User Experience: A Continuous Process of Improvement
UX Design is a term that has gained a lot of popularity in the last years, especially in the field of web and mobile apps. And as it often happens with popular terms, the meaning grows rather vague with increased usage. So, what precisely is User Experience Design, and how does it help in developing a software product, like a mobile app? Teresa Holfeld, Android Developer at Ubilabs explains, why UX Design is a continuous process.
Seen in a bigger picture, UX Design is a process rather than a design technique. In UX Design, you constantly improve the product in an iterative cycle and measure your improvements. While design concepts like usability design are the tools to make these improvements, UX Design is the method that lets you apply and measure this improvement in a controlled way.
UX basically goes hand-in-hand with a continuous development cycle:
- You have a hypothesis about how a new feature or a change might improve the user experience,
- you build a minimum viable product where you can test this change, and
- measure your success to learn whether or not your hypothesis was right.
How to build a prototype
Let’s say you have an awesome Android app called Caturday that shows a lot of funny videos of cats. And you have an idea: let’s make it social - let’s add comments! In a UX Design process, you would first go and frame a hypothesis. This could be: “Users want to say and read something about cat videos. Comments would increase the user engagement and give them a better experience.”
Sketches help you to capture the idea
As a next step you want to build this feature so that you can test it. The good thing is that in order to verify your hypothesis you do not necessarily build the whole software and release it. Instead you consider how you can create a minimum viable product (MVP) – a version of your product that you create with as little effort as possible, that is still able to verify your hypothesis. You can, for example, create a mockup, wireframes or even just a paper prototype or sketches. As long as you are able to measure the success that this feature would have, it is a viable product. In case of the Caturday app, you could simply do some sketches on paper. The purpose of these sketches is to show an idea to some test users and gather some feedback. For paper prototypes, a good method is to provide two versions: one with the change and one without. In this case, you have one sketch with comments and one sketch without comments.
Measure the outcome with the right questions
In the next step you have to measure whether your hypothesis holds or not. In this case, you could do some hallway testing with it. Hallway testing is an informal testing method where you ask your colleagues in the office to participate in a quick user study or give some feedback. Show each version to some people and ask the same questions, for example: “What would be the first thing you would do here?” and “What would you do next?”. Write these answers down.
If you look at the answers you might see that in the version without comments users replied that they would first watch the video and then maybe share it. In the other version they might first scroll through the comments, and then maybe watch the video, but are less likely to share the video. Hence you can conclude that comments will divert the user engagement away from actually watching the video and sharing it to reading the comments, which might not be what you wanted.
“Testing first” with effective methods
If you design for UX, try to verify your hypotheses quick and early in the design process, and document your measurements carefully. There are a lot of resources to read about methods like guerrilla research, the lean design process, and UX Design in general. We recommend Marcin Treder’s book UX Design for Startups and Nazmul Idris’ Youtube series User Experience for Developers.