UX Design Tools - Chapter 2 UX Inspections
Last week I wrote about the importance of dimensional looking in UX Design. I also discussed the different methods of looking that you can use to uncover and extract insights and direction for your User Experience design teams. In this article I will touch upon the different UX inspection tools that you can add to your arsenal to help you understand the problem that you are trying to solve with your digital products. When a designer has been tasked with creating a brand new product the UX process can be pretty straightforward because, well, everything is new and feels a bit experimental. Every data point is a learning one when the new design is placed in front of users. On the other end of the spectrum, making the choice with regard what to "fix" in an existing digital product can be a difficult one if you just jump in and start trying to change things with no real sense of why you are doing something. This is where UX inspections come in.
UX inspections allow the designer to dig deeper into a new or existing design to determine what elements need to be created, enhanced or removed to perform better in front of your users. Gleaning these insights comes from the application of one or more of these types of Ux inspections;
DESIGN BASED INSPECTIONS
COGNITIVE BASED INSPECTIONS
There are a few more that can be used that I did not mention here but I'll let you do your own research by visiting the highly experienced and informative Nielsen Norman Group. I'd book mark their site if you haven't already. It's chock full of great information and tools as well. For the sake of this blog, I will be addressing the UX inspections that I have personally used in my own work.
DESIGN BASED INSPECTIONS - Feature Based & Consistency Comparison
Feature Based: Focus is on all the features required to perform a task within the product. Let's say that we are trying to examine a mobile application to create a redesign or update. Performing a feature based inspection would consist of an in depth walk through of the entire application flow and documenting tasks and sequences of tasks that could reflect places where optimization could occur. Examples of this would be, multiple clicks to get to a page or menu redundancy.
This process identifies places where you might be able to streamline or propose new features to relieve the redundancy.
Consistency Comparison Based: Focus is on comparing features from your product to other products that are similar. When we design, we try our best to create functional products that are easy to use with features that have value to the people that use them. So when we are trying to create new feature sets or update an existing product it is wise to take a close look at what others are doing within the similar space. Doing this affords us the opportunity to find ways to improve our current design.
Develop a consistency checklist
Analyze a site/app/or product
Look for positive or negative findings (what do they have that you don't or vice versa)
Record and report findings to your group to discuss
Below is an example of creating a comparison chart with login features for my fictional product and another product. A simple chart can enable you to easily view opportunities to improve your design. In this case the purple highlighted areas are places where we could improve the design for testing.
What could you inspect? Anything! The point of this inspection is to enable you to find opportunities for your own design. So while you're looking at another product you could pay attention to design elements like;
Graphics and imagry
Creating features based inspections will enable your team to understand what others are doing, and how you can apply design that works to your own product.
STANDARDS INSPECTIONS: The Expert's Opinion
There will always be someone who knows more about something on a design team than you do. If there isn't then you need more people on your team! The Standards inspection is a simple way of saying that you put your design in front of said expert and get them to examine it for compliance in their specialty. An example of this would be a usability expert taking a closer look at your proposed design features to ensure that an element is accessible by people with disabilities. That person on your team knows their stuff, so give them the opportunity to make suggestions to improve the design. Listening to your team is also an important element to ALL design progression.
COGNITIVE BASED INSPECTIONS: I Think, Therefore I Ask Questions.
Have you ever opened up an application or visited a website and had difficulty doing whatever it was that you were trying to do there because you couldn't locate the tools on the site or signifiers that you needed to advance through it? It can be frustrating for any user who thinks a button is a button when it isn't. Cognitive based inspections force designers to examine the things that you are thinking through and processing the steps that a user might take to complete a task within a product.
Cognitive based inspections help identify usability issues and asks the questions;
Will the user notice the action is available in my design?
Do they know what task is achieved by their action?
Do they get the appropriate feedback for their action?
Do they know it's correct or incorrect?
Does it do what they think it does?
I know that you're probably thinking...how do I know what they're thinking? Well, you ask them. I know this rocket science is astounding. Seriously though, cognitive based inspections are task driven. This means that you can create a series of tasks for a user to maneuver through your product or to test out a feature set that you have designed and get feedback from them by asking valuable questions about their thought process. This helps you understand or view gaps in your design that you might not have thought about and this leads to new features for you to create!
HEURISTIC INSPECTIONS: TESTING..1...2...3.
Heuristic inspections have been instrumental in the discovery process. Established by Jakob Nielsen and highly used by designers everywhere, heuristic inspections are simply a set of broad rules that I like to refer to as the usability tenets of common sense. As you are going about your path to discovering just what your problem is, heuristic inspections can be great tools to use.
VISIBILITY OF SYSTEM STATUS: The feedback principle. As you examine your product take note of interactions. Does the user get some kind of feedback from their interactions? Yes? Awesome. No? This could be a place to examine.
MATCH BETWEEN THE SYETEM AND THE REAL WORLD: The metaphor principle. The majority of people we design for are not developers, or ux designers and as such do not have the vocabulary that those individuals use. Your system should speak the users language. Keep explanations and system language general so everyone can understand what you're trying to say. Can you pull someone off the street to look at your content and have them understand what to do or is it too technical? These are things you can test.
USER CONTROL & FREEDOM: The navigation principle. Users need to be able to move freely through the product and should they find themselves deep in the rabbit hole, should be able to get back to where they started easily. Clearly defined exits, and undo/redo functionality. If you are looking through your product and realize that you have reached a point of no return...HIGH FIVE, you've found something you need to work on!
CONSISTENCY & STANDARDS: The consistency principle. This means to just keep your product navigation consistent. Buttons are buttons, menu icons are menu icons and not contact forms etc. Save your user the time of trying to decipher anything and keep it consistent with what they already know how to do.
ERROR PREVENTION: The prevention principle. Keep your user from making errors! Give them insight to know when they are heading into doing a very bad thing! Pop ups, warning screens, an image of Spongebob scolding them...whatever, just use something in your product to let a user know when they are about to make an error.
RECOGNITION RATHER THAN RECALL: The memory principle. Make options, actions, and options easily visible. Think about how you use a product. Some movements are so commonplace that you do them without thinking. Like an application sign in using facebook, or clicking on a thumbnail to expand images. We recognize these things without thinking too much about them. If your product doesn't have any of these features, BAM! You have another thing you can work on!
FLEXIBILITY & EFFICIENCY OF USE: Shortcuts. This principle allows you to look for accelerators in your product that expert users might use that are relatively hidden from novice users. Having something like this allows expert users to tailor their interactions and go a little faster. An example of this would be keyboard shortcuts. Having something like this increases ease of use for multiple users and makes using your products more enjoyable...and who doesn't want that!?
AESTHETIC & MINIMALIST DESIGN: Keep Dialogue to a Minimum. Unlike this blog...keep your dialogue within your product succinct and simple but effective.
RECOGNIZE & DIAGNOSE AND RECOVER FROM ERRORS: Provide error messages for your users to know when an error has occurred and how they can solve it with easy to understand instructions.
HELP & DOCUMENTATION: The Help Principle. People are going to mess up. They're going to click wrong things, or misuse your product. Be a nice designer and provide documentation for help.
Thus ends another exciting UX Design blog. UX Inspections are varied in their use and should be utilized when you are looking for design gaps and places for improvement in your product. They are a good place to begin to understand what your users are going through. For a more in depth view of Nielsen's 10 Heuristics you can check out the NN group.
Next week we will begin the deep dive into UX Research methods that you can employ to ensure that you are taking the necessary steps to understand the people who are using your product.