Have you ever thought up an original joke and then shared it with a friend, only to be met with the sound of crickets chirping? In your head, it was the funniest thing you’d ever thought of, so what went wrong? Or what about that time you wrote an essay for school, proud that you could make such a balanced argument, only to read it later and discover that it makes no sense at all? Things make more sense in our heads than they do when they’re introduced to the rest of the world. How does this translate to digital marketing’s UX-o-sphere? A website design and user interface that you’re sure are perfect may be just the opposite when it comes to your users.
Everyone needs a second opinion
The largest software companies in the world create their solutions in-house with some of the best minds in their field. As good as these products must be, most of these companies use external consultancies in order get a second opinion. They find consultancies that specialize in usability tests, and they make sure that their products are truly as user-friendly as they think they are.
It’s always good to get a second opinion. Why? Because we’re biased. If I draw a picture of a horse for you, I’m spending all that time not only creating it, but convincing myself that it’s getting closer to looking just right. I’m stuck in my own context. If I continue without seeking a second opinion on the matter, I might end up giving you something that looks more like a four-legged table with hair.
Now, no one likes to be told that their creation isn’t perfect. It can be frustrating and disheartening to be sent back to the drawing board to correct an error (or four). Everyone makes mistakes; that’s why they call it a rough draft. But not everyone actively seeks out second opinions, and that’s where you can really impress your end users. After all, the goal of UX is to make something that is comprehensible to everyone, and deliver a great experience for all users.
User Experience designing means testing
It’s extremely unlikely for even a good UX design to succeed without undergoing any usability tests. Testing means that you will prove whether or not your ‘intuitive design’ is truly intuitive or not. If the biggest software producers conduct extensive usability tests, then it should serve as a sign for us all that what we think works perfectly may actually be confusing for someone else.
Even if you’re a small organization, you can conduct usability tests with free tools such as usabilitytools.com. All it takes is setting up the test, sending the link to your users via social media or e-mail, then analyzing the results. Once you see the numbers, you can apply a bit of statistical analysis, and you’ll know whether people understand your set-up or not.
Don’t get discouraged if the findings uproot your certainty. Even when usability tests expose issues, it doesn’t mean that your first draft wasn’t a good start. It may just need a little bit more development, and now you have the information you need to make changes and polish off any rough edges.
Go back and look at your work, considering the feedback. Whatever you think is already clear to a fault, make it even clearer. Be too obvious in some cases, and then test it out again. Eventually, your UX will truly be an ‘intuitive design’ to the general public, and not just you. Sure, it takes some extra steps, and sometimes it can be painful to have people picking your work apart, but in the end, you’ll be glad you sought out that second, third, and fourth opinion before launching your new design into the world!
A version of this article was published as UX Design: What’s True for You is Not True for Everyone by Melissa Stellwagen on January 27th, 2015.