As a UX designer you understand the need to employ strategies from various disciplines. You have to integrate human behavior with data. So, you scroll through spreadsheets and analytics. You develop remote user tests. You strategize, tweak and refine. Sometimes you need to pull back and recenter. Here are three questions you should ask yourself if you find yourself stuck in a rut.
What Does the User Want to Know?
It is important to remember that sometimes users visit a site for more than just a service or product. Sometimes they may be there solely for the experience, at first. Orr Shtuhl, UX director at Blenderbox, views each site he designs not merely as a way to communicate information and enhance interaction with the user, but as a means to take users from one level of experience to another. Shtuhl told Fast Company that he likes to start with the question “What does the person want to know?”
“I always approach [UX design] as education. You need to think about what the user’s level of knowledge is when they get here, and what the level of knowledge is that you want to take them to.”
Understanding what a user wants to know adds an extra, somewhat psychological, aspect to the design experience. People like to learn. They like to gain expertise. Designing a well structured site that takes a user from one area of comfort into another creates a sticky experience. Users want to come back to expertly use the site and to gain more knowledge.
Shtuhl creates this learning environment by using basic information architecture techniques. He starts with bullet points, prioritizes the points and then creates labelled tasks for users to perform and complete.
What Has The User Done?
Sarah Harrison, head of UX design at True&Co. told Techcrunch that UX designers need to know conversion data, remote user testing results, and, “Synch with customer support. They’re the frontline.”
Finding out first hand from users, or from those in direct contact with users, what works and what doesn’t assists designers in making the small tweaks and changes that every site needs.
Since the downside of many forms of user testing is their inherent trend toward bias (confirmation, procedural, user, take your pick) gaining feedback from users outside of test sites is extremely valuable. Listening to recordings of frustrated users or reading customer service notes provides an inside look at what happens in the minds of users when left to their own devices. What has this user done? How do you design solutions?
Harrison says she focuses on strategic management and relies on Google Analytics, Google Sheets, sharpies and post-it notes to organize collected data. The data she collects is from usability tests and AB testing. She puts the metrics on post-it notes that she places throughout her work area, positioned on various website images. She then uses this information to make tweaks and adjustments to the sites’ existing user design.
Is The Design Feasible?
Spending days and weeks designing a wireframe only to find the engineers are unable to implement it is an incredibly frustrating experience. Although engineers and designers have the same goal in mind (to make a seamless user experience), they come to that goal from opposite angles.
Getting past communication obstacles is key in facilitating strong user experience design. Designers and engineers have to be willing to communicate and collaborate. Sometimes, if you are stuck, an engineer might have the best solution. But, you have to be willing to collaborate.
Collaboration means sharing ideas with engineers and making compromises. Mason Foster at Mulesoft recommends opening up with engineers as a way to ensure that certain design concepts can be implemented. He describes a best case scenario:
“In many cases, conversations about designs that are tough to implement may lead to situations where an engineer will say ‘we can’t do that, but we could do this …’ and then you’re innovating.”
Designers facilitate an innovative atmosphere when they respect engineers’ concerns and acknowledge their importance to the project. This is done, says Foster “by establishing a common language [and] inviting feedback.”
Foster believes the only way this collaboration can be achieved is through “sitting together, meeting together, and reviewing each other’s work on a daily basis.”
Using collaborative software and making communication a required part of the development process helps to bridge the divide.
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