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5 Clear Signs That You Should Hire a UX Expert

If your company’s product is not performing as expected, it may be time to bring in a UX expert. Industry surveys show that every dollar invested in UX brings a return of between $2 and $100 dollars.

UX covers all aspects of a system (website, app, product, service, community, etc.) as experienced by users. Great UX design can mean the difference between breaking it or making it as demonstrated by the success of Apple, Microsoft, IBM, Amazon, and Google.

User experience design is the discipline of what UX designers do, and user-centered design (UCD) is the UX design process. Design thinking and HCD (human-centered design) are other terms that are widely used. All of them typically include user research, sketching, wireframing, prototyping, interaction design, visual design, user testing, and continuous iterating on designs.

Design Thinking 101 from the Nielsen Norman Group

Here Are the Top 5 Signs You Should Consider Hiring a UX Expert:

1) People Are Complaining That Your App Is Frustrating to Use.

The most likely reason for this is bad usability, which could include:

  • An inconsistent user interface
  • Information overload, too much noise
  • Lack of functional clarity: Users are not sure how to use it.
  • Confusing navigation: Users are getting lost.

A UX expert would:

i) Consider your content and core functionalities and come up with a minimalist design approach:

Minimalism is a design philosophy that focuses on the simplification of form, achieved by making use of the simplest, most essential elements in a design. Minimalist design essentially reduces a system (website, app, product, service, etc.) to the most critical elements and offers the following benefits:

  • Lightens information overload—focuses on content
  • Strips the product down to its most fundamental features
  • Makes navigation clearer and therefore easier
  • Keeps users focused and headlines your unique value proposition
  • Makes your product more timeless
  • Helps boost conversion rates
  • Enables faster performance

Minimalist web design

ii) Dig deeper with user research and testing:

“The first requirement for an exemplary user experience is to meet the exact needs of the customer, without fuss or bother…”
– Don Norman & Jakob Nielsen

A great UX expert will define who your users are and set up user testing. User testing is known by many names: product testing, design testing, usability testing, design validation, etc., and is the process of testing designs with real users in real scenarios to better understand their concerns and usability issues. User testing will:

iii) Perform a heuristic analysis:

Focusing on usability, a heuristic analysis is an evaluation method in which one or more experts compare a digital product’s design to a list of predefined design principles (commonly referred to as heuristics) and identify where the product is not following those principles.

2) Account Sign-up and Conversion Rates Are Dropping.

A conversion rate is the percentage of users who take a desired action. Typically this means people buying a product from a website, but can also be applied to other actions such as newsletter signups, video views, etc. A drop in conversion rates and the number of users signing up for an account could mean:

  • The landing page does not follow best practices
  • The customer journey map is not designed well
  • The mobile app onboarding, and onboarding in general, is not designed well

A UX expert would:

i) Review the landing page:

Landing pages are essentially about acquiring and retaining visitors as well as converting them into buyers and subscribers and are currently one of the most popular tools marketers use to gather leads.

Here is a short list of landing page best practices:

  • Visual simplicity: Reference minimalist design above.
  • Great media: Use of relevant still images and video demonstrates a product effectively and creates a personal connection with visitors.
  • The effective use of color influences visitor psychology.
  • Mobile audiences are considered by implementing responsive design.

Catchy and concise headline on Taster's Club landing page

ii) Review the customer journey map:

“Mapping out the customer journey is an effective way to understand what turns a viewer into a long-term, loyal customer.”
Kofi Senaya, Director of Product at Clearbridge Mobile

A customer journey map can take a variety of forms, but essentially, it is a visual representation of a customer’s experience with a product or company at various touchpoints over time.

iii) Review onboarding practices:

“Users try out a lot of apps but decide which ones they want to ‘stop using’ within the first three-to-seven days. For ‘decent’ apps, the majority of users retained for seven days stick around much longer. The key to success is to get the users hooked during that critical first three-to-seven day period.”
Ankit Jain, Head of Search and Discovery, Google Play

No matter how great an app may look, if users cannot learn how to use it easily, they are more than likely going to abandon it.

3) Your Online Store Is Not Performing as Well as Expected.

In 2017, eCommerce sales in the US alone are estimated to reach around $434 billion. And worldwide, eCommerce will continue to post solid gains to $2.3 trillion. An eCommerce site is more than just a typical website—it is an online shopping experience that, if done effectively, will convert passive shoppers into paying customers.

Several factors determine the overall success of an eCommerce website—for example, product quality, shipping costs, trustworthiness, and customer service. However, great user experience design is key to providing customers with a satisfying experience and will not only convert potential clicks into actual eCommerce transactions but also give customers a reason to come back time and again.

