In the fast-paced world of digital production, user experience (UX) is often considered the icing on the cake – a ‘nice to have’ but not necessarily a ‘need to have’. That’s fine if you’re producing a blog site to showcase your basket-weaving talents to family and friends, but if you’re creating a commercial website or app, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you bypass it.
While most people accept the idea of UX in principle, the most common stumbling block is cost. Admittedly it’s not hard to drop a lazy $100K on UX if you’re doing it on a large scale. However, with a bit of savvy planning and expert guidance, you can develop a UX program that provides genuinely valuable insights without breaking the bank.
Why bother with UX?
Maybe you’re a business owner who lives and breathes your business. Or perhaps you’ve been working in your industry for years and you know your consumers inside-out. So what possible value could there be in UX? It’s just going to confirm what you already know, right?
That may well be the case in some instances – and validation is certainly an important aspect of UX. But the average website (or app) is a complex beast and it’s very easy to miss the mark on a critical aspect when you’re basing your entire project on ‘gut feel’.
UX might shed light on something as simple as the way users navigate around your site, or the terminology they use to try to find something. (It’s hard not to get bogged down in your company’s own internal classification systems when you’re exposed to them on a daily basis.) Or it might be that the fancy new all-singing, all-dancing feature that your CEO is insisting upon is just not going to fly.
There are a myriad of factors that contribute to a great user experience. Getting it right can help you boost conversions and brand loyalty, while at the same time avoiding mistakes that can be costly in terms of lost revenue and/or unnecessary re-development time.
So what exactly is UX?
Before we jump into the nitty gritty, let’s get a few terminology issues sorted out...
In some corners, UX has become synonymous with a nice-looking user interface. The reality is that UX is much more than just a pretty face. It goes far beyond design in the aesthetic sense of the word. It’s about the user experience in all its many facets – from functionality to form, and everything in between.
UX is about understanding user needs, wants, emotions, behaviours and interactions to create the ideal digital experience for your customers. It’s not something that can be ‘bolted on’ at the end of a project if there’s room left in the budget. To get the most out of UX, it really needs to be part of the planning phase, before any actual design or development work begins.
UX can be as simple or as complex as time and budget allow, but a typical program might include some or all of the following:
- Review: An analysis of where your digital assets stand in relation to competitors and industry standards.
- Research: Workshops, interviews or surveys designed to gain insights into user behaviours and motivations.
- User testing: Recruiting prospective users to evaluate your website or app through a series of defined tasks. This can be done in-person or online.
- User Journey Development: Using insights gleaned from from user testing and research, a customer journey can be mapped out to provide a blueprint for improvements.
- Information Architecture: To assist with the organising, labelling and structuring of information, users may be observed organising content into categories or trying to find key pages or sections of a site.
Not all digital projects will need to go through each of these processes. The beauty of UX is that it can be uniquely tailored to suit the circumstances. (For more detail on UX options, check out our UX services page.)
UX without blowing the budget
If you’re just testing the waters with UX, or you have a very limited budget to work with, you should still implement it in some form. UX is essentially a continuum. A modest UX program is still going to provide more value than none at all.
For example, instead of running in-person user testing, you might do it online using something like usertesting.com. You could also consider reducing the sample size of participants. You don’t necessarily need to talk to 50 users from every single user type to identify potential issues. If you can pinpoint the majority of the issues by talking to just a handful of people, it might not be worth setting up an extensive interview process just to nut out the remainder.
You should also never underestimate the value of the data you already have at your fingertips. For example, something like customer query logs from your customer-facing staff can offer vital insights into what sort of information your consumers are struggling to locate on your site. Conducting internal workshops among your staff can also be a cost-effective way to gather relevant insights. At an absolute bare minimum, you should at least undertake some degree of competitor research to get a gauge of best practices in your industry.
UX does not provide an iron-clad guarantee that all user experience issues will be unearthed from the outset. However, not doing anything is an almost certain recipe for unnecessary costs and delays down track.