User Experience - 10 Steps to Make it Great!

UX (User Experience) incorporates UI (User Interface Design) to describe the overall experience and satisfaction level a person gets from interacting with something. In the interactive world, that "something" is software or a software powered gadget, but it can be more than that.

Ever download a big web page over a slow connection and get so frustrated that you give up? In a very competitive marketplace, EVERY interaction is a potential deal maker or breaker - especially with the widespread use of social media. Imagine a customer of yours giving up on something (like YOUR new phone app) in frustration and instantly sharing what happened publicly with a few hundred "close friends". Instead, your goal is to always provide potential/existing customers with the most satisfying and joyful experience, so that they not only swear loyalty to your brand, but encourage all their friends and contacts to join them. That's why EVERYTHING counts with User Experience.

Here's another example: you hear about a mobile app so full of features that it will make your out-of-office productivity amazing. You download the app onto your spanking new phone and it immediately configures your e-mail. You then select your spreadsheet and word processor and you get error messages. An hour or so later it's sort of working, but it synchronizes documents so slowly that you could recreate them faster. You check the Android Market (store) again and it has hundreds of rave reviews - but wait: you have that new phone and this app is four months old... aha... it wasn't updated to work on the new phone.

Great usability planning and execution avoids bad consumer experiences and creates the environment for happy customers. It doesn't happen by chance and it's entirely possible to achieve if you have the right approach. Here are 10 steps to make your next project, one that customers appreciate:

  1. Forget everything you know about your planned product and put youreslf completely in the mindset of someone learning about it for the first time.
  2. Walk through EVERY feature and EVERY combination of features and OBJECTIVELY determine if it's easy, logical, and comfortable/fun for the majority of potential customers to understand and use.
  3. TEST! TEST! TEST!!! And do so as if you are open to whatever may be  - good, bad, or indifferent.
  4. Log all your experiences and keep detailed notes of what happened with each problem and what triggered it.
  5. If there are too many issues, stop, rethink everything that needs a new approach, plan improvements, implement them and go back to step 1.
  6. Get together a focus group. Friends/colleagues are a good general start, but the real proof comes from people that are in your potential market, objective, and not obligated to tell you what they think you want to hear.
  7. LISTEN! LISTEN! LISTEN!!! Your focus group will invariably provide insights and thoughts you didn't anticipate. That's great - they can be positive thoughts and helpful ideas that can improve your product.
  8. Evaluate EVERYTHING that has brought you to this point. If you can improve something, YOU MUST.
  9. Revise. Revamp. Retest.
  10. Repeat steps 1 and 2. If your product is everything it can be, it works properly, and people can understand how to make it work for them, it's time to enter the market.

Note: You can also go into a beta testing phase, but it can be cumbersome for certain products. For example, you can't beta test an iPhone app except via ad hoc installations, which can make it tough to find independent real-world customers to try it out.

After launching, start listening to real customer feedback, respond to their inquiries and concerns and be ready to re-engineer, make changes and improvements, and launch a new and improved version.

To some, this process sounds tedious, to others it sounds obvious. Yet, everyday you encounter some product or some piece of software that is full of flaws or bugs, is frustrating, and makes you wonder "What were they thinking?".


Deb thinking


SPIA is a 2012 UX Award Winner!