High-Quality user research? Meet the Ordina expert

Vicky De Mesmaecker

The Clockwork business unit is a bit of a maverick within Ordina. Not only because of their own name, but above all because they focus on everything that precedes IT development: the search for an application that allows organisations to make a real difference. And this involves a great deal of research. Vicky De Mesmaecker has been a UX (user experience) researcher and service designer at Clockwork since 2018. What exactly does her job involve?

Type ‘Vicky De Mesmaecker’ into Google and, after her LinkedIn profile, the website of bol.com appears, where Vicky’s book ‘Perceptions of Criminal Justice’ is for sale. She wrote the work during her doctoral studies in criminology at KULeuven. A criminologist who works in an IT company? “People look up when I tell them that,” says Vicky. “During my studies, I learned a lot about research and human behaviour in all its facets. I can apply that knowledge and experience perfectly at Clockwork today.”

During my criminology studies I learned a lot about research and human behaviour in all its facets. I can apply that knowledge and experience perfectly at Clockwork.

The value of high-quality research

“During my PhD I investigated perceptions of justice: what makes people consider a verdict to be (un)just”, she continues. “Until then, there was only quantitative research on this theme, based on surveys with mostly multiple-choice questions. I added a qualitative variant: by talking to people, I tried to understand how these perceptions arise.” During an extra academic year at Yale University (USA), Vicky deepened her knowledge in this area even further. With all this expertise, she went to work for the Belgian market research agency, GfK.

Translating insights into results

After five years of market research, Vicky missed the concrete results of her work: “I had extensive conversations with the people I interviewed and made recommendations to our customers based on those insights. But that’s where it stopped. In market research, you are no longer involved in the concrete application of your insights. I thought that was quite a shame. Meanwhile, I read more and more about user experience research. That’s how I ended up at Clockwork in 2018.”

Putting users first

To ensure that applications really put users first, the Clockwork team puts a lot of effort into thorough user research and UX design. They are also involved in service design: together with customers, they investigate which digital products or services can give the customer a head-start on the market. “Because of my experience, I had the right profile to strengthen the team,” says Vicky. Her first assignment was an immediate challenge: a major bank was looking for a unique way to market their bicycle insurance more effectively. “They had a pretty specific idea: they wanted to introduce a mileage insurance, which involved the use of a tracking mechanism,” says Vicky. “Clockwork managed to challenge that idea. On the basis of qualitative research I was able to find out what cyclists really needed.”

Clockwork puts a lot of effort into user research and UX design, to ensure that applications really put users first.

Initial idea versus need

To find out what cyclists are really concerned about, the team put together a ‘group’ of 15 cyclists, with whom they had extensive conversations. They checked their habits, their needs and their possible worries. They soon discovered that there was no interest in mileage insurance: “What really concerns these people is their safety on the road. That’s why we suggested to the bank developing an app with a tracking system, so that the family always knows where the cyclist is, and an alarm that the cyclist can activate if, for example, he or she has fallen. So the result of our research was something completely different from the customer’s initial idea.”

What is user-friendly?

Vicky’s research for Familiehulp also produced surprising results: “Familiehulp called in Ordina to optimise their planning, including via a mobile time registration app,” explains Vicky. “We knew that user-friendliness would be crucial because many of Familiehulp’s employees are not familiar with IT.” To find out what that meant, the Clockwork team organised workshops with the cleaning and care staff: “We discussed at length what their working day looks like, when they would like to record their hours, what steps they would take to do it, and so on. Only then did we realise what their job really involves and how little time these people have for administration. Without those insights, the app might have looked different. What we have now is extremely intuitive. As a result, everyone enjoys working with it. That gives us real satisfaction.”

Without user research, the app might have looked different. What we have now is extremely intuitive, so that everyone likes to work with it.

5-day design sprint

The service design trajectory that the bank went through and the UX research trajectory at Familiehulp lasted two to three months. Such an exercise always starts with workshops with the business, after which Vicky or her colleague enters into a dialogue with the end users. On the basis of all this input, conclusions are formulated, and at that moment the UX designers move up a gear. They think about the design of the application and design a prototype, which is again presented to potential end users. “Customers can also opt for a design sprint: in 5 working days a prototype will be on the table,” adds Vicky. “Such a design sprint is extremely intensive: from Monday to Friday we sit in workshops to brainstorm, analyse, design and test, together with the customer.”

From research to realisation

Whether customers opt for a sprint or a more extensive trajectory, Vicky always works very closely with her colleague UX designers. This is an important asset for Clockwork, she says: “We are a multidisciplinary team that constantly consults and learns from each other. The result of our research and design can also be sent directly to the front- and backend developers at Ordina, who take care of the technical aspects. So customers can come to us for every step of the way.”

This is one of Clockwork’s major assets: we are a multidisciplinary team that works very closely together and learns from each other on an ongoing basis.

Openness, freedom and trust

Vicky is very happy with her move to Clockwork. “The common thread throughout my studies and career is and remains research. But here it is fantastic to see the concrete results of such a research. Clockwork/Ordina is a very nice company, by the way. You work with great colleagues in a fun, open atmosphere and you get a lot of freedom and trust. Incidentally, you shouldn’t be afraid to come a cropper here. That’s also important in a learning process,” she laughs.

Want to know more about this? Contact our expert.