Businesses reached the point where they’re aware of the importance of user experience. If you want to have a successful app, you need to focus your activities on meeting your user’s needs, as well as enable them to achieve their goals and address their pain points. Here are a few ways that will help you achieve a better user experience which your users will appreciate in the long run.
Neglecting user experience translates to lost opportunities to convert users into customers, with a very real impact on the bottom line. Not only this, but companies which do not invest in UX risk being left behind by the ones that do.
UX research is a way of discovering users needs, their behavior, and their expectations. A product built with the support of data can be perfectly targeted to its audience. And that makes the success of a project more realistic.
The main focus of both UX design and UX research is creating user-centered products. That can be achieved through different techniques and methods. However, the data collected during UX research is an essential foundation.
What is important is to realize what has already been done and what kind of questions you want answered. The methods chosen and decisions taken can depend on the stage of the development or the type of the project.
Thus, before UX research begins, you should gather as much information as you can about your company, your competitors, the users etc. With all that in your mind, pick some routes that UX research could go and decide where it should lead you.
UX research can be done during various stages and bring different insights.
Research methods can be fitted to the project depending on the budget, stage of a product development, time limit or any other specific need.
Also, every designer works in their own style and might have their favourite solutions. Flexibility and adaptability are key to success – be creative with it! Do not hesitate to create or adapt already established tools to your specific needs.
Desk research, or secondary research is all about gathering useful information from studies that have already been done by others. This means that, instead of starting from scratch, you interpret, collate, and analyze existing data sets.
Desk research is a well-established practice in business and scholarship, in part due to its potentially huge ROI. After all, it is much less resource-intensive to make use of things that are already out there, rather than build a team, design methodology, and execute a major research project.
Even if you want to do some brand-new primary research in the future, it seems obvious to review the existing information before you do so – it might save you a lot of money and effort. Either way, it makes sense to do some desk research whenever you want to gain some insights into any subject.
Having as much knowledge as possible about your market, competitors, and customers can give you the power to succeed as a business.
Desk research can be divided into two main types: internal and external. The types refer to whether the information analyzed is being sourced internally (from your organisation) or externally (from somewhere else).
Internal research has a number of advantages, especially with regards to costs and resource consumption.
External research, while more expensive and resource-intensive, has the obvious benefit of covering a much broader scope of data: after all, no matter how advanced your organisation is, most of the world’s information exists outside of it. This is where a sub-typology based on the source of information used comes in. The three main types of sources are
The first two need no explanation, besides perhaps the fact that some useful data may not be available online (such as print books or specialized journals), so it might make sense to visit a library or a book retailer for some more niche information. The last one – customer desk data – boils down to directly communicating with existing or prospective customers.
Expert evaluation is an effective, relatively cheap technique that doesn’t require much resource.
Here are the main types of expert evaluations:
Competitor analysis aims at verifying competitors’ strengths and weaknesses in relation to your/your client’s business. It helps to identify opportunities and threats.
The research can contain an analysis of all relevant parts of business, such as market position, marketing campaigns, types and design of products and services, promotions, localisations, etc. Every relevant piece of information helps to really get to know your competitors.
Competitor analysis can help with:
Types of competitors:
A competitor analysis should be performed before a project starts. This way, you can gather all the relevant information and build the strategy and design for the product better.
It should also be an ongoing process. To stay up-to-date with information on what is happening on the market, to observe changes – what the market share is, who is in the leading position, etc.
Understand the market. Before we start exploring competition, we need to understand our client’s business and product thoroughly. All the information that the client can provide is very important. You should ask the following questions:
It's good to know your client's strategy at this stage and have access to all materials that were created beforehand.
Find competitors. Ask your client if they have already run some market research and can provide information about competitors. If they haven't, do the research on your own. You could get information like:
Define the assessment criteria. Once you've analyzed all competitors, you should select the key ones for deep analysis. Before running the analysis, set the key factors for analysis with client. What do you want to analyze? You ought to focus on the crucial criteria that can help the business.
For digital products, you can evaluate:
And many more. You should identify the specific criteria for your analysis depending on your needs and what questions you want to have answered.
Also, it is very important to examine each competitor with the same criteria to get a reliable analysis.
Create a matrix. To analyze the outcome, create a competitor analysis matrix. There are several types of matrix templates you can use. It can be constructed into 2 columns:
In columns, you should add adequate ratings. You can evaluate the data suitable for your needs such as:
For a more detailed matrix, you can expand your CSF to create a more detailed measuring template consisting of:
It can be also used for more complex research.
