UEVision’s Top 10 Usability Tips
When it comes to designing for usability there’s no substitute for experience. So we asked our experts to share their top usability tips.
Tip 1: Know your users.
It’s 2013, do you know who your users are? If not, you’re missing a great opportunity. The better you know your end users, the better you can map their goals and task flows to features that make them more successful when using your product. Successful users make happy customers.
Tip 2: Watch your users use your product.
Watching users interact with your product gives you immediate feedback what’s working and what’s not. Best of all it’s easy: Just drop in on a product training session, or arrange an onsite visit with a few key customers, and see what’s going on. You may be surprised at how much you can learn—and how much that’s worth.
Tip 3: Ask your users what they want.
The next best thing to watching users is asking them what they want from your product and how it can be improved. Ask about their likes and dislikes, what they want changed, and any ideas they might have. You may uncover trends and gain insights into improvements—big and small—that offer the most bang for the usability buck.
Tip 4: Test, test, and test again. With users.
User testing is a surefire way to get valuable feedback as to whether or not your products are being used as intended. Lab-based testing and research can provide information that you could not otherwise gather, but user testing doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. Simply present users with drawings or screenshots, walk them through concepts on the phone, or send them scenarios and features. Use a scientific approach, analyze your results, and draw your conclusions.
Tip 5: Fix usability problems as they are discovered.
Let’s face it, despite all the best intentions, nearly all software and web products have some usability issues. The key is to fix these issues as soon as they appear and before they get worse. Often, simple, inexpensive design changes can help maximize user satisfaction, with minimum impact on the schedule and development cycle. Even more, a timely fix might also reduce your user training and support costs.
Tip 6: Don’t try to be Google. Or YouTube. Or TurboTax. Unless that’s who you are.
It’s simple: Know what your product is and what it is not. Unless you are Google or planning to develop a product like theirs, there’s no point in trying to design like Google. Most likely, your users are doing different tasks anyway. Have you ever seen a successful CRM suite or e-commerce site that looks like the Google search interface? No? There’s a good reason why. So, find those products that are similar to yours. Observe what’s good, improve what’s not, and always keep your customers foremost in your mind.
Tip 7: Follow the standards and guidelines for similar products.
While users may say they like better, faster, and smarter solutions, the reality is that they have higher usability success rates with products they are familiar with. Like it or not, industry giants such as Microsoft, Apple, Intuit, and Amazon.com have set the usability standards that your users know and love. Get to know those standards and apply them intelligently. There’s still plenty of room for innovation through improved features and functionality.
Tip 8: Be consistent.
Consistency in design is the bedrock of product usability. Whether you decide to follow existing usability and UI design standards, invent your own way of doing things, or do a little of both, it’s essential that your product is consistent in how it handles similar and repeated tasks and elements. Your users will learn and retain information about how to perform tasks using your product—and have a better experience.
Tip 9: Provide usable help and documentation.
If a usability challenge in your product proves too costly or difficult to fix for some reason, then use documentation such as tool tips, onscreen hints, tutorials, and quick reference cards to help your users use your system. Target your documentation to those problem areas your users keep talking about.
Tip 10: Get help when you need it.
Whether your team has once again reached a stalemate while arguing about the best design, or if you simply don’t know how to design that critical new feature so that your users can use it, it may be time to call in outside help. Usability and UI design experts can provide ideas, guidance, best practices, and usable designs that both meet your users’ needs and can be done on your timeline.
Want more than just tips? Contact UEVision today with your user experience needs.