As a part of the UX team at Zion & Zion, it is important to continually refine my skills and knowledge to better understand users. This year, I had the privilege to attend the UX Conference hosted by the Nielsen Norman Group (NN/g). The conference was held virtually and allowed me to dive deep into topics including:
- UX Foundations
- Usability Testing
- Webpage UX Design
- Analytics and User Experience
- The Human Mind and Usability
Throughout these courses, I gained valuable takeaways that have influenced my approach to UX research, interaction, and website design. Here are some of my biggest takeaways from the courses.
The main emphasis of this course is that what people do and what people say are two completely different things. As UX strategists, we should always keep in mind that observing user behavior in a natural setting will often provide greater insight than asking for specific feedback. User testing is a great way to understand and observe user interaction first-hand. It allows us to identify user confusion, frustration, and behavior tendencies within an interface.
Proper user testing begins with recruiting the correct audience that is representative of the target users of the website. From there, establishing top priorities to test on the webpage and creating accurate test tasks can help guide the test to success. It is important to remember to test at all stages of a project to gather valuable feedback that can lead and improve your design.
Web Page UX Design
The basis of this course was learning how to strategically build wireframes for websites that accomplish the goals you are aiming for. The process begins with understanding user goals and key information of the page to align the web design around. Successful web page design balances the hierarchy of information, basic design guidelines, and known psychology principles to reach your user.
The organization of information on a webpage plays a key role in page success. Users typically enter webpages with a specific information goal in mind. Users often use a method called “information foraging,” which means they are strategically looking to extract only the information that benefits them. Users will scan the information on the page in what is referred to as the “F-Pattern,” specifically scanning for subtitles, bullet points, and key words that appeal to them. By utilizing key features such as headings, lists, and strategic whitespace, we can encourage users to find the information they are looking for, or that we want them to see, with ease.
Basic design guidelines can greatly influence the way users perceive a webpage. You can impact user behavior by adding weight to featured areas to draw the user’s attention. Additionally, a strong UX-based webpage avoids design faux pas like hard to read typography and too bright of colors that hurt the eyes. When evaluating a web design, we should ensure that the overall design of the page helps users accomplish goals rather than taking away from them.
We can apply known psychology principles into UX design to ensure we are helping users accomplish page goals. Simple elements such as using cues to signify to a user that certain features are interactive can help guide them in their journey. It is also important to remember that you don’t always need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to UX design and allow users to discover information and features in areas they would normally think to look.
Analytics and User Experience
Data and analytics are a key component to the web research process. By combining qualitative data of user opinions and behavior with quantitative data, we have a more wholistic picture of the user interaction with an interface. Having this quantitative data can allow us to benchmark website performance and determine if key goals are being met. Once we have data that allows us to understand website performance, it is equally as important to be able to properly communicate this data to important stakeholders. By telling a story through the analytics and allowing key decision makers to visualize the data first-hand, analytics can play a more crucial role in web improvements.
The Human Mind and Usability
In order to implement proper UX, we need to understand human principles and be able to effectively apply those concepts to web design. There are two main principles proven about human behavior that should guide all UX thinking: the False-Consensus Effect and the Principle of Least Effort.
The False-Consensus Effect
The False-Consensus Effect is the tendency for humans to overestimate how much other people share our own behavior. As UX strategists and designers, we need to avoid the notion that all users will do as we do. This means we need to continue to rely on and refer back to analytics and testing to influence decisions rather than our own user tendencies.
The Principle of Least Effort
The second user principle that guides design, the Principle of Least Effort, is the idea that if there are several ways of accomplishing a goal, users will choose the least demanding course of action. As users interact with an interface, they are looking to take the least amount of steps, or clicks, possible to accomplish their goal. When designing a website, we should design to streamline the user journey by reducing their effort. This will not only help the user journey, but help improve page performance as well.
Overall, the NN/g UX Conference brought an immense amount of unique perspective and deep thought that has altered my approach to UX design and research. These comprehensive strategies and processes can be kept top of mind and applied to future projects.