An interview with Caroline Jarrett

About Caroline Jarrett

Caroline Jarrett is an independent usability consultant in the United Kingdom. After 13 years as a project manager of computer systems integration projects, she founded Effortmark Limited in order to concentrate on 'what systems are for' instead of 'how the system is put together'. Through her work with the United Kingdom tax authorities, she became fascinated with forms and now specializes in making forms easier to fill in and deal with, and tuning up the content of large-scale web sites that include forms. She is co-author of Forms that work: Designing web forms for usability, co-author of User Interface Design and Evaluation, and the author of the upcoming book Surveys That Work. Her clients for tax forms advice and training include (UK) HM Revenue and Customs, (USA) the Internal Revenue Service and the Australian Tax Office. She has worked extensively with the Open University on their web site.


Main points

  • Usually, projects for me mean research, so I don’t have a challenge of people not wanting research.
  • Being interested in UX research and making a decision to act upon it are two very different things.
  • It is hard for stakeholders to understand that expert reviews that do not involve users are not as accurate as conducting research with people.
  • I need better arguments.
  • The need to develop products that are great for people is only one of the pressures stakeholders are being put under.
  • Identify your stakeholders’ goals and see how you can help them achieve them.
  • When you run a usability test just before a product is released, this is the exact time when your stakeholders are not very open to hearing about new usability problems.
  • Try not to create difficult situations for your stakeholders that would prevent them from deciding to act upon research results.
  • A deliverable that works best for me is to find the stakeholder who’s job is to align what they do with UX and getting that stakeholder to actually have the experience in some way. Be it video or role playing.
  • Sometimes things have nothing to do with you and you will just not win.