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Academy Xi Blog

The Do's and Dont's of Usability Testing

By Academy Xi

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The Dos and Don’ts of Usability Testing

Usability testing is a vital part of User Experience (UX) Design. It involves validating a product or service with target users. The aim of usability testing is to determine whether a person with ‘common’ ability can use your product for its intended purpose without feeling lost or confused.

Testing a user’s interaction with a product is one of 5 essential UX Design principles that reveals valuable insights. A UX Designer will regularly facilitate usability tests on a prototype or wireframe to ensure a product’s design is user-friendly and human-centric.

Key Components of Usability

A user-centric product exhibits the following characteristics:

Products should be useful, solving a real problem and easily usable. The learnability of a product and service is also a key component of usability. Products will also be tested for its aesthetics and the emotional response it may elicit from a user.

 

Usability Do’s

  • Speak to the User: Use a language, tone, and style that the user would relate to and expect
  • Identify a Reasonable Journey: Note specific activities that are typical of your users’ interactions with your product (read more about customer journey maps)
  • Set Goals and Measurements for your Test: Each task should relate back to your product’s functionality and the data you’d like to collect. Eg. Does a square button make more sense to a user over a circular button?
  • Capture Everything: Collect as much information as possible; whether it’s an email address, payment detail, or contact information
  • Use Data to Make Decisions: Focus design decisions only on received information
  • Address the Root of the Problem, not the Symptoms: Some responses will be symptomatic of a bigger problem, try to identify the problem, not the cause Ie. poor email open rates may be symptomatic of misspelled email addresses not user disinterest  
  • Make it Visual: A picture paints a thousand words — make things easier for your users
  • Gravitate Towards Minimal Changes: The aim of usability testing is to see if your product works, not to redesign it! In a usability test: Ask open-ended questions and make the participant feel comfortable, provide hints or prompts based on answers received and be concise. 

Usability Dont’s

  • Use Product-Specific Terminology: Don’t describe the product and refrain from using technical jargon
  • Lead the Participant by Describing the Task: Avoid direction or telling people what they need to do
  • Create Dependent Tasks: If something needs more information, provide subsequent tasks
  • Mislead the Participant: Don’t direct the participant away from the test. Avoid giving the participant clues with responsive body language, facial expressions, and words.
  • Avoid Making Recommendations that are based on opinions, are vague, un-actionable, create a new set of problems for users, or target a single type of user. 

New to UX Design? Learn more about our courses here.

Academy Xi Blog

5 Top User Experience (UX) Design Principles

By Academy Xi

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User Experience (UX) Design is the process of understanding and designing human-centred solutions that create satisfaction. Simply put, a UX Designer exists to solve problems for real people in their real contexts — by delivering exceptional, intuitive, and seamless products and experiences.

In addition to problem-solving, UX Design takes into context the user and the circumstances in which the product or service will be used. Being a user-centric process that goes beyond executing customer feedback, UX Design aims to provide the best solution to the most number of users within a target audience.

The backbone of UX Design encompasses a person’s interaction with any digital product or service. It concerns itself with ensuring a user’s needs are met through meaningful designs and solutions. A UX Designer determines how it is that you shop on your favourite e-commerce website,  book a flight online, or navigate an internet banking transaction. Do these experiences frustrate or delight you?

So what are some of the fundamental UX Design principles that help ensure you’re designing a solution that’s on the right track?

Design Principle 1: Know Your Audience

It can be easy to mistakenly design a solution based on your individual assumptions and experience, but all design solutions should be user-centric by default. User-centric design isn’t a new phenomenon but at some point, the misconception that design equals aesthetics emerged.

Rather than focusing on just the look of a feature or solution, the core of any user-centric design is empathy; taking the time to understand the user, and design for their needs produces designs that are thoughtful, relevant, and accessible. In the context of design, empathy supersedes what you assume the user is thinking and feeling. It is an understanding based on thorough, pointed, user-research.

Typical research activities Academy Xi teaches:

  • One-on-one interviews
  • Observation and contextual inquiries
  • Personas and proto-personas
  • Customer journeys

P.S. Read our Introduction to Usability Testing or download this Ultimate guide to UX Design.