Critical success factor
In-depth interview is one of the qualitative research methods. It is an individual interview with potential users of the product. It is structured to cover the predetermined areas of interest and get to know the users. IDIs help to
We can divide IDIs into those run in person or remotely – you can see the participants personally or you can contact them via an online communication service. It is good to see respondents in person because you can observe their behavior in real life. But sometimes, it is not possible due to large distances, difficult and distributed target groups, time and budget restrictions, or any other constraints. It is better to meet with users via a messenger rather than not do the research at all.
You can also categorize IDIs on the basis of where they are run:
And yet another type of a division is along the lines of how IDIs are run:
For IDIs, it is important to set the potential target group for recruitment, e.g. people who are between 35-55 years of age, live in big cities in the UK, use smartphones, and work in the healthcare industry.
The number of participants depends on the research problem and the number of potential user groups. The size of a respondent group can range from 5 respondents to 20, or even more.
For recruitment, you can use:
To keep the efficiency, the interview should take no longer than 1 hour. It is important to make respondents feel comfortable, not make them tired.
After running the interviews, you should:
What next? We gathered all the information, so what do we now? How can we use the knowledge about users?
The outcome of the research can be used to prepare, for instance, personas, empathy maps, or user stories. During the design process, they help maintain a user-centric approach, to design solutions for real users and to solve real problems.
Product testing is an evaluation of the product’s performance. It is a crucial part of product development, carried out to verify how a product fares in realistic conditions. Designers can do the best work they can but they are not infallible. That is why it is important to validate a product in real life, with real users. Errors can be made, and design is about iteration and continuous improvement so as to make a product meet the target users’ needs fully.
You can evaluate a product at any point in the process. You can test ideas, initial sketches, low and high fidelity wireframes, graphics, ready and implemented products, etc.
User testing facilitates checking how end users interact with a given product or service. What’s really great about user testing is that the product itself doesn’t have to be live (but of course can be!). Instead of spending valuable resources on development – without being sure if the product will be received well by end users – one could build a prototype and conduct user testing on it.
Such approach allows UX validation of the key scenarios and use cases among product’s most important user groups before the actual product hits the market, and potentially save lots of money and effort.
Even if testers end up being confused and dissatisfied, you’ll have all the needed information on what should still be worked on and improved. Also, testing a product that’s already live has similar benefits and can set you on the right path to refining it. However, it requires careful planning and correct testing methods to make sure you get constructive and unbiased feedback.
Basically, user testing can be divided into 4 main phases:
No matter how eager you are to jump into showing the prototype to your users, it’s best to cover the basics and create an environment that will support the whole user testing process:
Example of a preparations document
After you’ve got all the preparations covered, it is time to decide whether you’d like to proceed with:
Both approaches have their pros and cons.
Moderated user testing provides more control and can lead to the discovery of new insights from the users, but is more costly and prone to bias. On the other hand, the unmoderated approach allows for cheaper and easier tester recruitment, but it doesn’t give you any chance to ask valuable follow up questions.
Setting up unmoderated sessions is relatively easy, as a third-party service will do all the hard work for you. In such case, you can give UserTesting, TryMyUI or PingPong a go. However, when opting for moderated user testing, you might encounter some unexpected issues such as the difficulty with finding the right testers or trying to work around scheduling meetings with severe time-zone differences. Here are some tips on how to make the setup process a breeze:
Now it’s time for the real deal – the tests themselves. At this point, you should have everything ready, but some pitfalls might still occur that might affect the test’s objectiveness if you went with the moderated user testing route and you’re going to interact with the participants directly. Asking suggestive questions or allowing for personal bias are among the most popular mistakes. The simple tips below will allow you to avoid such issues.
Leading vs objective questions:
What do you like about using Twitter?
This will only get you the answers what’s good about Twitter, not the whole picture.
What's your experience with Twitter?
The respondent will actually share their thoughts on any positive and negative experiences they might have regarding Twitter.
Closed vs open questions:
Do you use Slack?
This can be answered by just Yes/No and thus can give you a very short answer.
How do you find using Slack?
Here we ask the interlocutor to share all their experiences regarding Slack tool.
Now you need to analyze the findings and prepare the final report with all the conclusions and recommendations. Again, even such a fairly easy process as documenting a user’s behavior and their experience with the prototype can come up with unexpected challenges. Here are several good practices that will help you avoid them.
Lean experimentation is at the core of the lean startup method. It is best understood as a part of the Build, Measure, Learn cycle which applies testing and experimentation to products and services, but also entire business models and organisations.
