4 ways for achieving user-centred design

16 October 2013 | BlueBridge One

In my previous post I explained the importance of user experience and mentioned a few examples on how central it has been to the success of many leading online retailers.

But what if you are a small company or a start-up? Does it have to be a very costly and resource intensive to involve the users in every stage of the design process?

Below you will find 4 effective methods for capturing user feedback that can lead to actionable insights for a better user experience. You will also see that it doesn’t have to cost a fortune to capture user feedback.

1. Focus group: Focus group is a groups of people you gather together to get feedback from. Typically a focus group is used at an early stage before the launch of a new website, product or marketing campaign. You can for example take a website concept in the shape of some sketches or wireframes to a focus group, present the concept and listen to the feedback and reactions from the focus group. The session can also be used for brainstorming and bouncing ideas.

You can find participants using paid services such as findfocusgroups.com, paidfocusgroup.co.uk, place and advert on sites such as peopleperhour.com, use an agency to carry out the research for you or if budget is limited, you can quite simply select members from your circle of friends or colleagues.

The format of the session works best when participants are led through series of questions in conversational patterns. These questions should be prepare beforehand. The group questioning process should be structured enough to cause participants to give you the information you seek, yet informal enough that participants build on others’ comments and ideas. It’s best to record the session but if not possible then somebody needs to take down all the notes.

2. User testing: The soon you have a working website, you can put it to test by inviting people to test your site following specified tasks. Since face to face testing can be time consuming and costly, most small businesses can benefit from online testing services such as usertesting.com or whatusersdo.com. You can select the demographics of the testers and upload the tasks you want them to carry out. What you will receive is a recording of the session where the tester will spend 15 minutes browsing your site following the test script, at the same time as speaking their experience.

In my experience user testing is very beneficial and I have always drawn useful learnings and insights which neither the creative team nor the client had anticipated.It is far more effective to conduct user testing early in the project as opposed near the end or after go-live. In addition to it is best to do multiple testing sessions at different stages of a website project. In his book, “Don’t Make Me Think”, Steve Krug illustrates how doing two tests with 3 users each highlight more problems than doing a single test with 8 users. This is because following the first test you can make certain changes and corrections and then doing a fresh new test with new tasks, will normally uncover new areas of problem.

3. Split testing: Focus groups will give you ideas about what your audience wants and likes. User testing will help you identify problems with the site. Now the question is how do you solve the problems identified from user testing?

Although the solutions to some of the problems identified at user testing will be self-evident, many times the solution will involve trying different options to find out which option performs best. This also knows as conversion optimisation, where the goal is to convert more visitors to buyers.

If for example the user testing identifies that the offer price is not clear, then there are different ways you can show an offer price to capture the buyers attention. This is where the insight of a usability expert will be useful. A usability expert might suggest 2 or 3 different ways to show the special offer price. You can then do split tasting, where two different version of your page will be displayed and you can then compare which version performs best in terms of conversion.

4. Heat maps: Heat maps help you visualize where on the page people click. This is useful for fining out which links are popular or what call to actions are being ignored. There are various paid for tools what will create heat maps for you. A couple of popular tools are http://visualwebsiteoptimizer.com an http://www.crazyegg.com/. These tools will generate detailed heat maps reports that can be very useful. There is however a free option to get this type of report and that is via Google Analytics InPage report which you will find in under the content menu. The InPage report is not as detailed as the mentioned paid solutions but is a good place to get started.

Heat maps are also a good way of putting to test different versions of a page to test and see for example which call to action gets the most clicks.