“UX is a lot more than buttons and wireframes. The stuff that seems obvious is only the tip of the iceberg, and the stuff that matters most is completely invisible.”
Joel Marsh, UX for Beginners (2015)
Have you ever found yourself browsing through a website for minutes, struggling to find the needed information? Have you ever deleted an app, that seemed to be a useful tool, but turned out to be a real pain to use? Sadly, this is a pretty common occurrence: the internet is full of examples of poor user experience.
One day you decide to enter the competition and build your own product. As we both know, unlike most of the business people out there, you really care about your customers and want to create an outstanding user experience for them. But how do you do that? Even if you read all articles on UX Magazine or UX Design Weekly, you won’t suddenly turn into a UX designer one day. Moreover, relying on a designer or engineer for product UX is not the best option either. A proper UX design process can contribute to the future success of your product as much as development or QA process.
Breaking Down the UX Design Process
Being related to the business strategy in general, a proper UX design requires a thorough research, testing and analysis. A standard UX process includes the following steps:
A slightly different approach is represented by Google Design Sprint. “A five-day process for answering critical business questions through design, prototyping, and testing ideas with customers”, it addresses the main issues in the UX process through a number of successive steps:
Day 1: Unpack - identify the long-term goals and choose one issue to be your focus area for this sprint
Day 2: Sketch - focus on a problem, outline possible solutions
Day 3: Decide - choose a solution that you will take to the next phase and create a storyboard for the prototype
Day 4: Prototype - turn the storyboard of a solution into a prototype
Day 5: Test - engage the real users (typically 5 people) and let them review and test the prototype
We at AltexSoft have adopted a similar approach, which is fully customized based on the specifics of your project. A typical UX development process contains the following stages.
At this stage, testing means a basic validation of your idea, conducted through the following activities:
- Hallway (Corridor) Testing - simple ad hoc test involving randomly selected people (for example, a colleague you met in the hallway or a visitor at an event), which aims at gathering user feedback quickly;
- Remote Usability Testing (Unmoderated) - the process requires specific instruments, such as UserTesting.com, Userlytics or UserBob, which allow you to submit your prototype and have real users review and test it remotely for a small fee.
- Moderated Testing - Unlike the previous one, this type of testing is conducted “manually” and usually on-site. It is costly as it requires a professional interviewer to conduct the procedure and special eye-tracking and recording equipment to keep record of the process and document the results.
- Expert Review - as the title suggests, this testing type requires an independent expert to review and test the prototype, rather than ordinary users. This could be professional agencies or known industry leaders.
As Nielsen Norman Group once famously stated, it takes only 5 users to discover up to 80% of usability issues. At this stage, you don’t need to gather large focus groups or invest heavily into the testing process. Yet, this early feedback proves extremely valuable in the long run. Being able to identify and solve all possible usability issues early, saves time and efforts. It takes about an hour to implement a small change in a wireframe. The same task in the UI design might take up to one day. And it might take even more time and efforts to implement this change after the software is launched.
Based on the agile approach to software product development, the UX design process is usually iterative and recurring. We discover, analyze, prototype, test and implement new features, iteration by iteration. Thus, the process is ongoing.
Product Maintenance and Evolution After Launch
The significance of a proper UX design process is obvious. Yet, even after the product release, there is always room for improvements. In order to remain competitive and profitable, your product needs to keep up with growing user expectations and industry standards. The best way to future-proof your business is to invest in professional UX consulting.
As opposed to the basic prototype usability testing, the live product and its actual users represent a pool of valuable data you can turn to your advantage. The major activities in this regard are:
- Testing (A/B testing or split testing, using several variants of the same app screen or UX element to identify which one performs best)
- UX Analysis
- Interface Audits
- Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)
At this stage, professional UX consultants gather users’ feedback, measure KPIs, and provide actionable insights and recommendations on how to improve your product and its conversion. The process is customized, based on your business objectives, and relies on a set of special skills and tools.
The Business Value of UX Design: Calculating the ROI
It is commonly known, that every dollar spent on UX might bring up to $100 in revenue. But how is this possible? There are 4 ways your company may benefit from UX improvements:
- Better UX = Increased conversion and revenue
Based on the Customer Experience Optimization Report by eConsultancy.com, 94% of respondents have experienced conversion rate growth as a result of their commitment to customer experience.
The famous “$300 Million Button” case is a great example of how minimal UX enhancements can make a huge difference in business. By simplifying the checkout process (making the registration optional), the company was able to increase conversion by 45%. This resulted in additional $15 million revenue within a month and total $300 million of annual revenue.
- Better UX = Lower development and ownership costs
In his book “Software Engineering: A Practitioner’s Approach”, Robert Pressman talks about a situation when a proper UX process can help you save money in the long run. According to him, an issue which costs $1 to be solved at the design stage, would cost $10 to be solved during the development and $100 - after the product is launched.
Another research shows that at least 50% of the engineering time and effort are spent on changes and fixes which can be avoided. For a team of four charging $50 per hour, this makes $4,000 in waste every week and over $200,000 annually.
- Better UX = Increased user retention and brand loyalty
The study finds that 23% of users delete apps after only one use. Furthermore, impressive 62% will use an app less than 11 times. Whereas UX might not be the only problem which pushes your users away, it is one of the issues you can and should solve.
Regardless of the industry you work in and the service you are offering, your product has to be easy to use in order to be competitive. Be it an online store or a social networking app - if it’s frustrating or has major performance issues, most of the users will leave it for an app which offers better user experience. With an average online purchase value of $75.9, losing 100 users might cost you $7,590 in revenue.
- Better UX = Higher efficiency with less support
This is especially true for enterprise apps. Simple and easy to use corporate tools require less training, minimize the risk of an error, and increase the efficiency of your day-to-day operations. Improving the operational efficiency of a team of 10 by 10% could bring up to 40 additional hours and $1,000 in savings per week (with an average hourly rate of $25 per employee).
An example of such approach is McAfee Inc. - the company was able to reduce the support effort (and cost) by 90% through simplified and user-oriented design. If processing a support call costs $10, reducing the number of such calls from 100 to 10 would mean up to $900 in savings.
Scott Jenson, a UX professional with 30+ years experience working at Apple, Symbian, and Google, wrote: “A good UX isn't hard, it's just not prioritized”. Indeed, many executives prefer focusing on the immediate revenue instead of building a foundation for the future success. Therefore, an efficient UX process is rarely prioritized.
When trying to optimize your UX strategy and increase the value of your efforts, you should ask yourself the following questions, according to McKinsey:
- Do you have a senior design leader with real authority?
- Are you continuously reviewing your metrics?
- Are designers working with the right people in the organization?
- Do you really understand what motivates your customers?
- How can you speed up your processes?
While the user expectations and needs evolve fast, setting the bar high for new products, a good UX strategy remains an important aspect of any digital business. User-centric companies, such as Apple, Coca-Cola, IBM, Intuit, Nike, Starbucks, Target, and Walt Disney, are setting the pace in almost every industry. That said, proper UX design has a major impact on the business ROI and plays a significant role in the software product development process in general, contributing to the creation of a more consistent, relevant and overall higher quality software product.
This article was originally posted at AltexSoft’s blog.