We spend A LOT of time reviewing user experience. One of the things we’ve learned is that awesome user experiences do not just happen. They’re the result of careful planning and dedicated execution. We’ve had the opportunity to be a part of many different design processes and one thing we’ve learned is that the best user experiences all have a several things in common. Here’s what we believe are the five steps necessary for creating an awesome user experience.
STEP 1: Define the user experience.
The very first step in creating an awesome user experience is knowing what you want the user experience to be. This may seem like an obvious notion but, we encounter clients every day who have created user experiences for no other reason than they could, or someone else did, blissfully unaware of why.
An awesome user experience always starts with a statement of what you want the experience to be. This helps to unify your team’s vision and helps keep scope creep under control. Here’s an example of a short unifying user experience statement:
“We want our clients to able to book their own appointments as effortlessly as possible.”
A statement like this will keep you and your team focused on reducing the number of steps, decreasing the complexity, or automating portions of the user experience where possible. It also creates a goal, and goals keep everyone focused.
As a final bonus, defining your user experience also tends to make the subsequent steps of creating an awesome user experience less time consuming and even less expensive!
STEP 2: Plan the user experience.
Once the user experience is well defined, the next step in creating an awesome user experience is to plan as much of it as you can in as much detail as you can. Once you have a plan of action and a roadmap for your team to follow, materialize as much of the user as experience as you can. Create prototypes, wireframes, flow charts, or even cardboard cutouts—whatever you can to help you and your team begin to visualize the user experience you’re striving for.
STEP 3: Speak to actual users.
Now that all the prep work is out of the way (it is isn’t it?), it’s time to put all that preparation to use. The next step in creating an awesome user experience is speaking with your users.
Set up some surveys, arrange some informal calls, or invite a few of them in for a quick interview. Show them what you’ve got and what your ideas are. It doesn’t really matter how you do it as long as you’re reaching out to your users. Early user feedback can provide invaluable insight on any design assumptions made, user competencies, and even potential pain points.
You’ll be amazed at how easy and insightful incorporating user feedback can be once you get a process established!
STEP 4: Iterate on the design.
So, what did your users tell you? What insights did you gain?
Now that you’ve spoken to your users, you should have a good idea of what they need and what they want (and even what they don’t want). The next step in creating an awesome user experience is to iterate on the original design using the insights gained from speaking with your users.
Don’t be surprised if you go through several iterations, the best user experiences usually do. When prioritizing changes work your way from the bottom up, making the easiest revisions first to save time and resources for any bigger changes to come.
Finally, get your users involved every chance you get. Let them see each iteration and consider inviting a few power users to act as design consultants (see participatory design).
STEP 5: Review the design
Great user experiences are those that harmonize with the needs and desires of your users. Users frequently change and grow and so do their experiences. Regularly check in with your established users to ensure the experience you’ve designed for them is still meeting their needs. Similarly, incentivize your newer users to talk about and provide feedback on their likes and dislikes as their experiencing them.
Keeping up with your users will help ensure your awesome user experience remains so.
Want to share your user experience wisdom? Let us know in the comments below!
Not sure you can create an awesome user experience on your own? Normal Modes has comprehensive UX and usability training programs that can help you and your team acquire the skills necessary to become user experience leaders in your industry. Get ahead of the game by making time for training for your team in 2015: