Harmonizing User Experience: Insights from Susan Ramlet

by | Jul 10, 2024 | Vodkasts

Harmonizing User Experience: Insights from Susan Ramlet

In a digital landscape where user experience reigns supreme, understanding the nuances of user-centered design is pivotal. Susan Ramlet, Senior IT Manager for User Experience Research and Design at Medtronic, brings over two decades of expertise to the table. Her insights, shared on The Kelly Wendlandt Podcast, delve deep into the principles and practices that define successful user interfaces and applications.

The Core Principles of User-centered Design

User-centered design isn’t merely about aesthetics; it’s a comprehensive approach that spans the entire lifecycle of a product or application. Ramlet emphasizes the importance of starting with a thorough understanding of user needs. This involves employing diverse research techniques—from user surveys and interviews to journey mapping—to uncover pain points and expectations.

Ramlet highlights the critical role of usability testing throughout the design process. Beyond visual design, she underscores the significance of ensuring intuitive navigation and functionality. This approach not only enhances user satisfaction but also boosts efficiency and effectiveness in interacting with IT solutions.

Integrating User Experience into IT Strategy

Ramlet’s role extends beyond Medtronic; she serves on Minnesota’s Technology Advisory Council, advising on IT matters for the state. Her influence underscores the integration of user experience principles into broader technology strategies. By advocating for user needs and digital accessibility, Ramlet ensures that IT solutions meet diverse user requirements while adhering to stringent design standards.

Ramlet draws parallels between user-centered design and architectural planning. Just as architects consult extensively to align design with homeowner preferences and functional needs, UX designers collaborate closely with stakeholders to craft digital experiences. This meticulous approach—from initial sketches to detailed blueprints—ensures that applications are not only visually appealing but also functionally robust and easy to navigate.

 

Susan Ramlet’s insights into user-centered design provide a roadmap for IT professionals aiming to elevate their approach to application development. By prioritizing user needs and integrating UX principles into IT strategy, businesses can enhance customer satisfaction and operational efficiency. For more expert discussions on IT and user experience, subscribe to The Kelly Wendlandt Podcast. Explore how Logisolve can assist your organization in achieving seamless user experiences by contacting us [here](https://logisolve.com/contact/).

AI Generated Transcript:

Kelly (00:00.654)
One and We are live with Susan Ramlet. Susan, how are you this morning?

Susan Ramlet (00:05.976)
I’m doing great. Thanks, Kelly.

Kelly (00:09.518)
Susan is a, what is your title at Medtronic? Is it director or senior director?

Susan Ramlet (00:15.172)
Senior IT Manager for User Experience Research and Design.

Kelly (00:20.494)
OK, so that’s a that’s a mouthful and along with that you are on the state of Minnesota Technology Advisory Board.

Susan Ramlet (00:23.608)
Susan Ramlet (00:29.61)
Technology Advisory Council, yes, it’s a governor -appointed council for advising MINUT, which is the IT division of the state of Minnesota on technology matters.

Kelly (00:32.174)
Council.

Kelly (00:40.078)
Okay.

What kind of technology matters come in front of you? Is it any, anything and everything kind of technology?

Susan Ramlet (00:50.136)
Technically, probably, but the council is divided up into subcommittees. So there are areas of focus every year for the council. For example, right now we have a subcommittee in cybersecurity. We have one for project to product. We have one for customer experience, of which I’m a co -chair.

And there’s a fourth one now, which is, as you might expect, AI, artificial intelligence. So we tend to focus on topics that fall under those particular categories and work with the agencies to have them share information, have them receive guidance, inform hopefully some budgetary decisions that get made about where focus is spent by the state, by the IT group of the state.

It’s been a lot of fun.

Kelly (01:45.998)
That’s very cool. And I’m going to ask you some more questions about that a little later. I want to talk a little bit about your background. I noticed you were a musician. And is it you’re a singer? Do you play any instruments? Are you a classically trained singer? What’s your music background?

Susan Ramlet (02:03.768)
Yeah, I’m a classically trained singer. So I, yeah, that’s, that’s actually what my degree is in, which makes perfect sense that I’m in technology now. Little joke there. Actually, there is a lot of affinity there. I know a lot of, a lot of musicians in this field and, and vice versa. But, yeah, I’m an aspiring cellist, but I’m really just learning. I’ve not had it. I’ve not had an instrument other than voice for most of my career.

Kelly (02:13.838)
Yeah, it does make sense.

Kelly (02:33.358)
Are you like a, do you listen to Yo -Yo Ma for the cello or who do you listen? Yeah, okay. Did he inspire you or who inspired you to grab the cello?

Susan Ramlet (02:37.912)
absolutely. I mean, he’s amazing. Absolutely good.

Susan Ramlet (02:46.072)
I don’t know that there’s any particular person that inspired me. I’ve always had an affinity for the lower, richer register instruments, whether that’s vocal instruments or other kinds of instruments, bassoon, cello, string bass, etc. And I actually married a bass singer. So, yeah, so, but I, the cello and string instruments tend to mimic

Kelly (03:05.71)
interesting. Yeah.