Design Principle 2: Know Yourself

Relaying the vision for a product or service can be a lengthy and often, an abstract process. When approaching the UX Design of your product, there is no room for an existential crisis. The motivation is simple: the aim of any UX Design is to improve moments with your customer’s day through meaningful digital and analogue experiences.

By providing memorable moments of interaction, UX Design plays an integral part in invoking a long-lasting relationship with your brand.

Typical visioning activities and UX Design exercises include:

  • Context and objective exercises
  • Service promises
  • Design challenge activities
  • Service ideation and creation workshops
  • Accelerated Design Thinking workshops

Design Principle 3: Know Your Customer’s World

Step into the shoes of your customer and ask:

  • Who are the people in their lives that influence their decision-making?
  • What does success mean for your customer?
  • Why do they need you? Why don’t they need you? How do they really feel about you…and your competition?
  • Where is the customer when they’re interacting with you? Where are you when your customer needs you?
  • When do we show up and provide service to our customers? When do we add value and meaningful interactions?
  • How might we provide services that make their lives better?

This is often known to the UX world as the 5 Ws and H.

Asking the right questions and knowing where to look is a key component of UX Design. Research enables the finding of hidden gems that appear outside of the assumption space.

Here are commonly used research techniques to learn more about your customer:

  • Observation techniques
  • Interviews
  • Desktop research
  • Comparative studies
  • Competitor reviews
  • Participatory design workshops

 

Design Principle 4: Keep Your Friends Close But Your Enemies Closer

Besides having a thorough understanding of what you offer, be clear on what your competitors are doing well (that’s your baseline), what they are doing poorly (that’s your opportunity), and what they haven’t thought of yet (that’s your point of difference).

Competition makes us all better; however, it becomes immaterial when we know ourselves and why we’re in business. By knowing ourselves and our competitors, we carve out our own turf.

  • Competitor analysis
  • Trend assessments
  • Rapid feature exploration
  • Minimum Viable Product
  • Vision setting
  • Personas
  • Customer journeys
  • Opportunity identification

Design Principle 5: Build, Measure, Learn, and Repeat

With inspiration derived from the ‘Lean Startup’ methodology, take out your pencils and sketch your ideas onto paper. Test them. Refine them. Explore more ideas. Expand concepts. Build them. Test again. Sacrifice them. Start again. Then pick something. Ideas are limitless and the barriers to prototyping are so low that you have no excuse not to play.

Things you can use through this iterative process are:

  • Paper
  • Whiteboards
  • Design Thinking
  • Participatory design
  • Rapid mobile prototyping
  • Guerilla testing

When it comes to UX, there are some basic principles that you can employ to ensure that your website or application is intuitive, user-friendly, and a delightful experience. If you’d like to know more about creating an exceptional product or experience, learn more about our UX Design courses here. 

Academy Xi Blog

Top 4 Wireframing Tools

By Academy Xi

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As our interactions with digital interfaces increase, consumers are faced with an abundance of choice. Online interactions are expected to be seamless, efficient, and instantaneous, and businesses that are unable to provide a high standard of customer experience risk being left behind in the current wave of digital disruption.

User Experience (UX) Design is a user-centric process that prioritises the human experience above all elements. It takes into context who the user is and the circumstances in which a product will be used.

The goal of UX Design goes beyond adding features or executing customer suggestions, as UX Designers look to provide the best solution to the most number of users within a product’s target audience. Crafting a product solution requires an identification of the user’s problem. Here are the top four tools used by UX Designers to help define the customer problem.

1. Balsamiq

Defining the customer’s problem and pain points starts with creating a low-fidelity prototype such as a sketch format. Fidelity is defined as the quality or the appearance of what something looks like. In UX Design, identifying the customer problem first starts with exploring ideas in a really rough format through low-fidelity.

Sketching thoughts out on a piece of paper helps UX Designers visualise the user’s problem. Tools like Balsamiq aim to replicate low-fidelity sketching.

