at https://gauge.org/, but here are key benefits that made a big impact to our teams.

  • Tests are written in plain english using Markdown so anybody in the team can contribute
  • Allows creating easy, readable, and maintainable tests by anybody in the team
  • Great interactive report and documentation for test runs that include a screenshot for all failures
  • Ease and flexibility to organize test cases in multiple ways to run a sub-set of test cases etc.

Fully configured browser based environments

We have also created a fully browser based environment for non-programmers to easily access test projects and environments to review, contribute, and run tests (without having to install and setup locally). This provides a docker container based environment with all test tooling setup and opens VS Code inside browser. You may provision and run workspaces using these containers to offer a fully automated browser based test environments.

Check out https://github.com/softrams/automation-toolset for more.

Softrams Automation Toolset

Gauge Taiko Steps to cover most common scenarios

Gauge Taiko Steps is an open sourced and free to use implementation of most of the common actions a typical user will rely on to interact with a web application. This repository implements common gauge steps for Taiko API, so that tests can be created in plain language without having to programmatically implement steps for most common scenarios. This means, anybody in the team can write fully executable and verifiable test specifications, in plain language, without any additional programming or development needed.

Check out https://github.com/softrams/gauge-taiko-steps for more

Softrams Gauge Taiko Steps

Sample Test Scenario

I would like to show a very simple test scenario to demonstrate the readability of test case, which is still a fully executable and automated test case. Each line that begins with * is an executable test step. You can see the plain language used in each step (compared with typical automation test that only developers can understand).

# Navigation User Journey Test
This is the place you explain the key user journey scenario in plain text or Markdown.

You may additionally **add more notes** about this test scenario. 

In this sample, we will visit https://www.cdc.gov website, one of the most widely accssed health information website and search for Covid information.


## Open the CDC.gov website and search for Covid

Visit CDC.gov website
* Goto "https://www.cdc.gov"

Verify that page is correctly loaded by looking for specific text on the page. 
The presence of this text "About CDC" confirms that page has been loaded fully.
* Check text "About CDC" exists

Now the page has been fully loaded, go ahead and run Accessibility check to see 
if there are any accessibility issues
* Audit page for accessibility


Let us test how the search functionality work on the page, by searching for "Covid" in Search box and
press Enter key on keyboard. 
* Write "Covid" into "Search"
* Press "Enter"

Once search page is fully displayed, let us go ahead and verify if there are any accessibility issues on the page
> Note the flexibility in the framework to evaluate Accessibility at each user interaction on each page. 

* Audit page for accessibility

Go to Videos tab and look for a specific video. Again, once the page is loaded audit for accessibility
* Click "Videos"
* Check text "Know Your Risk of Getting COVID-19" exists
* Audit page for accessibility

Once the test is run, here is a screenshot of the test report, again to demonstrate the ease and readability of the test case, by anybody in the team.

Screenshot showing a test run
Sample Test Case

Since the adoption about two years ago, Softrams teams have built 1000s of test cases, with contributions from every member on the team across many programs.

If you like what you see, checkout the getting started with the framework post.

We are eager to know how others are approaching to build user journey tests. Let us know your thoughts and ideas. Also, do try to use the tools or frameworks shared in this post and provide your feedback.

We are honored to have these awards

Tech Industry
Disruptive Tech Fast 50 Award
Inc 5000 Award
75 WD

My previous post, ‘Automating User Journey Tests‘, talked about the need for accessibility of user journey tests for each team member and how we chose Gauge as our framework of choice. I also introduced our open source steps library to make this possible for everybody in the team, irrespective of their programming background, to be able to contribute to user journey tests. In this post, I will expand on how to get started with the framework.

Please note that we expect the first few steps of this setup to be done by team members with a programming background and offer a fully configured workspace to the rest of the team members. Refer your colleagues with devops, development or automation skills to this repo that offers a fully setup workspace as well if your teams use container based workspaces.

Install Dependencies

These instructions are good for installing Gauge on MacOS. Please refer to Gauge docs for installing on Windows or Linux environments.

