UX Tools & Techniques and When to Use Them

Despite the massive growth in UX over the last 10 years, it can sometimes be difficult to understand when to use these tools – particularly when terms like ‘lean’ and ‘agile’ come into play.

UX Tools and when to use them.

How agile can you really be when going through a thorough UX process, and a hard deadline of 6 months to deliver a prototype that investors can see and users can start testing?

Being the realist that I am, I’ve broken down some of the key UX tools available out there and WHEN you should ideally use them.

User experience is about the process of enhancing user satisfaction by improving the usability, accessibility and pleasure provided in the interaction between the user and the product.  You don’t need to apply every part of UX thinking to your product. Once you understand this it becomes easier to pick and select the tools that help serve that purpose for your product.

It’s up to you to decide which are the best in your given situation. Remembering that the only way to know what you are doing is right is by checking your bottom line and hearing from your users.

So in this post I’ll outline the tools below.  Feel free to skip to the one you’d like to know more about.

  1. Personas
  2. Google Analytics
  3. Surveys
  4. Remote Usability Testing
  5. Contextual Research
  6. A/B Testing
  7. User Journeys

Personas

The idea of a persona is all about building empathy for your user.

You know your users you say?  Well often when you’re making small UI decisions or discussing the number of sign-ups you’ve had to the site, it’s easy to forget who it is that uses your product.  What motivates them?  Where are they when they’re using your product?

We use personas as a way to understand our user needs.  It’s something to be posted on a wall in the office or shared with the project team.  If I had an aussie dollar ? for every time I heard someone on the project team say, that it’s the user’s fault that they don’t know how to use our product – I’d be very rich.

The honest truth is users don’t care about your product.  It’s YOUR job to make them care, to make it easier to use, and enjoyable to use.

So list out using Google Analytics and/or real users what a typical user looks like.  What motivates them, what frustrates them and the brands they love.  Anything that helps understand who they are.

Remember they are a FICTIONAL yet REALISTIC description of your users.

Google Analytics

The best way to capture information from a large group of your users is through quantitive data.  Though not always an accurate depiction of what happened, Google analytics is capable of giving you data on who your users are, their interests, where they tend to lose interest on your website or software.  And much more.

I tend to start with Google Analytics data if possible, then follow up with it and the end of a project to see how well the website has performed.

It’s the easiest way to gather data on your users and take action on them.

Google Analytics in UX.

Surveys

They key to surveys is asking the right questions.  Years ago when working at Yahoo New Zealand I designed templates for competitions we would sell and run as part of a campaign for our clients.  I found that there are 3 key things you needed to do in order to get the most entries.

  1. Offer a prize worth OVER $1k or a ‘money can’t buy’ experience.
  2. Have the LEAST amount of fields (barriers to entry) for them to fill in.
  3. Add a gamification feature that allows your users to share the competition and receive more ‘entries’

Surveys are very similar.  The people you most want to hear from are unlikely to want to do it.  You need to give them a reason to and in exchange, you’re getting incredibly valuable information.

Surveys are a great way of gathering qualitative information in a quantitative way.  It also allows your users to speak their mind without the barriers of ‘in person’ and ‘environmental’ influence.  Telling someone their product is sh*t over email is easier than it is face to face.

So some tips are:

  1. Make it short and multi-choice if possible
  2. Ask questions in an unbiased way
  3. Offer an incentive.

Remote Usability Testing

If you’re not speaking to your users, you’re not doing UX design, and remote testing is another way for you to touch base with them to find out if your product is meeting their needs.

Remote Usability testing is where you get your ideal users to test your digital product remotely – often in their own home.  It allows you to recruit your ideal users because these users on ‘on call’ and are familiar with the process of speaking to a camera about their thoughts whilst interacting with you prototype.

Companies like UserTesting.com and Askable are great for finding your users.

In my design process, all I do is grab on the prototype link within Invision and share it with the users within UserTesting.

Prototyping within Invision allows you to connect your designs together so it replicates the interactions of an app, almost as if it were complete.

Share Button.

Prototype Share tools UX Invision Design.

Contextual Research

It’s so easy for our users to say one thing and then behave completely different when they’re in their normal environment.  It’s very also to also forget all the shortcuts and hacks that our users have created in order to make their life easier when working with software/website.

This is where contextual research comes in.  It requires you to visit your users where they are most likely to use your website or app.  By having them in them their most natural environment it allows you to customise the design of your website or app to that experience.

A/B Testing

This User Experience tool is one of my favourites because it helps you determine the best combination of content/design by testing with statistically significant sample sizes.  The best part is that once you set it up, it does the testing for you.

So when I worked for a very prominent airline, as a team we decided to test out button colours on the site.  The ones you click on in order to view sales and then eventually buy something.

We ran this two variations for one week.  One teal, one magenta and one orange.

The result being that magenta received the most clicks!  So by using tools like Optimizley, you can run an A/B test on your website or platform to find out exactly which landing page works best, which photo works best, which colour placement and content gets YOU more sales and/or happy users.

User Journeys

This is also known as the customer experience map and they’re key because they help you understand how your users see the world. By knowing this you can optimise your designs to alleviate the pain points your users face.

Now there’s no right or wrong way to create a user journey map.  What is critical is that you know WHY you are using this technique and what you’re wanting to get from it.  Knowing these two things will ultimately result in the format of the map.

The below is an example of a customer experience map.

User Journey Map.

Take ONE of these tools this year and apply or create it based on your needs and let me know below if it has improved your user experience and bottom line.

Stay informed,

Tania Richardson web designer.

Author avatar
Tania
https://taniarichardson.com
15 years as a digital designer. Author and Director of Richardson Creative, that helps start-ups and large organisations use design and data to design the best online experience for their business.