Here are 3 key benefits of lean experimentation. It:
It might seem counterintuitive, but the idea is to conduct these experiments in a way that allows them to fail. In fact, it’s very reasonable and simple: let it fail while you’ve only invested a fistful of dollars in it, rather than when your bank account goes dry. You also need to define how to measure its success.
You can conduct an experiment that aims to identify the percentage of participants required to engage positively. If the test fails, you'll know the reason behind that failure and correct your direction on the basis of the new insights.
As you run experiments and validate your assumptions, you will start learning about the real needs of your business.
There are many ways in which one can test a hypothesis. Here are 3 essential pointers to help you create smooth and straightforward tests:
The Lean Experiment Canvas (LEC)
The cornerstone of the lean startup methodology is the Lean Experiment Canvas (LEC) that allows you to run smarter experiments with better results that are in line with the Build, Measure, Learn cycle.
It's risky to leave learning and insights to chance. The LEC model helps solidify assumptions, risks, and metrics before you start testing. The objective of LEC is supporting businesses that want to uncover truths about themselves and their customers.
The model is made up of 12 blocks that collectively take organisations through the scientific method of lean experimentation. All blocks are equally important – but as you fill out information, you're bound to discover a unique pathway for your organisation to follow.
For more information, check out this comprehensive overview of lean testing methods.
Apart from being beautiful and impressive, websites and landing pages should show the value proposition. While your team may be really into advanced features or the captivating product story, "what does it do for me?" is the most crucial question for the customers.
Onboarding is a perfect way to convey your message and show people how your app can help them fulfill their goals. If your customers don’t understand how they should use your app and what are the core features, your one-time shot will be over and – which can be even more hurtful – people can start talking about the bad impression you’ve made.
People tend to evaluate interactions based on the first 50 milliseconds. If you want them to continue exploring and engaging, they should have a clear idea what is the theme, purpose, and offering within the initial view of your product. The design and a prominent value proposition in user onboarding should provide that.
Make sure that the main headline explains the value and is visible at first glance. Your visitors have no time to search for it. If you are lucky enough, they clicked your ad or just found you in Google – don't waste this opportunity. That's why it's so important for your visitors to learn what you do from the first impression.
There are many other ways to present your value proposition. You may add a video explainer or show the benefits of using your product with drawings or icons. If you'd like to play it safe, take a look at the market leaders in your sector and follow their example.
Very quick feature overview of Uber Eats with the possibility to dig deeper if the user wants to know more about app's features
The other thing is sign-up, a process that is often required just to start interacting with the app. Do not ask the user to register until it’s really necessary. Nobody wants to buy a pig in a poke, so even if you’re kindly asking for users’ for credentials right after downloading your app, expect far less sign ups. Instead, allow people to look around, know your product, and appreciate its real value. Once they’re accustomed to the app, show them the value of signing up and staying longer.
In 2016, worldwide mobile and tablet internet usage surpassed desktop for the first time ever, signifying a huge shift in the importance of optimizing design for mobile devices. Failure to provide a great mobile experience can be costly, both in terms of lost business and damaged reputation:
According to a survey by Google, 52% of users said that a bad mobile experience made them less likely to engage with a company.
Mobile users are 5 times more likely to abandon a task on a site that’s not optimized for mobile.
A study by Bizrate Insights revealed that the number one annoyance, cited by a third of online shoppers, was having to constantly enlarge their screen so they could click the right thing.
The mobile experience is totally different from the desktop one. You should always keep in mind that your users can be on the move while using your app, can get distracted by external factors (like a car horn or a talkative colleague) or internal ones (such as a notification from another app). The key to a great user experience is to be prepared for such situations and anticipate them at the right time.
Ask for only those permissions which are really required to use your app. If you created an app to discover plants, it’s a good idea to ask for access to the camera. If it’s an app with podcasts – you probably don’t need the list of contacts imported from the user’s address book.
Rolo Calendar politely asks for permission and provides a proper explanation why it’s needed to use the app.
Bombarding users with messages every time something happens will eventually lead to frustration and uninstalling your app for good. By default, be very gentle with in-app notifications and let the user decide what type of alerts s/he wants to receive. This way, your users will have a sense of control over your app and personalize the notifications just as they like it.
Airbnb users can decide what kind of notifications they will receive in terms of content as well as channel.
Even if you are building your product for a very conservative or professional audience that uses mostly desktop devices, your web application has to work on mobile properly. And this means replacing top bar navigation with a slide in the menu.
Apple and Google created very extensive guidelines for mobile patterns – one of the goals of those guidelines was to stop creating new ways of achieving the same thing. Since it takes some time to learn a new pattern, and people are accustomed to using similar elements employed across various apps, it’s not a good approach to reinvent the wheel when it comes to very standard elements.
