There we sat in the meeting room with 5 people who were already well invested in designing and deploying a digital platform for a specific market. They have called us in to see them because they are not comfortable with the current outcome that they are experiencing. They admit that they have not done any testing with users and the already pre-launched version of the platform is not where they know it should be. The evidence in the metrics shows there is an interest in the platform but the ongoing adoption and conversion rates are very low.
Our presentation to them is based on how they can easily correct course and exponentially move forward with a solution that will include the user in the design process, resulting in an easier-to-use platform and more completions of the intended user journey.
During the course of the presentation, we get asked (which is a common question often raised to us), “Why do we need to test with users, surely as the UX experts you have the skill and expertise to make the changes without the investment of time to speak to users?”.
Our answer was as follows: the UX designer implements the ways in which we interact with the digital and physical from the beginning to the end of our user journey. We have the tools, past experience and design principles available to us, but there is a game-changer. This is observing and empathising with the user to uncover those iterations specific to your platform’s journey and, if applied correctly, will allow for an exceptional experience with the brand. An exceptional experience means more users and more conversions.
Tenaka’s recommended process to design an exceptional user experience includes the user being considered in as many versions or aspects of the project as possible:
Understand the expected outcome
In this case, the existence of the platform is testament to an assumed requirement from the market for it to solve a real problem. It is our job to understand what that problem is and why the user would want to use the platform to solve it. If we can get the user to the solution in the quickest and most painless way possible, they will use the platform again and will refer it to new users.
Research current UX trends and competitors
With a pre-existing platform, we can already see the data from the analytics and user feedback around where the user is struggling. We then also measure the existing journey and interface to prescribe UX design principles, competitor platforms and some user experience errors that could be ‘easy wins’.
Sketch it up (Rapid prototyping)
We sketch up the already iterated workflow and user interface in low fidelity or rapid prototypes that can be used to get quick feedback from actual users. A low fidelity prototype allows users to contribute their preferred changes easily without feeling like they are changing something that is well advanced, basically giving them a space for unrestricted feedback. It also allows us to move elements in the journey or interface and retest quickly.
Design it (High fidelity prototype)
Based on the feedback received, we build a close-to-finished working user interface using online platforms like proto.io. This allows the user to get a real feel for how the platform will work. Observation of the user during this testing is important as expressions are signs for how the user is feeling during the interaction, delight and confusion being two key observations. We record and review the movements of the user in the interface to see where they struggled to find what they were looking to achieve, and we interact with questions like, “What, if anything, surprised you about the experience?” or “What, if anything, caused you frustration?” and then digging deeper into understanding what the expectation would be and why. We need to hear the good, the bad and the ugly.
Build it (Coffee test)
Even once the platform is completely built, it does not mean that further improvements cannot be made. In fact, they should be made! Often we get a few people to interact with the platform over a cup of coffee and discuss the experience as they complete a task. The result is normally some proposed additional enhancements that may not have been considered as future functionality to be added.
The above process allows us to test early and often with users of the platform and make changes that would not take much time and investment. The result is a platform that is undoubtedly better than that of the original idea or what the UX designer and developers would have created without testing.
Long term success of the platform is now achievable. Ongoing monitoring of analytics and data can provide further insights into iterations going forward and how your user is constantly interacting with the platform. The objective achieved is a platform that will make the user’s life better.
Our friends over at Toptal recently published this article which looks at understanding the key roles of a UI/UX designer within an organisation as well as the skill sets required to successfully build your digital product.