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4 UX analysis methods that ensure optimal user experiences

UX analysis ensures users will have smooth experiences. Use these four methods to analyze a UX. Learn what each method entails, when to deploy them and who performs each analysis.

Proper analysis of a UX ensures customers interact smoothly with the application. UX has long been a part of application design and deployment, but UX analysis has become even more important as more organizations shift away from in-person interactions. Whether the shift resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic or from other industrial or enterprise factors, UX analysis is more necessary than ever.

Today's development teams have an increased focus on multi-mission, composable user interfaces and experiences. Companies have multiple avenues with which they can attempt to meet these broad new demands for their applications, but they must balance UX with line-of-business and stakeholder support. In turn, development teams need to create UXs that can mold to fit evolving business relationships and not alter how customers interact with their applications.

IT organizations should consider these four methods as means of optimizing their UXs:

  1. Audit
  2. Concept testing
  3. User interviews
  4. Heuristic evaluation

Let's examine these UX analysis methods and how an IT organization can implement them into their application development.

1. Audit

Auditing is the most common approach to UX analysis, but perhaps also the toughest to define. Generally, an audit is defined as a UX review that includes tools and techniques. An audit is performed typically after development and field use.

As for who should perform UX audits, identify unbiased experts outside of the development team to ensure objectivity.

The audit should cover everything from the user experience's original goals and requirements to how well the UX adheres to best implementation practices.

2. Concept testing

Teams should perform concept testing on a UX before it is too far along in development to assess end goals and requirements. The main goals of concept testing are to establish both the natural context in which the application delivers its UX, and any specific UX features or characteristics that prospective users would view positively or negatively.

IT organizations have options when they want to obtain data on concept testing. Choices include -- but are not limited to -- moderator-led focus groups, one-on-one interviews and questionnaires. While focus groups generally yield the best results, this method requires effective moderation to keep participants from being led to give certain answers.

3. User interviews

User interviews rely on actual users. Teams can conduct these discussions either in the UX design phase or after the software's UX is available in a pilot or live operation.

When user interviews happen during the design phase, it looks like concept testing -- but there's a key difference. User interviews in this phase elicit early feedback on the UX. If an organization conducts user interviews later on, it's to validate the assumptions of the design phase or fine-tune the UX.

4. Heuristic evaluation

Heuristic evaluations are direct UX assessments of user perspective. This method tests the interface and modes of interaction based on how the application users see it. Outside UX experts can conduct heuristic evaluations, as can the internal UX team itself and -- in some cases -- real users. The difference between heuristics and other UX analysis methods is that statistical data can supplement the examination; it does not rely solely on subjective views.

UX analysis method overlap

Development teams do not always use statistics in UX assessment, but any application should maintain UX-related data for extraneous key pressing, transaction abandonment, use of help files, time spent using help and so forth.

Teams can then use this data to focus UX analysis on the things that create the most confusion or generate the most errors.

Above all, UX analysis must be systematic. Develop a specific plan, enlist the right people with the right qualifications and have them document every step in the process for later review.

The first step in a heuristic evaluation is an objective, impartial and expert assessment of a user's experience. Look for presentation inconsistencies, situations where the user is required to remember too much between steps, places where progress is shown ineffectively, and cluttered and confusing GUIs.

During heuristic evaluations, development teams should assess error messages and help files, in conjunction with the user-side exploration of the UX. Development teams need to put the interfaces through enough error conditions to be comfortable with the response. For example, if the application is expected to support users with different skill levels, it's important to test for all skill levels. If there isn't a proper level of support, it will be on the team to determine whether this lack of support means some users will be unhappy with their experience.

Another element of the heuristic evaluation involves a software audit. Some of this appraisal can be done by inspecting the user-side evaluation above, but it may also require a design-level review of the way the development team created the interface. This step is also expected to ensure that established standards and best practices are followed, and that the work meets security and compliance goals.

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