Boosting confidence around the UX Process with the help of Heuristic Evaluations.
One of the things that comes with experience in any profession is identifying flaws in things without having to think about “why” it’s flawed. Oftentimes this leads to solving those issues without following any established process. This is quite common in a startup scenario and small organizations.
Let’s take the example of somebody asking you to propose a new design for a specific app.
You start identifying issues that you have encountered through your professional experience, write them in your to-do list, and jump right into Sketch to create a new comp and turn it around in hours. Quick n’ easy, makes you look good and you bless others with your magic.
Sounds pretty familiar, right? Let me tell you the opportunities you are losing when doing this.
Educating a group of people about the inner workings of the UX process is as important as the design work itself. Raising the organizational awareness of proper UX is key to create better products.
Solving things on the fly makes you grow as a professional, but keeps everybody else in the dark.
Setting a standardized process to take on design tasks is very important. It provides the organization with documentation on the “whys” of design, and generates accountability for all the tasks that are required to fix a UX flaw.
This will also reveal the drawbacks of not following proper UX processes and quantifies time and resources lost by not doing things right from the beginning.
Let me illustrate with a simple issue we have worked on at CEMEX.
I land on a web application for our customers. All I can see a standard login form.
If I put myself in the position of a customer that doesn’t know what this is all about I would have simply closed the browser and moved on.
This is an opportunity lost to inform the user about the awesome things we do.
This flaw could be described by many design heuristics that are basic for UX:
- User is not in control of the situation.
- No visibility of the user status.
- User is not being supported to perform a task.
It needs to be fixed, but backing it up with the adequate information is key for everybody else to understand why we have to fix it.
Identifying designs screwups and informing others properly
This is what heuristic evaluations are good for. Identifying what UX rules are broken within a scope. You start by defining the heuristics (the rules) that you want to benchmark against.
Norman Nielsen usability heuristics are fundamental, but there are some other firms that have created lists that are proven to work. The more heuristics you include, the more strict the analysis is going to be.
Analyze the product. Do this in parts, it is a good idea to do it by screen.
A good spreadsheet software will help you to organize this info well, and to link the issues with other tables containing the data associated.
- Gather url, screenshots, sections, etc.
- Tie the finding to the respective heuristics
- Establish the severity of each flaw
- Establish who is responsible to start the remediation process (send it directly to development, create a new design comp, meet with stakeholders to discuss).
- Propose ways to solve them (a short sentence is enough at this stage)
- Find out how difficult would it be to fix it (get somebody from dev to do this)
- Find out how long does it take to fix it.
Going beyond the report.
Have a nice discussion with stakeholders with your findings and illustrate them on the heuristics you have used to identify and sort the issues. This conversation will be very enlightening… for everybody.
Once you have done that, make sure this goes beyond the spreadsheet, as it is only the first step in the resolution effort.
It is likely the teams do not use Airtable or Google Docs as their favorite story/bug tracking system. Trello, Jira, Rally, take the time to funnel through them so they gain the adequate visibility.
Do your comps, create that prototype, get your hands in the code. Get it fixed, do it the right way.
Design is not pixie dust, now everybody knows
Now you have documented the whole thing from start to finish and pumped deliverables at all the stages of the process. There is enough data for everybody to understand why and how a UX flaw has been tackled.
You backed up your decisions with actual research, which cost nothing to your company and you helped changing the idea some still have about designers having magical powers and our profession to be more artistic than technical.