One of the niche areas of research I really enjoy working in is that of UX design. Measuring and improving the user experience is fascinating. It involves serious qualitative research as well as intense observational study. The usability of a website or software application factors down to getting inside the head of a user, understanding what makes him or her tick in a particular scenario, and translating that into optimum interaction design.
In this article, you’re going to see a few terms banded around. Technically, they are different but all stem from the user experience.
- UX or user experience: The overall experience the user has with something (typically a website, app or piece of software).
- Usability: The measurement of how usable something is. Things with good usability tend to positively impact the user experience, and things with bad negatively impact it.
- UI or user interface: The individual or combined interaction points. They should all be usable and contribute to a positive user experience.
UX is Broad
The user experience universe is broad and technologies are constantly evolving, which is why I’m enamored with the practice. When we first started our UX work over ten years ago, we found our work limited to simple heuristic measurements of various client websites. Now we’re working with software, hardware, mobile apps and sites in an extremely wide range of industries. What a wonderfully varied job.
Our practice areas are broad and include:
- User interface (UI) and interaction design
- Website UX and usability
- Mobile UX and usability
- Software application UX and usability
Above: Navigation planning exercise during usability research at Evolve's OKC office.
Although there are certainly UX design principles and best practices, different apps, websites, and audiences have their own unique challenges. I remember a specific project involving farmers and agronomists. I didn’t realize what a hi-tech operation modern farming is. Everything from the machinery involved to the scientific calculations farmers have to make regarding soil and fertilization – it really is a complicated gig.
A big finding from a UX point of view was the environment in which a user would interface with this particular app. Although I can’t divulge the specifics, it’s safe to say operating a mobile app from the bumpy cab of an automated-drive combine harvester poses some pretty unique challenges and implications for a usable app.
Tools of the Trade
As user experience researchers, we’ve developed quite the arsenal for measuring and improving UX through enhanced usability. Most of our research is qualitative, and has slightly skewed towards mobile UX design in recent years. Regardless of platform, our tools of the trade include:
- Mini groups – like a focus group, but smaller. Typically testing wireframes, prototypes and discussing the experience.
- Usability labs – a one on one task-based “test drive” of the site or app in question.
- Expert reviews – the Evolve team taking a look at a site or app looking for breaches in best practice.
- Paper prototyping – conducting UX research on design print-outs.
- Clickable prototyping – conducting UX research on website designs (e.g. Invision mock-ups).
- Wireframes – a common way we communicate improvements.
- UX Best Practices – secondary and primary research focusing on agreed best practices. from a wide range of subjects (e.g. Google’s Material Design standards or best practices for online checkout).
We work with not just varied industries, but also with individuals with varied skillsets. We’ve enjoyed working with developers, traditional designers, interaction designers, marketing teams, consultants and other UX practitioners over the years and thoroughly cherish the collaboration.
Like the marketing research side of our business, we continue to be strategic with our recommendations. That means we have to always pay attention to the objectives and limitations (and there’s a lot of limitations when it comes to platform, technology and legal departments) – we certainly don’t want to waste our clients time by recommending changes that aren’t feasible. Since we’re not developers or are the one’s tasked with implementing our recommendations, it allows us to focus purely on the practice of UI UX measurement and recommendations.
If you’d like to know more about our UX, UI and usability practices, simply contact us. We’d love to hear from you!
Posted by EvolveKev
Kevin is all about research. Qualitative, quantitative, UX, you name it. When he's not researching, he's to be found laying down beats in his studio and hanging out with his dogs (and wife). Woof.