In order to improve your website for the user, there are certain steps that need to be taken. These steps include: usability testing, UX (user experience) mapping, and user interviews.
Without successful usability, a site will not be valuable to its users. Usability refers to how simple and effective interacting with the website. Career Foundry says:
“Usability is the ease with which a person can accomplish a given task with your product.”-Emerson Schroter
A design that has good usability will be more successful in continuing the user’s conversation. Therefore, the user will be more likely to continue looking at and returning to your website.
Understanding the components that work to create good usability will give the designers a clearer mindset of what to focus on. According to The Nielsen Norman Group, Usability is defined by 5 quality components:
- Learnability: How easy is it for users to accomplish basic tasks the first time they encounter the design?
- Efficiency: Once users have learned the design, how quickly can they perform tasks?
- Memorability: When users return to the design after a period of not using it, how easily can they reestablish proficiency?
- Errors: How many errors do users make, how severe are these errors, and how easily can they recover from these errors?
- Satisfaction: How pleasant is it to use the design?
Web designers need to keep these factors in mind and actively work to ensure that their the users of their site answer these questions positively. The way to determine if they are successful in these efforts, is usability testing.
According to Hotjar, usability testing is a method of testing the functionality by observing real users as they try to complete tasks on it. In doing these tests, the designer will gain a new perspective of what is and isn’t working with the web design. According to The Nielsen Norman Group, there are three components to user testing:
- Representative users: people to interact with the site, such as customers.
- Representative tasks: specific things the users need to accomplish with the site
- Observation: observe what the users do, where they succeed, and where they have difficulties with the user interface.
Usability testing should be utilized to make sure a new site, or one that has been being used, works the best it can, based off of the people interacting with it. It isn’t a one time evaluation either. Your website should change as the world around changes, in order to accommodate the changing expectations of users.
Interviews with users about the website design can be conducted in a variety of situations according to The Nielsen Norman Group:
- Before you have a design, to inform personas, journey maps, feature ideas, and workflow ideas.
- To enrich a contextual inquiry study by supplementing descriptions of tools, processes, bottlenecks, and how users perceive them.
- At the end of a usability test, to collect verbal responses related to observed behavior
This is a way of connecting observational data to spoken data which would give the designer multiple perspectives from the same user. They would be able to view and hear what worked and didn’t work for them.
UX Mapping Methods
In addition to analyzing the user’s interaction with the site, knowing your user’s needs in connection to their experiences is crucial to determining how to make improvements. Due to this, each of the different mapping methods focus on a different aspect of the user, leading to what they expect from the site, and the outcome of that interaction.
Career Foundry defines UX as any interaction a user has with a product or service. It considers each and every element that shapes this experience, how it makes the user feel, and how easy it is for the user to accomplish their desired tasks.
According to The Nielsen Norman Group, an empathy map is a collaborative visualization used to articulate what we know about a specific type of user. It externalizes knowledge in order to 1) create a shared understanding of user needs, and 2) aid in decision making.
This figure shows the four quadrants in a traditional empathy map: says, thinks, does, and feels.
The information in the says section is what the user says out loud regarding the site.
The information in the thinks section is what the user is thinking during user testing or a user interview. This is what a user may think about themselves or the website, but wouldn’t want to vocalize.
The information in the does section is the actions that the user does while physically interacting with the site.
The information in the feels section is the emotions that the user feels and/or expresses while interacting with the website.
Customer/User Journey Mapping
According to The Nielsen Norman Group, a customer journey map is a visualization of the process that a person goes through in order to accomplish a goal.
This figure shows the user along with their scenario and goals, journey phases, actions/mindsets/emotions, and opportunities/ internal ownership.
- User: This is who experiences the journey. Their point of view usually aligns with personas and their actions are rooted in data.
- Scenario and goals: the situation that the user is in for the journey map as well as the user’s goal and expectations with the website.
- Journey Phases: the stages for the journey. They provide a layout for the rest of the information in the categories of the journey.
- Actions, Mindsets, and Emotions: the behaviors, thoughts, and feelings that the user has throughout the journey. They are organized within the journey phases.
- Opportunities: the insights gained from mapping. They show how user experience can be optimized.
According to The Nielsen Norman Group, an experience map is a visualization of an entire end-to-end experience that a “generic” person goes through in order to accomplish a goal.
This figure is split into three columns of phases, with a line influenced by each of them.
This map is split into different behaviors for each phase. These behaviors include actions, thoughts, mindsets, and emotions. There can be more than one line and it can rise and fall when the frequency/intensity of the behaviors increase or decrease. It also depicts the events in a chronological order to record what behaviors correspond to what events.
According to The Nielsen Norman Group, a service blueprint is a diagram that visualizes the relationships between service components (people and evidence), and processes, that are directly tied to touchpoints in a specific customer journey.
This figure shows a row for evidence, customer (user) actions, frontstage, backstage, and support processes.
- Customer (User) Actions: steps, choices, activities, and interactions that the user performs while interacting with the website to reach a particular goal.
- Frontstage Actions: actions that occur directly in view of the user.
- Backstage Actions: actions that occur behind the scenes to support the onstage happenings.
- Support Processes: internal steps and interactions that support the website in continuing the conversation with the user.
This blueprint shows the process in which occurs when the user interacts with the website. Mapping it out is helpful to show where things went positively or negatively.
The purpose of the designer putting so much effort into usability testing, UX (user experience) mapping, and user interviews behind the scenes, is to optimize user experience. By doing this, changes that will make it easier to have and continue online conversations with the site will be made.
The more you pay attention to the user, the more the user will interact with you website. Keep their needs in mind, and design a site that will have the best outcome for everyone!