Susan Ramlet (03:14.744)
the human voice in the way that they produce sound. And so I think I’m drawn to that as a singer because I feel like they’re closest to the human voice in how they sound, really. And so I’ve been enjoying learning how to play that for the last, I don’t know, two or three years. I’m still an amateur and not all that great, but it’s been a lot of fun to learn something different and to really have something that I’m only going to get better at.

Kelly (03:39.662)
Yeah.

Kelly (03:44.014)
Well, such a and my favorite instrument too, by the way, is probably the cello. I love the cello, the texture of the way the strings vibrate in the that, you know, it’s it’s a if your body feels it, your ears feel it. It’s such a such a beautiful mellow, but with a lot of textured kind of sound. And you put a violin in with that to take more of the high end stuff and really is an incredible, incredible sound when you get

Susan Ramlet (03:51.512)
yeah.

Susan Ramlet (03:59.032)
Absolutely.

Susan Ramlet (04:11.48)
it is. Plus you can sit down while you’re playing it.

Kelly (04:13.422)
great players. Well, there you go. But yeah, that’s I think, for anybody who has tried to pick up a cello or a violin and, and tried to make sound out of it and play it, they can appreciate the absolute level of dedication that’s required to get quality sound out of those kind of those kind of instruments. I’m a guitar player. Yeah.

Susan Ramlet (04:32.6)
It’s true, it’s true. We went through years of, I have a son who’s a violinist, and so we went through years of his learning violin and struggling with some of that. So I knew what was coming. I knew what it takes to be really good, and he’s quite accomplished. So it’s been fun to do that as an adult, to learn something new.

Kelly (04:58.542)
I’m a guitar player so you can see the guitars in the background there. My mom was a music teacher, but you have frets. It’s so much easier to get a sound out of a guitar. And I play violin and I’ve played the cello. And I can make sounds out of them and I can, you can recognize Mary had a little lamb and those. I mean, they’re hard instruments to get quality sound out of.

Susan Ramlet (05:00.824)
yeah! Yeah!

Susan Ramlet (05:13.176)
sure.

Susan Ramlet (05:22.2)
Right?

Kelly (05:26.318)
You know, it’s all a joke till you get a bow handed to you and you have to try to get the bow in a condition where you can actually get a quality sound and fret and go from one note to the other note. I think it’s just very challenging.

Susan Ramlet (05:35.064)
Right.

Susan Ramlet (05:40.284)
Right. Well, and the things that you just don’t know about it until you get into the domain, such as the fact that the quality of the bow matters more than the quality of the instrument when you’re choosing an instrument. And I should say almost more, probably more. Certainly you need a good quality instrument, but the bow can make or break the sound of an instrument. And that was pretty interesting to learn.

Kelly (06:06.67)
Yeah, we traveled, my wife and I traveled to Cremona, Italy, which is the home of Stradivarius and Amati. Amati was the uncle of Stradivarius and he really trained Stradivarius how to make the instruments. And so that town of Cremona, Italy has incredible instrument makers and they have the bows, you know, and so equal with the bows are there are equal with the instruments they’re showing the bows and how.

Susan Ramlet (06:11.)
Yeah?

Kelly (06:33.55)
you know the bows were made and how these great masters made the bows and and there’s a in fact we toured a a handmade bow. I wouldn’t call it a factory. It’s a workshop. It’s luthiers, bow luthiers that are still by hand making you know the best bows in the world for people. So it was pretty cool.

Susan Ramlet (06:45.112)
Mm -hmm.

Susan Ramlet (06:51.832)
That’s amazing. And it does. It can make a difference from one bow to the next in what the instrument sounds like.

Kelly (06:59.31)
I would recommend anybody visiting Italy, stop by Cremona. It’s not a spot that a lot of people stop by, but you know, they’ve got Stradivarius Museum there that you can walk around. You’ll see all the great violin makers that have instruments there. Armguard with AK -47s, you know, walking around because you’ve got all these multi -multi -million dollar violins from Amadeus Stradivarius. And yeah, yeah. So it’s pretty cool.

Susan Ramlet (07:17.976)
You’re right.

Right. Irreplaceable. Absolutely. Yeah. That’s amazing.

Kelly (07:29.07)
Tell me about your work with user centered design, because when people say they do that, I always wonder who, is it a look thing, is it a feel thing? When you’re doing user centered design, is the first thing the functionality and you get someone who doesn’t know the application and you see, hey, can this person actually find things? Or like, how do you approach at a very high level, how do you approach an application to make sure people actually can use it in it?

is the best design possible.

Susan Ramlet (08:00.472)
Yeah, that’s a wow. How long do we have? I know you did it at a very high level. It’s like, let me bring it up a bit. Yeah, so I mean, it’s really a life cycle thing. It’s throughout a product when you think about how the human’s going to interact with it. So for example, starting with understanding the problem to be solved and the users that are your target.

Kelly (08:03.982)
Another 10 minutes all the time in the world.

