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UX Design Part 1 | Introduction to User Experience

By Lizzie Ayton
Web Design 08.07.2016

User experience (UX) is used to describe the way a person feels when interacting with a system. In a modern context, the term is most commonly applied with regards to a person’s experience with a website, web application or digital software. The aim of UX is to provide a high level of usability and satisfaction in order to establish an overall refined and exemplary experience for the user.

The aim of this blog series is to consider the various factors that play into the broad topic of UX design. In this first post of the series, we will discuss its importance within the vast world of website creation and establish the primary foundations, from information architecture to user testing. In future posts, we will provide a comprehensive guide for these various aspects of UX design and will impart an array of useful insight.

Why is it important?

The experience that a user has when they visit your website or use your software is key to determining their overall view towards a brand or business. If they have a poor experience then they are unlikely to return as a customer. Conversely, a great experience will lead to customer loyalty and retention.

The web is constantly evolving and the way we use it is changing with it. Recent developments have seen the rise of mobile usage, the increased use of touch screen and the unprecedented escalation of video. All these factors have meant that UX design has had to adapt in order to continue delivering a high level of user satisfaction. There are a huge number of different factors that contribute towards the overall UX and it is essential to understand how each of these play into one another. Here we will give a brief overview of just a few aspects that a UX designer takes into consideration during the production of a website.

Information architecture

Information Architecture (IA) is essentially the structure behind a website and the organisation of its content and flow. The end result is usually in the form of a comprehensive sitemap or site-flow diagram that will demonstrate the bigger picture of a website structure. Crucially, IA should be based on careful research and planning, as opposed to the personal opinion of the designer.

The ultimate aim of IA is to help the user understand why they are on a particular website, how they can find what they are looking for and to provide clear call-to-actions. IA forms the very foundations of a website, as it ultimately informs the overall look, content strategy and functionality. It is a cost effective but often overlooked way of improving user satisfaction and conversion rates.

Personas

The job of a UX designer is to create the experience for the user and to always keep in mind the end user. This is not about what you think works or looks best; it is about putting yourself in the shoes of the user and working out what they want, in line with the objectives of the client. A simple way of achieving this is to identify the type of users who will be using the site and to create personas for them.

These personas from the target audience should include a variety of information, from demographic details to level of expertise. Aside from helping in the design stages, personas can also be exceptionally useful in terms of SEO efforts, as keywords can be generated with the personas in mind. There is always a range of stakeholders for a website so it is important to be constantly thinking about how to please all of them; though ultimately, the end user should be the priority.

User stories

A user story is a sentence that establishes a user need or goal. It is a technique of capturing product functionality and is therefore an important part of Agile development. User stories enable requirements and goals to be displayed in a user-centric way, as they are written in the language of the end user. The standard format for a user story is as follows:

As a user I want to be able to [functionality/goal] so that [benefit/reason]’.

As the focus is on the user, stories should be created based on user research to ensure that they are relevant and effective. There is no need for excessive detail as these can be added later on in the design phase. Furthermore, user stories can be continually iterated and improved upon as you progress through the various stages of the website production.

Briefing graphic

Prototyping and user testing

A really useful way to explore the potential successes and downfalls of user experience is by carrying out user testing. The objective is to understand what users do and why they do it. There are several ways to conduct user testing at the different stages during the website process. For large websites, conducting software prototyping and user testing throughout the various steps of production is the best way to ensure a brilliant user experience.

You can also complete user testing if you wish to improve your existing website. One way of doing this is by getting users to explore and interact with the website while being filmed. This will give a thorough indication of the usability and whether the website is achieving its aim in terms of user experience and customer conversions. A/B testing is another method of user testing and involves comparing the quality and effectiveness of different user interfaces. The process usually involves testing a control and a variant to determine which delivers a more favourable user experience.

Summary

UX design is essentially about prioritising usability and prompting a positive emotional response from the user when they are engaging with a website or product. It is highly important in terms of customer satisfaction and retention, as well as staying competitive and converting customers to carry out a desired action.

Nevertheless, it is important to remember that every website is different and some processes might not always be suitable. For example, a new bespoke user software will have to go through extensive user testing where as a standard e-commerce site will need less. UX design is a very broad topic with various dimensions, so there is a lot to consider.

For further information or if you need a designer to bring your website or service to life then get in touch today and we would be delighted to help. Stay tuned for the next post in our UX design blog series.

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