What is User Experience (UX)?
UX is defined by the User Experience Professionals Association as follows:
Every aspect of the user’s interaction with a product, service, or company that make up the user’s perceptions of the whole.
User Experience (UX) has been around for decades, deeply ingrained in the processes of large, design-oriented organizations like Apple, Toyota, Jet Blue, IKEA, Intuit, and even the U.S. government. Meanwhile, small and medium sized business have sat helpless on the sidelines, due to short timelines and limited research budgets.
However, in recent years, a myriad of automated technologies have emerged that allow UX designers to perform research tasks quickly and economically. Companies now have the potential to gather robust quantitative user data quickly, and use it to improve their products.
Why do you need it?
A user-centered design process reduces the risk of failure by learning early in a development process what users need, and prototyping right away to test ideas, instead of waiting until late in the development cycle to get user feedback. Every product or website will inevitably have problems, so finding out what those are before you launch can save big money in the long run.
Following a usability redesign, websites increase desired metrics by 135% on average; intranets improve slightly less. — Nielsen Norman Group
UX Case Studies
Recently, we developed a new physician finder tool for a client. We offered a few direct search types (name, zip code, specialty), and a large amount of data that users could view once a selection was made. However, when we tested the tool with our key demographic, we found out they were struggling so much to understand the medical terminology that they weren’t even making it to the valuable physician information. Furthermore, they didn’t want multiple direct search types, they wanted to be able to filter by multiple types (e.g., specialty and zip code). Finding this out before launch allowed us to improve the tool before launching it to the thousands of daily users.
We recently facilitated some usability tests for a local college. I observed many prospective students completely missing conversion opportunities due to the amount of competing navigation options in the header. Furthermore, the surplus of options forced students to create a reliance on the navigation, instead of spending time on pages, reading about the school’s offerings.
If you’d like further affirmation about the return on investment of UX, you can?watch this video by Dr. Susan Weinschenk.
How does UX design work?
A seasoned UX designer should have many tools in their arsenal to help you identify user needs and come up with solutions tailored to them.
The first step in good UX is having an insightful design process. We employ an approach called Design Thinking. The goal of Design Thinking is to uncover innovative solutions that exist at the intersection of user needs, technology capabilities, and business goals.
Our version of Design Thinking has four key phases:
- Discovery: We meet with stakeholders and inquire about project requirements and audiences. We gather qualitative and quantitative research data specific to your target audiences. These insights are used to develop personas and project requirements.
- Ideation: We begin brainstorming many potential solutions in order to uncover new areas of growth and innovation.
- Prototyping: We craft low fidelity wireframes, create designs, test interactive features, and start implementing the content management system.
- Evaluation: Results are evaluated after each phase in order to continuously improve the product.
Methods of discovery
We meet with your target users and talk to them about their lives. What pain points exist in their day, what technological tendencies do they have, what’s their average technical ability, and so forth.
We sit users at a computer or mobile phone, either in person or remotely, and observe their interactions with your product. Often, we give them specific tasks to attempt and record their verbal and physical responses.
This method allows us to examine how users associate content cognitively. We give them thirty index cards and ask them to sort them in groups that make sense. Looking at quantitative results from many users, we can develop a user-centered content architecture.
There are a handful of other methods that can be used depending on various project types, but these should give a glimpse in to the research methods of a UX professional.
How will stakeholders be involved?
This process ensures ongoing feedback from all stakeholders during each design iteration. Company decision-makers will find themselves more frequently involved and contributing ideas with a Design Thinking approach as opposed to traditional waterfall methods of development where stakeholders only see a final product.