I am currently in San Francisco taking an intensive course at General Assembly in User Experience design. I find it fascinating how important this is considering it is a thing the user never really thinks about. Or at least, if the UX designer is good, never needs to think about.
What is UX to you? In an online environment I would define great UX design as an interface layout that requires minimal thinking. We are bombarded with information every second of the day, and when I enter a site that has done all the thinking ahead of me I tend to come back. Take Airbnb. I don`t know how they did it, but they nailed UX. It is simple, beautiful and provides you with all the information and options you need.
User research is a huge part of UX. No matter how ingenious your product may seem to you, you are not your user and they will not interact with your product they way you think they will. Sufficient research gives you the ability to create a product that your users actually want, as opposed to a product you think that they want, but don't know how to use and thus; don't want.
You need to understand your users. You need to put yourself in their shoes by creating an empathy story in which you define everything from their moods, thoughts, feelings, context and worries. You can understand how they interact with your site and what they think is important by conducting eye tracking research. By monitoring their eyes movement, you can lock down which parts of the site they find interesting, which parts they ignore and what attracts their attention. Maybe your layout is something completely opposite of what information they desire?
Another classic example of UX is Google. Not only due to their clever algorithm and "page rank", they have become the most popular search engine in the world because of their UX design. It is simple, straight forward and valuable.
A good way to find out if your site is working optimally is by conducting A/B testing. By creating a duplicate version of your site (a great tool is Optimizely) and tweaking a few aspects of the user interface you can measure the response for various products in different designs and alter your site based on the data feedback.
But what makes good UX design? What does it encompass? In my opinion, great UX includes the following aspects:
- visually appealing, aestethic
- requires minimal to no thought process
- minimal decision time
- minimal navigation effort
- significant understanding of users reason to visit your site
- comprehensive understanding of what information they need immediately
- minimal clutter, options and confusion
- as precise and little text as possible
- visual features that explain or classify concepts (thus lessening the users need to read)
- makes the user come back for more
It is important to understand the utter importance of UX. It will make or break your product. Your idea can be great, but if your target users don't know how to use it or how it will benefit them within the first minute on your site- consider yourself beat by the next best thing.
There are probably so many amazingly useful services out there that we don't know about because they never caught on due to bad UX. User Experience is one of the most important aspects to invest in as a business. I look forward to delving deeper into the research methods and tools to optimize the UX designs of future clients.