When designing an email, webpage, or product, it is easy to focus too much on aesthetics, personal preference and even looking too far into what others are doing, rather than taking the end-users into consideration. While design is focussed on many elements, getting the balance of business goals and the users’ needs is important.
This balance is referred to as ‘user-centred design.’ It allows you to involve all stakeholders throughout the UX design process by using a range of techniques to create highly usable products and better user experiences.
Although user-centred design isn’t a new technique, more and more companies are exploring what it has to offer.
Over the last year at StoneShot we have pushed ourselves to get to know our users, what they expect, what they want and how they use our products. Here is a glimpse into our process when we are designing with the end-user in mind.
Research and Planning for the User Experience
There is always value in looking at what the competition is doing, and it is the starting block of almost every project, but how helpful is it? It is important to keep in mind that each product or service a company provides should be tailored to their user, what might work for others may not work for yours.
When researching, as previously mentioned, it is important to keep the focus on what you are trying to achieve as a business as well as what experience you want your users to have.
Breaking down the competition
At StoneShot we start with breaking down our competitors’ websites / products to see what they do well and what can be done better. We then create a feature inventory; a list containing the major features our competitors have compared to what we currently offer.
The major features are then assessed, and recommendations are made based on what we believe is the right direction to explore from a business point of view.
For the time being these are all assumptions, but it is also important to consider the core of the product, our users, and gather evidence based on them to back up our theories. For this we need to utilize feedback from our users.
User interviews are conducted to enable us to gain a better understanding of how our products are utilised and how we can make workflows easier. This also helps confirm our decisions and assumptions made previously in the project plan, and paves the way for our design and how it interacts with the functionality needed to fulfil our users’ end goals.
Collaborating on UX Design Through Testing
The next project phase to tackle is design. This is very important to the project, it defines what the product / website will look like as well as how it will function. We may reach the business requirements at this stage but, like many other companies, StoneShot believes that having a visually appealing product isn’t enough.
Before we can go further with the project we like to get this into the hands of people who will actually use the product, and collaborate with them to see how it performs. This is a technique called ‘user testing’ and it is invaluable in gathering feedback and insights on how well our product is meeting our users’ needs, and for solving any functionality issues.
By creating an interactive prototype, we are able to run individual testing sessions where, with our guidance, our users can follow their workflow without us having to use a live product. This means any updates to the design can be updated more efficiently. The more we get to know our users, the better the products are able to be produced.
Analyse and Iterate
There is a common saying, “There is no such thing as perfection”, and in many ways that is true. The first round of designs are never our last, and after analysing our feedback, alterations are usually made. New features may be needed, there might be tweaks to existing functionality, or even changes to the iconography to make sure everything is clear to our users. This is known as ‘iterating’ and if large changes are being made we may revisit user testing as many times as needed to ensure the revised designs suit our users and their workflow.
The iteration process will be repeated until we have a product ready for release. Only then are the designs passed on to our development teams to implement and push to beta; the last stage of feedback is to allow a sample group of users to test the product in a live environment.
The Final Product
Just because the product is finally released, doesn’t mean our process stops. We will always look at our existing designs with the aim of improving them to meet our evolving business needs and user requirements.
If you’re a current StoneShot user and have feedback on our product or wish to get involved in our user testing, complete our short form to allow us to identify how we can help each other.
For any other enquires or if you’re interested in exploring our agency services and/or marketing platform please contact us, we’d love to chat.