Established 2004 by the User Experience Professionals Association, World Usability Day is an opportunity for professionals across a spectrum of industries to reflect on their efforts to make the services and products important to our lives easier to access and simpler to use.
At WP Engine, we believe technology should enhance our lives, not make them harder, which is why we have experts working toward that goal every day. Our UX researchers and product designers are consistently testing and tweaking our offerings to ensure WP Engine customers as well as the end users who visit sites hosted on our platform are getting the best possible user experience.
In the following post, we’ll cover what World Usability Day is all about and introduce you to some of the individuals who are making WP Engine’s platform and tools simpler, and more effective for site owners of all kinds.
What is World Usability Day?
Founded in 1991, the User Experience Professionals Association was formed to support people who research, design, and evaluate the user experience (UX) of products and services. They created World Usability Day in 2004, and the mission of the holiday is “to humanize a world that uses technology as an infrastructure.”
Each year, World Usability Day follows a new theme. This year’s theme, Collaboration and Cooperation, is intended to emphasize the importance of collaboration, as it’s key to ensuring that web content is accessible to all users, including those with disabilities.
With that theme in mind, meet some of the individuals who are contributing to WP Engine’s usability across our platform and products!
Rebecca Wood-Spagnoli, Sr. Manager, User Experience
I’ve just celebrated my five-year anniversary at WP Engine, and during that time, I’ve had the incredible opportunity to create and grow our UX Research practice, while growing and learning quite a bit myself.
Getting the chance to build out the research program, teach designers and product managers research basics, and experience the improving usability of our products has been extremely satisfying.
The Sites list view within our User Portal is one of the scariest pages I’ve worked on. Early on I realized how critical this page is to our users and that people are especially sensitive to any changes to it—it’s understandable, I grumble every time Slack changes something.
Over the years, we have introduced search functionality so users could find a site across all their accounts, introduced new quick actions and information to the Sites page, added a Needs Attention tab, introduced new views, and, most recently, the All Sites view.
Each of these iterations has been informed by feedback from our users and I am incredibly grateful to each person who takes the time to tell us the problems they’re facing and give us feedback on our ideas for solving them.
I love what I do, but it doesn’t come without occupational hazards. I can’t help but notice (and comment, sorry friends) on bad design everywhere, and I’m very likely to ask a million questions on any given topic.
One of my favorite parts of my job is getting other people excited about the value and impact of UX Research and how fascinating people are. I find it really satisfying to sit with a team during a research session and come out of it thinking “we need to fix that problem” or “well, that design didn’t test how we thought.” There’s always something to update in terms of usability, which keeps me on my toes.
I started at Flywheel as an Intern in 2020—it was my first exposure to working on a development team, and I am so thankful for the guidance I received. After two summers as an intern, I graduated school and joined WP Engine full time as a designer for the Atlas product line. It’s been a little over a year since I started working on Atlas, and it’s incredible to see how far we’ve come in that time.
Recently, we have started to take a look at updating various parts of the UI. This has been a great opportunity for us to do an audit of some of our interactions, e.g. adding custom domains, creating webhooks, and enabling password protection. With usability top of mind, we have been able to identify some real improvements that allow for more efficient and intuitive usage of these features.
In addition to these updates, I’m working directly with Vandana, my research partner, and Ilona, our Product Manager, to test new site creation concepts with customers. This is the very beginning of our efforts to explore the integration of Sites and Atlas as a unified solution.
Product usability is pivotal for any company’s success, and WP Engine is no different. Usability directly affects customer satisfaction, influencing either customer loyalty and churn depending on their level of satisfaction.
In my eyes, the customers’ ability to efficiently complete whatever job they’re trying to get done is both a fundamental requirement and a critical factor for a product’s competitive edge.
Sam Harriman, User Research Operations Coordinator
Coming to WP Engine I started as a Technical Support Engineer where I learned the ins and outs of the company. I was then able to bring that experience to the User Research team where I was able to aid and manage projects across many different pillars of the company.
One of the most notable projects I’ve worked on in terms of usability is in helping the Managed WordPress team launch their Portal beta to our customers late last year.
The beta was a redesign of the Sites page within the Portal, and it included many new reworks and usability updates in terms of the user interface. It was a highly anticipated redesign, as it’s the most visited page on our hosting platform.
My role included sourcing a large number of the beta participants who would participate in the final stages of testing before it went live. The beta was a success and the new Sites page has been live now for almost a year!
Overall, I believe usability is extremely important. If something is broken or doesn’t work the way you think it should, it’s frustrating—and when you’re frustrated you can’t do your best work. Usability is the key in helping you do your best possible work.
Dale Williams, Sr. Product Designer
I’ve been a designer for more than 10 years, originally coming from a web design background (all the way back to the days of Macromedia Fireworks and Dreamweaver). From there, I naturally progressed into UI/UX design.
