User Research to Improve Your App Design
If you have yet to nail down your target audience, explore focus group data, or design with UX in mind, you could blow your budget on an app that is doomed to be just OK. Learn how to leverage user research and the UX development process to improve your app design and drive success!
What are UX and UI?
In the digital world, you’ve likely heard the terms UX and UI tossed around in casual conversation when discussing the newest trending apps. They’ve become so commonplace that you might feel like it’s too late to admit it if you don’t know exactly what UX/UI means.
Simply stated, UX and UI are techy acronyms for the two most crucial elements of app design: user experience and user interface. Although they go hand in hand to create a successful product, UX and UI are distinctly unique and are actually separate fields in the app development industry.
UX takes a human-first approach to design. The ultimate goal is high-quality interaction and customer satisfaction. It considers design elements such as ease of use, user enjoyment, and engagement. User experience isn’t just about good vibes, though. Through scientific data collection, UX tracks the structure, analysis, and optimization of the customer’s experience. This is where your user research for your specific audience will especially come in handy.
If UX is all about interaction, UI is all about aesthetics. User interface is more complex than graphic design. It uses the research and analytics collected during product development to constructs content and layout in a way that is responsive and guiding to users. Great UI is intuitive, meaning effortless app navigation.
Why UX Matters
Quality user experience can make or break the success of your app. It should not be an afterthought or lower-level priority! User experience means putting the customer’s needs first. Remember, as the designer or the developer, you are not the user. A UX approach keeps things in perspective during the app development process and will lead to a broader audience and customer base.
Positive user experiences are directly linked to positive effects on business, such as increased brand awareness and higher rates of customer loyalty. When UX is an intentional part of the design process, it can drive the customer journey in your app, maximizing the app’s potential for success.
Leveraging User Experience to Improve Your App
So, how do you cultivate a better user experience? There is no formula or one right answer because every unique user experiences your app differently. However, there are steps you can take to hone and improve your UX:
- Focus on your users
- Chat with them about their preferences
- Observe them use and experience your app
- Question what went well and poorly during their experience
- Listen to user feedback
Prioritize following the UX process from start to finish and boost the success of your app!
Source | Unsplash
Gathering Relevant User Research
User experience is a process that begins with gathering data. There are four optimal ways to collect useful and actionable UX data:
UX is all about the user, so knowing your audience is your foundation. Start by creating a fictional, ideal user based on market research. Consider personality, age, career, location, even motivations, as you craft this customer persona.
Don’t rush this step! The user profile will become the voice of your target audience, one that will help you create relatable and engaging experiences within your app. Bear in mind that the user profile can change and adapt over time.
Make a concentrated effort to survey existing and potential users on their in-app experience. Strive for diversity in this data collection step. People in your own peer group may interact with the app most similar to yourself, so seek out other perspectives by analyzing people in your target audience.
Your goal is to ferret out bugs in the app, details that trip people up, or language that falls flat. Craft your survey questions carefully to glean the information you need to make meaningful design revisions. Here are some sample user survey questions:
- How does interacting with the content make you feel?
- At what point did you become confused?
- How would you like to make a purchase?
- Is the language relatable?
Test the Interface
User research doesn’t end with a questionnaire. As mentioned earlier, UX and UI go hand in hand. When they are in harmony, the user experience quality is at its best. To further refine UX during app development, do a study comparing user experiences on different user interfaces.
Layout, structure, or even things as simple as keywords can impact the effectiveness of the interface and overall user experience. As you conduct your study, go for a large sample size so that stats will show which interface is outperforming others and why.
Feedback from customer surveys and interface tests are most meaningful when they are collected from focus groups. Members of focus groups are committed and more purposeful in their feedback, making it highly valuable.
Chart UX Flow
This is a start-with-the-end-in-mind, backward planning technique. Construct a flowchart that shows how you anticipate a user to progress through the app. Next, based on your observations and collected feedback, compare your flowchart to how users actually experience it.
Consider collecting more hard data with an analytical tool that allows you to watch users interact with your app in real time. Return to your user profile and take notes. Make design revisions to optimize the real-time experience for users. Above all, be open to change!
With plenty of data at hand, it’s time to analyze and apply the research to app development for optimal UX.
