When working at a digital agency there needs to be a combination of creative thinkers and business-driven minds that work together in order to achieve the very best for their clients. As our design lead at Erudite, Anna heads up all creative work and consistently strives for the perfect UX. Hannah holds the role of Senior Account Manager and is responsible for ensuring we hit digital marketing objectives for our clients. When it comes to creative and business development teams there can often be a lack of communication between the two, so it’s important to remember that ultimately you’re both trying to achieve the same thing. In order to show this in action, we’ve collaborated on a series of posts for Erudite looking at the main UX challenges we face.
The perfect user experience needs to leave the user satisfied that they achieved their objectives, but also help the business to maximise conversions and meet their own goals. Whilst the user may want to be able to view all their price options in one place, if it makes them most likely to purchase the cheaper option and reduce the profit of the business- then this isn’t an optimal solution. As a result, user experience is not as simple as a fantastic design but also an understanding of the business as a whole.
User Experience is a combination of the feelings and thoughts a person has, while using a product. It’s our job to care about how people feel when they interact with something we’ve created to solve a problem and we can do this by going beyond the basics of functionality, reliability and usability. Great user experience is invisible – users have become familiar with interface patterns and user interface components, and expect an intuitive experience.
Recently we went to UX Oxford and heard Jon Fisher from Nomensa offering his advice on designing the experience to reduce errors and meet the UX golden rule of value greater than pain. We’re kicking this series off by looking at the main UX problems that Jon discussed at UX Oxford, and how each of us approaches them in our role.
TYPES OF ERROR
Type 1: Interface Errors
An Interface Error occurs when the user is confused by the functionality they are presented with, this can come from them not seeing a part of the form or a confusing button or process when they’re trying to use an input mechanism. It’s these small frustrations that can combine and result in what a user might describe as a bad experience.
Type 2: Understanding Errors
If a feature of a site makes you just want to give up then it’s likely to be an understanding error; they are the type of problem that pushes the pain of using the site over the value that it is giving resulting in abandonment. These can happen when a user just can’t relate to what’s going on, they don’t understand the technology or its just completely different to what the user expects- commonly this is from when you have a novice audience group but are positioning expert content.
As a designer, it is imperative to understand the errors we could come across, in order to fix them. Errors should never be considered as a failure, as they are inevitable. Anticipating where users may run into problems, and exposing them early on will strengthen the product and improve the users experience.
Discover the users’ goals
To avoid user frustrations it is important to consider the users’ goals, and allow them to achieve these as quickly as possible. A beautiful user interface may look lovely, but will be totally useless if the user is unable to reach their end goal.
In order to tackle any UX problem it’s important to start with the five W’s, a theory explained in depth by Whitney Hess as part of 52 Weeks of UX, which enables clarification of the content’s main goal:
What is the problem we are trying to solve? It is easy to confuse this with “what are we designing”. Before this stage is reached, it is important to consider the problem as clearly and concisely as possible.
Who is the user? ‘Without customers there is no company’. User personas are an excellent way to bridge the gap between the product and the users. At each stage of design, it crucial to reassess your targeted users, and to make sure what is being developed is still relevant to the audience.
“The purpose of personas is to create reliable and realistic representations of your key audience segments for reference” – usability.gov
Where can we improve on existing patterns and solutions?
Analyse how other products have tried to solve a similar problem, and discuss with your team what improvements could be made and how these could be built into your product.
When should we get user feedback? It has become a habit to do the product testing at the end of the project before launch. However, when exposing UXD errors it is important to iron out the creases mid project to prevent any large errors being exposed in the final days before launch.
Why does our product solve the problem? Once the what, who, where and why are clear. Decide on short-term goals with long-term strategies, it’s hard to solve all problems at once so by dividing up the goals will allow them to be more achievable.
UI Design Standards
“It’s natural when a creative person wants to invent something new. But what he can miss in that inventive moment is the opportunity to build on the knowledge that users already have.” Randy J Hunt, Etsy’s Creative Director.
By making use of visual frameworks that are already out there, there is a higher chance of producing an intuitive experience, that stick to UI design standards relating to the interface you are designing for. Examples include Google’s Material Design Handbook and Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines.
There will always pressure to be innovative and push boundaries, but it is also okay to put simplicity and standards before creative and experimental.
Users will be more forgiving if they can easily navigate your product. They won’t think your design is creative and innovative, if they simply can’t get from A → B.
When working closely with a client as their Account Manager much of the focus is on a site’s performance metrics; looking at conversion rates alongside the average time on page, drop-outs, and top performing pages. It can mean that often the actual interface of a site is forgotten and lost behind a wall of statistics; whilst it might be a great idea to tweak a title or CTA button, if the user fundamentally doesn’t understand the site it doesn’t matter how well-thought out your title is.
Much of my role is reactive and problem-solving so whilst it would be great for a client to have the perfect user experience on site, these little refinements that come from resolving interface errors aren’t usually the highest priority. It’s only when an in-depth, on page analysis takes place that do interface errors get tackled. Fundamentally if your site is getting traffic but is not getting the conversion rates they would like or a high bounce rate, the likelihood is it’s the result of an Understanding Error.
At UX Oxford Fisher spoke about investing into the stock market, to those that have never dealt with their funds and ISA’s it’s a whole new world. They don’t understand physically where there money is going and what it’s doing, so without simplifying the content and adding explanation to the user they simply won’t invest. If your business makes its money from people trading stocks and investing, then this is less than ideal.
User Experience errors are one of the hardest problems to tackle, since the people who use and work with the site day-in, day-out fully understand the intentions of each piece of functionality. Those closest to the business will be blind to the errors another might experience.
User testing is important to uncover both the interface errors and understanding errors, to segregate what we can do to control, mitigate or eliminate these errors. Often your site visitors or product users may be novices, which may not be apparent. Through user testing you can determine the level at which you need to address your audience and help them to fully understand every stage of their journey on your website.
Asking questions not only about the end outcome, but also about how the user felt during the process will enable you to identify any ‘catches’ where the typical user may drop out of the process. If the users’ feelings are not confident and comfortable with using the functionality and being aware of the implications of their actions on site, then an understanding error is present.
Fisher believes there are three ways to resolve an error, which he has taken from his experience working in health and safety –
Control – Mitigate – Eliminate
“Ring fence it, or can we take that risk and put it somewhere – if we can’t fundamentally get rid of it” – Jon Fisher
If the error is unmanageable and there is no opportunity to mitigate or eliminate, there may be solutions that include moving it out of the users direct line of path. Taking control of the error, and adapting it to prevent user experience interruptions.
“The design can be changed around the error, move things around but there is always going to be that risk”.
The error will still be apparent, but by designing to make the error less severe, can prevent the error from consuming the product.
If you’re early in the design stages or the functionality of the site or product you’re working on is particularly flexible then the best solution will always be to eliminate the error occurring. Whilst this is optimal, it’s rare there will be the chance to completely cut this out of the process. Often it’s simply a case of eliminating small aspects and controlling the other factors.
Human error may seem unpredictable, but humans fail in predicable ways. The more we learn about the interface and understanding errors, the better the solution will be. Finding those errors early on strengthen both the product, and the UX Designer long-term.