Iteration and Feedback in UX Design
We all know what a good user experience looks like, but it can be challenging to design websites or apps that deliver a good user experience to the people using them.
Fortunately, we know a few things that we can do to ensure the application we are building delivers a good user experience. Let me share something I’ve learned during my career as UX (user experience) designer.
When we talk about UX design, we mean the process of enhancing user satisfaction by improving the usability, and accessibility in the interaction between the user and the final product. Being a UX designer, I’m always concerned with questions like: Is this interface easy to navigate? How do users know where to click to get where they want?
Well, my personal approach involves an iterative prototyping process where I design multiple versions of the page, each time getting better and better. I apply a user-centered research and design approach to make sure that I’m keeping user’s needs and capabilities in focus throughout the process.
When creating user interfaces, I’ve realized that I need to understand a bit about human behavior to make sure that I’m designing things likely to work and avoiding things that are likely to fail.
I need to make sure that I use a process that allows me to apply my common sense to ensure that the website or the app that I’m creating is moving in the right direction.
Why iterate? Because I know I’m not going to get it right the first time.
I need to fail many times, so I can learn from my mistakes and get it better each time. Through this process, I’m designing a page that is going to deliver a good user experience.
The iterative design process involves mainly three phases:
In the assessment phase, what I’m actually doing is re-assessing what users are currently doing and what their needs are so I can understand the design space and the problems they’re facing. This process should lead designers to design products that will address those needs through affordances.
“…the term affordance refers to the perceived and actual properties of the thing, primarily those fundamental properties that determine just how the thing could possibly be used. […] Plates are for pushing. Knobs are for turning. Slots are for inserting things into. Balls are for throwing or bouncing. When affordances are taken advantage of, the user knows what to do just by looking: no picture, label, or instruction needed.”
- Donald Norman, “The Design of Everyday Things”, 1988
In the design phase, I take what I’ve learned in the initial assessment and come up with ideas, lots of ideas, trying to deliver a product that solves the problem that I’ve identified in the assessment.
In the build phase, I take those design ideas or a subset of those design ideas, and I build them into prototypes or some kind of representation I can use to communicate a particular idea.
I can then apply assessment methods, like user testing or formal inspection, to see if that prototype is leading towards a good or a bad user experience.
After evaluating the assessment phase, I take what I’ve learned from that, and I repeat it all again going back to the drawing board. I design new ideas, build new prototypes and perform new assessments!
Then I go through the design, build, and assessment phase multiple times until I ultimately reach the goal, which is the final design. An iterative design process includes both user experience research as well as user experience design.
It’s critical that both research and design are used in a balanced way to iterate towards a successful solution. So for UX research, there is a set of well-known methods that can be applied to understand user needs and evaluate prototypes accordingly.
I often conduct interviews to find out more about users’ needs and the ways they behave when surfing a web page or try to understand things people might not be able to tell us through interviews.
Developing personas, scenarios and user stories to find out who will be using our application and what user needs to accomplish.
User feedback is the lifeblood of experience design. Make it easy and rewarding for your customers to share their feelings and ideas about your product or service.
SKETCHING AN IDEA
Think about using sketching and ideation to generate lots of different solutions to get the best possible ideas out there.
UX designers do a lot of sketching throughout the entire design process. A sketch is a cheap rapidly constructed representation of an idea that can take many different forms. Sketching is a key factor for the design process and it is quick to create.
They can be inserted into the design process in multiple different ways being inexpensive and disposable, I can get rid of them if they don’t work.
I usually don’t spend a lot of time working on details that are not important to what I’m trying to think through, or what I’m trying to communicate at a particular stage.
THE CENTRAL ROLE OF PROTOTYPES
Bill Moggridge, Co-Founder of the design firm, IDEO, described a prototype as “a representation of a design made before the final solution exists.” Prototypes actually play a central role in UX design being a middle to high fidelity representation of the final product. Contrary to sketch, the investment in prototyping is quite larger.
Why do designers prototype? Well, because we need to make our design ideas concrete so we can test them and figure out if they are going to work. So by making things real, we can reflect on whether they are meeting the design goals that we have or whether they are taking us in a different direction.
A critical role that prototypes play is facilitating communication. So by making something concrete, we can then bring other stakeholders into the conversation to figure out if our design idea is going to work.
Companies are discovering the importance of delivering a customized user experience, they want to meet the user’s personal needs and state of mind at any given moment. User experience is critical to the success or failure of a product in the market.
Iteration and feedback are the ways to determine whether our ideas are going to satisfy user’s needs. We should conduct comparative researches, go out and look at the competition or other examples of user interfaces.
It’s also important to understand how people work so when we go through the design and prototyping process, we succeed in creating stuff more likely to be effective in the end.
Adding value to a product should be the final goal for a designer!