Before we begin, you must have Nodejs installed. You may install with homebrew or use appropriate installation package from Nodejs downloads page.

// Install Nodejs
brew install node

// Install Gauge
brew install gauge

// Alternately, you may also use NPM to install Gauge
// npm install -g @getgauge/cli

While not mandatory, we strongly recommend using VSCode as code editor or integrated development environment, as Gauge comes with a great extension for VSCode that makes working with user journey tests a breeze.

Setting up a new project

Start by creating a new folder for the user journey automation project and go inside the new folder created. If you would like to add user journey automation to an existing project, go to the respective folder and follow the command prompts below to proceed further.

// Create a new folder
mkdir gauge-taiko-demo

// go inside the folder
cd gauge-taiko-demo

// initialize a new Gauge project, that uses javascript and Taiko driver/test runner.
gauge init js

// Run default tests generated to verify everything is successful
npm test

Using Gauge Taiko Steps

In the next couple of steps, we will install Gauge Taiko Steps that will help build user journey tests for a majority of common scenarios without developing any code. Please refer to documentation at https://github.com/softrams/gauge-taiko-steps for more details.

// Install Gauge Taiko Steps
npm i @softrams/gauge-taiko-steps

// To include Gauge Taiko Steps to your project, update STEP_IMPL_DIR variable in./env/default/js.properties from: STEP_IMPL_DIR = tests to
STEP_IMPL_DIR = node_modules/@softrams/gauge-taiko-steps/lib, \
                tests

// Delete the default files generated during project setup
rm specs/example.spec
rm tests/step_implementation.js

That’s all! This setup is everything you need to build your first user journey test.

Creating Your First User Journey Test

Create a new file inside specs folder. For this demo, this file will be called, navigation.spec. Open the file in an editor and start creating your first step.

In the first step, we will just open cdc.gov website and check if text “About CDC” exists.

# Navigation User Journey Test
You may optionally add any notes in Markdown format

## Open CDC.gov website and check for text "About CDC" exists
* Goto "https://www.cdc.gov"
* Check text "About CDC" exists 

That’s it! Go ahead and run tests now. If everything is setup properly, you should see test executed successfully.

// Run tests
npm test

// You should see an output like this, if everything goes well

> gauge-taiko-template@ test /demos/gauge-taiko-demo
> gauge run specs/

# Navigation User Journey Test
  ## Open the CDC.gov website	 ✔ ✔

Successfully generated html-report to => /demos/gauge-taiko-demo/reports/html-report/index.html

Specifications:	1 executed	1 passed	0 failed	0 skipped
Scenarios:	1 executed	1 passed	0 failed	0 skipped

Total time taken: 3.512s

You may now open the test report in HTML file to easily review tests.

open ./reports/html-report/index.html

Here is a sample screenshot of the HTML report

In the upcoming posts, I will cover various capabilities and build a variety of user journey tests including accessibility audits without any additional programming. Please let me know if you have any questions or feedback by leaving a comment.

We are honored to have these awards

Tech Industry
Disruptive Tech Fast 50 Award
Inc 5000 Award
75 WD

At Softrams, we believe building great software solutions require a diverse, cross functional team with all hands on deck. One of the most important aspects the team focuses on is to automate end to end user journey tests and acceptance tests to enable continuous delivery of value. To make sure everybody in the team will be able to review and actively contribute to building user journey tests, we need a testing framework that is accessible to everyone, irrespective of programming background.

After evaluating a few options, we chose Gauge, which allows writing tests in plain language that every member of the team can understand. When needed, it allows enriching with additional contextual documentation and links with simple markdown semantics. However, every step in a test scenario needs to be translated to an action that can be executed by a test runner in the context of a browser. This is almost always left to test automation engineers and developers. We chose to bridge that gap as well by completely eliminating programming or development for each step.

Introducing Gauge Taiko Steps, an open sourced and free to use implementation of most of the common actions a typical user will rely on to interact with a web application. This repository implements common gauge steps for Taiko API, so that tests can be created in plain language without having to programmatically implement steps for most common scenarios. This means, anybody in the team can write fully executable and verifiable test specifications, in plain language, without any additional programming or development needed.

