Involving real people in your design process will truly show you if your website will really work. As Brenda Laurel put it “A design isn’t finished until somebody is using it.”
Understanding how people use websites, apps or everyday objects is the key to successful design and this understanding is part of the process of UX design.
Involving Real People Results in more Comfortable Design
If it wasn’t for researching how people use things, you’d be very uncomfortable in your seat right now.
Pre-1970s, office chairs may have been aesthetically pleasing, but lacked comfort. Sitting for long periods of time was incredibly bad for your back. The user of the chair could certainly sit down, but the lasting experience was bad.
Sure, it’s not great for your back to be sat down for long periods, but Bill Stumpf (the designer who brought ergonomics to the office) went on a mission to create an office chair that was not only built for comfort and good for your health, but also aesthetically pleasing.
For 10 years Bill Stumpf worked alongside orthopaedic surgeons and cardiovascular specialists to understand the effects of chairs and the seated posture on the body.
Stumpf’s research focused on the following:
- Consultations with orthopaedic surgeons and cardiovascular specialists to understand the effects of chairs and the seated posture on the body’s circulatory system, muscles and bones.
- Examination of the human behaviour of sitting – the motions, actions, and posture patterns of people performing various tasks.
- Exploration of how work chairs can be designed to support a wide range of body heights, weights and shapes effectively.
“For the first time, businesses could provide their workers with seating designed for the way they really sat — not for the way someone thought they should sit. With the Ergon chair, we established the reference point for comfortable, healthful, and visually appealing ergonomic seating.” – Bill Stumpf
So, the office chair you’re sitting in today is most definitely comfortable because it was designed by researching the way people sit.
Understand Your Design Better With User Testing
If involving people in the design of the office chair ensured a comfortable and therefore healthy seat, we should apply the principle of involving people when we design websites.
When designing a website, even if you don’t think your design is ready yet, get someone to test it.
Even if it’s one person testing your design; involve your user early and understand how they do things before your design is developed into a working website.
All too often, designs are launched without user testing.
User testing (or usability testing) is a technique used in UX design to evaluate a website by testing it on users (people).
This is an irreplaceable usability practice, since it gives direct feedback on how real users use your website design.
A 400% Increase in Click-through Rate
The UX team at Pan Macmillan began running UX tests to help the Company find out who its users are and what they want from the site. Pan Macmillan saw the following improvements:
- Addition of a “Buy” button linking to popular retailers increased click-through rate by 400%
- Goodreads ratings and reviews were added following feedback by users that this was essential
- Formatting styles that persistently confused users and could only have been discovered through UX testing, were identified and easily fixed
Before User Testing Comes Prototyping
Before you run your user test, you’ll need to create a design that people can start using. This can be as simple as a paper prototype, a wireframe or a simple design mocked up in Sketch or Photoshop.
Image from article: How to prototype websites on paper from Creative Bloq – http://www.creativebloq.com/ux/how-prototype-websites-paper-31514246
Creating paper prototypes is a speedy process (much quicker than creating digital prototypes) and is useful in creating useful yet quick designs that you can create within 20 minutes and get them in front of people fast.
Shawn Medero an Interface designer from University of Pennsylvania has this advice on how to run paper prototype testing:
“A paper usability-testing session works much like any other usability-testing session. Begin by selecting a range of testers who represent your expected audience.
Have scenarios ready for the user to perform. Document the testing sessions with video to review the users’ emotional state when using your mocked-up interface.
With paper, you can:
- Mark on the prototype where a user attempted to “click” or otherwise interact with the interface.
- Ask users to draw what they expect to happen next.
- Keep going even if you don’t have access to a testing lab or if computers, networks, or high-tech prototypes don’t work as expected.“
Whilst paper may be a quick way to get your design on paper, you do lose out on actual feedback for the design (context).
Jake Knapp, author of Sprint states that paper prototypes are a waste of time.
“When you need to learn about a business or product, the last thing you want is people using their imaginations. You want to get as close as you can to real world observation. If the product doesn’t look real, the customer response won’t be real.”
Get Real World Feedback With a Digital Prototype
With designs created in Sketch or Photoshop you can create real world website designs which allow your users to test the design as if it was live, giving you feedback that’s realistic.
In other words, more accurate feedback…
To take these designs further you can add a layer of interactivity with tools such as UX Pin or Marvel.
Feedback & Change
Remember, even before your prototype is “ready”, get users (people) involved and ask them for feedback on your design.
Use paper prototypes for quick feedback or get more realistic results with digital user testing.
For digital feedback, I recommend a tool called Usability Hub. Usability Hub allows you to upload your designs and run up to 5 different tests:
- Five Second Test: Measure the clarity of your design by asking what people recall after viewing it for just five seconds.
- Click Test: Click tests help you measure how effective your designs are at letting users accomplish an intended task.
- Question Test: Get feedback from real people with incredibly straightforward design surveys.
- Navigation Test: Navigation tests let you see how effectively users navigate around your websites and applications.
- Preference Test: Preference tests help you to confidently choose between design options by asking users which one they prefer.
Action: To get into user testing, try a preference test. Test an existing web page vs a redesign of the webpage.
Take a screengrab of a web page you’ve designed or find a web page that you think could be improved – this will be version a. Now we need a version b, so we can test which version people prefer.
To create version b, open the screengrab in Sketch (or Photoshop) and make some changes such as colours, fonts and imagery.
Important: Don’t just make the changes for the sake of it, try and change an element (or elements) which you think would improve the usability of the design. Remember, your aim is to improve the design for a better user experience.
For example: if you notice there are huge paragraphs of text that aren’t easy to read, chunk up the text into 2-3 sentences andmake the font slightly larger (if necessary, add titles above the chunks of text to make it more scannable). For tips on this checkout the digestibility principle.
Once you’ve created version b, go to Usability Hub, signup (it’s free) and follow the instructions to run your preference test. Testing with 25 users will cost about $25. The test results usually come in within minutes or at maximum, 1 hour.
Have fun reading the results. Don’t be disheartened if they didn’t prefer the revised design.
The important bit is that you now have a set of results (comments and opinion from real people) to improve the design. Well done! You’ve completed your real test and involved real people in your design process.
Ask people to use your design early and often.
Real people are your users, it’s vital that they’re involved in the design process, otherwise we go back to the pre-1970s of uncomfortable design.
So what are you waiting for? Find out if your design is usable so that you can understand how to make it better. Remember “a design isn’t finished until somebody is using it”.
- Bill Stumpf – Ergon Chair https://www.hermanmiller.com/products/seating/office-chairs/ergon-3-chairs/design-story/
- Brenda Laurel – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brenda_Laurel