Over the years I’ve designed many products, including the world’s first fully featured mobile site builder, an eCommerce platform, an online booking system, and a number of iOS applications. I’ve been a user of WordPress since its early days and was one of the very first users of Advanced Custom Fields—so I’m honored to currently be a leader for ACF’s design efforts.
At the end of last year, we launched a redesigned version of ACF, a product that’s loved by the WordPress community. As part of the redesign there were several goals and objectives:
- To modernize the overall usability and design, while still maintaining an experience that you’d expect within WordPress
- To speed up in-product workflows
- To make it easier for first-time users to understand the product while still allowing for the flexibility and advanced features that our expert users expect
With every new release we make further improvements that are influenced by our customers. This redesign was especially ambitious, as it affected the user experience across all areas of the product. The next step on our journey is to start creating a more cohesive experience across WP Engine’s other WordPress plugins.
Usability is something that’s ever-evolving—a solution that works today may not work so well in the future. Product requirements, hardware devices, and human behaviors all change and evolve, so it’s important that user interfaces and experiences evolve too.
Similarly a user experience solution that works for one person doesn’t always work for another, so it’s also important that different needs, tiers of expertise, and levels of accessibility are carefully considered. That way, products can be made flexible enough that everyone can have a positive experience with them.
Usability is necessary for success. When you don’t accommodate user needs, you’re causing friction that makes it very easy for people to abandon your product for something more favorable, efficient, or effective.
Natalie Munger, Product Design Manager
Upon joining the Flywheel team as a designer, my product team had a clear focus on improving the behind-the-scenes customer support experience.
Instead of concentrating on the user interface where our customers interact directly, our primary goal was to improve the usability for our Support Agents and Account Managers. Our guiding question was, “How can we enhance their experience to enable them to better serve our customers?”
As I dove into the realm of refining internal processes, tools, and experiences, it became clear that even though our customers didn’t see the improvements and changes firsthand, they were still significantly impacted. From the customer support side, providing Support Agents with a more usable experience was a game-changer. It empowered them to provide customers with comprehensive and accurate assistance.
On the other hand, from the usability improvement perspective, streamlining our processes resulted in faster response times from the Support team. As a result, they were better equipped to quickly address customer inquiries, making the entire support system more efficient.
There’s a flip side to that coin! While internal enhancements for our Support Agents and Account Managers have an impact on customers, we also had to consider how customer-facing improvements also affect the usability of our internal support systems.
Even the smallest change can create a ripple effect. When we introduce a new feature to our customers, it’s crucial to contemplate how it influences the internal usability and support systems.
Usability encompasses a variety of interconnected perspectives and needs, creating a list of factors to consider. Designing the ideal solution that satisfies the usability needs of diverse perspectives is complex and challenging, yet my favorite part of the job!
Talissa Walsh, Associate UX Researcher
I started my UX journey over a year ago here at WP Engine. Previous to this, I worked as a researcher in academia and studied psychology so I have always been interested in people’s attitudes, motivations, mental models, and behaviors.
Usability is essential in creating a seamless experience for our customers where they can complete tasks with ease and feel in control of their experience. It is when we have a deep understanding of our customers and we meet them where they are at.
Throughout my time here at WP Engine, I have been fortunate to be involved in many projects regarding usability. One project in particular that has improved usability is the introduction of the usage page in the portal.
Customers used to be notified about going over their plan and had no way to visualize this information. The addition of the usage page allows customers to review their usage and gives them the opportunity to take control.
More recently, I have worked on improving centralizing our products to match our customers’ mental models and evaluation of the dashboard to understand how we can improve usability and engagement.
The best part of my job is seeing customers get excited by our new concepts and ideas, so in 2024 and beyond I look forward to continuing projects that will impact usability and improve customers’ workflows.
Kate Meyer, UX Researcher
I’ve been at WP Engine for just over three years, and as one of the original members of the UX Research team I’ve had the privilege of working on a lot of products, from our core hosting offerings, to WP Migrate, to Local.
Good usability can help all users, whether you are a beginner or an expert. People sometimes equate complex functionality and difficult user experience. It is possible for a product to be advanced and easy to use at the same time, but unfortunately we come across a lot of experiences that are advanced and hard to use, so that idea has been reinforced.
UX and Product professionals are key to making products appropriate for multiple skill levels while also being usable for all. One of the most satisfying parts of my job has been seeing the progression of the WP Engine User Portal over time.
One of the first projects I worked on in 2020 was introducing the Add Site workflow and Go Live checklist. Before, the workflow was scattered across different parts of the User Portal and there was no in-context help or directions. More recently I did research around the WP Engine site migration workflow, and am excited for customers to experience a more streamlined experience in the future.
Happy World Usability Day!
To all the people working to improve user experiences across the world, thank you for all your hard work. As technology continues to advance, the importance of humanizing products cannot be overstated, and your efforts are vital to that end.
If you’d like to be involved as a UX tester to help improve our products, follow this link for a brief survey we ask users to take if they’re interested in participating in our User Research Group.