The growing need of UI/UX designers in Cluj is proof of the maturity of the IT field, registered especially in the past years. This article is meant to help both companies and products that need UX designers and UX designers themselves. A designer’s efficiency derives not only from his creative processes, but also from his ability to analyze and rehash product information. The following paragraphs will reveal more about the preliminary stage, the stage of research and analysis (the User Experience Audit). This process has the very clear role of identifying if, and to what extent, a product may need an upgrade regarding its direct relationship with the user/client.
The software products must be created and developed alongside the business needs and its clients’ needs. How can we tell which parts or components must be upgraded, re-considered, or re-created? It all starts with a User Experience Audit. This is not a new step specific to the software development process, but rather a basic component of industrial design ever since its early stages. The purpose of the audit has a double function: to create a very detailed analysis stemming from the intersection between business and client requirements and to obtain precise objectives from the users. This may be a long process, but it helps identify a clear course of action and a better plan for developing the product. This type of analysis includes aspects like: precise design rules, functional conformity, information architecture and usage patterns.
The questions that must be answered following a UX audit are:
What are the current trends and what are the users’ expectations for this market?
What have we tried so far? What worked and what didn’t work?
What sort of user problems or needs can be found in the set of data under study?
The audit starts with the research and documentation stage. This process will generate information that will be useful for creating research models for the user, like user persona and surveys. Most companies have access to data analysis methods for marketing, analytics, and product usage. Usually, this type of data is not analyzed from the perspective of the user or with the user’s mentality in mind.
We will go through a series of sources of information and relevant data:
Interviews with the stake holders – organizing interviews with the people at the top of the decision-making hierarchy (team-leaders, product managers, team leads etc.). these interviews should help shed some light on user behavior and market structure.
Sales statistics – although this set of data is primarily used by the sales department, a part of it is useful for the UX audit as well. One type of data that we need to pay close attention to is the type that reflects communication problems with the user. For example, a certain product that is sold online may have a high send back rate because the wrong sisez were chosen. If this rate is much bigger on the website compared to the shop, it may mean that the description of the product’s dimensions might be unclear.
Call Center Information – customer support centers(phone-based or online) are a very good way of finding out about the users’ problems. Though much of this information may be irrelevant, we can discover what components of the product are missing or which aspects could be improved. For example, in the case of a subscription page, presenting 3 subscription plans, many clients would call support to ask about the difference between the three subscriptions offered, although these differences were listed on the presentation page. This type of recurring question represents a clear indicator that the presentation area needs improvement.
Web Analytics – Quantitative analyses of traffic may offer a correct perspective on the number of people who access a site, where they are coming from, what they are looking at, and they may also offer statistics for longer periods of time. We can use more advanced monitoring tools to find out more details about the navigation ”route” of a certain user, where exactly he decides to leave the site and where the user goes after leaving the site. Another useful tool is the one that records the actions of the users on the screen. This way we can easily notice the areas where the user finds it difficult to navigate the page.
Surveys – the marketing departments are responsible for making and collecting the surveys for the users. These surveys don’t usually tackle UX problems directly, but we may discover certain preferences or behaviors of the users.
Social media - review sites, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks can offer us unique and unmediated information about how users received a certain software product. There is a big number of tools that help analyze the content generated by important products. There is a big number of users who complain about certain functionalities, but who don’t call the assistance department. There are many examples of users describing their experience and the problems certain products have, complete with screen captions of the errors, as well as suggestions for improving that experience.
After finishing the research part, a key way to do the audit is to start a congnitive walkthrough the features of the product by taking the perspective of the user and by trying to make the product do what it was designed to do. The basic functionalities are tried and tested, one at a time, using realistic actions that the user might perform. We must pay attention to the decisions we make and the reactions we have and take notes. What obstacles do we encounter? What are the interactions that cause frustration? If possible, this process must be repeated using people who are not familiar at all with the product. During our interactions with the product we must pay attention to the following aspects:
Clear, readable text – not too long, not too short, the minimum necessary for a good understanding of the concepts. We must ask ourselves: Does this text help the user understand the context (eg: the title of the page) or the action he must perform?
Call to action – short, but clear and graphical enough for the user to understand the consequence of the action.
Above the fold – the content that is relevant for the user and which generates profit for the business must show up on the screen, above the fold(bottom side of the screen).
Pleasant visual content – using simple images, that are relevant for the target user. Appropriate color scheme, according to product type and purpose. Visual elements that don’t distract the user’s attention from or obstruct his view of the elements pointing to the call to action area.
Adhering to cultural, social, and religious norms – using images, symbols, and colors that don’t clash with the cultural, social, and religious principles of the target users.
Accessibility – checking the contrast values of the colors we used, as well as text and interaction elements dimensions. Another aspect that we need to cover is the major increase of the number of interactions from mobile devices (phones, tablets). We must make sure the navigation patterns are compatible with these devices (interaction area dimensions, hover elements etc.).
Feedback Status – the system must keep the user informed about what is going on (the current step in the ongoing process, completion duration, uploading status, correct data input).
The user’s degree of control and freedom – ease of actions like going back a step, repeating or canceling the last action.
Consistency and standardization – the words we use, the situations and all the possible actions must have the same meaning in all hypostases/stances.
Preventing errors – rather than displaying an inteligent error message, it is better to design carefully, so the error doesn’t occur to begin with/in the first place. Random and repeated interactions are to be avoided by temporary deactivation or hiding of buttons. All dangerous interactions must be emphasised accordingly.
Flexibility and efficiency – ensuring different interface environments for beginners and advanced users. Users must have the possibility to customize their interface or to use different shortcuts.
Design principles – the visual composition of interfaces must respect the principles of contrast, repetition, alignment, and proximity.
Acknowledging, diagnosing, and correcting the errors – error messages must be written in a clear and direct language, must indicate the problem and suggest a solution.
Whether you decide to create a detailed list of the elements mentioned above or simply to succintly list them, a UX audit is the first step in understanding the design process of a complex product. Although this process seems difficult and demanding, finalizing it will offer a clear image and the right context for making informed decisions. Going through this process does not require years of experience, but it demands patience, grit, curiosity, and attention to details – all of which are vital features of a good UX designer.
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