An Event Apart: DIY UX: Give Your Users an Upgrade

by July 27, 2010

In her presentation on DIY UX: Give Your Users an Upgrade at An Event Apart Minneapolis, MN Whitney Hess outlined several lightweight techniques for getting user feedback and improving a product's overall experience.

  • User Experience is the fight for making things better for people.
  • Everyone is a user experience designer if they impact product experience.
  • Four things you can do to focus more on user experience: design research, Web analytics, usability testing, and experimentation & iteration.
  • Design research answers: what do our users actually need? Not what the boss wants to give them but what they actually need.
  • The time-tracking app, Harvest, tried using Get Satisfaction for gathering feedback but found using a third party solution dropped the amount of responses they got. They now use a custom support tool called “kaizen” which means “continuous improvement” in Japanese. They track what the top issues are in their software and contact users that report issues directly to discuss ideas and announce fixes.
  • Harvest does design research through email by contacting people who respond to surveys and report issues. Their customers love to describe their workflow to the company.
  • You don’t just want to patch things, you want to fix the underlying the problem.
  • Make it easy for your customers to get into touch with you, dig deeper into their feedback and respond directly to them.
  • Web analytics tells you what people are actually doing on your site. Not what they say they are doing but what they are actually doing.
  • But don’t read too much into it. Understand qualitative feedback as well (the why behind the what).
  • Understand your traffic cycles and use analytics tools to uncover usage patterns.
  • Consider testing variations of your key pages using A/B (bucket) testing.
  • Web analytics tells you where to start looking for deeper insights. Search analytics can provide insights into what people are looking for (why they are coming to your site).
  • Usability testing tells you how designs actually work.
  • You don’t need to have a large budget or formal process to do usability testing. Just let people tell you what they expect and what they are thinking as they use your product.
  • “It looks good” is the worst feedback you can get. You need to see what your users are doing. Push people to actually use your product and talk out loud.
  • Nurture your humility by listening to what others think about your designs. Users aren’t always right but you need to hear them.
  • Don’t only test online. Get in the room with people so that you can really “feel” the pain they go through using your product.
  • Drawbacks of online tools: you don’t see participant’s body language, can’t ask probing follow-up questions, a lot harder to internalize the findings, it’s cowardly –you need to feel the embarrassment of a sucky design.
  • You can find participants in friends and family, colleagues not working on the project, twitter followers, Starbucks, etc.
  • Experimentation and iteration allows you to quickly make updates based on regular feedback. Design/develop, test, repeat.
  • Make your work environment a creative one by encouraging people to solve problems together. Comcast Interactive brought together designers and developers to inspire each other.
  • Listen to your users to understand underlying problems. Complete the loop by following up with your customers. Don’t stop improving your product.
  • Always be listening to your users. Do it for them and you’ll have happy users that love your service.