Engage them early and often writes digital and User Experience strategist Seamus Byrne
Technology is taking over our lives.
Every day we are exposed to a digital landscape that underpins our real world journeys, choice and decisions.
Our homes are becoming smarter, mobile devices keep us connected wherever we go. Work can be extended beyond the nine to five due to an evolution in technology that seems to accelerate by the minute.
Every day in my role as a User Experience (UX) designer at Graphic Mint, I help companies make their products and services easier to use. I do this by spending a considerable amount of time going out into the field to meet and observe how real people use websites, apps and software.
Observing users in their own context helps me understand their goals and witness the obstacles they face.
Often the most simple of usability problems, or a lack of clarity with instructional text, can cause a pattern of confusion.
Discovering and documenting these user pain-points is the first step in improving your digital product or service for your users.
The discipline of UX is often misunderstood. Some people think UX is all about how nice the user interface of a product looks and feels, some believe that UX is the wow factor you can see in snazzy apps. Others think it’s pretending to be a user when designing a product.
it’s easier to define UX by what it is not – if there isn’t a real user involved in the design process, then it is not UX. When should you engage with your users? Early in the project process and often.
I have outlined some tips to get you started on improving the UX of your digital product:
1. Be open to feedback and acknowledging that nothing is perfect including your product or service. Engaging with real users is like opening Pandora’s box, in that you may discover some things about your product you didn’t know. Remember, knowledge is power so keep your mind open to user enlightenment.
2. Watch real people using your product or service in their context. Leave your desk, go out into the real world and observe users ‘in the wild’. Of course, let them know what you are doing beforehand.
3. Write everything down. Anything you witness about user behaviour relating to your product and/or service should be recorded and documented. If you see common problems experienced by multiple users it’s definitely something to prioritise.
4. Don’t believe everything your users say. Pay more attention to how they behave and interact with your website or app. Sometimes, users do not accurately express what they mean, but the evidence of what they really mean comes from seeing what they are doing with your product.
5. Have empathy for your users. Don’t be defensive. Seek to understand what goals the user is trying to achieve with your offering, then evaluate if it is easy for them to accomplish that goal.
6. Fix the easy problems first. Don’t get overwhelmed with the amount of pain points you discover from user research. Document everything and prioritise the simple fixes and the address the bigger items in the medium term.
7. Regularly engage your users on an ongoing basis. The best product teams have a revolving door of usability testing to ensure that their products and services are easy to use. UX should be absorbed into the DNA of your company.
8. Use your own product or service yourself. If you are selling something you should be using it in context just as your real users do. This will ensure you are accurately aware of the ins and outs of the end-to-end experience.
9. Make sure your product is fun to use. It doesn’t have to be a video game, but the user should have a smile on their face from using your product, be it for it’s simplicity, or in that it made their day better by being useful.
10. Content is King! Make sure your copy is clear, concise and cogent!
Séamus Byrne is director of UX at Graphic Mint, a design, strategy and professional training agency based in Dublin.
The Graphic Mint Academy’s User Experience for Business event was on May 20 2016 at Wood Quay Venue in Dublin and offered practical tips on applying UX methods and knowledge to your everyday workflow.
Read more about User Experience (UX) for Business