I know what you might be thinking, what in the world is UX design?

UX stands for user experience and is how a user interacts with a product (website, mobile app, etc.). In the case of a website, a UX designer ensures these interactions are as effective as possible by looking at things such as ease of use, accessibility and efficiency in performing tasks. For example, if you are looking to buy a particular pair of shoes on a website, a user experience designer would examine how to make it as easy as possible to find the shoes and purchase them.

So, why does UX matter? It matters because it could be the difference between a consumer buying a product on your site versus another site because the process is easier and the experience better. The last thing you want is for the user to get frustrated and leave your site to go and buy the same product elsewhere.

Knowing your user is perhaps the most important aspect of UX design. Knowing who is visiting your site, why and in what situation they are using it and ultimately what their end goal is are essential pieces needed in order to build a great site. To determine who these users are, we create something called user personas. Personas represent the different types of people using your website and help to:

  • Define the user demographic
  • Determine the user’s motivations and frustrations
  • Determine the user’s expectations
  • Identify the user’s goals
  • Examine the path to achieve their goals

Now that we have determined who will be using your website and what they are trying to accomplish, we can find representative users to test the functionality. Usability testing is where we can turn "failure" into a good thing. During usability testing, participants try to complete typical tasks while you observe and note any issues they may run into. Every time a tester fails to achieve his objective, we gain important insight into how we can make your website better. These outside testers give perspective that you might not have because you’re too close to the project. Turning failure into opportunities for improvement? Yes please!

Testing can help you determine:

  • Are the participants able to complete specified tasks successfully?
  • Can they complete the tasks in a timely manner?
  • Is the website easy to learn and easy to use?
  • Do people enjoy using it?
  • Does the user’s performance meet your usability objectives?

What happens if you forgo the third party testing? I like to use the analogy of going to a new grocery store and being totally unfamiliar with the layout and placement of your favorite items. Is everything arranged and grouped intuitively? Could aisles be labeled differently to make it easier to find? Are you easily able to find a cart and get through the checkout? All of these are things that contribute to your overall experience... good or bad. If you had a good experience, you may have found yourself a new grocery store. If not, you’ll continue with the one you’ve always used. If your website users have trouble or are unable to complete the simplest tasks, they're going to take their business elsewhere.

Doing usability testing before the website is developed helps to identify problems and find solutions before they become costly and impact business.

Moral of the story? Failure only makes the final product better so embrace it.