How to design a good user experience?

Tips for improved user experience when designing a site or system

User experience or UX is today in every company’s vocabulary. And everyone wants to create great UX, of course. Is it easy done? How are you aware if the user experience is good?

There are some important aspects if you want to give your users a great experience on your site. But there are no exact rules or “perfect process” to do so. Experiences are individual and to create an experience for other people (our users), we have to look at our site from the users point of view.

We often have a tendency to look for the perfect process, the process that will fix all problems. We tend to concentrate on the process. When we work with UX, we need to focus on the people, our users. Our sites and systems should be designed to solve problems, not create additional problems.

This might sound obvious, but how do we succeed if experiences are unique? It’s not possible to satisfy everyone, is it? You just have to start with your goal and your market: who are your customers/users? You can do a great deal for a great user experience and it all starts with your users.

To find out about what your users need or expect from your site you need feedback from them. When you design a site or system or maybe make improvements, as soon as you have something to test or show make prototypes! You can use online tools like:

All tools above have pricing plans but you can try them for free. I prefer InvisionApp, but all tools above are rather easy to use.

I do prototypes to get feedback on many things: navigation, layout, functionality, how the site “feels” and so on. You can make several prototypes to check different things. If the goal is to get feedback on navigation and functionality it might be enough with handmade sketches, you do not have to make perfect drawings of all details for that. You save time and can move on developing extra things for your site.

I know it can be hard to take time for prototyping but I have worked in web projects and system development projects where we have spent numerous hours correcting things when the project is done. Things that our clients weren’t satisfied with. It has ended up as an expensive experience for us and some irritation of the clients. With an iterative design and development process you can avoid this and get closer the expectations when it be the time to deliver.

If you do your own website, I think you can save time and have more returning users if you ask for feedback before you publish your site for the first time. It might be feedback on your design (layout), market or usability. I written about usability testing on this site in an earlier post, read more in the post “usability testing on your blog“.

Usability is important for the user experience, so is beginning with the users and to work with continuous improvements.

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Are there any good reasons not to do usability testing?

Are there reasons for not doing usability testing? If you have been reading other posts on this site I think you might answer no. There can be several occasions when you should not do usability tests.

Of course you should do usability testing, but think twice about what and how to test, it takes time and you engage other people.

Be sure to test the things you need to test, with focus on improving the user experience:)

I will go through four reasons that is important to take into account before you decide to do a usability test. Your intention is to test the right things, right? And you does not have all the time in the world to spend on testing? You don’t even have a lot of users that are willing to do a lot of testing? If that is the case, I like to point to some factors you should take into account before you begin testing.

  1. Don’t perform tests to get  confirmation on things you already knew, it’s waste of time. Sounds obvious but it’s not unusual.
  2. Be clear about what you wan’t to test. Testing everything on the site gives few answers on a lot of questions. It’s better to do several smaller tests, with focus on different parts or functions on the site. It gives more concrete input for improvements.
  3. It’s great to hear what users think about your colours and photos but it might be more important to focus on the process of completing a purchase and other functions on the site. Visual impression is important to but it should not be the only thing you test and get feedback on. Build your test on core functions on your site, things that “is the business” on your site.
  4. How do you know that your improvements work if you don’t test them?

I hope you found some value in this post and that it is useful for you when you wish to improve the usability on your site. You should do usability tests, but not for the reasons above. You can read more about usability testing here.

If you have some ideas of your own to complement this list, please leave a comment below. I look forward to get your input:)

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Usability testing on your blog

On your request: usability testing for bloggers

A lot of comments have discussed usability testing on a blog site and I will try to help you with it in this post.

Why should you do that on your blog? A lot of people who commented on my posts are writing about their own blogs and about usability. I think it’s important to consider usability for any site that has visitors!

I mentioned in earlier posts that it’s important to know your users (and readers). On a blog, your readers are also users and have needs.

They visit you blog for a purpose, they are looking for an answer or to find tips about something. When they arrive, they should not have to look for the information they need.

This sounds great, doesn’t it?

Many of you might see usability testing as a huge process that will take time and effort. A blog often has few pages: Home, About, blog posts, contact and maybe some pages to showcase products you sell (photos, art and so on). A visitor comes to look for information on a certain topic.

I think you will be prepared to meet your users if you consider the five factors for usability I described in an earlier post:

  • Discover
  • Placement
  • Clarity
  • Clues
  • Feedback

These factors all relate to each other and are all part of the site’s usability. These are the basics and I’m going to explain them a bit and how you should consider them as related to your site.

First of all, is your content easy to find on the site? Is there a way to contact you and to subscribe?

Navigation should be easy to find and it should be obvious which objects are for navigation. Functions and objects that relate to each other should be placed close to one other. For example, share buttons and the content they are supposed to share.

It’s important that the people who visit your site get clues about what’s going to happen when they navigate or click on something.

How to find out?

Of course, you can look at these factors yourself. But it might be important that you know a lot about your site.

It’s not a big deal to do a usability test for you site. I recommend you to start with the people you know, but they should not be familiar with your site!

Ask friends and family members to do a usability test for you.

How to perform the usability testing?

To start, set up some tasks. They must be things that you think users want to do on your site. For example:

1) Find a specific answer to a question.

2) Find a specific blog post about carrot diets

3) Find a photo that have a “seascape”

4) Follow you on Twitter

5) Share a post

Begin the test

First, let your test person begin by looking around your site. Ask him/her to “think aloud,” which means to say what they think (for example: “where are the share buttons”).

You can check if navigation is easy to discover and if related functions are placed close to each other.

Is it obvious what different functions do or how you get to different pages?

If your users are going to order something or leave the site, are they given information about it?

Observe what he/she is doing and saying and take notes.

When they are finished looking around, head over to the tasks you prepared.

Observe again and take notes. I usually ask the test person if it’s OK to make a video recording of the test session. That makes it a lot easier to get everything. You can go back as many times as you like:)

The test should not take a long time, I think that “Guerilla usability testing” might work as well if you prepare yourself with a laptop and goes to the local café, if you feel comfortable with it!

Why should I do this?

I think the answer is because it favors your readers/users. We are all closest to ourselves and I know that you will be surprised when you see another person using your site. It’s common to think: “why is he or she doing that?” “Can’t they see how it should be done?”

And that is why you should do it! Returning visitors will be familiar with your site, but new visitors might leave if they don’t figure out how to do what they intended to.

I hope this is useful for you. Please feel free to ask questions below:)

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