Also, remember about the physical constraints of mobile devices.
You probably know this from your own experience – it’s hard to reach elements in the upper area of the screen. Therefore avoid adding frequently used features outside of the zone easily reachable by thumbs.
The other issue is different sizes of people’s fingers – tapping on the wrong item and spelling mistakes happens way more often on mobile than on laptops. Be sure you’re prepared to fix the problem quickly and counteract possible mistakes.
It's a common mistake that is quite easy to avoid, yet hard-to-find navigation or menu buttons have always been typical UX flaws. Although the term mystery meat navigation was coined 20 years ago for describing navigation links that are not visible unless you hover the cursor over it, the mistake can still be found even in recently redesigned websites, of which the worst examples were usually built with Adobe Flash.
The rule here is pretty straightforward – the simpler, the better. When creating navigation, you should consider a few factors – which of your menu options are the most important, can you limit the number of elements up to five, will the menu (in whichever form), be frequently used by your customers? There are numerous patterns to choose from, but keep in mind that your users shouldn’t feel lost and always know from which point they can start all over.
When shopping, your customers are not considering the experience in terms of channels (such as mobile, desktop or tablet) they are just just looking around, reviewing the product, and eventually want to buy it. What you need to provide is a convenient way to do so, no matter what channel your customer is currently using.
Therefore, when a person is checking out your products on mobile and then changes the device, you shouldn’t force her or him to perform the same search all over again. The same goes for filling checkout details – when the user stopped at one of the steps while using a smartphone, do not require them to enter the same details through another channel. People will notice the convenience.
There are numerous benefits of adding meaningful animation into your app. It prevents confusion, lightens the cognitive load, and helps in understanding the user’s or system’s actions without explaining it through the text. The main sections of your app you should consider in terms of animations are:
Example of visual cues when a user is performing actions in Hive app
Research shows that the optimal speed of interface animations is somewhere between 200 and 500 ms, while all movements below 100 ms are just unnoticeable for the human eye. The animation speed should adjust to what the users are accustomed to, so it's a good idea to track not necessarily your competition, but the most popular apps among your target audience – be it Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, Gmail, Slack or Snapchat.
Functional animations are a great way of communicating actions to the user. Motion is understood intuitively and analyzed by different parts of the brain than static text, shapes, and color, which dominate interfaces. It also gives a real-life feeling to the digital world, as traditional buttons and switches move and click when we interact with them.
However, when using animations and moving elements, you need to be careful not to make any of these common mistakes:
A fade in animation is considered a good way of attracting attention to a headline or an image. It also shows continuity between the state before and after the action. However, you should be very careful not to overuse it. The content should be presented in a static form to be readable.
Also remember that animations drive attention, so beware of animating every element in your app, since your customers won’t be able to focus on the important parts.
Animation can also be fun! Even a small twist can be considered a nice gesture towards your users, and they will definitely notice that you pay attention to the details.
Who says that logging in must be dull and boring?
Google’s Material Design is a great source of knowledge that should help you understand the principles of animation and motion in general.
The attractiveness and clarity of the message relies on the simplicity of the website design and the organization of the content, therefore a minimalistic approach is highly recommended by every UX design agency. Staying away from unnecessary visual distractions should translate into a more effective call to action.
Every UX designer should be aware of the aesthetic-usability effect which is a common found phenomenon that shows that users tend to link the superficial attractiveness of websites with their practical functions even if it is not the case. This tendency could work to the UX designs’ advantage, although it could also be a double-edged sword and it should not trump the vital role of practicality.
There is a key rule you should keep in mind when it comes to spacing. It is called the grouping principle or the Gestalt law of proximity and was formed by the Berlin School of experimental psychology. It's quite straightforward – whenever you place objects relatively close to each other, our minds will consider them a group.
This is a dominant tendency. The Gestalt law works even with objects that have different shapes, sizes or colors – if they are close to each other, the brain will consider them a group.
Some beginner designers don't know the rule and will try to override the spacing with shapes or colors. This will create chaos in most users' brains. Remember to use spacing wisely. You can read more about the proximity principle and other Gestalt laws in this post.
While good design is important, it has to be backed up by superior performance to be effective. Speed must be at least on par with users’ increasingly high expectations, not only in terms of load times, but also in terms of the time it takes to navigate the page or app and reach the end goal.
Maybe it will sound very obvious, but we can still see the consequences of not paying attention to loading speed. Performance of your app deeply affects your customer’s satisfaction – as Google/SOASTA Research states, if a page takes more than 5 seconds to load, the probability of bounce increases 90%!