Check out https://github.com/softrams/gauge-taiko-steps for more

Softrams Gauge Taiko Steps

We have also created a fully browser based environment for non-programmers to easily access test projects and environments to review, contribute and run tests (without having to install and setup locally). This provides a docker container based environment with all test tooling setup and opens VS Code inside browser. You may provision and run workspaces using these containers to offer a fully automated browser based test environments.

Check out https://github.com/softrams/automation-toolset for more.

Softrams Automation Toolset

In a follow up post, I will share more details on the framework and step by step instructions to get started and how all team members can contribute to building great experiences.

We are honored to have these awards

Tech Industry
Disruptive Tech Fast 50 Award
Inc 5000 Award
75 WD

We are really excited to announce a new initiative to build the workforce of tomorrow, in partnership with Teaching For Good, that is building a non-profit ed-tech platform. 

Unleash-ED is an initiative by Teaching For Good, supported by forward thinking industry leaders that offers job training and mentoring programs to build skills for the future workforce.

https://www.teachingforgood.org

With this initiative, partnering organizations like Softrams help to:

  • Identify skills of tomorrow
  • Sponsor job ready training programs
  • Offer Mentoring programs and
  • Career Pathways via internships for on-the-job training

We are excited to share that Softrams LLC will be the first launch partner with programs offered in four different tracks to provide opportunities to communities with diverse backgrounds and capabilities.

The following is a list of initial programs to be launched in January 2021, with more programs coming later in the summer. 

  1. Data Engineering 
  2. Full Stack Development 
  3. Human Experience Design 
  4. Product Analysis  and
  5. Product Management

TEACHING FOR GOOD, INC is a non-profit organization based out of Plano TX, USA, that empowers individuals and organizations to teach, train, coach and mentor individuals and communities. It offers a 100% FREE edTech platform to organize one-on-one mentoring sessions, webinars, full duplex video online classrooms and on-demand courses. Organizers of such events can also choose to raise funds for a cause or non-profit of their choice. You can learn more at https://www.teachingforgood.org. 

We are honored to have these awards

Tech Industry
Disruptive Tech Fast 50 Award
Inc 5000 Award
75 WD

If you have any experience in the UX realm, you know that UXers come from all walks of life. Ask your friendly neighborhood UXer about their background, and you’re likely to hear anything from graphic design, to programming, to business development, to psychology (maybe more!).

Producing good UX work takes a combination of these skills, and no one discipline should take precedence over the others. That being said, it’s great practice to get to know the other specialties in the UX world and to learn from their experts. So today, we’ll be looking at what psychology brings to the UX table. For clarity, I’ll be referring to “psychologists” in this post, by which I mean UXers with a background in psychology.

Understanding the User

Perhaps the most obvious connection between psychology and UX is in the assessment of the users. Psychologists should be able to bring insight about the user beyond some of the standard demographics one might expect (i.e. age ranges, career domain, etc.). For instance, psychologists may consider such facets of the user as the user’s existing technological heuristics, the user’s expectations of how information should be presented, and the user’s motivations in visiting a site or utilizing a system. Let’s take a closer look at motivation.

Understanding User Motivation

A user doesn’t usually visit a website without an objective or purpose. Even if the user is checking a social media site, their purpose may be entertainment or distraction. Identifying the user’s motivation in visiting a site is something a psychologist can help assess. Is the user looking to purchase a specific product? Is the user exploring a site with the intent of wandering until they find something of interest to them? These are questions a psychologist is naturally interested in, and these questions can help inform the design of a site. How? With their understanding of human behavior, a psychologist can help generate, and answer, questions like these. After all, understanding how humans think and behave is critical in properly identifying how to assist said humans in their tasks. How does a psychologist help design a site to meet the needs of the user? One way is through the effective structuring of information of a site.

