So often we design things for ourselves. It’s natural. But it doesn’t always create the best results because we aren’t our target users. To create truly great digital experiences, we have to figure out who the users are and spend time empathizing with them.
What is their life like? What are their struggles? What ways do they prefer to interact online? If you are lucky enough to have customer service information, think of it as a gold mine. To start, speak with your customer service staff and have them tell you specific customer stories. Then, use those accounts to develop user personas and establish empathy. Once you have a basic understanding of your audience, you can better design and develop a solution to meet its needs.
UX is not UI. If the user experience stinks, no amount of user interface design will help it. It’s like putting lipstick on a pig. The only way to be sure you’re not creating a bloated, ugly pig of an experience is to focus on your user. Understand how they prefer to interact, what their needs are from the system you’re creating, and what kinds of things would delight them. Design the path and interaction for your users and let the software be built to fit that experience.
If you have a tight budget, you can still learn a lot of important user information. Using free or inexpensive tools like Google Analytics, Inspectlet or Clicktale, as well as actually talking to your users, will give you a lot of insight.
After you know exactly what each persona needs, follow these cardinal rules to design an experience that’s easy and successful:
1. Reduce each screen’s cognitive load (fewer choices and options per choice)
2. Show users what you want as you request it (format of data, order, etc.)
3. Show relevant choices (not all choices)
4. Help users understand the process (tutorials at the point of need)
5. Minimize clicks/interactions by using the right interface (e.g., drop downs require at least three clicks and aren’t always ideal)
6. Make it enjoyable by adding moments of delight (make boring error screens entertaining)
Don’t launch new software without testing it with your user group. No, really. Test it with your user group. You can test prototypes or sophisticated wireframes early on to see if you’re on the right path. It will save your company oodles of money by catching issues before development starts.
The only, 100-percent foolproof way of ensuring people want to use your software is if you track usage and continue to refine the experience. You must launch with a plan already in place to test or no one will take the time to make an adequate experience into something truly great and worth using.
Remember, great UX is an ongoing process — not a one-time exercise.