Although the research is about mobile landing pages, we can easily imagine that the same conclusion can apply to mobile apps – the slower your app is, the more frustrated people are. Other factors that affects apps’ performance are the number of crashes, the smoothness of animations, and even battery usage. If in a certain situation you can’t improve the speed of your app ad hoc, remember to show relevant information to you users such as a loader, or a visual or textual explanation in the line of the principle – Fake it till you make it.
Content is the backbone of a website or app. It has proven to be an efficient way to:
This means that design should support the messaging by not detracting from the content. The right information should be presented to the user at the right time, in an uncomplicated way.
However, even if you have invested time and money in creating quality content, it may prove to be counterproductive if you do not control how your audience interacts with it.
Many companies focus on content creation and neglect content distribution. Both activities are crucial elements of content marketing strategy. Your website is the most critical channel for delivering your message. It is the center of your content distribution process.
Whenever your audience finds your blog posts by typing queries into a search engine, engaging in a social media conversation, or receiving a well-timed e-mail, they end up on your website. Consequently, you need to make the experience of reading the website useful and pleasant.
Always keep in mind who your target audience is. Adjust the level of complexity to the least expert members of the group. Use short sentences and precise language. Explain the key terms you are using and make sure everyone understands them correctly.
For better readability:
Present your content in a well-organized manner. Embed short stories in larger stories that you can passively reveal to your audience step-by-step – when they are browsing or searching your website, and actively – when they receive proactive messages via e-mail, live chat messages, or social media posts.
Avoid the biggest mistake: don’t flood them with content. Information overload is the “disease” of our times. The human brain is not used to processing all the data we have access to. At the same time, companies are bombarding us with messaging. No wonder people get very annoyed when they are served too much information. They want their problem to be solved, and your content should help them do it by giving a straight answer to their question.
UX copywriting is about the communication between product/interface and users. UX writing relates to all possible messages and communications displayed to users. Every description, email, notification, label, error message, link, button text, etc. should be thought through and designed with the best UX writing practices in mind.
Every message that users encounter has an impact on their overall experience. That is why it is highly important that users understand what we want to tell them. UX writers focus on delivering short yet informative and understandable content, to limit users’ confusion. Appropriate copy should guide users and help navigate through the product.
Designers and developers have excelled in creating navigation systems that suit the users’ needs. As a result, a new branch of science has emerged: information architecture. In the case of marketing, information architecture is about organising and structuring the content of websites, web and mobile applications, and social media software.
Information architecture (IA) is a complex science, and it's much more challenging to fix an already broken IA in a working app than to build a healthy one from the start.
Your IA should put user satisfaction at the top – this is your primary business goal – provide the best value to the customers. If this works well, everything will come naturally.
Here are eight useful rules in information architecture:
Implementing an effective information architecture is difficult – this might be why many companies don’t give it the importance it deserves.
Your website visitors can explore the content by browsing through related articles and categories or searching for a direct answer.
There are three ways to organize your content:
You can arrange the content by tagging it with a clear label according to the topic you are covering (such as Solutions, Products, Case Studies, Referrals, Team), the audience you are targeting (segments or personas) or chronology (by date).
As the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) trend, a term introduced by Google in 2011, is gaining traction, the importance of content marketing is growing. The observation Google made is simple: when customers have a need, they search for information and make immediate shopping decisions based on it. According to the research conducted by Google, 88% of US customers do research online before buying a product. Google claims that the behavior has become global over the past few years.
Mobile devices made the trend even more visible, as the barrier “as soon as I get back to my PC, I will check it out” has disappeared. Making decisions with the use of smartphones puts even more pressure on clear messaging and information architecture. One-third of all consumer packaged goods Google searches are carried out on smartphones.
Be present in all popular searches related to your product or service, keep an eye on your competition, and have something interesting to say that will engage your audience. Don’t just focus on describing the advantages of your product. Explain the benefits of using your product’s category, and don’t be afraid of comparing your product with the competition.
Once people find you when looking for a answer to their question, you need to make them feel comfortable. The answer should be easy to understand and point directly to your solution through an effective CTA after explaining the advantages. Boost your message with case studies and testimonials.
Creator of WWW, Tim Burnes-Lee said “The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect”. So accessibility is a part of WWW since the beginning. While creating the website we should remember that it can be explored by people who are having problems with their sights, hearing, motility.
Some of the accessibility rules are:
There are multiple ways to improve user experience, but in order to start doing it, you need to select the areas you want to focus on. Some refinements require a lot of time and resources, but with proper research and budget for changes, they will bear fruit in the future. Your users will thank you later!