incorporating-ux-into-design
Design - Usability - UX Design

Incorporating UX into Design

These buzz words “user experience” (UX) and “usability” get used often when it comes to web design. But they both boil down to making sure you are delivering the best website/software/app that matches the audience who will be using said product.

In this article I’ll walk you through an example of a UX strategy for a client, something you need to do in the very early stages of a project. I’ll provide you with a list of important questions to ask every client and even if you’re designing a website for yourself, you can look at these questions to make sure your own project is off to a good start.

Definitions

Let’s begin with some definitions:

UX – (User Experience)Jakob Nielsen, the most prominent leader in the UX field, describes: user experience encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.

Jakob’s definition is quite broad, for this article I will apply it to the design of a website. But for the sake of offering a great example: let’s look at Apple. Apple offers a consistent user experience across all it’s products (software and hardware). If you’re an iPhone user, it’s not that big of a stretch to use an iPad or even an iMac (Apple’s desktop).

There are many common features in the operating systems and hardware across Apple’s devices. Personally I find that Apple’s products are very easy to use and they are prime examples of great usability.

apple-family-ux

Usability

Usability is directly correlated to user experience. If your product is not very “usable”, the user experience is negatively affected.

According to the Nielsen Norman Group usability is defined by 5 quality components:

  • Learnability: How easy is it for users to accomplish basic tasks the first time they encounter the design?
  • Efficiency: Once users have learned the design, how quickly can they perform tasks?
  • Memorability: When users return to the design after a period of not using it, how easily can they reestablish proficiency?
  • Errors: How many errors do users make, how severe are these errors, and how easily can they recover from the errors?
  • Satisfaction: How pleasant is it to use the design?

Before you can investigate the 5 quality components and dig deeper into UX, you need to identify the audience you’re designing for.

The Audience

For the sake of this article, we will use the following example: Let’s say you have a client named Nancy, she hired you to design a website for her spa business. So the first logical step is to talk to Nancy about her clients and the goals for her website.
You need to ask these critical questions:

  • Who will be using this website? Nancy’s current clients and hopefully lots of new ones!
  • Who are Nancy’s clients? Women of all demographics who use spa services. But you can ask: Is it a primarily female audience? Does Nancy also offer services for men?
  • What is the purpose of this site?
  • Why do you need/want a website?
  • What do you expect to get out of this website?
  • What do you think your users expect to get out of this website?
  • What kind of information do you want to offer to your clients on your website?
  • How do your clients describe the type of services you offer?
  • How comfortable with technology is your audience?
  • Who are some of your competitors? (Other spas in the area)

Then as a designer, always remember: Who am I designing for?

Now for this client — Nancy, her website needs are pretty straightforward. She wants her customers to be able to:

  • Read about the services her spa offers
  • Find her in Google Places
  • Buy gift certificates to her spa online
  • Book appointments via email
  • Locate her spa in a map and quickly find hours of operation
  • Learn more about her staff and read staff bios
  • Learn why her business is different than other similar businesses; and her value proposition (there are many othe spas in this town, why should a client visit Nancy’s?)
  • Customers will be able to follow her on social media channels
  • Find out more about the products she uses at the spa
  • Learn more about Nancy and her business

Nancy never had a website before so she has no Google Analytics or other data that can help you to identify her user base. So talking to Nancy is the best way to get the answers you need. You can generalize and stereotype certain things, such as that her primary audience are women, but be cautious. The client knows the business more than you do!

Sometimes it can be tough to  narrow down the audience/user base, a site like Amazon for example is meant to appeal to almost everyone! Often, there are primary audiences and secondary audiences and you have to design with both in mind. Speaking to the client and using other analytic data can help you get a better sense of who the audience is.

The design

While working on the preliminary design mockup try to address some questions that have to do with usability. Using the bullet points above let’s break down each item in conjunction with the client’s needs/goals:

  • Learnability: How easy is it for users to accomplish basic tasks the first time they encounter the design? One of Nancy’s main goal is for users to find the address of her spa and discover the hours of operation. It would make sense then to put the spa phone number on the top right, add the spa location to a Google map in the footer or a right sidebar, and make a link clearly visible to email the spa for an appointment
  • Efficiency: Once users have learned the design, how quickly can they perform tasks? If a user comes back to the site for a second of third visit, will they know/remember where the email link is? Will they quickly be able to access the spa services page so they can find out if Nancy’s spa offers Swedish massages, for example?
  • Memorability: When users return to the design after a period of not using it, how easily can they reestablish proficiency?
  • Errors: How many errors do users make, how severe are these errors, and how easily can they recover from the errors?
  • Satisfaction: How pleasant is it to use the design? This is where a great designer will shine! Use colors, typography, imagery and other elements that are on par with the client’s business, for a spa you might want to pick a soothing color palette, soft typography and zen images!

The takeaway

In this article I just touched the tip of the iceberg! Use the questions above as a guideline to help you create a design that meets and hopefully exceeds your client’s expectations. With experience comes learning and you will have more points to add to this list of questions.

As much as you may be inclined to deliver designs you think are amazing and mind-blowing, remember that you are designing for someone else! Keeping the client’s objectives in mind will broaden your horizons and with each new client your design and UX! portfolio will grow.

About the author

Patricia is the Founder of Upwards Content, a fledgling content creation/management business. If you like my articles, follow me on Twitter!

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