BOSTON — When web senior user experience (UX) designer Thomas Piggott was tasked to help revamp his company’s website, he didn’t go to a tech showcase. 

He didn’t sit through endless web content management system (Web CMS) vendor demos. He didn’t even begin to build a new website.

Piggott went to the library — about 50 of them. Why? Because librarians are his customers explained here yesterday during a talk at Hippo,Connect, a user conference sponsored by Amsterdam-based Hippo, provider of an open source web CMS.

Understanding Client Needs

Piggott works at Gale, a Cengage Learning company, which provides resources like e-books and literature archives to librarians.

thomas piggottSoon after he got the green light on the UX web design project, Piggott went on the road, heading for dozens of libraries. The goal was to augment the company's own perceptions about libraries and librarians with real life use data, he said.

“We needed to know what a librarian wants to do and wants to see," said Piggott, one of about 100 attendees at Hippo.Connect at the Calderwood Pavilion.

By talking to his customers in the environments where they use the websites he designs, he could more accurately assess what features they wanted and needed. 

Agile, Mobile, Customer-Centric

Everyone at the conference seemed to share Piggott's enthusiasm for reaching the customer. Presenters and attendees alike hammered home themes like agility, mobile and customer-centric — with a focus on how they use web CMS and digital experience technologies like that provided by Hippo to get there.

Mark Peerdeman, Hippo director of product management, said during his presentation that companies need to address the tech-obsession of their customers. However, they must frame the technology around the people who use it to provide the best user experiences, he explained.

Piggott, meanwhile, didn’t once mention technology in his interview with CMSWire. Asked to share the most important aspect of his website redesign, he quickly said his interactions with his customers in the libraries he visited. 

About a year into the project, has rolled out what it calls “cupcakes” of redesign — sweet samples short of the full cake. To complete the rollout, Gale has brought on Hippo into its technology ecosystem to help finish the job.

Understanding the Role of Technology

It goes without saying that technology is integral to digital transformation. 

But it's equally important to note that even now — in an era when some predict machine learning will eliminate marketing positions (hat tip to Bynder President Chris Lang for citing that one during his Hippo.Connect presentation today) and artificial-intelligence successfully mimics human behavior — people are the heart of the equation.

The wants and needs of the customer, as Piggott found, trump everything. And it behooves companies interested in thoughtful digital transformation to see personalization algorithms, marketing personas and connections with customers through means like lead management and targeted home pages as only stepping stones to better customer relationships.

In the end, one-on-one interactions tell the story, Piggott said, noting that they enabled him to connect with customers on a higher level, to empathize and learn what was important to his end users so he could consider that when designing the website.

“We wanted to know how they were solving their problems,” Piggott said. “It was about understanding our place.”

More than anything, he added, it was about keeping the focus on people.