So, what is UX anyway? Simply put, it stands for user experience. For us, UX is a creative process that allows us to pinpoint solutions by empathizing with the needs of the user.
You might be surprised at how many projects are created without user empathy. Someone identifies a need for a tool, so they go direct into development. There’s little consideration for how someone would best use this new tool. UX thinking puts yourself in the user’s shoes. It lets you see exactly how they might use the product that solves the central problem you’re having.
There are a lot of different approaches to UX, but we have a few guidelines in place at Rocksauce Studios, based on our years of UX experience.
First, we start with audience surveys. These surveys reveal the behaviors of the target demographic. From here, we consider how the desired solution aligns to how this demographic behaves. (On a side note, you may discover that users aren’t looking for solutions to the problem you’re trying to solve. The audience survey informs you early, allowing you to strategize so you aren’t spending time and money on something no one is interested in using.)
After the surveys, user personas come to life. From here, we consider how the solution would be put to use by real people in real situations. This often uncovers additional, necessary features or takes the proposed solution into delightful new directions that serve the intended users better.
Thirdly, we encourage a competitive analysis, focused on expectations within the landscape. See who’s out there already attempting to solve this problem (or a related problem) for the same audience. You’ll learn from both the good ways and the bad ways that people are approaching the problem. You’ll identify deficiencies in the market, so that you can directly address them with your own competing product.
For the next step, create a series of user stories. Define how your personas will interact with the product. One example: “As a user, Susan needs to search for recipes by name.” Here, Susan is the primary user, and you’re defining a key interaction she’ll have with the tool. You want to try to spell out as many of these interaction points as possible, so that you reduce questions of intent later on in your development cycle.
Next, create user flows (sometimes referred to as a logic map). This a high level flow chart that shows the connectivity of pages or features within your project. Looking at it, someone should be able to see the key areas, functions, and how they relate to each other. Products like Gliffy are designed to help you create these kinds of flows.
As an important supplement, user journeys (or experience maps) are more focused journeys a user might take within the product. Using the example of the recipe app, how is “Susan” adding a recipe? For example, what’s step one, what’s step two, and how does she confirm a recipe has been added? To create an experience map, show the series of steps that illustrate key user interactions.
If you’ve established all of the above, it’s time for the mockup! We like to present these as interactive tap-throughs, so that the product feels like a living thing (while no actual coding has been delivered). Interactions from the user stories should be represented, and user journeys are now designed with a level of visual fidelity that resembles a working product. Products with prototypes can be tested for the very best results.
That leads us to the next step in our UX process, user testing. Put the prototype in front of users and get their feedback. We’ve created a list of “dos and don’ts” for testing on your own. As a result, you get actionable critiques from your users.
Finally, create a usability report. Take the data from testing, and create a reference document that breaks down the product’s strengths and gaps. Refer to this document to determine your next steps. Do you rethink your solution or do you move forward, secure in what works best, while saving some ideas for later for the betterment of your product.
If you need to get started in the UX process, or just have your own questions about UX, give us a call at (866) 981-6847 or email us at [email protected]