It is almost impossible to be interested in IT solutions and not hear about how beneficial UX optimization can be. Good user experience is tied to a clear, user-friendly interface and a simple workflow. It’s all about changing the system that frustrates us into one we like to use and that saves us time. It shouldn’t be a surprise that changes which make applications more usable can bring us more clients. Yet still, not everyone makes UX a priority.
Have you wondered if it’s the right time to optimize the UX of your application? Maybe right now you just have an idea for an app or maybe you already have a ready to use product. Sometimes there are just so many things you can do with your project that makes your app more accessible for the user, that it becomes a thing you plan on doing someday, but never actually get to it. So when is the right moment you should really start thinking about improving the UX?
1. Before you start building
The best time to think about the UX is before you even start coding. When you have an idea for the application, it is natural to first think of how it should work from the user's perspective. The same goes for adding new functionality to the already existing app. You may think it would be quicker to start with just a vague idea of what your application may look like and make changes later but it is often not the case. If your developers can see exactly how each view should be built, it will save them time since your team won't have to waste it on rebuilding the same things repeatedly.
Planning is especially important if your app is very complex. Seeing the whole scenarios of probable user’s behaviour will prepare you for the cases you wouldn't see happen. It will also help to eliminate concepts that wouldn't work well. Having a blank slate will make your team's ideas not restricted by what they previously worked with and everyone would be able to look on the prototype with a fresh eye.
The process of making and reviewing mockups is, of course, time-consuming, but it will teach you and your team a lot about the app. Recently while working on some new functionalities for Catalyst, application for clinical communication and collaboration, me and the rest of the team very carefully planned how each scenario should look like. I made a pixel-perfect mockup for every view connected with a new functionality we want to create. Of course, you can also stick to wireframes, but with a more detailed prototype, you will be able to gather better feedback during testing. After creating a prototype, we could test what user could do at every step of their workflow.
It was very important for us to have constant feedback. We were having regular meetings where we discussed each view. Frequent brainstorming sessions work very well because when having a smaller portion of new designs, your team has more time to talk through every detail. Now when we are working on the implementation of our ideas, we have the exact instructions on how the final product should look like. Mockups and prototypes are also amazing material that can be used in presentations for the stakeholders and the sales team. This designing process worked so well, that we are now using it to create even more solutions.
2. During development
What if you don't have this amount of time for precise planning and if you need to have a working product fast? Does it still make sense to think about improving user experience then? Yes, it does and still can be done. The development team can make use of frameworks to quickly create a skeleton of your application. The team would be able to test it and for sure there will be some things that can be enhanced. You will be able to see what tasks take the users more time then they should and what can cause confusion.
You should always pay attention to the testers’ comments. Some information that you provide to the user can turn out to be unnecessary. For example, in Selleo, while building the application Parkero, which was created to help users find and book parking spaces, on one view we were able to get rid of several unnecessary inputs. It may sound like it's not that big of the deal, but it made the form much more clear and user-friendly.
3. After collecting feedback from your users
When your application already exists, you can gather the most significant feedback. Your app can finally be used by people that were going to use it in the first place - your users. The most meaningful input can be gained by making a testing session with a group comparable to your target clients. Watching how the users interact with your app can give you a lot to think about. Observe what your testers are clicking and check if the data they are looking for is where they expect it to be. The things your team thought to be obvious can be quite complicated to somebody who has not seen the app before. If you can’t organize a testing session, you can always make a survey and check how users feel about your product.
Sometimes you don’t even have to go looking for feedback that far. You can check ratings and browse comments in the app store. See if the app was what users were searching for or if they encountered any problems. Sometimes you can even find feature requests for the functionalities that are already in the app! Some features might have looked minor to you and were buried under things that were less important to the user.
Users can also write to your support team with issues they encountered. The people on the team should create a ticket for each problem. They ought to take notes not only on bugs but also on places in the app that are not simple enough to use.
4. While making other changes
Another great time to start thinking about the UX is when your application is in need of a code refactor. When spending time on improving the quality of code, your team can often spot some places that require adjustment to better the usability. Sometimes really small changes can make users' life much easier. If somebody is already working on some view in the app, why not kill two birds with one stone and give it more attention?
The topic of UX should also be brought up while making a redesign. You should not only focus on making your app look good, but also on making it more simple to use. Many users don't like changes, because they have to get used to them. But if the changes are good and make the work faster, your clients will be able to see why the improvements were necessary and they will appreciate them.
So as we have learnt, we can think about UX optimization regardless of the stage of our application. Is there a time we shouldn't think about improving usability? Not really. We should always strive to improve the experience of our users. Competition on the market only increases with time and we should not be surprised when someone decides to change the tool they are using for some more convenient solution. Of course, the lack of funds can prevent us from making the changes needed. However, at the end of the day, we should remember that the UX is also saving us some money by giving us happier users.