UX is an ever changing discipline. Staying ahead takes time, effort and a lot of practical application. We’ve pulled together some top tips to help you get the most out of your UX work.
1) Don’t be a static learner.
Be mindful of changes in technology, trends or user behaviour. What users expect now is likely to change very quickly. Users adapt quickly to changes in functionality, format, structures and designs.
Real-world imitation in the digital world, once a common feature of web design is now on the ebb. Remember to keep abreast of subtle changes in web design. Only recently have we ourselves moved away from shadows and borders to a flatter, cleaner website.
Some design debates might seem pedantic, but they will have a significant impact on any user experience.
2) Understand segmentation, user roles and behaviour.
Carefully map out the users likely to be visiting and engaging with your website, app or interface. Consider each persona and segment in detail.
Identify behaviours, expectations and journeys that are both unique and common. This will help ensure that requirements and designs take into account the differences between each persona. Even within broad segments consider additional differences, such as a user’s spending power or desire for a bargain.
3) Take into account real world problems.
Everyone has dropped their phone and gasped at some point. Consider how your design looks on a phone that might have a cracked or faulty screen. Appreciate the fact that not all consumers have money to replace an expensive broken device.
4) Probe and interpret facts.
Web analytics are great. They can provide you with so much information and data. By viewing analytics you can immediately see how many people have visited a site, which parts they visited and how long they stayed.
Analytics also helps to identify where there might be problems. For instance, by examining sales checkout data you might be able to judge that a significant amount of users are not completing their sale. Whilst analytics indicates there might be a problem, it doesn’t necessarily give you the reason behind the problem. For that you’ll need some user research.
5) Think about user context and environment – small buttons on a fast-moving and jolting train.
Designing a web environment based on personas, business requirements and a list of devices is all great but forgetting context can prove disastrous.
Context and environment are the two most important aspects to consider when it comes to delivering a great UX product. If your users are likely to visit your site whilst on a moving train then you need to take this environment into consideration during the design and testing phases. A site with small, fiddly buttons will put users off.
It’s also important to consider the context of such a visit. A user might be looking to research and book a holiday. However, they might not want to do all activities on a single device. A user on a busy train might want inspiration or to read reviews. They may opt for using their laptop for booking when they have more time. Consider context and ensure that the buttons, navigation and options presented are relevant based on what the customer is trying to achieve in that given environment.
6) Get inspiration outside the world of apps – design something beautifully simple.
Simplicity and beauty go hand in hand when undertaking any UX project. Whilst it’s important to consider standard conventions, common best practices and delivery against business goals, this should not hold you back from designing something that really gives pleasure to the user.
Great inspiration can be taken from the UK’s famous road sign project of the late fifties and mid sixties. The final designs, created by Jock Kinneir (1917-1974) and Margaret Calvert (1936-) are both simple and beautiful. They set out to create signage that was clearer, more accessible and that would enable faster and more effective movement throughout the country. The final designs are now a template and example of best practice, which has been copied throughout the world. Take inspiration from great design.
7) Think about online and offline relationships – go in-store, buy online.
Designing a retail website might prompt a UX designer to immediately visit online retailers such as eBay or Amazon. One of the greatest tricks is to visit an offline, real-world shop to see how customers browse, pick, choose and buy a product. Customers buying books from Waterstones will behave very differently depending on whether they’re browsing online or in-store.
By shadowing and viewing customers in a real-world environment you can start to understand the rituals and habits customers go through. These insights can then be used to design features that mirror this behaviour in an online setting.
You may even come across customers struggling with a problem in-store for which you have the perfect online design solution. Remember that most customers operate across both the online and offline worlds. Many browse in-store but buy online.
8) Take advantage of common, pre-existing work.
The great thing about the UX community is its ability to share ideas and best practice. There’s no other community quite like it. Sometimes it’s easy to get hung up on designing a new icon, a new typography or a navigation bar from scratch.
However, it’s important to realise the wealth of content, existing designs and open source work that is available for people to share, download, amend and re-purpose.
It’s also important to remember some of the free and low cost tools that are available for activities such as wireframe and sketching. You can save a lot of design time by tapping into work that has already answered some of your design questions.
Let us know how you get on.