UX Design made simple
We’ve all been there when you’re trying to navigate a site or an app that you know has something you need but YOU CAN’T FIND IT! You have a BAD USER EXPERIENCE (or UX) and your UX design has failed! Today sites have approximately 5 seconds if they are lucky to engage a user. Any more and they risk losing the user’s attention. High quality UX design leads to a user centric design. This is absolutely key for success, regardless of whether you are a well known brand or just starting out. UX design also applies to business applications as well as apps or websites for the general public.
So how do we go about our UX design so that we maximise the experience for our users? Read on to find out…
1 | RESEARCH
Before you even start your UX design you should do some RESEARCH. Remember, your opinion is only your opinion and it will not reflect what the users think or feel.
Break the research down into categories
a| Industry / market
a | Industry / market research
Firstly look at the industry or market which your app, website or system sits within. You can learn a lot from what other apps or sites are doing. You will find you get ideas, understand what works and what doesn’t, ascertain what is popular and understand the competition.
Ask some questions:
- What is the culture of the market you are hoping to operate in?
- Are there competitors (successful and unsuccessful)? What can you discover about them?
- What products do they list or sell?
- What problems do they solve for their users or customers?
- What isn’t working on their apps or sites?
b | Users
Secondly, engage the users. You can’t expect to produce a mind-blowing UX design without talking to some users. If you are in a business get a few users together in a room and ask some questions. If you’re building an app or website you can send out a survey.
There are literally hundreds of questions you can ask users so think carefully about the information you want. Some things you may want to know are:
- How they engage online or with systems at work e.g. what devices do they use
- What their online behaviours are e.g. do they ignore banners, read things, watch videos or look at images, are they happy scrolling, how long will they wait for a response or to find the information they want
- What times do they engage
- What languages do they use
- What do they like or dislike in other apps / your existing app
- What problems or needs do they have that they want solving
Sometimes we take the approach of asking the users just one question, like ‘what do you really love in an app’. This can generate discussion and result in lots of great input and information.
2 | USABILITY
Usability is how easy an app or system is to learn and use. The more intuitive a new system is, the better the usability. A strong UX design will inherently deliver good usability.
I read a great statement that really sums up usability: “A good user interface is a lot like a joke–if you have to explain it, it’s not that good.”
There are three things to consider when you are determining usability. They are
a| User journeys
b| Visual design
c | Information architecture
Let’s look at each of these individually:
a | Usability – User journeys
When a user engages with an app or a system, or even does something manual, they are trying to get to a particular end point.
When you are trying to design the way the app works firstly you should
- define all the end points a user needs to get to
- Map out the journey they will take to get there
There are a few key things to remember. Firstly you should make sure you define end points for the happy paths as well as the unhappy paths. What do we mean by this? Well, it’s just as important to look after your user when they’ve ended up in the wrong place. In particular think about the error messages a user might encounter if they do something unexpected. You can read our post on error messages for some more info. Unclear error messages are a sign of bad ux design!
When you are mapping out the user journeys you should consider all the alternatives. Brainstorming the user journeys should lead you to the best journey for each end point. You want each journey to be intuitive and efficient for the user. You don’t want the user taking 20 steps to get somewhere when they could have got there in 3. This would be a bad ux design and would only lead to frustration. Try to leverage familiar user journeys used by other similar apps or websites. This reduces the amount of learning your users will have to do.
You might want to read the posts on use case diagrams and business process mapping as these will give you some handy tools that you can use to map out your user journeys.
b | Usability – Visual design
Visual design is probably the most obvious aspect of UX design. It’s likely to be what you think of up front. Visual design is all about the look and feel of your app, website or system. This may be partly dictated to you by the technology you are using, but nevertheless you should consider aspects such as:
- Branding (colours, logos, use of images, fonts, layouts)
- Menus (how will you structure your menus so that they are clear)
- Flow (how does a user move from one page to another)
Having a strong brand will really help with making your app or site visually engaging. Keep it clean, uncluttered and consider carefully what information you are putting where. Once again remember you should be considering the user and their needs, not your own opinion, and leveraging familiar standards in your design.
c | Usability – Information architecture
Information architecture refers to all of the information or data in your app or system, and how all of the pieces of information relate to one another.
Information architecture is a fundamental building block of UX design and is often overlooked. It’s a lot more difficult that you might think to structure information in a logical way so you may want to get the support of someone who has done this before.
The first thing you will need to do is identify all the information or data that you have in your app, website or system. This can be anything from product information to departments in a business to people’s profiles. When you have a list of all the information you should group it in a meaningful way, and determine clear labels. For example, if you want a user to provide their location, all the countries need to be grouped together under a label of location.
You also need to translate this information into the navigation of the app, website or system.
This is where things can become complex as some information will appear in more than one place.
3 | PROTOTYPE
When you’ve got all the information from your research and usability work you’re finally ready to prototype.
This is where you draw up what you’re thinking ready to share with users and anyone else who needs to sign-off before you begin building.
It will also act as part of the requirements for the build.
You can either wireframe or prototype, or you can even do both. These terms are often used interchangeably, however they are different.
A wireframe depicts a page or screen. It simply shows you what content is on the page and where each item is located. For the purposes of a wireframe the content will be links, menu items, images, main body text etc. A wireframe is not visually engaging. It is normally a series of boxes representing the information that should appear on the screen. You need a wireframe for each screen that you are building.
A prototype will be a visual version of the wireframe. It will be built to look and function more-or-less exactly like the final app, website or system. Often you will see branding and be able to move between the main screens. Normally the key screens will be built in the prototype, rather than all of the screens, however this really depends on the level of assurance that you would like before you begin the real build the live product.
Share your wireframes and prototype with your users as you go along. Continual feedback and refinements will result in a great UX design. This is process of sharing and refining is often called usability testing.
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