One of the primary job responsibilities of a UX designer is the ability to sift through feedback. There are three voices in constant conversation in a product designer’s conscience:

  1. The stakeholders
  2. The users
  3. The product

The stakeholders want what’s best for the company, the users want what’s best for their needs, and the product wants to be as good as, or better than, its competition. It’s our responsibility to design a product that fits the needs of all three parties.

But how do we know what’s a need and what’s just noise?

Competitive Analysis

We start by observing existing products that solve similar problems within and outside of the industry. Interaction design ideas are agnostic — some of the best inspiration comes from products and applications in industries drastically different from our own. Various web and mobile patterns inspire our team to create solutions that lie outside of marketing automation.

We compile reference material for use during concepting and sketching, but also to help illustrate to teams internally where we can, or should, go with our product — considering the competitive landscape. This is important as it can be difficult for stakeholders to fully grasp sketches with copy represented as lines, and buttons represented as posted notes.

Heuristic Evaluation

Heuristic Evaluation is about accounting for the basics — dotting your interaction “i”s and crossing your task-flow “t”s.  Heuristics are evaluated against the product overall, as well as page-by-page to ensure baseline compliance with usability best practices.

These are the guardrails that, more or less, ensure users can maneuver through the product in a cognitively and behaviorally-sound manner.

The information gathered from the evaluation will often echo feedback that users express in surveys or customer service calls. Pairing the two sources together creates a convincing platform for prioritizing new features and updates — very helpful when separating needs from noise — and bolsters the effectiveness of user testing.

Usability Testing

Once we’ve analyzed the competition and observed common best practices, the UX team begins to build out product designs. We begin with sketches and wireframes, add interactions and graphics, and then prototype our proposed solution(s) to test them against user expectations. Usability testing allows us to measure our hypotheses against actual users to understand if our proposed designs behave appropriately for our targeted user base.

There are many different ways to conduct a usability test, but with a smaller team, we test by formulating a test plan based on a proposed user journey. The user journey is a representation of the ideal way a product will be used, which holds true for a large portion of the product’s users.

Our prototype is a proposed solution for the product based on the user journey. During testing, users interact with the product and try to execute common tasks.

UX designers measure both qualitative and quantitative data based on the user’s reaction to the tasks at hand. Based on the the qualitative and quantitative feedback provided by users testing our product, we will fine tune our designs, iterate upon them, and continue testing prototypes until a sound solution is found that both enables and pleases our users.

UX designers act as the liaison between the stakeholders, the users, and the products, listening closely to industry trends, business needs, and customer feedback in order to design the proper experience to fit the needs of all the involved parties.

By listening to and evaluating feedback through the processes explained above, we are able to create fresh, new experiences within the framework of the product that align with the expectations of the business, the users, and the product, and its designers.