Source | Unplash
Applying the Data from User Research
Make the most of your user research data by following these action steps for improving the user experience:
Map it Out
In more detail than your flowchart, the next step in your UX journey is to create a detailed road map. This should take into account every tap or click it will take for the user to get from point A to point B and so on.
This is where you get down to the nitty-gritty. Flaws are revealed, bad ideas are challenged, and your product gets some serious fine-tuning. The road map not only weeds out poor design elements early on, but it also highlights what areas of content and development are still needed to improve user experience. This step is tedious but ultimately results in greater overall efficiency in the UX process.
Draft the Prototype
Using the data collected from your interface comparison study, spend a decent amount of time mocking up a wire frame. Whether you want to go old school on a whiteboard or prefer to do it high tech, invest energy in the visuals of your prototype. Your users are visual creatures and will rely on this structure to guide them through their experience of your app. Don’t skip this step! A strong prototype can save you money and be a reliable predictor of success. Prototype first, then build on that foundation.
Users like consistency. Building patterns within the user interface will create necessary elements that users need in order to instantly feel comfortable and familiar with your app interface. Patterns put the user in control by increasing a user’s level of comfort during the interaction. Take special care to modify things that user research showed to be awkward or inconvenient. Here a few common design elements that should definitely follow a pattern:
- buttons, tabs
- font size
Content Style Guide
Refer back to your user profile and customer survey feedback to develop a style guide that embodies the voice and language you want to see throughout the app. A style guide helps content writers stay on brand and on message, aligning with app developers goals. It will also contribute to the overall flow and consistency that will build brand awareness and bolster user experience.
This style guide should be shared with the entire team. The final vision keeps everyone (data analysts, interface designers, content writers, etc.) on the same page and working towards the same goal for a cohesive final product.
Streaming lining and optimizing key features can really boost user experience. Follow these steps to strategically improve different features in your app:
Cut the Clutter
When it comes to UX/UI, clutter is probably your worst enemy! Screen space on a mobile app is at a premium, and you can’t afford to waste any of it. When the interface is cluttered, it creates a barrier in the user experience, and users can’t understand or enjoy your content.
Our eyes are drawn to pops of color and bold text. Leverage visual weight in the UI to draw user attention to the most important design elements. Take a less-is-more minimalist approach to UI by eliminating unnecessary text and graphics. Avoid user overload and follow these practical tips to declutter your interface:
- Keep content limited strictly to a need-to-know basis
- Keep interface design as simple as possible to increase ease of user experience
- Utilize progressive disclosure to display more options
Finally, don´t forget the unique needs of your users. Remember accessibility. Consider how users with hearing or vision impairments may be hindered or enabled by your interface and design
This design principle is key to improving user experience, because when an app demands a complex series of tasks, users quickly shut down. Lots of steps and actions complicate UX, so best practice is to separate tasks into small, manageable subtasks.
The chunking strategy can also help you connect two related activities, like playing and purchasing. This becomes especially important during the checkout phase of any e-commerce website. Requiring one action per step results in the best user experience, and converts to higher sales. Focus on chunking tasks to improve overall ease of use.
Similarly, limit user input wherever possible. Typing on a small handheld device is a headache! If forms are necessary, keep them short and to the point. Adding input masks helps to format forms, collect required info, and limit errors. This improves user interface by acting as a visual guide. Also, try to incorporate assistant features like auto-complete to help with forms. Eliminating even a few required keystrokes from a task can improve user experience!
Users like consistency and familiarity, as these qualities take less mental energy to process. Design screens that incorporate well-known familiar features, such as “Getting Started” or “Messages”. Users will appreciate being able to navigate and find what they need quickly!
Focus on the features that matter most to your users. You can determine these by referring back to your user profile, surveys, and tests. Knowing your audience, like what drives and motivates them, will help you narrow down which features deserve the most attention.
Source | Unsplash
UX Design Partnership
You want your app to live up to your users’ expectations, so make UX/UI a top priority. Behind every highly successful app is a thorough UX design process. Conducting user research and collecting data can seem daunting to first timers or even seasoned developers. Many app developers use a UX design partnership to do this tedious analyzation process. Don’t hesitate to admit you don’t know how or want to do this part of the process. Many “thinkers” out there are looking for “doers” to partner with.
Ready to start doing user research? Contact PixelRocket and start a partnership today with a free 30-minute consultation!