Brand Design

How Do You Know if Your UX Works? (In 5 Steps)

By Andy Clowes 5 September 2018

In the final instalment of our 3-part series on the importance of UX design, we explore how to put your UX design to the test. (Catch up on parts 1 and 2)

Once you’ve designed and optimised the UX of your product, it can be tempting to go live immediately. After all, you conducted thorough research at the start of the process, so you’re pretty confident that your UX is as effective as possible, right?

But Apple doesn’t launch a new phone without testing whether or not it works – so why would you launch your UX design without testing it?

Which brings us to the key question – how do you find out whether your UX actually works? These 5 steps will help.

Step 1: Interaction design

Interaction design is a key design principle that falls under the wider UX umbrella. Put simply, it’s the design of the interaction between users and products, with the goal of creating products that enable users to achieve their objective(s) in the best way possible. It’s therefore crucial to consider interaction design before launching your product.

In order to fully understand how users will interact with your product, you need to look at 3 models:

  • Implementation model: How the system works from the developer’s point of view
  • Conceptual model: How the designer expects the user to interact with the system
  • Mental model: How users think the system will work

By combining all 3 models, you ensure that you cover all areas of the product, getting a complete picture of whether or not the UX will work.

For example, despite designers’ and developers’ best intentions, users often approach a system with a totally different mental model, assuming the product will work one way when it actually works another. If you understand people’s mental models upfront you can therefore understand the pitfalls in your UX before you go live, designing the interface to help the user behave ‘correctly’.

Step 2: Progressive disclosure

You want your UX to be as simple as possible, with the minimum number of steps and amount of information required for the user to reach their goal. This is particularly true for more complex journeys or unfamiliar journeys. Instead of overwhelming and confusing users with every step they might need all at once, simplify and improve their experience by giving them only what they need to achieve their goal.

If there’s more information that could help a user, then you can use what’s known as progressive disclosure to introduce additional steps and information later on, when the user is more comfortable and familiar with the product.

Here’s a good example using the Google Maps interface. If users want to input parameters defining the best route, they can click Options. But if this isn’t important, the many options don’t interfere with browsing the recommended options.

Step 3: UI design patterns

Once you’ve used interaction design to identify any problems in your UX, you can use user interface (UI) design patterns to help solve these and other common issues.

UI design patterns are descriptions of best practices. They are general, reusable solutions to common problems. As such, they form the backbone of technical support and can be adapted and modified to fix most common UX problems.

You can also use design laws to help you review your UX and identify additional pitfalls

  • Fitts’ Law: States that the amount of time required for a person to move (in this case) a mouse cursor to the target area is a function of the target size and the distance to the target. Or, in layman’s terms, the longer the distance and the smaller the target, the longer it takes a user to get there.

You can use Fitts’ law to optimise your UX and make it easier for users to navigate where they need to go, whether that’s by making a CTA button larger or moving the CTA higher up the page.

  • Hick’s Law: States that the time taken to make a decision increases as the number of choices expands. While giving users a choice is important to help them feel in control, too many choices can overwhelm them and negatively impact customer satisfaction and conversion rates. Not only does having too many choices increase a user’s decision time, but it can also lower the quality of the decision they make, because they’re overwhelmed and simply pick a choice at random, therefore reducing customer satisfaction.

When reviewing your UX, therefore, you should look at the number of CTAs or possible courses of action a user could take, and see if you can minimise them to make it easier for users to achieve their goals faster.

Step 4: Usability heuristics

First introduced by Jakob Nielsen in 1994, the usability heuristics are a set of guidelines that designers can refer to check the usability of their designs.

Before going live with your product, you should consult the 10 usability heuristics and conduct a usability audit to quickly assess whether the product’s UX is on track to meet the needs of the user.

The heuristics are:

  1. Visibility status
  2. Match between system and the real world
  3. Use control and freedom
  4. Consistency and standards
  5. Help users recognise, diagnose and recover from errors
  6. Error prevention
  7. Recognition rather than recall
  8. Flexibility and efficiency of use
  9. Heuristics is aesthetic and minimalist design
  10. Help and documentation

Step 5: User testing

The previous steps will allow you to identify problems in the usability of your product before you go live. But the final test should always be with real people using your product for the first time. A usability test doesn’t need to be large or expensive: Jakob Nielsen’s research suggests that only need 15 users to identify 100% of the problems in your design.

And remember, once your product is live with the best UX design you can create, it’s important to continue reviewing, testing, and updating to keep up with the latest technologies and consumer behaviours. Because when you get the UI and UX of your product right, you get the customer experience right, too.

See other posts by Andy Clowes

Head of Design and UI/UX

As Head of Design & UX/UI for Engage Hub, Andy has over 17 years’ experience across blue-chip organisations; from technology and financial services to automotive and consumer-lead industries. Being Prince2 certified & following ISO 9241 principles, Andy is a specialist in brand management, research-driven UX design and delivering creative, yet native, digital solutions for customers.

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