To many, a design may just be a combination of shapes and colours, but UI/UX designers know their job’s ultimate goal lies beyond aesthetics. We see design in everything from the way we unlock our smartphones with fingerprint and facial recognition to the sleek and minimal designs of wearables that track our every move. Therefore these days, a design has more to do with the user’s experience than anything else. First impressions must wow any new user. From there the design must cater for simplified continual use. It’s for these reasons that a user experience analysis has become so important for new and existing software.
“User Experience” (UX) gets thrown around a lot in the software industry, but much like designing the perfect user interface (UI), there’s a lot of nuances that surround it. The most important example of us is understanding the user. You can’t really create the perfect design unless you know who you are creating said design for.
To get a better understanding of the process of user experience analysis, let’s first understand why UX is so important to software like mobile apps.
Why is User Experience (UX) Important?
As the term suggests, User Experience (UX) focuses on developing a deep understanding of users — what they need, what they value, and how they behave. Then you translate this knowledge into an interface that provides a particular function.
Creating a powerful User Experience (UX) involves tying that understanding together with the goals you’ve identified for your business. Your “Why” must link directly with the profile of the user. A product or service reflects UX best practices when it successfully marries business goals and customer needs.
In terms of website design, few sites have a better User Experience than Apple. ECommerce sites have been around for decades now. Within that time, certain companies have pushed the envelope. However, what we love about Apple is how they bring together little innovations to vastly increase the overall buying experience. One great example of this is the compare items feature. Because it looks fantastic and is so easy to use, it encourages the user to make a purchase. Essentially they find what they are looking for so easily, making a decision on a product is based on the product alone.
You may ask, how did Apple go about translating its customer needs into a tangible, intelligently designed product? We say it’s partly a stroke of genius combined with careful User Experience Analysis.
User Experience (UX) Analysis
User Experience Analysis is the process of measuring the interaction between a user and a user interface. In particular, we will be looking at websites, software and apps. A successful UX analysis should result in an actionable list of enhancements aimed to improve user flow on a product or service.
Let’s take the original iPod as an example. The designers at Apple went through multiple UX analysis sessions to reach a design that was ready for release. It’s important to note, though, that UX analysis is a process that goes beyond a product launch, especially when building from an original product to release an improved version. It requires extensive pre-launch testing with a sample of your user base.
Performing user experience analysis on an application is no different from implementing it on a product. With apps, the goal is to ensure maximum user engagement, which can only be achieved if your users find value in your app. Taking all that’s been discussed so far, let’s move on to learning the process of analysing an app’s user experience.
1. Set a success metric
As with any project, goal-setting is essential to realising a successful outcome. The general goal of UX analysis is to enhance the user flow, but sessions need to be broken down into improving specific parts of an app.
As an example, one session can be dedicated to the improvement of an app’s checkout page. The success metric could be a decrease in cart abandonment as a result of a simplified purchasing process.
Think about the processes in your app that need refining. Which feature should you first set a UX analysis session for?
2. Develop use cases
The next step is to layout the primary ways you expect your target users to use your app. As discussed, any task that deals with UX require a deep understanding of users. Having a clear grasp of your users’ needs, abilities and limitations will greatly aid in developing valid use cases.
Keep in mind you should narrow down your target users to a very specific group. A vague description of your target users could cause you to prioritise an irrelevant use case, which can greatly affect the output of the user experience analysis.
3. Set clear user expectations
To understand people is to put yourself in their shoes. The next step is what some designers call “walking the user flow”, which is arguably the most challenging part of the process.
It’s in this part that you take all that you know about your users and ensure each element of the app is appropriate for your primary user profile. For example, take note of the number of steps a user has to take before completing a task.
When you’re building a reading app, for example, walking the user flow means setting your bias aside and using the app with neutral lens. To gain a fresh perspective during this step, assistance from a team of testers who have no attachment to the product could be used.
Ask critical questions, while using your app. Can a user read comfortably even while on a moving train? Would the app be suitable for reading even in low light? These are some of the many questions you should consider and aim to resolve in this important step.
4. UX Testing
The most critical element of the process is testing. As we mentioned, this can be done pre-launch by getting a sample of beta testers. Or it can be done after launch.
Within this process, we want to combine qualitative and quantitative research:
- Qualitative is essentially getting a sample of users together in a controlled environment. From there we let them test and gather subjective feedback;
- Quantitative is done a much larger scale (usually after a product is launched). We use software to track user behaviour. This enables us to see where users hit blocks or bounce from a particular user flow.
Within this, we will also perform a heuristic evaluation. Essentially this is running the design through a list of design practices based on conventions and standards. These design practices include such things as linguistic clarity or the consistency of an app’s copy. The goal in this step is to make sure that critical usability heuristics are considered if not all.
To get familiar with the usability heuristics, check out this extensive guide on heuristic evaluation from MIT. It covers various information, from design principles to tips on writing good heuristic evaluations.
5. Plan, Refine & Test
After collecting all of your valuable UX data, it’s time to analyse. This stage of the process is all about finding those insights into the user behaviour. For anything negative (eg stoppages in a particular flow), you have to work out was is causing the problem.
Out of this, you will have a list of issues that need fixing (preferably prioritised). You will need to come up with potential fixes and plan out how you will test the viability of those solutions.
The best approach is to come up with multiple solutions for each issue and then A | B test to see which is ultimately the best solution. Even if you don’t A | B test, you will still have to ensure that any fixes actually solve the problem. This means a round of beta testing before releasing to the greater public.
Assessing Your App’s User Experience
User Experience Analysis can be performed on app ideas during validation, as well as on apps already out in the market. If an existing app is not gaining enough traction despite being around for some time, consider running a User Experience Analysis to detect what’s not working.
For User Experience Analysis it’s much more important you (or someone in your team) has the capability to empathise with your users. It’s an underrated skill in software and app development. Many businesses tend to overlook UX when developing an app and get stumped when it fails. If you feel that you don’t have the necessary skills to analyse and design the perfect user experience, don’t push it back for later. Outsourcing is always an option you can take.