For fifteen years I have worked with over one hundred and twenty companies in six different countries creating over 200 interfaces for people like you
Call them what you like: users, consumers, customers, friends or foes. Understanding them is pretty much the foundation of your business. But you’d be surprised how often companies don’t see it as a vital component of the design process, usually due to the cost.
Here’s a little secret - it won’t cost a lot when done right! Whether budgets are large or small, there is always a solution.
My approach varies and depends on three things; number one, budgets and timescales. These are fundamental in reaching a good understanding of what we can achieve.
Number two is to understand what knowledge you already have, if you have existing users or not, has your marketing department already conducted any research? Something you think is worthless might well be beneficial.
And finally, number three, a clear understanding of your goals and objectives. What are you trying to understand? What is the purpose of the research? What outputs do you want at the end of the process? Understanding this enables me to make an informed decision on the right methodologies to implement to get the most out of the budget.
While there isn’t a one size fits all approach to research, you can rest assured that I will use the best and scientifically validated research methods to gather the knowledge and data you require to further your product.
I am a massive advocate for user research and believe it to be the very rock-bed of any design project, to have a deep understanding of the market place, the competitors and the users allow me to create products fit for purpose.
I have been researching for over ten years, continually learning and adapting my processes to fit the business and their budgets. From conglomerates to small and medium-sized companies, I have conducted successful research projects enabling teams to make informed decisions that benefit not just the product but the overall business—experienced in adapting to working methodologies, budgets and timescales—allowing you to continue, business as usual.
Usability testing can be done both in-house and remotely, the choice is dependent on time-scales and budget. I have extensive experience in running both.
Diary studies are extremely insightful in getting a day to day look at how users interact with your product or service and this is usually followed up with a recorded interview to analyse the findings.
Interviews come in many shapes and sizes, from talking to someone who has no knowledge of your business to contextual interviews with people who interact with your product every day.
A collection of easy tests that are aimed at understanding a user’s unbiased reaction, such as the 5-second test, first click testing and preference testing to name a few.
Observing how users behave in their current environment, prior or post use of your product. This enables a deep understanding of where the pitfalls are, enabling innovation and product development.
Online surveys, SUS, NPS, whichever you prefer. These serve two purposes; to set a baseline to observe improvement over time and to get an understanding of the current feelings towards your product.
Data analysis involves going through any available data, which can be either quantitative or qualitative data, or a mixture of the two. Data tells a story and allows us to concentrate on the right aspect of your product at the right time.
An ethnographic field study requires watching and interacting with users in their real life environment, either at home, at work or whilst commuting.
Focus groups if done incorrectly, can lead to dirty data. The key is to understand the room, ask non-leading questions and not let any one participant become the group spokesperson.
Questionnaires can be done one of 3 ways; whilst the user is on the website, through email or a randomised list of participants that match your key demographics.
It’s always important to understand your market place, what’s working for your competitors and what isn’t. Remember, just because they’ve launched a new feature doest mean it’s having any return on investment for them.
Benchmarking is an often-overlooked aspect of research but is extremely important. Benchmarking allows us to understand if the changes we have made are having the desired impact, both for the business and for the user.
A heuristic evaluation is the process of taking a fine-tooth comb to your product or service and benchmarking it against a list of industry standards. By doing this you can see areas of improvement that are needed and set about making those changes accordingly.
If research is the foundation, then UX is the pillar, getting this bit right is the difference between success and failure.
From user stories to user journeys, information architecture through to high fidelity wireframes. When done correctly, the UX process aims to answer questions and reduce any costly redesigns in the future.
UX is a ‘YUGE’ field of expertise, so it’s good to understand where you are within the process. The first stage will be to sit down and discuss what you are looking to gain out of the process.
Wireframes? Tick! High fidelity prototype? Tick! Full Information Architecture? Tick. Interaction design? Tick! Accessibility? Tick! End-to-end UX? Tick! No job is too big or too small (I know, such a cliché) but it’s the truth.
I have worked on projects with teams of people and operated by myself when needed. I have worked as a mentor to juniors within agencies just passing my eye over their work to make sure everything is tickety-boo. It all depends on your needs.
UX has been my passion for over two decades, leaving school, I was avid if not over-ambitious web developer. It soon became apparent though that my desire wasn’t in building the product but creating it and letting someone else make it. I only class my UX career as starting after I graduated from University, but the seeds were sown a lot earlier in life.
