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Daily usability design

Practice rules of thumb (heuristics)

Much of the standards that ensure usability are already well known, documented, and practiced by informed designers and developers. If you have a website or app that needs some tender-loving-usability care, but you don’t have a budget to hire experts, see if our workshops are the right fit to get you on track.

Practice rapid iterative testing

For everyday design projects, maximize user interface quality by conducting many rounds of testing as part of an iterative design process. NN/g research shows that each iteration improves usability by 38% on average.

Rapid iterative testing is an ideal method because each time you change something, running another test:

  • Ensures that the new changes worked
  • Provides an opportunity for another layer of issues to be revealed
  • Increases the likelihood that results will be available early enough to inform decision making

Such studies are largely throwaway. Once you’ve created the design’s next version, the study findings are rarely useful. See creating the perfect user interface »

Annual usability checkups

Rapid iterative testing is often ideal, but sometimes you need to step back and get a bigger perspective. For important projects, you should do this once a year. For less important or slow-moving projects, it might be enough to have a checkup every 2 or 3 years.

Results of these studies usually provide findings that can stand the test of time. Deeper and more comprehensive studies don’t just produce a list of fixes to a design’s current iteration. These studies generate insights into users’ behavior and needs that are useful for years.

  • Independent expert reviews. Hire an expert, like us, to evaluate your user experience. Having us analyze your design from a fresh perspective shakes things up and offers a more neutral evaluation of your usability level compared to the rest of the world.
  • Benchmark studies. Track your usability metrics and see how much better you’re doing from year to year. Quantitative studies can be expensive and are subject to many pitfalls, unless impeccable methodology is employed. Thus, they are only for companies at the high end of organizational maturity with respect to usability.
  • Competitive studies. Compare your design with that of three competitors. These studies are expensive and take time, but they’re the best way to get broad insight into customer behavior and strategic ideas for the next year’s design projects. Your competitors spend a lot of time and money designing solutions to approximately the same problems as your own.
  • Field studies. Rarely performed, studies conducted at customer locations.

When new people join your team, they should read several of these conceptual reports to gain background on current design directions. Understanding the big picture with respect to usability will prevent new people from making a lot of mistakes.

The best usability reports are learning tools that help form a shared understanding across the team. It’s worth investing the effort to produce a few formal reports each year. One way to free-up resources and make some reports extra good is to scale down your ambitions for most of your everyday reports, keeping them quick and informal.