What is UX?
The Nielsen Norman Group best describes UX as an all encompassing aspect of an end user’s interaction with a company, it’s products and services. Follow Google’s #1 tip and provide the best user experience possible by ensuring your website is designed for your intended user. Code changes become increasingly expensive to implement in the development process. Investing in evidence-based design reduces the risk of wasting additional resources after the website has been designed and coded. Bottom line: if your website isn’t user-friendly, your users won’t want to use it, and that could cause your business to lose leads.
Understanding the Business
Delivering a good user experience while limiting expense starts with initial business research. We begin the research process with interviews and facilitation to help problem solve and identify business needs. Research efforts follow three avenues of inquiry: understanding the business value and brand, understanding the business requirements, and understanding users/customers. Research allows project teams to answer the difficult “who, what and why” questions with answers that are supported by data and objective fact rather than siloed opinion.
The research phase of any design project allows us, and our clients, to sharpen their understanding of the business and its goals, the specific problem that they are aiming to solve, and most importantly, to develop a deep understanding of users and their expectations as customers or constituents of the business or organization. While business, customer and user goals will be different, they should always work together. This is where the satisfice decision-making strategy (satisfying all parties with equal compromise) comes in handy.
Understanding Your User
A good product meets your user’s needs, a great product exceeds expectations and an exceptional product gives users something they didn’t even know they needed. How do you know what your customers really want from your website? You may not know exactly what your customer wants until something is missing and they tell you, even if it works well – do you know why? Watching your users complete tasks and see them frustratingly curse at the screen provides you with information that can help you deliver an improved user experience.
Anticipate and serve your users’ needs by talking to them! Not sure if your primary or secondary audience has changed? Consider creating personas. Personas are reliable and realistic representations of your audience, it is a living document that takes a snapshot of your audience.
Your customer is not always your user, so that means the person purchasing your product may not be the one who will use it. It’s important to research both the customer and the user so that the website is designed for these two personas.
In order to better understand how users are interacting with your website, performing research on your current website allows you to see what’s working and what’s not. Performing card sorts allow you to see firsthand how users navigate your website and what kind of content they are looking for. This can help inform your website structure and the labels that describe categories.
Identify where you can strategically position your business by keeping up with your competitors to see what they are doing well and what they aren’t. After you have performed your research you can explore the design phase next.
Get bad ideas out of the way quickly and fail collaboratively. That means it’s not just one designer slaving away at a desk, an entire team is involved. The earlier you invest in evidence-based design, you reduce risk because designing software and coding are not involved. For example, scrapping a sketch is more economical than redoing a design. If you create a paper prototype first, it is a quick way to determine what changes need to be made. You can pretend that the website already exists and test the entire way, rather than waiting to test after the website is designed. Concept testing means that you don’t pay for a developer or designer. Be creative, use post-its or legos!
Each time you proceed with a phase you should test to ensure you are meeting user needs. QA tests always almost follow up with more questions.
We perform user research to assess the effectiveness of a current website. Without talking to users, we won’t know if we are solving the right problem. Get the inside scoop on user behavior by performing usability tests (evaluating a product by testing it on users) to validate your hypothesis regarding user needs. You might be surprised to see that your website, or parts of it, are causing user frustration.
Validating your idea from the start and iteratively testing the implementation details can help you save significant development costs. Some of the most valuable outcomes of user experience research include insight about the goals and needs of users as well as an analysis of how to better serve those users.
Having a clear goal from the beginning of a project allows decision making to happen faster and avoids the possibility of rework.
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