I have been fortunate enough to work for some of the largest companies in the world working on world-class, groundbreaking products. More recently spending some time in Asia, getting to grips with how people interact and use digital products.
Working both in-house and in agency environments enables me to fully understand and implement innovate practices and processes that get the best out of the team as well as the product.
Rarely used by many, but it is hugely advantageous in understanding the overall journey and the touch-points with digital, both before and after. It may also help inform other areas of your business.
You need it. End of.
Who are we designing the product for? Creating emotion and creating a connection is imperative to creating a product for the right people. Personas are made based on existing and new market knowledge.
What does your user want, and how are we going to get them there? This is important in informing the rest of the UX process and making sure we have something to refer back to at any point in the process.
The ‘nuts and bolts’. It takes all your content and groups it together in the right way, so users find it easy to navigate. It’s no mean feat, but the payback is invaluable (card sorting helps us to make the right decisions).
The ugly sister of the process, but this allows you to iron out any niggles, setting the structures and flows before applying the warpaint. They can also be used as prototypes for user testing. Snazzy!
Low fidelity, high fidelity (paper) – there are so many tools out now to get a prototype into the hands of users to be tested, analysed, refreshed and then tested again.
Card sorting is the process of getting users to group items into either pre-defined categories or categories that they define themselves. Doing this allows us to see patterns and build the navigation according to the mental model the users have in their head.
A service blueprint looks at all the touch-points a potential user has with your digital products and services and by doing this we can start to paint a picture of user’s intentions when visiting.
Use cases look at the differing scenarios a user may encounter when visiting your product or service. Understanding this allows us to understand the different journeys we have to design.
Storyboarding is the process of planning out the different journeys a user or potential user may have with your product or service. It can be broken down to existing behaviour and intended behaviour.
User journeys, like storyboards, map out the journey the user will be taking through the system. User journeys are less visual and look at the differing touchpoint – you have happy paths, sad paths and bad actors, and they all have to be mapped out before wireframe, to understand each stage clearly.
No-one, and I mean no-one comes up with the best design first time around. Take this portfolio, for example. It went through many iterations. Ideation allows us to come up with concepts and ideas that can be binned or moved forward depending on the results from testing and stakeholder buy-in.
Accessibility is another facet that is often overlooked within the design industry but is especially important (and not just because of the fines). Accessibility makes sure we are designing for all and is a really good practice that should be continued through to development and other areas of the business.
The bit of the design process everyone gets excited about, UI is like the lead singer of the band, everyone wants to get involved and throw in their opinion (everyone!)
Good UI skills are born from years of experience, of seeing your products being used, of industry knowledge, and learning from your past mistakes.
Ahhh, the UI, or the user interface, or graphic design depending on your age! The fun part for most. It’s where you see the product come to life after the completion of all the main work within the UX stage.
Questions come up, such as; do you have brand guidelines; do you have a brand book to follow; what message are you trying to portray?
The UI process can be one of huge opinions and biases, which is why all my decisions will utilise back up reasoning and logic to help make decisions based on fact rather than personal feelings.
As well as the traditional flat UI, the latest software now enables me to show micro-interactions and animations. Hence, it’s easier for developers to build when it gets to that stage.
Many of my roles have not required me to complete the UI side of the project but rather direct the design process, it’s only in the last five years or so that the UX role has been amalgamated with UI to create the product designer.
I have experience in creating and directing brand strategies, as well as creating user interfaces from the ground up, and in some instances within existing brand guidelines.
Brand pack, brand guidelines, brand book? Not got one? Then you’re going to need one at some point. It sets out how everything should look and keeps everyone on the same nice, straight path.
UI design, the real meat on the bones (or so they say), having knowledge of the latest trends and understanding of how to make the most of every pixel, is key to delivering a product with an intuitive and easy to use interface.
We’ve talked about prototyping with wireframes. Well prototyping, using UI, is the icing on the cake. Everything looks as it should do, so your findings will be as close to the final thing as they can get.
Understanding the psychology of colour is very important when coming to design your interface, there has been extensive research carried out on the effects of colour and when and where to use it. This is especially important when designing for new marketplaces as the rules change dramatically.
Having the right fonts, weights and sizes in the right places help the user to understand without thinking the message you are trying to get across and used correctly will allow us to guide the user down the page in the way we intend.
Relatively new software allows me to create animations and interactions that can be exported as working code for developers to implement in the build. Micro-interactions, whilst small, are that little ‘la touche finalei’ to your product.