Information Architecture

Is your user exploring a site with no specific intention other than wandering and seeing what’s available? Make your site discoverable with interesting rabbit trails for the user to follow away from the home page and into subsections of the site! Is your user looking to buy a specific product? Design your site to subtly funnel the user towards the product by limiting options and giving the user less opportunity to get distracted and wander off! These are insights that a psychologist can provide, as they understand how much information is too much information, and when options can be a good or bad thing.

We are honored to have these awards

Tech Industry
Disruptive Tech Fast 50 Award
Inc 5000 Award
75 WD
Deck of cards with Softrams logo

Ts or T-shaped people or T-skilled people, is a metaphor known to be first referenced by Tim Brown, CEO of the revered design firm IDEO, as the best method to assess and build inter-disciplinary teams.

The vertical bar on the T represents the depth of related skills and expertise in a single field, whereas the horizontal bar is the ability to collaborate across disciplines with experts in other areas and to apply knowledge in areas of expertise other than one’s own.

I guess, that quote from Wikipedia says it all. If one is serious about agility in their teams or organization, must look for inter-disciplinary teams or many refer to as cross-functional teams. Cross-functional doesn’t mean, as some assume, a person that can do every function in the team, but have a team of people with different functional expertise.

What Ts emphasize is that we should not only look for people with functional expertise, but also have broader understanding and hence appreciation of other functions. So they can trust each other in the group and collaborate towards the goal. Many a times, if you do not appreciate what others are bringing to the table, it is very difficult to build trust and rely on each other. Trust is the key to agile teams, particularly where innovation matters, because you are always venturing in unchartered waters.

We are like building a football team of champions, that play their positions exceptionally well and trust in each other to win the game.

At Softrams, we are consciously striving to build a team. Not a one person army. So, no, we are not looking for unicorns or rock stars that can do every possible thing under the sky. But somebody that is really exceptional at one thing and understand well enough to trust in each other and collaborate with rest of the team on all other aspects.

Here are our ground rules :

  1. We define objectives and specify key skills that are required for a position at hand, as precisely as possible. Often, it will be one key skill and a few related skills.
  2. We believe that what a person learned and did in the past 2–3 years has significant impact and value than what a person learned or did years ago. So, we refrain from asking for experience in our key skills longer than 2–3 years.
  3. Softrams is built on innovation with people that push the boundaries in every direction. The key to this culture is our emphasis on continuous learning and experimentation. So we always look for people that are always learning and trying something. We value your weekend experiment trying to learn a new skill above many other factors.
  4. We love people with strong opinions and those that respect and appreciate the fact that everybody in the team have their own strong opinions. Ideas must win, no matter who brings them up. This is why, we look for Ts that are exceptionally well but also respect others and trust each other.
  5. We do not believe in factory style cubicles. We are not looking to optimize the real estate. We want to make ideas thrive and teams are built and collaboration happen. We have consciously invested and designed our workspaces, to be open, vibrant and make us huddle together anywhere and work.
  6. We always love to know more and ask every single person that is considering joining Softrams team to share their body of work and let that be the focal point of interview to assess (rather than a multi-page resume). If for any reason, it is not possible to share, we ask to do a very simple experiment for about an hour, giving you a chance to showcase your skills, your favorite tools and your approach to solving a problem.

These ground rules help us bring not only the best and brightest in the industry, but also build a team of champions, that trust in each other and work as a team to win.

If you are looking for an opportunity to challenge the status-quo and build human centered digital experiences, we are growing and hiring for our UX, DevOps, Full Stack (Angular / NodeJS) and Cloud teams in Baltimore MD, Leesburg VA, Plano TX or remotely from anywhere in the USA. Checkout for more details https://www.softrams.com/careers

Practice Areas
Softrams – Practice Areas

Have the Ts? Join our Ace Teams at one these vibrant, open and exhilarating collaboration workspaces in Baltimore MD, Leesburg VA or remotely from anywhere in the USA.

We are honored to have these awards

Tech Industry
Disruptive Tech Fast 50 Award
Inc 5000 Award
75 WD