Long, long time ago… What did Tim Berners-Lee do?
Let’s move back to 1989. British scientist at CERN, Tim Berners-Lee, invented the World Wide Web (WWW). The web was developed to meet the demand for automatic information-sharing between scientists in universities and institutes around the world. In December 1990 he created the basics of HTML and the first website. On 30 April 1993 CERN put for the first time the World Wide Web software in the public domain. What happened next? Thousands of websites have been created, new browsers and social networks have appeared in virtual world. Users have received unlimited access to the information. They can buy online, read blogs, browse websites, use social networking sites. The fight for their attention and commitment continues. Who will win this game? The one, who will answer their needs and solve their problems. It’s time for using UX power.
Usability by Jakob Nielsen
Until the mid-1990s, usability studies were the domain of technically advanced laboratories. Along with the development of the Internet and the creation of web pages, it has become necessary to simplify them. With the development of technology, a dispute arose between what developers can design and what users need. It’s more important to have a product with lots of advanced features or a usable product with a kind of nice-to-have option? The term „usability” appeared on everyone’s lips thanks to the work of Jakob Nielsen and Steve Krug. According to the definition of Nielsen Norman Group “Usability is a quality attribute that assesses how easy user interfaces are to use. The word „usability” also refers to methods for improving ease-of-use during the design process”.
Let’s check it in practice:
- What will the user do if the website is difficult to navigate? Leave it.
- What will the user do if he/she doesn’t find the needed information on the website? Leave it.
- What will the user do if downloaded application will run very slowly? Leave it.
Do you see the similarity in these answers? Users are not interested in the technology in which the website or application was made, the length of the code or maximization of the number of functions. Users are interested in satisfying their needs. In fact, there are many websites and applications that perform the same functions. Why should users choose your product? We should remember that several factors influence their decisions, one of them is usability.
Usability should be determined by 5 factors:
- Learnability – are users able to perform basic tasks at the first meeting with the product?
- Efficiency – how quickly can users learn how to use the product?
- Memorability – how quickly users after a period of not using the product are able to recall an action?
- Errors – how many mistakes do users make when using the product and how can they easily learn how to not do them?
- Satisfaction – do users get satisfaction when using the product?
Those factors must be combined with the experience.
What should we know about UX?
User Experience (UX) refers to the emotions, perception and attitude of a person to use a specific product or service. An important issue is usability, ease of use and efficiency. The user’s experience is sometimes perceived as subjective – after all, the degree of individual perception is unlimited. It’s also dynamic – it changes with the course of time.
We can say that UX includes all types of emotions, beliefs and preferences, perceptions, user reactions and their behavior that occur before, during and after the use of a given product or service. As Donald Norman said: “Knowing how people will use something is essential”. This is the essence of UX. It’s also a very important message for developers and project teams. You always have to remember about getting to know customer’s needs and confronting them with the expectations of users. Focusing on creating mockups and interfaces will not give us success.
In 1995, mentioned above Don Norman, the precursor of UX, had joined the Apple team to help design products that became the most usable of all available on the market. And what happened next? Products from the Steve Jobs factory had been the simplest and the most intuitive devices on the market. They quickly gained many fans and the company had generated high profits.
User Experience Design – what is important?
User Experience Design is the process of creating products that provide personal experience.
This includes designing both the usability of the product and the pleasure that consumers will have from using it. When we think about UX, we think about the needs of our customers.
Over the last years, UX became a buzzword in the field of human – computer interaction. It happens for a reason. Focusing on user experience can differentiate a company from its competitors.
That is why the UX designer should answer the three main question before the work will start:
The „Why” question is about what motivates users to interact with a given product. Why user may need it? What needs this product will meet? The “What” refers to things that people can do with a product – especially its functionality. Finally, „How” refers to the design of product or service functionality. Each UX project should start with the „Why” question, followed by the words „What” and finally „How” to create products from which users will derive positive experiences. The UX designer’s work should always start with the analysis of users’ problems, needs and aim to find the optimal solution. The results of this work must always be measurable through data that describes the behavior of users. User experience requires both analytical thinking and creativity.
If the user can’t use it, it doesn’t work – how you should build UX projects?