In the initial problem sketching phase, Balsamiq helps to transfer and replicate a concept that may have been quickly sketched on a piece of paper. The tool can also create clickable prototypes but its primary purpose is to produce simplified views of a feature or solution.

2. Sketch

Sketch is a User Interface (UI) tool that supports the entire design process from ideation to final product design. Sketch is utilised across different touchpoints but is usually introduced after user research, and during the initial phases of prototyping and wireframing.

Sketch is great for initial prototyping, as its functionality and fidelity allows you to move through the process to the customer problem.

Sketch is a popular tool across different production teams as it easily allows file transfers. The tool is useful to showcase ideas to clients or stakeholders and can be used to handover files to developers. Unlike Photoshop which doesn’t contain a code output, Sketch allows a cross-functional process when developing solutions for customer problems.

As an added benefit, Sketch integrates with different plugins such as:

  • Craft: Allows you to create hotspots as you progress around the screens, crucial for communicating and understanding User Experience across different teams.
  • Zepline: Provides details of objects built into a Sketch, centralising the information for developers such as colour codes and the placement of buttons.

Sketch is not able to create clickable and interactive designs as it can only produce design screens. When interactivity is required, Sketch files are typically transferred into another tool called InVision. InVision allows clickable prototypes with gestures and other interactions. Just input any image file (whether that’s from Sketch, Photoshop or Balsamiq) into an InVision board to get started.

Tip: Read our top tips to using Sketch here.

3. Adobe XD

Adobe XD is similar to Sketch. This paid tool is part of the Adobe Suite, and is a self-contained, design enabling and clickable prototype tool all within one platform.

Adobe XD is effective in building low-fidelity views of a prototype that can easily transition between art boards and interactive prototypes. Prototyping is straightforward on the platform, allowing designers to switch to prototype mode, select an object, or group and drag a line into the screen where can be navigated.

4. Axure

Axure is another prototyping tool but allows UX Designers to replicate the functionality of an app or a desktop with gestures and form fields.

While Axure users will need some time to grow familiar with the platform, it is a very powerful tool in mimicking what the end solution is going to look like from a developer’s point of view. Axure does this by visualising transitions, object animations, and button interactions.

Axure is also the tool of choice for plugging into asset libraries so that any existing templates, files, or assets can instantly be accessed and shared.

Ultimately, the best way to get familiar with a tool is to get hands-on with the platform and practice. As a UX Designer, it is important to familiarise yourself with different tools to identify the right tool for different design needs. Read more about becoming a UX Designer or familiarise yourself with these five UX Design principles.

Academy Xi Blog

The 300m Button

By Academy Xi

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The Art of the Microcopy

A UX friend of ours reminded us of the case of the $300 million button, prompting us to think about CTA (call-to-action) buttons (if we don’t think about that enough already). As one of the main elements in bridging that gap between decision-making and a purchasing decision, a science has grown around how a call-to-action button should be designed, displayed, and perhaps most importantly, labeled. More specifically, microcopy. Often times designers have relied on proven messaging, but the best way to optimise is understanding your customer’s behaviour.

f you are familiar with Jared Spool’s User Interface Engineering, you will probably remember the usability study he did on Amazon. As an e-commerce site, the website designers made the assumption that users returning to the website would remember their login or account details whereas new users will comply with registering for a new account for checkouts. UIE found Amazon’s original prompt to “register” deterred new users from using the site, and returning users experienced problems remembering their login details – with 45% of those users having created multiple registrations. Users only wanted to complete purchases and not sign up for a membership.

As a solution, UIE used the word “continue” in place of the “register” button. A new message was also added to inform users that registration was optional and helpful for returning users rather than a requirement to check out. This change accounted for a 45% increase in sales in the first month and $300 million in sales in the first year.

The microcopy of a call-to-action button has more implications on the bottom line as that is what instructs your users’ psyche and actions, and can break down barriers to their access. When we think about bad websites, understanding your customer’s purchasing journey and the psychology of your buyer can unveil critical elements to unblocking that sale or purchase. There is no standardised call-to-action button.

What does your call-to-action button say? What methods have you tried and what microcopy have you applied?

Passionate about UX/UI? Learn more about how to start your UX career with us here.