UX design is not art

Before starting my Master’s in Content Strategy, I looked through the curriculum and one of the courses that stood out was the UX and Interaction design course by Fleur Jeanquartier in the second semester.

As it became clear in the first semester, content strategy is connected with many topics, one of them being user experience (UX).

One of the most valuable lessons for me was an in-person session in Graz where we picked out apps/websites we had good user experiences with and analyzed their strong and weak points, user flows and journeys. You experience an app or a website differently when you look through it from a UX designer point of view. Suddenly you see a certain user task has too many steps, or that other tasks are very intuitive and help the user reach the goal faster and simpler. 

For the main task of the course, we had to analyze the Too Good To Go app which lets you save the food from your favorite restaurants, so it gets eaten instead of wasted. You don’t know what you’re getting in the bag until you pick it up. The app is popular in the US as well as in all major countries in Europe.

Too Good To Go app (source)

Sadly, it’s not available in Slovenia – that’s why I had to test the app on an emulator machine called BlueStacks which worsened the experience.

My group conducted a Thinking aloud test where you ask your “test participants to use the system while continuously thinking out loud — that is, simply verbalizing their thoughts as they move through the user interface.” (The #1 Usability Tool by Nielsen Norman Group) That way you get an answer on what to improve in the app by first analyzing the insights from test participants, finding out the problems, then prioritizing gain and pain points and lastly, designing a solution.

Another popular UX research method that was taken by several of other groups in the course is Heuristic evaluation where usability specialists inspect the interface design without any test participants. This evaluation is based on Nielsen’s 10 Usability Heuristics principles.

As I mentioned previously, I had to conduct the test using an emulator machine since I couldn’t download the app to my phone. Test participant had multiple difficulties while navigating the app since scrolling, for example, wasn’t that fluid and clicking with a computer mouse is very different to tapping with a finger.

Conducted tests brought many aspects to light that weren’t seen to us at first. We gathered all the results and prioritized pain and gain points. All test participants agreed that the app had a very nice interface and seemed well-produced while also being intuitive and understandable, even for novice users. One of the issues that came up multiple times was Search and Filter options weren’t visible enough – we prioritized it as a high-level issue and suggested a solution which also included the prototype.

The lesson learned for me was that UX design is not a simple art – you have to think about all the steps a user takes when using the product or service and think of real solutions to ease the user’s pains. But the biggest challenge is to find these pains through researching and testing as “Customers can’t tell you what they need.” (Jobs, S., Apple). Sadly.

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