Five steps for improving user experience
It’s Spring, and in the spirit of spring cleaning, it’s time for a clean-up of your app, website, digital product or platform! While it’s ideal to constantly improve and iterate to keep an application fresh, the reality is that the right team with the right approach may not always have been overseeing a product's user experience. In this situation, a more consolidated application review and revision is required.
If it’s been some time since you’ve invested in a review and refresh for your product, you’re overdue. At our web consulting agency, we not only design, build and monitor custom web products for our clients, we are also constantly reviewing, refining and rebuilding existing applications. Monitoring user experience and leveraging the findings to regularly improve products is critical to their success. With that in mind, we’ve taken our user experience expertise and put together five phased steps your team can take towards evaluating and improving your user experience.
Five Steps For Refreshing Your Application and Improving User Experience:
- Measure the current state
- Isolate improvements
- Evaluate impact
- Identify an implementation plan
- Remeasure and refine
Measure the Current State
A team can’t improve what they don’t understand properly, so begin by analyzing the current state of the application or product. This step not only requires a hands-on review of the current user experience, but also a multifaceted research effort. This research has three primary focuses:
- Restating existing product goals and metrics
- Take a step back from where the product currently stands in order to suss out where it began. Ask - ”What were the initial business goals?”, “What customer group or audience was targeted by this product?”
- Once the initial goals are redefined, take time to evaluate the where the product is now relative to those goals.
- Executing targeted user interviews and surveys
- Evaluating current analytics and metrics
Compiling artifacts that reflect these research processes establishes the fundamental building blocks for refreshing a product. Evaluating the current state of a product as objectively as possible also creates a strong sense of collaboration and trust between both client and partner.
After documenting the current state, specific themes and frustrations have now emerged. Patterns of use, like shoes creating well-worn paths, will be critical in identifying where users have pivoted in order to meet their own needs. Did admins improvise shortcuts in order to create new accounts? Have users arrived at a simplified workflow for downloading documents? Leverage the information extracted in the first step to create documentation that highlights these patterns.
It’s also not unusual for the most common point of user interaction to be one of the most poorly utilized. For example, landing pages or dashboards may become inadvertent obstacles if overbuilt or under-defined. Be sure to flag any of these components when documenting opportunities for improvement. In order for the next step to be effective, these areas of interest must be comprehensively identified.
Once themes have been centralized, the next step is to re-engage with users. Core users should be presented with discrete opportunities for improvement to the application, such as simplified workflows, new features, aggregated feature sets, etc.
Each of these opportunities—extracted from artifacts created in the previous step—are then discussed and weighed by users according to effort and impact. Design and development personnel will help stakeholders understand and weigh effort. Inversely, stakeholders should help the product team evaluate impact to the organization.
Diagramming or charting these evaluative outputs provides the stakeholders with an ability to socialize the recommendations and capture additional feedback. This additional round of inputs strengthens the overall approach and can provide added buy-in from those not as closely associated with the process.
Identify an Implementation Plan
With a thorough evaluation complete and everyone feeling satisfied with the defined priorities, it’s time for an implementation plan to be drafted. This is planning is a complex collaboration between individual representatives of stakeholders, subject matter expertise, business analysis, design and development.
This multifaceted team must decide what rapidity and depth will make the most progress for the application or product while at the same time establishing meaningful infrastructure for future production. The plan manifests itself according to iterations (or sprints) that form larger releases. These releases can be done over the course of weeks or months, but should always be moving the needle for the overall utility and intuitiveness of the application.
Re-Measure and Refine
It’s the measuring of forward movement that constitutes the “final step” of the clean-up effort. As each component or feature is added on a iteration basis, the team is prepped to measure the deployment by engaging with end-users and application analytics. Two fundamental questions to ask as this phase initializes:
- Can we coordinate a survey or, better yet, a focus group after the next release?
- What specific measures can give us a sense of adoption and effectiveness for the next release?
Setting these benchmarks gives the team a focus as they define timing and functionality. Moving too fast, without enough functionality to show, won’t be conducive to getting adequate feedback.
Moving too slowly, with an abundance of modifications, can overwhelm and muddy the waters of effective feedback.
Now that you’ve taken a crash course in seasonal clean-up, remember that the most important aspect in all of this is user engagement—that’s listening to your users and being able to separate signal from noise in their feedback. The ability to find the core of their wants and needs provides an abundantly bright future for your application.
Interested in improving user experience on your web application, but want our experts to do the heavy lifting? Let's talk!
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