Quality Code Means Nothing Without Usability

When businesses design software, the temptation exists to rush to the development stage. The assumption is that value lives here. But focusing only on coding can come at the expense of good UX.

The design phase does not have to slow down progress on software projects. Rapid prototyping leverages several user testing tools to improve usability, validate flows, and ensure the overall functionality of the product.

When designers can avoid deep dives into pixel perfection at the beginning of project and instead leverage user testing tools that identify the target audience’s needs, they can help clients meet their long-term goals and achieve the best design solution faster.

Why User Testing Tools Ensure Long Term Success

Long term goals are helpful for orienting the trajectory of a design project. But without critical themes to define the way to success, teams risk designing software that won’t meet users’ needs and business goals.

One of the user testing tools important in rapid prototyping is simply to ask questions.

Asking specific research questions will define more meaningful goals that inform designers’ ability to design and test software usability.

  1. Are users able to navigate to a particular section of the app?
  2. Are users able to understand what the icons represent?

Testing crucial design features early on will indicate whether timeframes and project scope are on point.

How User Testing Tools Add Value

Prototype, review, and refine — this trio drives the rapid prototyping process. The steps can repeat for as long as is necessary or as delineated by project requirements, scope, and budget.

Prototyping

The efficiency inherent in the rapid prototyping process stems from designers’ freedom to zero in on delivering value by identifying usability issues and fixing them quickly. Generally, aesthetic considerations are postponed until user testing tools have highlighted meaningful pathways the UX must support.

Sketch aligns design teams as they create more effective products. Sketch was developed specifically for the design of rich digital interfaces, and so it a top player in the toolkits of industry professionals. Compared to other products, Sketch is a lightweight tool that accommodates many artboards, allowing designers easy navigation between their projects.

Adobe has layered UX design tools on top of its traditional offerings. In the past, digital designers included Adobe Photoshop amongst their array of user testing tools used during rapid prototyping. But the recent release of Adobe XD, which is still in beta, better equips designers who build digital experiences.

InVision is a powerful prototyping tool designers use to document progress and track pivots made over the duration of a project. The Craft plug-in allows designers to sync their files in Sketch to InVision — no upload required.

These tools are beneficial to clients whose requirements necessitate process visibility and to designers appreciate InVision as a platform to support the efforts of distributed teams.

Aesthetic Wars

Wireframes are skeletal versions of pages that illustrate and test user journeys, the results of which inform valuable design tweaks. Visually they include only the bare minimum, but they are a high value asset designers can include in their kit of user testing tools. Designers know that using low-fidelity wireframes is the fastest way to test for quality UX.

But what is obvious to the designer may not be evident to client stakeholders. Without the proper context, a wireframe could be mistaken for a half-baked prototype.

Wireframes are not pixel perfect, but they are still an important means to an end. Designers can test overall design effectiveness with low-fidelity wireframes. High fidelity wireframes — fleshed out with more refined content and visual assets — are, at first glance, more appealing to clients. But designers aren’t so keen to them.

Layering visual assets and improving functionality comes at a cost. The efforts put toward perfecting appearance detract from bandwidth for testing functionalities. Also, high-fidelity wireframes invite premature aesthetic critiques of the solution.

Conversations about a software’s appearance that take place before its functionalities are tested is like putting the cart before the horse. A page that looks great is worthless so long as there are pathways that remain broken or unresolved.

While they make effective user testing tools for designers, wireframes can be divisive. But projects will take off when all parties understand how less is more in the world of wireframes.

Review and Refine With User Testing Tools

At the end of each cycle, designers need time to sift through user feedback. As teams distinguish between users’ personal preferences and the value gained from identifying users’ repeated actions, designers can achieve the clarity needed for designing software that better accommodates the target audience. When user testing tools indicate a problem in the UX, designers can realign efforts or resources to retarget project goals within the scope as it was outlined at project kickoff.

Pairing InVision with Validately helps designers source and respond to user feedback. As designers tweak wireframes, they can use Validately to verify demand for an action or feature before building it out in the wireframe.

User Testing Tools for Rapid Prototyping

Rapid prototyping connects designers with users to identify usability issues in UX right away. User testing tools in the rapid prototyping phase allow designers to be nimble as they iterate UX designs that support effective software.

From design to process refinement and interpreting user feedback, Sketch, InVision, and Validately are useful tools that help designers to hone ideas and craft interfaces that deliver value to the end user.


Original post can be found here.

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Authored by
Stanislas Walden.

Stan loves to make the obscure more apparent, the complicated more human and approachable. He strives to communicate the complex themes inherent in software development trends in a way that sparks curiosity and invites exploration.

As the Content Associate, Stan helps to develop content and coordinate communications that elevate MentorMate’s voice and connect people with vital information that helps them create tools that help other people.

When he’s not researching or publishing a new article, Stan enjoys running around a few of Minnesota’s many lakes and looking for new recipes.