Information architecture is the blueprint upon which all other aspects are built - form, function, metaphor, navigation and interface, interaction, and visual design.
It is crucial to involve users in all phases of product/online applications development, for their continual input keep the application in tune with what they want and need. User requirements for optimal interactivity are taken into account from the beginning and incorporated into the evolving product at every stage of design. The success of this process is nearly inevitable and its only valid detraction is the expense involved. Yet every year, innumerable mobile apps, software and websites go to market that are not tested properly; sometimes this is disastrous.
“Simple is hard. Easy is harder. Invisible is hardest.”
— Jean-Louis Gassée
Designing a wonderful user experience is a key part of trying to create an amazing customer experience, which is much broader, anchored as it is in products, service, process, fulfillment and so on. This is something we’re all – presumably – trying to do.
What is User-Centered Design? - Too often, systems are designed with a focus on business goals, fancy features, and the technological capabilities of hardware or software tools. All of these approaches to system design omit the most important part of the process – the end user. User-Centered Design (UCD) is the process of designing a tool, such as a website’s or application’s user interface, from the perspective of how it will be understood and used by a human user. Rather than requiring users to adapt their attitudes and behaviors in order to learn and use a system, a system can be designed to support its intended users’ existing beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors as they relate to the tasks that the system is being designed to support. The result of employing UCD to a system design is a product that offers a more efficient, satisfying, and user-friendly experience for the user, which is likely to increase sales and customer loyalty.
What is User Experience Design? - User Experience Design (UXD) entails conducting user research exercises with intended users of a system. User research reveals users’ needs and preferences through user observations, one-on-one interviews, and creative activities that encourage users to express their emotions, motivations, and underlying concepts and beliefs about the steps involved in task procedures. By understanding the human emotions, motivations, and beliefs that surround a task, a user interface can be designed to accommodate and support user behaviors in a way that users will experience as natural and satisfying.
What is Usability? - Usability is a measure of the interactive user experience associated with a user interface, such a website or software application. A user-friendly interface design is easy-to-learn, supports users’ tasks and goals efficiently and effectively, and is satisfying and engaging to use.
An interface’s level of usability can be measured by inviting intended users of the system to participate in a usability testing session. During a usability test session, a user is given a series of tasks to complete by using the system in question, without any assistance from the researcher. The researcher records user behaviors, emotional reactions, and the user’s performance as the he attempts to accomplish each task. The researcher takes note of any moments of confusion or frustration that the user experienced while trying to complete a task, and also tracks whether or not the user was able to satisfactorily complete each task. Analysis of data from several users provides User Experience Engineers a means of recommending how and where to re-design the interface in order to improve its level of usability and thus, the user experience in general.
What Makes a Website or Piece of Software Usable? - Usability depends on a number of factors including how well the functionality fits user needs, how well the flow through the application fits user tasks, and how well the response of the application fits user expectations. We can learn to be better user interface designers by learning design principles and design guidelines. But even the most insightful designer can only create a highly-usable system through a process that involves getting information from people who actually use the system. Usability is the quality of a system that makes it easy to learn, easy to use, easy to remember, error tolerant, and subjectively pleasing.
How Do You Achieve a High Level of Usability? - The key principle for maximizing usability is to employ iterative design, which progressively refines the design through evaluation from the early stages of design. The evaluation steps enable the designers and developers to incorporate user and client feedback until the system reaches an acceptable level of usability.
The preferred method for ensuring usability is to test actual users on a working system. Achieving a high level of usability requires focusing design efforts on the intended end-user of the system. There are many ways to determine who the primary users are, how they work, and what tasks they must accomplish. However, clients’ schedules and budgets can sometimes prevent this ideal approach. Some alternative methods include user testing on system prototypes, a usability audit conducted by experts, and cognitive modeling.
User Profile - An application interface is premised in part on a clear understanding of the critical characteristics of the intended user population. I apply such techniques as structured interviews, questionnaires to gather pertinent data on skill set, educational level, job experience level, technological literacy, attitudes and motivational level, and demographics from which I draw implications for interface design.
Task Analysis - An application interface is also premised on a clear understanding of the users' current job and tasks, underlying goals, and mental models of their work process and products. I conduct structured and unstructured interviews, field observation, goal structure analysis and usage studies are among the techniques I apply to uncover key aspects of the tasks being automated and translate them into user interface requirements.
Style Guides and Standards – I have developed corporate, and application Style Guides.
Heuristics Assessment - I evaluate a prototype, identify potential problems and opportunities for improvement. I can offer specific recommendations for change. Studies have shown that such "heuristic evaluations" predict a large percentage of what would be revealed by formal usability testing techniques. When budgets preclude formal testing, I can provide a quick assessment as a cost-effective alternative.
Usability Testing – I am skilled and experienced in designing and conducting usability testing on paper and pencil simulations, and digital prototypes. I uncover key usability goals, design appropriate test scenarios, supporting materials and facilities, recruit appropriate test users, collect, analyze and interpret performance data and subjective user reactions, draw conclusions and make specific recommendations for design improvements.
User Feedback – When I am about to start the development of a new release, gathering feedback from users can provide valuable insights on how to design the user interface for the new release. I am skilled in a variety of techniques, including structured interviews, focus groups, questionnaires, usage studies and usability testing.
Projects, I worked as part of the UX team, are:
Resolve family Mediation
By HDP Riviera
Resolve Family Mediation
Ashtead Cancer Group
Caterham upon-Hill Parish
Cabinet d’Expertise Immobilière
The Work Foundation
Yahoo! Inc UK and Ireland
Cabinet d'Expertise Immobilière
Surrey County Council
Parametric Technology Corporation