Getting the right imagery is key to any product, it presents your message, reinforces your brand and tells a story all in one go. Avoid using generic stock images and spend a little money on getting the right images for the right places.
Understanding of your key demographic helps the process of choosing the right colours and fonts that little bit easier. For example you wouldn’t want bright colours and smaller fonts for the 60+ demographic when trying to sell funeral care now would you?
Each platform has its own set of standards and it’s good practice to understand them. iOS and Android have set ways of laying out the landscape and by sticking to these you are not disrupting the users mental model when it comes to specific calls to action.
Material design is the child of flat design which is the divorcee of skeuomorphic design. Understanding the current design trends allows your brand to stay on point and reflect your business as being a leader rather than a follower.
You may have heard this term a few times in your career; it is the practice of subtly applying more emphasis on an element of the page that draws the user’s attention and invites them to interact with the content.
To me, they are one of the same. Making sure that buttons look like they can be clicks is just as important as making sure that the text and button has a high enough contrast ratio to stand out from the rest of the page.
Existing product or service? Just launched, the jobs not over; now comes the hard part which is keeping ahead of the curve and making sure that what you've got is working for the masses.
This is where analysis of qualitative and quantitative data comes in. All this enables you to make informed decisions on the next steps in the product lifecycle.
Do you already have a product? Yep? Then great, the groundworks ready. Delving into the troughs of your data will show some easy (and some not so easy) ways to increase your conversion, and then keep those customers coming back for more!
Many people think they understand data; looking at Google Analytics (GA) and pinpointing where something is going wrong, but it’s not as simple as that. You have to look beyond the data and to do this; you need a deep understanding of user behaviour across differing demographics.
Someone who works on digital products, and who say they get it right the first time are liars!
Every project is as unique as the next, differing demographics, platforms, goals and objectives all change rapidly, staying ahead of the curve allows you to stay ahead of your competitors.
I have spent much of my career, making sure that the right tracking and foresight be implemented to monitor and analyse the data coming back, so we know when we have succeeded or failed.
Using a myriad of off the shelf and internal products coupled with expertise in human interaction design and psychology, I can foresee issues before they become a problem that affects your profit.
Analytics, or quantitative data, if you want to sound clever, is the numbers, the page visits, the bounces, the how many, the how long. When analysed correctly this data shows gaps in your product, shows where to focus further investigative techniques.
Heat, rage, click; scroll mapping shows user behaviour or the qualitative data. Looking closely at this data shows patterns of behaviour and can pinpoint where to make improvements.
Funnel analysis allows us to know where people are dropping off and using other tools, understand why they’re dropping off – from the homepage to purchase or download it’s all trackable.
Multivariate testing or A/B testing as it’s commonly known, allows us to test several different iterations of the same designs to work out which works better for your users.
Record your users as they browse through your site. Don’t worry though, all personally identifiable information is hidden so you’re not breaching GDPR or any other data law.
You would be surprised at the dropout rate on forms as a result of something so simple. Let’s say you had 1000 people to your site and 1% dropped off. Just think of the leads you would lose. Form analysis allows us to monitor every field.
The system usability scale or SUS serves two purposes. One is to understand if there are any issues with your product and the second is to create a benchmark for any future changes we make.
Copy analysis is the process of someone going through your copy and making sure that it reads correctly and that the messaging is on point to achieve your goals and objectives.
*Not performed by me, but I do know some great copywriters
A site audit looks at your site as a whole. Are there any broken links? Are there areas of the site that aren’t linked? Is the sitemap up to date? Are keywords, and all your H1’s in place?
Usability testing should not end during the design phase. The world changes, technology changes and the way people or consumers move around sites changes. So, it is important that regular user testing is undertaken to ensure that your product is performing in the manner it should be.
MI or management information looks at data from across the company, checking call logs, speaking with customer support, going through reviews and app store logs to see when and where the problems are occurring.
A heuristic evaluation is a process of taking a fine-tooth comb to your product or service and benchmarking it against a list of industry standards. By doing this you can see areas of improvement that are needed and set about making those changes accordingly.
Your competitors don’t stay still and neither should you and I would recommend checking out your competitors at least once a month, if not more, to understand the moves they’re making. Some competitors aren’t so obvious – did you know sweet manufacturers didn’t understand why sweet sales were down in the 90’s? The culprit – football stickers. Interesting.