Here are some of the issues a UX expert would look out for:

  • Trustworthiness: Most shoppers are concerned about privacy and whether the site will protect their personal data by providing a secure transaction. If the website does not feel trustworthy, they will simply choose to shop elsewhere.
  • Design considerations: The look and feel of a website is the main driver of first impressions. Research concludes that people will determine whether they like a website or not in 50 milliseconds.
  • Navigation: Navigation is about how easy it is for people to move around the website and finally take action. The eCommerce shopping experience should be seamless so shoppers do not drop off halfway through the process.
  • Special offers: Shoppers are always on the lookout for special offers, discounts, or best deals. Even if the price differences aren’t that great, the psychological sense of saving some money creates an illusion of having an upper hand.
  • Shopping cart: The shopping cart is an essential component, as it is where customers review their selected products, make the final decision, and proceed to checkout.
  • Checkout design: The success of an eCommerce site is simply measured by the number of completed purchases—a well-designed checkout page will significantly contribute to the conversion of passive shoppers into paying customers.

eCommerce store concept by Virgil Pana

4) Your Business Dashboard Is Not Giving Users What They Want.

An effective business dashboard shows actionable and useful information at a glance. A great dashboard is clear, intuitive, and customizable. It simplifies the visual representation of complex data and helps stakeholders understand, analyze, and present key insights.

A UX expert would:

i) Make sure your dashboard design decisions are guided by:

  • Clear project goals
  • The nature of the data
  • The needs of users

ii) Review the design to ensure your dashboard adheres to these dashboard design best practices:

  • Uses “progressive disclosure,” a technique used to reduce clutter
  • Users are able to accomplish most actions in just a few clicks.
  • The design reduces complexity and provides clarity on actionable data.
  • Conveys a clear story to users by making use of suggestive visuals and labels
  • Reveals data and information at the appropriate time, in a drill-down system
  • Uses data visualization to expose information in a meaningful way
  • Information is communicated quickly, clearly, and efficiently.
  • Trends and changes in data over time are shown effectively.
  • The most important widgets and data components are effectively presented in a limited amount space.
  • The dashboard is easily customizable.

Dashboard design by Toptal Designer Miklos Philips

5) Your Website Is Under-performing. Users Complain It Is Difficult to Use.

This symptom is typically a result of usability problems, and the customer complaints could be due to:

  • Ineffective information architecture, content layout and navigation impacting usability and discoverability
  • Poor UI design trying to do too much, overwhelming users
  • Inconsistency throughout with the way information and functionality is presented
  • Functionality and search results pages are not designed with the user in mind.

Following fundamental interaction design principles and standards contributes immensely to great interaction design, which in turn will contribute to greater user experiences.

A UX consultant would:

i) Review the site’s UI design to ensure that it’s consistent and follows widely-accepted interaction design principles, conventions, and standards:

  • Review navigation, information architecture, usability, and discoverability.
  • Check for clear signifiers—these are tied to discoverability and give clues to the actions people can perform.
  • Look at how search is integrated into the site (including the search results).

ii) Review the site’s UI design for heuristics (empirical rules of thumb) and interaction design best practices:

  • Discoverability: If the user cannot find it, it does not exist.
  • Signifiers: Ensure that affordances (possible actions) are clearly indicated in the UI.
  • Feedback: It is critical that users be kept informed about where they are in the UI and what’s going on at all times.
  • Conceptual Models: A good conceptual model helps users understand the system and gives them a sense of control.
  • Mental Models (cognitive maps): These are the images in a user’s mind that inform their expectation of a certain interaction and how something works in the real world.
  • Mappings: Mapping is the relationship between controls and their effect in the world—in the case of interface design, it’s the relationship between a control and its resulting function.
  • Constraints: Constraints in design make sure only specific things are enabled, or even visible, in order to guide the user towards certain interactions.
  • Patterns and Learnability: Common components or patterns provide instant learnability. Once you’ve learned how to use a spoon, you will always know how to use a spoon—the same construct applies to the UI components we use every day.
  • Consistency, Standards, and Heuristics: to prevent user error and make an application easy to learn, it is essential that an interaction model be consistent.

Susan Weinschenk and Dean Barker (Weinschenk and Barker 2000) researched usability guidelines and heuristics from many sources (including Nielsen's, Apple, and Microsoft) and generated this set of 20 usability heuristics to check against.

Summary

As more and more personal and professional business is conducted online, users have come to expect an optimized digital experience across all platforms and devices; when they visit a site or hit up an app, there are only seconds in which to engage them. In this saturated digital environment where people have become demanding and very savvy, investing in UX is pretty much mandatory in order to gain their trust quickly, ensure their loyalty, and build brand recognition.

Recent findings from Forrester Research suggest that a well-conceived UX design could potentially raise conversion rates up to 400%. As company stakeholders begin to recognize the impact it has on the ROI of their online products, user experience (UX) is becoming more mainstream and can no longer be considered simply a competitive advantage, but an important contributor to a company’s bottom line.

If your app is getting low ratings and complaints about its usability, or your website is not generating the conversions you were looking for—or any of the signs listed above hit home, it’s time to consider hiring a UX expert!

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