What is UX (User Experience)?

All of us know the annoying feeling when a website or an app just doesn’t work the way we want it to. From horrible menu navigations to ads blocking up the entire page we’ve all been there. You start to question yourself “Did no one in the company test this?” or “Why is this not working?”. Truth be told, user experience is still vastly underrated. Top players like Apple or Amazon have understood the importance, and good UX helped them grow to the multibillion companies they are today. But you don’t have to own a large company with several employees to create a good user experience for your users. There are many different ways to improve the overall user experience.

“Investment in UX is often the difference between businesses that grow and those that sputter.”
Roman Nurik (Designer at Google)

When users talk about a company and its product, they are referring to their feelings and attitude towards the system and sharing their personal user experience. Hence making the user’s experience highly subjective and dependant on emotional and physiological expectations.
According to the ISO 9241-210, user experience is defined as a person’s perceptions and responses that result from the use or anticipated use of a product, system, or service. It covers the entire experience that occurs before, during, and after use.

As such, good products successfully anticipate the needs of their users and satisfy their expectations. The goal of UX for businesses is to provide customer satisfaction and loyalty by making physical or digital products easy to use and delightful to interact with, while providing an excellent experience in all aspects of the service. This includes aspects such as design, marketing, customer service, and the usability of the product.

What is usability and what is the difference to UX?

“Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it‘s really how it works.“​ 
Steve Jobs

What is the difference between UX and Usability? While UX focuses on the entire experience of a user’s interaction with the company and its product, usability is defined as the extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction in a specified context of use. In other words, usability is part of the user experience but concerns itself with the actual product and looks at how easy to use and pleasant to use the product is.

Example:

John wants to download an app for planning his weekly meals. He searches online for a suitable app and reads about it on their website. Liking the features, John installs the app on his phone and starts to plan out his meals. He stumbles upon a problem and promptly contacts the support hotline. They manage to answer all his questions to his satisfaction.

User experience: Reading about the app on their website, installing it, planning out his meals in the app, and contacting the support.

Usability:  Using the features in the app to plan and add meals.

Typically, good usability goes unnoticed because the product acts exactly the way the user expected it to. However bad usability immediately causes frustration and if not fixed, more often than not leads to the user avoiding the product.

Why is usability so important?

In the vast choices of the web, usability is not only important but a crucial factor that will determine your survival if you want to be able to compete with competitors. If your users can’t find what they are looking for, they will leave. If they don’t understand your product, they will leave. If they become frustrated because your product doesn’t perform as they expected, they will leave and never come back.

Usability rules the web. Simply stated, if the customer can’t find a product, then he or she will not buy it.“​ 
Jakob Nielsen

A high bounce rate (the rate at which users leave the website) is a good indicator of poor usability. According to data by Tony Haile of Chartbeat, 55% of users spend less than 15 seconds on your website. That is not a lot of time to capture your user’s attention. If your users can’t find what they are looking for in those 15 seconds, they are likely to leave. Luckily, there are ways to combat the high bounce rate and several different methods to improve and test the usability of your products.

How can usability be tested?

We distinguish between two test approaches: Observational Usability Tests and Interactive Usability Tests. In the purely observational approaches, the test subjects interact with a test object on their own and should behave as naturally as possible, as they would if they were not in an usability test. In interactive testing, the test subjects interact with the study director and explicitly express their feedback.

Observational methods

Eye tracking: Lets you see where and for how long your users looked at a certain area. Infrared eye tracking replicates the exact eye movement of the user’s gaze. Webcam eye tracking can give you a general overview of gaze information from your users.

Mouse data: Traces the mouse movement and clicks of your users.

Advantages

  • Very natural user behavior, close to user behavior in everyday life.
  • Less stress and less social influence for the testers.

Disadvantages

  • Only the behavior is observed, the thought process behind the behavior can only be assumed.
  • Possiblitity of distorted eye tracking results, when combining it with thinking aloud method.

Interactive methods

Thinking-Aloud: Is a usability method in which your users speak their thoughts out loud. It helps you understand the behaviour of your users.

Surveys and questionnaire: Users can rate your products and answer specific follow up questions after they have completed their tasks.

Advantages

  • Good understanding of the testers’ world of thought.
  • Easy to conduct and evaluate.

Disadvantages

  • User behavior in unnatural and strongly influenced by the test situation.
  • Suitable only for extroverted test participants.

When using an eye tracker for web usability testing, EYEVIDO Lab provides visual results of users’ eye and mouse movement, patterns, and fixations. The eye tracker records valuable data and can help you get a deeper understanding about how users carry out a task and whether it was difficult or easy to complete. In our tester software the recording of gaze and mouse data is running in the background and users will get to experience your system without any visual interference. Users execute tasks and navigate through the web completely autonomously, just like they would if they were at home.

Although eye tracking data reveals eye movements and fixations, it can be difficult to interpret the data correctly without knowing what the user was thinking. Did the user look at a picture because she thought it was nice or because it was distracting? Eye tracking can be combined with another usability testing method that provides further context behind the users’ behaviour.

For example through surveys at the end of a task. After completing a task, users can answer specific questions and rate their experience in EYEVIDO Lab’s tester software. This method offers additional information on user behaviour and provides context for the evaluation of eye tracking data.

A problem well stated is a problem half solved.“​ 
Charles F. Kettering

Another useful usability method is thinking-aloud. As the name suggests, users are asked to speak their thought out loud. Concurrent thinking aloud (CTA) asks the user to verbalize their thoughts during a task. This is perhaps the most popular usability testing method and widely used. It is a very quick way to gather qualitative data. However, it is not advised to mix concurrent thinking aloud with eye tracking because the act of speaking can alter the natural gaze pattern. For example, users might focus on a certain area for a prolonged period while describing their thoughts.

A variation of thinking aloud is retrospective thinking aloud (RTA). What this means is that users carry out tasks autonomously and express their thoughts after they have completed it.

The combination of Observational Usability Tests and Interactive Usability Tests is most promising, as it combines the advantages of both worlds. For example, eye tracking analyses can be combined with questionnaires, interviews or retrospective thinking aloud.

How many testers are needed?

With these qualitative research approaches, 5 to 15 testers are usually sufficient to identify the most important usability problems. The number depends on the complexity of the given task and the given test object, e.g. web page. Usability-research showed, that even a test with only 5 users reveals about 80 % of usability issues. The clear recommendation is to do more tests with fewer people to make the most of the budget, rather than a single test with many test participants.

When should usability be tested?

Ideally, usability should be an integral part of every design process from start to finish. The sooner you test your prototypes, the cheaper it is to fix the problems. Testing prototypes at every stage of the design process will guarantee to avoid major usability mistakes.

 

“If you think good design is expensive, you should look at the cost of bad design.”
Dr. Ralf Speth (CEO Jaguar Land Rover​)​

Imagine testing your final project after you have spent your entire budget on building your website or app only to find out that your users don’t understand how to use it. This is quite a common problem many companies are confronted with. If you wait to test until you have a hunch, it’s too late to fix anything but the most minor problems. You’ll have to fix the core issues in the next release and spend even more money and time doing so. This is precisely why the saying “test early, test often” has become common advice in the field of UX.

 

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