What is Undercover User Experience Design?

Understanding user experience is vital in ensuring that consumers are put first through production of useful and enjoyable products. Though many companies understand the benefits of user experience design, only a few appreciate it. This is due to the fact that companies follow stringent guidelines to keep costs down and efficiency high. They perceive this as their only way to survive the all-year-round tough times. Design and usability of products is therefore not prioritized, and this adversely affects user experience.


How Undercover user experience design saves the situation

Going “undercover” has been proved to be an effective way of introducing user experience to companies. This means getting people excited about user experience (UX) without them realizing your intention. It does not require anyone to go knocking on the CEO’s door to demand for change. This design works as a good virus that slowly infects people in an organization, eventually making the world better. Doing great UX is not as simple as it may sound. It is a disruptive process in which difficult questions are asked. Well thought-out user experience tools, user experience guidelines and user interface design tools have to be employed in business. Focus, patience and persistence are therefore a commonplace for any undercover user experience design aficionado.


Undercover UX techniques

To get right into action, the following techniques will help you to show the value of user experience:

1. Expert review – this is also referred to as a heuristic evaluation or site review. It involves a structured appraisal of the business website and exploring UX issues by using rules of thumb (heuristics). Select the most essential task on your site and go through the pages involved. As you do so, use the heuristic list below, which gives guiding principles of a good website:

A good website is:

– Made for humans. The site is relevant, useful and enjoyable. It matches the user’s mental models and offers the right level of user control. – Forgiving. The site prevents errors where possible. When errors occur, they are clearly explained and the site provides an easy way to recover from them. – Accessible. The text should be legible by everyone including color-blind users. – Self-evident. Users can easily know what and who the site is for. – Consistent. It should use known web conventions and remember user preferences. – Efficient and trustworthy. The structure, text and images are concise and the site is accurate is giving good feedback

2. Competitive analysis – This involves conducting expert reviews on competitor sites. The same heuristic list is used with details about the competitor sites’ structure, visual style, content and functionality. You can give scores to the different sites and plot them on charts for comparison as a part of your undercover user experience design. Competitive analysis coupled with expert review can be a perfect conversation starter. What do they produce that you don’t and vice versa? What opportunities are there? Do the competitors use a different language? This technique helps to reveal the real shape of the business landscape. 3. Analytics snapshot – Site analytics are more often than not overlooked. After collecting analytics data about your site, examine these metrics to understand how your site is used and by who: Unique visitors, new versus returning visitors, visits per unique visitor, day and time of visit, location, entry pages, bounce rate (proportion of users leaving the site after viewing one page), referring sites, keywords, navigation paths, conversion rate, page views per visitor and time spent on site, browser and registered users and paying customers. 4. Search logs – Search data can give you clues about user intent and the possible gaps in your content. Look at the most popular search terms. Do they reflect the main business priorities? Do they have a pattern? This information helps to understand user experience and can be used later to formulate and use better user experience guidelines and user interface design tools to ensure maximum satisfaction. Becoming an undercover user experience design aficionado is not a hard task. It just requires having a passion to embrace the right user experience guidelines and tactfully sharing the knowledge with people in the organization.
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