User experience articles in 2012

Well, its been a busy year and this blog has been neglected.  I’ve been working with some amazing clients developing new online digital solutions which has kept me otherwise occupied – but I’ll be making every effort in 2013 to keep my site more up to date.

The good news is that I have still been writing and publishing user experience articles on other blogs and here’s a round up of some of my most recent posts.

Published: July 2012

One of earlier articles this year, the post seeks to explain user experience in day to day language as well explain how it could benefit you.

A great deal of organisations these days have analytics on their websites and a load of data about their users. Many don’t actually make use of these effectively, so this post explains how to use customer data and website analytics to help build a better user experience.

Published: August 2012

Everyone is talking about responsive design it seems. This article seeks to explain how it can help you, so businesses can see why they need to do this!  I’m a strong believer in mobile first responsive design as well, having seen first hand what can go wrong when you don’t follow this approach.

Published: September 2012

My post on designing mental models is very much from the viewpoint of how it can help in your UX strategy.  This post uses examples from Indi Young’s work on mental models and for those that want to learn how to do these, I recommend Indi’s book and checking out the website for information on best practice in mental models.

Published: October 2012

This article gives you 6 Top Tips to optimise your eCommerce checkout process including how to approach the account creation process, when to show shipping charges, and how to lay out forms.

Elements of User Experience Design in the Framework of Websites and Applications

What is UX design?
In the days before User Experience design, the greatness of a website or application was largely decided by those who designed and built it and their clients. The fact that there was a user, a human being, interacting with the technology was often neglected.

Springing from the theories of cognitive psychology researcher, Dr. Donald Norman, UX design is now a professional discipline in its own right and, in some web design outfits, you might expect to find a UX designer sitting alongside the regular design team.

User Experience design is NOT synonymous with usability, although usability is a large element that comes under the UX umbrella. It encompasses other user-relevant dimensions, such as HCI (Human Computer Interaction), ergonomics, accessibility and system performance. It overlaps with wider business functions such as marketing and product evaluation. In a nutshell, UX design is all about ensuring that the website or application is not only functional, but a pleasure to use.

Bringing users to life
One of the ways that User Experience designers put the user at the forefront of the design process is by creating a number of user profiles and developing them into ‘personae’: fictitious characters who can be placed in various hypothetical situations; the website (and its sub-systems) can then be fine-tuned with each user’s requirements in mind.

Ensuring accessibility
Not only are there many potential types of user, but those users now have a growing number of ways to interface with a website or application. They may be logging in with a mobile phone or via a dial-up connection; what works well in Chrome may cause frustrations in Explorer. User experience design has to contend with any factor that might affect the user’s relationship with a website or application.

Evaluating user experience
Of course, it’s one thing to create characters and then implement design solutions to suit them, but how can UX designers evaluate the real effect of their interventions? One method is by utilising A/B testing software and analysing the way in which users respond to subtle differences in the user interface. However, since UX is a largely qualitative factor, much of the evaluation process involves interacting with users via surveys and feedback applications.

Is it worth employing a UX designer?
Ultimately, the individual parameters and budget considerations of a design project have to be considered alongside the potential benefits of optimising User Experience design.

Small companies and start-ups might decide to include UX design in the overall responsibilities of the design team or to outsource certain processes. However, employing a dedicated UX designer from the beginning is usually more efficient, since the system can be continually evaluated at every stage.

As a rule of thumb, the more complex and interaction-rich the project, the more important it is that UX design is prioritised. Even in more simple projects careful attention to sub-systems, such as checkout processes, can provide significant benefits to the client. Rather than an additional expense, UX design needs to be considered as a potential investment. 

This article was written by Neil Hocking, an expert in the
Mobile Office Technology
category at www.yoexpert.com