Unless you have been living under a rock, you must be aware of the growing demand for UX and UI designers. UX stands for User Experience and UI reads in full as User Interface. When these skills combine, they can create enriched application interfaces. What makes these professionals high in demand is the boom in the rising world of virtual user interactions and the efforts to reduce friction from these interactions. UX designers measure and improve usability of online applications through user research, optimizing their experience and solving problems effectively.
Online users today have limited attention span and companies are doing everything possible to earn that attention. In the field of IT, this makes an important case for doing through research about your users and their needs as there is only limited time to make a first impression. If the users are not about their interaction, they may choose to move onto something else rather quickly and this may give your competitors relative advantage if they develop better first impressions and repeat interactions through a well designed user interface. Therefore, design of applications and interactions is of prime importance in the field of IT.
This is where different UX techniques come into play which help to achieve high quality designs set upon industry best practices and followed around the world by designers. While every project will require different techniques and design approaches, some key techniques have been used around the world to help deliver better products and move the project at a better pace. Let’s have a look at some of the successful UX techniques that all designers must employ to derive more user centric as well as practical results.
Stakeholder & User Interviews
Any good design development approach starts with research and analysis. Interviewing stakeholders and end users even before the development of an application can provide useful insights, thoughts, emotions and goals of everyone who will be associated with the final product. Stakeholder interviews are a great way to understand the goal alignments and thought processes of the leaders, internal teams, peers and users. The main outcome of such interviews can be finding key performance factors and key factors on which the success of the end products rests. Interviewing company’s internal stakeholders also helps shape the final vision of the product.
Interviewing external stakeholders and end users helps form the goals and expectations of the product which can be addressed in the development stages. They also help highlight industry pain points, common issues and may help generate leads for future product extensions. It is essential to choose the participants for such interviews carefully to be able to generate rich insights. Preparing the right set of questions can help find useful information that can be easily analysed later.
User personas have been used by designers even before its application to the field of UX began. It is a tried and tested technique in fields of branding, communication and space design. A person is a fictional character which serves as a typical end user of your product. This user persona is described in terms of goals, attributes and characteristics of ideal users. User personas are developed through other forms of user research and therefore are close to the true end users of the applications.
These fictional characters usually have a name and background story that all stakeholders can understand. This makes it easier to reference them into conversations while discussing ideas and prototypes. User Personas keep the focus on user needs and wants thus making the development of applications user centric at every stage. Different personas are created to maximize the usability and reach a thorough analysis of the application design.
Consumer Journey Map
A journey map captures all steps, visible and invisible, a consumer takes while fulfilling goals on an application. It lays out all steps in user interaction with the product or service right from searching, decision making, purchasing and interactions post-purchase. The focus is on user perception, journey and experience throughout the application. For customer journey map development uses user personas, time frames, touchpoints, emotions, sales channels and predictable actions helping in creating solutions that reduce friction related to each aspect.
Wireframing & Paper Prototyping
Every user application starts with basic ideas represented through a wireframe. This wireframe prototype represents the first digital sketch of your future application with lines and description which take into account all steps and elements needed to create the final application. Using a wireframing tool, UX designers can create a simple layout information architecture, user interface and navigation design.
Same prototyping can also be done through paper sketches which do not require any special language skills like CSS or HTML and are a great way to communicate ideas of various elements of an application. Creating wireframes and prototypes helps review every detail of future applications with stakeholders and clients before proceeding to technical development. Depending upon your skill set you can create prototypes and wireframes with high detailing or basic detailing. In any format, they are extremely useful in determining and fine tuning your ideas before getting into the extensive stages of development.
When the approach is to make a user centric, you can be sure that your final product is loved by the end users but the one technique to ensure compliance with that thought is bringing the real users into the developmental stages of the application. Users can be really judgmental about various aspects and you can get immediate feedback on various aspects of the design and user interface.
User testing can be employed at various stages of development but is an essential just before production. This allows for continuous improvement of the application. Depending on the project, there can be moderated testing where the agenda and the elements to be tested are laid out before the participants of the testing or unmoderated testing where participants are just given the product/application for testing without any intervention. Each method has its own advantages and can generate useful insights.