Susan Ramlet (08:28.6)
And so there are research techniques and strategy techniques and workshopping and things that we can do as practitioners in this space to understand the end user community, what their needs and expectations are, what their journeys are. You may have heard of journey mapping. It’s kind of trendy right now to look for those pain points that we can solve for the end users. So it’s a matter of bringing that lens of user needs to, in my case, the IT solutioning.

So in IT we tend to be very focused on technology and the solution and did we deliver to the requirements and did we deliver our project on budget and on time. And what our lens that we bring to the project is yes, and can the users do what they need to do? Are they delighted? Are they more efficient? Are they more effective? So we have ways of managing that through the life cycle of a project or a product if you’re in more of a product model.

So understanding those user needs at the beginning, doing the due diligence to do that research, ride along with the sales rep. Look at a day in the life. Do some surveying. Do some interviews. Understand really what are their needs and expectations. Marry those to the business needs and the technology constraints or opportunities that are offered by the technology. And then test and validate that with end users. So a lot of people think of

What we do is, when we say UX, they think of design. Like you say, the visual aspects of it. What does the button look like? How are the pages laid out? And that stuff’s really important, and that’s a part of it. But the work that you do before you design and the work that you do after you design are equally important. And those often get overlooked in the world that I live in. So usability testing is a big part of what we do.

Yeah, so it’s an interesting field to be in. I’ve been in it for a good portion of my career, almost 20 years at Medtronic, in IT. So I’m pretty passionate about this particular area. And especially in an IT organization where we tend, as I say, to focus on technology more than experiences. And so bringing that lens to…

Susan Ramlet (10:51.896)
what we deliver as an IT organization is really helpful. And that’s what I bring to the state as well, is that focus on customer experience and user experience, and also digital accessibility, which is a facet of that, making sure that whatever we are delivering is also accessible to people with disabilities using assistive technology. So following standards in design and so on.

Kelly (11:16.11)
Yeah, you know, I know as a user, I really consider any application or website successful based on how easy it is to get around. And it’s not typically the technology that makes it exciting or functional for me. It’s so much more about how easy is it to find things? Are there little automated scripts that give me a response? You know, stuff that’s not blazing new technology, it’s old technology and could be dealing with old technology, but

Susan Ramlet (11:34.52)
-huh.

Kelly (11:45.39)
I consider, you know, a good or a great experience on though on me versus, you know, I really don’t care what’s behind. I don’t care if it’s on the cloud now and that you’re using the latest greatest AI models to, to somehow, you know, take my data and stuff it in a box so you can somehow market to me at a later time. I really just don’t care at all about that. So

Susan Ramlet (11:57.4)
right.

Right.

Susan Ramlet (12:08.696)
That’s true.

Kelly (12:11.662)
I do. I’m fascinated with how people in your world deal with the the multiple ranges of users that end up at a website. You know, you have in a Medtronic, you might have a doctor, you have salespeople, you have people with heart conditions that are coming from all walks of life. You know how how you’re able to create something that appeals and is intuitive and usable.

Susan Ramlet (12:30.712)
Huh?

Kelly (12:40.878)
for that wide range of people just to me seems like it has to be a pretty monumental kind of task. Maybe it’s just simplifying it and making it as logical as possible and you hit the 90 % or the 98%.

Susan Ramlet (12:44.12)
Right.

Susan Ramlet (12:53.912)
Yeah, there’s definitely some of that. I mean, one of the analogies that we like to use is it’s a lot like designing a home. So an architect is going to come to your home, hopefully, and consult with you and say, what do you like? What do you want? What are you looking for? Big house? How many bedrooms, et cetera? And then they’re going to look around your space, hopefully, and say, you cook a lot. You have a lot of pans, but not enough room for them. Maybe we need to give you a bigger kitchen. What are your priorities? Are you going to have kids? Do you have pets?

So understanding the needs and expectations before they go away and start sketching stuff. And they’re going to just sketch stuff and go, how’s this? OK, now let’s change. OK, how’s this? And that’s cheap. You can change designs in that sense all you want, and it’s fairly cheap when you’re doing it on paper. Once you’ve built something, it’s really hard to change it. So doing that due diligence up front of understanding, and then at some point, they create a blueprint. And basically, that’s like,

Let’s make sure that the bathroom door doesn’t open into the toilet. Let’s make sure that the room flow makes sense to people. And let’s do that on paper before we actually build anything on the construction site. And so that’s a lot of really what we do, but with technology. We go through those stages of understanding the users, doing sketches, doing some blueprinting, making sure that the flow of information and, like you say, the findability of things, intuitive navigation, that I don’t get stuck in a dead end.

making sure that those things are in place. And then we can worry about what color the countertops are and what finishes we have on the handles and those kinds of things. Those are important. The aesthetics are important to the experience as well. I want to be delighted with the space I’m in. But if the door opens into the toilet, that’s a fundamental problem that we need to address before we worry about that kind of stuff. So it’s a very, very similar analogy.

Kelly (14:41.07)
Right.

Kelly (14:48.526)
Susan, I have lots of follow up questions. Our time is up for our 15 minute YouTube and all the other platforms time limits. Thank you very much for your time. For everyone else out there, you are watching the Vodcast.

Susan Ramlet (14:59.48)
Absolutely.