A Dummies Guide to UX Basics

by Bradley Nice, Content Manager at ClickHelp.com — software documentation tool

Designing a website that incorporates UX design elements is becoming more in demand as businesses begin to understand the importance of UX. Having useless bells and whistles on your website, no longer makes it a good design. Creating the right balance between an excellent user experience and the functionality of the site for your business goals is paramount.

Before you can become a User Experience (UX) designer, you need to understand the importance of UX, the reason it exists and what do UX designers do.

What is User Experience (UX)

The term ‘UX design’ is used to refer to the approaches and methods employed to make sure that a website is entirely tailored and customized for its target market. If an online platform does not appeal to a certain type of audience, it is likely to be quickly forgotten.

At the core of UX is ensuring that users find value in what you are providing to them. Peter Morville represents this through his User Experience Honeycomb.

He notes that in order for there to be a meaningful and valuable user experience, information must be:

  • Useful: Your content should be original and fulfill a need
  • Usable: Site must be easy to use
  • Desirable: Image, identity, brand, and other design elements are used to evoke emotion and appreciation
  • Findable: Content needs to be navigable and locatable onsite and offsite
  • Accessible: Content needs to be accessible to people with disabilities
  • Credible: Users must trust and believe what you tell them

The effectiveness of an online platform is dependent on the UX. A website must be easy to navigate, simple to operate, and offer a user some kind of unique benefit or advantage.

UX is not UI

Image source: Erik Flowers

User Interface Design is not the same as User Experience.

UI is the end result of UX. UI is what people will see and touch. UI is what results when effective UX is considered. If you have good user interface design, it is a direct result of the research and thoughtfulness you have placed within the UX process.

What Do UX Designers Do?

So what does a User Experience Designer actually do? Well, there’s no typical day, however there is a grab bag of techniques that many UX Designers rely on at various stages of a project:

Wireframes

Everyday UX

A wireframe is a rough guide for the layout of a website or app — is the deliverable most famously associated with being a UX Designer.

Once created by designers as a series of static images, these days tools like Balsamiq Mockups and Axure RP make it straightforward to evolve your wireframe into an interactive prototype without writing any code.

While many UX Designers make a point that they are more than just wireframe machines, it’s certainly true that many UX Designers start with wireframes: creating a basic site layout is something anyone can do, and the tools are easy to learn.

User Testing

Everyday UX

Sitting users in front of your website or app and asking them to perform tasks you’ve planned for them while they think out loud is the fundamental premise of user testing.

How many test participants you involve, how closely your test participants match your actual users, and how many iterations of testing you run are all decisions shaped by budget and time constraints.

User testing is straightforward enough that anyone can — and should — experience running one. Being in the same room while someone struggles to use your product is a powerful trigger for creating empathy with users — a common trait.

Personas

Everyday UX

A persona is a fictitious identity that reflects one of the user groups for whom you are designing.

Personas need to be informed by research to be useful. It can be tempting to put on your creative writing hat and invent details to make them believable or interesting. However, the goal should be to have your personas reflect patterns that you’ve identified in your users (or prospective users).

There’s no shortcut for identifying these patterns — they come from user research: conducting interviews, surveys, user testing, contextual inquiry and other activities.

Scenarios and Storyboards

Everyday UX

A scenario is a narrative describing “a day in the life of” one of your personas, including how your website or app fits into their lives. If you’re familiar with writing user stories in an agile environment, you’ll be comfortable writing scenarios — although the focus here is on regular usage, not edge cases.

Depending on the audience, a storyboard may be a more appropriate tool for capturing how, when, where and why someone might use your product.

Inspired by the filmmaking industry, a storyboard is a visual sequence of events used to capture a user’s interactions with a product.


Have a nice day!

Bradley Nice,
Content Manager at ClickHelp.com — best online documentation tool for SaaS vendors