3 Ways to Measure the User Experience

Before I start talking about measuring the user experience, I’m going to let you in on a little spoiler. You can’t actually measure this directly, and generally. It’s kind of analogous to saying “downloading the internet”. Of course, most business processes are about measuring phenomena and reacting strategically to the outcomes, and UX is no exception to this rule. Unfortunately, the nature of the user experience makes measuring the user experience not really a practical or possible thing. The user experience is a mix of tangible laws, sociological and psychological theory, and some general luck and unpredictability. Key Internal Metrics: While this mix of clashing things and inscrutable concepts makes a general measurement system utterly impossible, there are individual metrics you can watch at any given point, and use as imperatives. But even here, that’s a challenge, because some of these aren’t hard data easy to acquire or process. One of these big key metrics is the speed of early achievement. A big part of user experience is communicating through design and implication of pattern, how to achieve the most basic useful things. This is why really good software, even if complex, allow the simplest thing to be done with a little random jiggery pokery. Other metrics which are harder to define are things like consistency in label wording, consistency in redundant parts of disparate processes, and consistency in control dimensions, aesthetics and placements. Even harder to define is the metric of how comfortable and efficient a design is when used repeatedly, day in and day out, by users. If using a word processor was a struggle, then imagine how stressful our lives would be, given how frequently we use them. Streamlining: There is a way to streamline some of this, and automate it. New technologies have come about in recent times which originally addressed tutorial creation. The mentality was that macros controlling forms through integration and simple scripting, could guide users, step by step, through any process, while preventing critical mistakes and measuring progress and proficiency at the same time. This very system works, out of the box, just as well to capture user learnability, adoption speed and weardown due to repetition are also able to be modeled with a little tweaking along the way. WalkMe is the best of these onboard systems, and it actually possesses an analytics tool which is kind of designed with measurements like this in mind. Integrating this with LMS systems to track test users’ learning of the system (rather than overt training) is a popular strategy these days, and I can see the appeal honestly. But, all of this fancy technology doesn’t change the final verdict here, which is that while you can pick out metrics and even automate the more abstract ones, a general measurement of such a varied concept just isn’t empirically possible. Will a definitive general model for measuring the user experience ever be worked out? It is possible, with the rate technology is progressing. But, it’s going to take some genuine science fiction leaps before the digital can fully work with human-sourced data. It’s the same problem focus groups have.


Megan Wilson is user experience specialist & editor of UX Motel. She is also the Quality Assurance and UX Specialist at WalkMe Megan.w(at)walkme.com