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Developing the User Experience

User Experience

Ian McLean - Posted in User Experience on September 13, 2016

At some point there is only so much that can be done by market research and it is up to you or your team to create the fluid experience everyone will adore. 

What is the true secret sauce behind creating a seamless and intuitive user experience?  Really, it comes down to understanding common sense which isn’t always common.  Given certain products, we expect them to work a certain way, we expect to find certain things in menus, we expect that when we click this button it will do this type of function.  Much of user experience is building off the experiences the world is accustomed to.

It is incredibly important to make sure these interactions are very clearly defined before developers start working on the project so that there aren’t hiccups down the road because you expect it to work one way, yet it works completely different.  There are great developers out there that can work both the left side and right side of the brain with perfection, but often times what we see happen is that the way things are supposed to interact becomes lost in translation.

Often times it will be brought up that products appear to be built “too engineery”, meaning there has not been enough thought in design.  Even though you may have a true wizard that can push code like nobody’s business it doesn’t always necessarily mean that they are going to get your entire vision for how it should work with the mastery of an elegant designer.   The product may work, but it can be clunky and unusable.

There are all kinds of interactions that need to be thought about in fine detail.  What happens when you tap the push notification on your phone? Does it just open the app or does it go directly to what the push notification is mentioning?  If you close the app, will it stay logged in and remember your credentials for the next time you open the app?  Is there a specific screen you expect to see when you open the app once logged in versus not logged in?  If you start typing a message, is there auto-correct, how is that going to work if so?  When you upload an image is it going to show a confirmation screen to adjust and crop things or will it automatically display on your profile?  Is there a way to remove form fields and make it where it is more simple to complete only obtaining the information that is absolutely necessary?  How many buttons can you fit on the screen without it feeling overcrowded or cluttered?  What are your primary actions and secondary actions?  Would the secondary actions be better in a next version so that your users can really get a feel for the product and test out what the primary actions are?  If you give the app to your 12-year-old nephew is he going to be able to understand what the purpose is with no instruction needed?

It is the nature of the beast that nothing is ever going to be perfect on the first round, but doing planning before any development starts can really save a lot of headaches and frustration later on.  There are always edge cases which weren’t fully thought through that will need to be adjusted and it is important to have a way for users to submit feedback so that you can know when they run into these issues while using the app. 

There are lots of neat programs that can help you in this process of prototyping.  Axure is great for creating mockups, wireframes, reusable templates and unique interactions.  A new program that has been released for creating app prototypes is proto.io.  It allows you tap different screens on your app to see the different states and interactions. 

Developers love having everything spelled out for them very clearly.  It makes their job easier with clear direction and takes away guesswork on what you are expecting while also saving time not having to redo things because they aren’t working as you expected.

Applying Analytics to Measure Your Customer’s Experiences

Analytics are incredibly important when launching products.  There may just be a small adjustment that can completely change your user engagement.  Without having these analytics installed, it is like being blind when you have the opportunity to see everything that is going on. 

A great way to get started is to install Google Analytics where it makes it easy to figure out which pages your users are visiting and exactly where they are dropping off.  More advanced programs include things like Kissmetrics which claims to be “the most powerful analytics tool to understand customer behavior and drive growth”.  You’ll be able to tell how far people scroll on information pages, what their interactions with the page are and much much more.  There is also Hotjar which gives heatmaps of mouse movement.  These tools can tell you exactly what your users are doing so that you can make your product decisions based on facts rather than hunches.

There are even more advanced tools springing up for mobile apps.  If you know exactly how often someone is opening your app you can create automated email campaigns based on the user engagement, then track the results based on how well the email campaigns are performing.  The email campaign essentially becomes the re-engagement platform with customized messages based on the user activity sending out notifications or messages if let’s say someone hasn’t used the app for a couple weeks. 

Final Notes

As the online scene matures, users have become less forgiving with quirky interactions.  It is expected that apps and websites work seamlessly right out of the box and to do this genuine thought and budgeting should be planned at the most granular and rigorous level to reduce future setbacks, various unknowns and feature creep. 

Be prepared that even doing all this additional legwork prior to development, time should still be budgeted for testing interactions and functionality improvements since you will not know with 100% certainty what users will do until you put it in their hands.  It is very common in building a product that the product owner’s opinions and interactions becomes bias since they are interacting with the product every day and know exactly how it works.  If you are putting your app in people’s hands and you see them getting stuck where you are actively engaging in helping them through the product, you have already lost.  If you had to help your forgiving friend get through the app, you can pretty much guarantee that someone random downloading it from the app store will surely get lost, delete the app and never look back.

Having the awareness and intuition of developing good user experience and putting yourself in the shoes of a first time user helps, but eventually you will still need to test the real deal to prove out whether or not your hypotheses were in fact true.  As an additional step, setting up analytics is highly recommended to give you insights into your behavior. 

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