UX design is a process, not a one-time operation. Planning customer experience involves performing a number of activities, including:
The research stage is a basic step in creating the design process. Define the target group at first. Who is the recipient of your services? Where is he/she from? How can you help him/her solve his/her problem? Look at all the requirements and list questions about things that are still questionable. How can you gain those information? Use online surveys. This method allows you to collect a huge amount of data on specific topics from many different users. Ask questions to the users. Find information in Google, use Google Hangouts. As next step create persona that will be representatives of your target group. Thanks to this, you can imagine how your users think and behave. This is very important data during the product design stage. According to the specialists from usability.gov “the purpose of personas is to create reliable and realistic representations of your key audience segments for reference”.
The product design should be based primarily on its functionality and usability. These are two basic factors that should always be kept in mind. The starting point is to analyze what users expect from a product, application or website. This is usually done in a triangle:
The C-P-S hypothesis helps to create a basic description of any product. How should it be done? First of all, we determine who exactly our client is. Secondly, we define what problem our client has. Thirdly, we determine what solution we can offer to the client. Each step should be described in one sentence. The C-P-S is a backbone of the whole project. You can always come back to the first step and re-form assumptions.
What’s next? The project is being developed. Lean Canvas is one of the methods of work often used at this stage. Basically, Lean Canvas is a table in which we enter the most important elements of our project. All key information about the project can fit into one page. This method facilitates communication with the investors and the team. The simple structure of the design facilitates the work. Of course, this is not the only method of the work that can be used in UX designer’s work. Regardless of the chosen method, you always have to remember that the project can’t be separated from the business model. UX design without any knowledge of the business side of the product is unreasonable.
What elements should be taken into account during this stage of work?
- Information architecture – hierarchy of content on the site – starting from what is most important for the user.
- Wireframing – user navigation on each page and subpage. It is a process of drawing a basic sketch of each page and deciding where individual elements should be placed.
- Prototyping – creating a prototype of a website, product or application. This allows you to perform preliminary tests with users before the project is fully implemented by the development team. Prototyping saves a lot of time and money, because it allows you to verify the function and make any changes before the final release of the product.
3. User testing
The testing stage allows you to improve the initial version of the product, application or website. Thanks to the tests, we can check whether the changes that were made during the design phase are correct.How should tests be performed?
- Usability tests – they are usually carried out by UX designers on real users interacting
with the product. This is one of the most effective forms of analyzing usability
- Remote user testing – assumptions for this form of testing are similar to those in the
first method. The difference is only that UX designers and users are in different
locations. Remote user testing is done via Skype, screen sharing or other online
- A/B testing – during these tests, users receive two versions of the same page,
product or application for use. The task of UX designers is to check which of these
versions better suits users.
4. Implementation stage
The implementation of the project is a very important stage. The proper preparation of data and determination of the users’ needs is very important. It facilitates cooperation with programmers and makes it effective. Transforming ideas into a real, working product often causes many problems. The better you prepare the previous stages of the work, the easier it will be to achieve your goal. The approach to this stage will be decisive for the success or failure of your entire project.
5. Team work
Defining the role in the team facilitates the work and helps to avoid misunderstandings. A team of the specialists is always working on creating a new product: project manager, UX designer, team of developers, testers, marketer. The Project Manager defines the project goals, the schedule of its implementation, plans the resources and the budget. He also mediates in contacts with the client. UX designer designs real interface elements keeping in mind the needs of the users. The team of the developers creates a product according to a planned work schedule. The testers validate the quality and correctness of the work performed. The marketer’s role is to transfer key information about users to the marketing team, thanks to which they can create content that attracts people who want to buy a product. Team cooperation must be fluid. The communication and understanding the needs are very important. Defining the tasks of individual people in a team allows you to eliminate confusion, increase the sense of responsibility and improve work efficiency.
When was the last time you spoke to your users?
We hope it was not too long ago! UX is the ability to learn about what users think about our ideas, how they work, what they really need. Interactions between people are very important here. Thanks to this, it’s possible to implement really profitable projects. The user should always be the center of attention, and his needs should be a signpost for the entire team working on the project. It’s not enough to create beautiful graphics or build fast loading pages. The real value is building customer experience. UX allows you to increase your conversion rate because people who are looking for a given product will choose the one that will meet their needs. If you know about it, you are one step ahead of the competition. The user wants to get information quickly and easily, solve his problems. If your website, online store or an application gives such a possibility, they will come back many times. Why should they visit competition when your product or service understands their behavior, makes navigation and interaction so smooth and enjoyable? They get what they want and it’s in the most wonderful way. Excellent user experience will make customers want to tell everyone about a given product, service or application, and this is the best advertisement you can ask for.