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How to get agile and unlock the power to test UX

By Craig Hanna

16th Jul 2019

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All design agencies would love to do more UX testing. Unfortunately, testing can be costly when working with enterprise clients, and budgets often don't stretch far enough. In turn, this makes it nigh on impossible to pinpoint the optimal user experience, provide a truly great service to customers and wow clients in the process.

But what if you could work in a more agile way so that altering design, messaging and functionality was a simpler and more efficient process? And what would that look like at enterprise level?

In this article, we'll explore the importance of UX testing and provide practical examples of how agile working methods make more testing possible and drive greater results.

UX testing: the business value

Testing the user experience enables agencies to better understand how individuals are using a particular website (or portfolio of sites). For example:

  • Can users find what they need?
  • Can they find what they need efficiently?
  • Do they drop-off from certain pages?
  • Is there anything that would make their journey easier/better?

The more we understand about the user and how they're interacting with a site, the better we can serve them.

 

“People ignore design that ignores people.”
—    Frank Chimero, Designer

 

UX matters. According to this UX infographic, 61% of users move to another site if they don't find what they're looking for right away, while 40% of customers turn to the competition after a bad experience. While price and product were once the two key differentiators for a service, we're now in an era where usability is fast becoming king – if it isn't already. Just ask Jeff Bezos. He refused to spend a single dollar on advertising during the first year of launching Amazon as he focused his attention on UX.

If we can overcome the budgetary and time constraints that stop us from doing more UX testing, we're on the fast-track to providing better value to clients. By testing different marketing messages, design components and features we can build a better understanding of the customers preferences and provide an experience that best serves them.

The challenge then, is how do we tackle the budgetary and time constraints? 

How agile marketing makes better UX testing possible

Agile marketing is the ability to take new learnings from data, analytics or wider changes to the business environment and act upon them at speed. The problem with complex web design and development projects is that launching tests and implementing changes can often be a lengthy process.

The usual process for UX testing takes a long time. A brief goes to the designer to design, the marketer to write, the front-end to do the styling and the back-end to integrate. This process could take weeks. Even a small change can cost thousands of pound for a traditional enterprise business.

However, if you have an agile marketing capability, you can develop different website experiences at speed and test them without delay. This is only possible via a component-based design capability in which previously built page elements (whether buttons, text boxes, images, menus etcetera) can be easily access via a visual interface and dragged and dropped into the appropriate place.

DX8 is a prime example of component-based design (AKA low code) in action.

Cohesion DX8: Changing component layout and style

Crucially, the existence of a visual interface means that a common language exists between developer, designer and client-side marketer. Anyone with the appropriate permissions can create new messaging, alter page dynamics – and ultimately run their own tests in just an hour, saving thousands of pounds and weeks of development delay.

Take split testing as an example. On DX8 this doesn't require any development to set up the parameters (or inputs) for how different experiences will be served to different users depending on how they access the site. This can all be activated through the drag-and-drop system, which in turn utilises Drupal's context module.

Cohesion DX8: Empowered CMS

The end result is that agencies (or client-side marketers) can have two different experiences of the website live at any time, gather the results instantly and improve the user experience based on these results. 

Check out how web design agency, Coherence, used the agile capability of DX8 to deliver a portfolio of sites for The Oxford Group.

A/B testing is a vital tool in the armoury of design agencies looking to provide the best UX for target customers. Here's a summary of the other means of testing...

Testing UX: best practice tips

Ultimately, the more testing you can do, the better. Here are some best practice tips for a range of testing methodologies and how they fit into to different stages of a web design project:

1. A/B testing

As mentioned above, A/B testing allows designers and marketing teams to test two different versions of a website or page. This can be a live test which offers a different version dependant on where the user accesses the site from (be it a search engine link, direct website address, or PPC advert) and then over a period of time gather the metrics and work out what message or version works best. 

Recommended use: If making design changes is easy enough, then A/B testing can be used on an ongoing basis post-site launch. Tweaks to design can be easily tested against older versions, offering the possibility of continuous incremental gains.

2. Usability testing

Usability testing is the process of live-tracking how people are using the website. There are two ways of doing it:

i: Moderated usability testing: In this scenario a moderator sits in with test users and gathers live feedback from them as they are using the site. The moderator can ask questions of participants and gather high-quality feedback that offers more in-depth insight than is possible via metrics. 

Recommended use: During the design phase before the website is fully developed. In traditional (less agile) agency workflows, this is particularly important, as it can save a lot of development time creating something that later needs changing.

ii. Unmoderated usability testing: Much like an online survey, test users can complete predetermined tasks in their own time without a moderator present. One major benefit is that there's no need to schedule a moderated session with everyone present at the some time. Also, it means that many more tests can be run, providing an opportunity to gather more feedback.

Recommended use: Pre-development and when you require a large sample of respondents.

3. Focus groups

More akin to a Q&A session where a moderator discusses UX issues with a group of usually six to 12 users. It's an opportunity to talk more widely about how people feel about competitors and issues surrounding the product.

Recommended use: At the start of a project before the design phase has begun in order to understand the target audiences needs and desires.

4. Beta testing

When a website is nearly complete, a beta version can be rolled out to customers to gather their feedback. The aim here is to root out any bugs that have slipped under the radar or minor tweaks that would help the user experience.

Recommended use: When you're almost ready for a full launch but are aware there may be a few teething problems with the design and functionality of the site.

5. Surveys

An old fashioned survey still has its place. Relatively easy to set-up, feedback can be gathered on an ongoing basis from a large number of users. Particularly useful for uncovering information about user satisfaction and to verify other research findings.

Recommended use: For verifying/checking other findings and for gathering feedback on a new product. Suitable at any stage of a project.

Summary

The only route to better UX is testing. Ultimately, those who can test at speed, will be those who create an optimal experience for customers and higher value for clients. 
If you want to make optimal UX possible, there are two options: mega budgets or agile processes.

Get access to a fully featured DX8 demo here.
 

About the author.

Craig Hanna, Sales and Marketing Director

Craig leads Sales and Marketing at Cohesion and is a regular keynote speaker across Europe and US on a range of topics from marketing to digital transformation. Craig has over 15 years of experience across the digital sector and has worked with DuPont, L'Oreal, KPMG, British Airways and Vodafone among many others.

By Craig Hanna

16th Jul 2019

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