Let’s Talk UX: Why Research and Requirements are Important

uxdesign_maindetailHello everyone!  Today I’ll be talking to you all about why gathering research and defining requirements is important.

Alright, so let’s say your team is building an app for a client.  The client asks for two requirements, and leaves the rest to your team.  Now,  your team holds excellent programmers and designers that utilize the latest tools of their trade to come up with ideas of what this app will do and look like.  Your team begins with making sure the basic features asked for by the client are included, then begin adding feature after feature that may help the end user and looks awesome.  As your team builds the product more and more, you all begin to really fall in love with the product.

The end product is a latest-featured aesthetically-pleasing design that does what the client does and more.

Key point on more.

Six months pass and you receive a rather heated email from your client saying the app is performing far below expectations.  He details out that the target demographic does not buy the app.  You investigate into the issue and find that the extra features were far misaligned with what the target audience’s goals were.

This is why research and requirements are important.

You find that if you had done some research into the target audience then a few key features that were tacked on would be avoided like the plague.  You would’ve known why some features were important and why were definitely not.  You would’ve had a direction of where your ideas should go.  Some things that could help your team in understanding why UX Research and requirements are important:

1. The product is not for you, it’s for the user.  Using your “gut” and going with what you think is good are very wrong driving factors in creating a user centered product.  Understanding your users is absolutely fundamental in creating this product.  What do the users prefer?  What type of things drive a user for the topic of this product?  What sort of problems are users having in order for them to want this type of product?  These are all questions you can extract valuable information from and apply to the creation of the product.  

2. The interface is magic, but wandering aimlessly accomplishes nothing.  The requirements are designed to help you define a “road map” to what direction your product design should go.  Without these a designer or programmer is left with creating indiscriminately, meaning there is no set way on where their designs are heading.  These requirements are to help drive your ideas in the direction your users would prefer based on educated conclusions, rather than aimlessly wandering in a direction.  

So next time you and your team are commissioned in doing a product, try to understand your target audience and define a path first.  Don’t throw features at an interface and hope or think something good will come out of it.


——User First, Designer Second—— 


Let’s Talk UI Design: Heuristic 7, Flexibility and Efficiency of Use


Just thought I’d get that off the chest here.  Hello again everyone!  Today we shall be discussing the seventh heuristic in Jakob Nielsen‘s 10 Heuristics of User Interface Design:  Flexibility and Efficiency of Use.  So this time I’ll be using Facebook as an example.

Ok, so to recap:

Flexibility and efficiency of use

Accelerators — unseen by the novice user — may often speed up the interaction for the expert user such that the system can cater to both inexperienced and experienced users. Allow users to tailor frequent actions. “


Some people have more experience than others.  Allow shortcuts in your design for these people, because they know what they need and how to get to it.  Facebook keeping you logged in, or even messaging a friend on Facebook are two good examples.

Now as much as I have with Facebook, this heuristic was excellently put into play.  On your personal profile page, Facebook provides a Friends tab where you can find your friends and do whatever you need (checking profile, shooting a message).  It’s an excellent tool, one that Facebook really thrives off of.  OK, so let’s say I just wanted to send a friend a message.  Instead of diving in click after click to find my friend in the Friend’s tab I could use this nice right panel Facebook has so nicely provided for me that takes one, maybe two clicks.

This is a perfect tool for me, as I am a seasoned Facebook user who really only comes to Facebook for one or two items.  Now, for those who have different goals than I do may use the Friends Tab, but for me who is a user focused on what I need I have the flexibility to choose.

Alright, so importance?

Users are different.  Some users are savvy with an interface, some are not.  Some users have one set of goals, others have a different set.  As a designer, it’s important that you understand that inside your target audience will lie users of these categories.  You cannot design something for everyone, but you can design something effectively for users in your target audience on both sides of the spectrum.


——User First, Designer Second—— 

The “Home” Link: How do I wanna use it?

Microsoft's navigation, with the logo as the way home.

Microsoft’s navigation, with the logo as the way home.

I recommend checking out the 10 Usability Lessons from Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think, courtesy of Redd Horrocks.

Ever have a small feeling that your website could be actually driving your audience away?  Maybe have that feeling of “did I screw up my audience” or “is my site broken”?

No, it’s most likely not broken, and you probably targeted your audience pretty well….except you might have left out one piece to include in your analysis.

The Home Button.

How is your audience getting back home?

Alright, so a huge trend that’s been going on for the past few years is the lack of a “Home” tab in the main navigation.  It’s somehow become a “modern” design aspect in many sites today.  The common thought of the “Home” tab is that ‘most people know to click on a header image or left logo‘.

TheVerge relies on the main logo to return home, a very common convention.

TheVerge relies on the main logo to return home, a very common convention.

Now, did you make a similar assumption?  Ah, that’s alright.  Many people do.

Ok, I can see that.  It’s a common act many modern websites to do just that: logo link home or header image link home.  It’s been going on for years now.  I wish to pose a question though:

Isn’t that just assuming your users know to use that, or is that information fully supported with data?

Sure it’s a common thing to do that in websites, but have you taken into account what not having a “Home” tab could do to your users?

According to Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability (get it, study it, love it!  Great usability book!), A “Home” tab is used by users as more of an “escape plan”  in case they become disoriented in a website and need to catch their bearings.  You want to make it as easy as possible for your users to get back home.  Don’t force them to think! (Krug).

So when to use this?

Well, normally I’d say always, but I know that’s not quite the case now, is it?

So, you want to keep this in mind when you’re Identifying your audience and during your testing procedures (after sketches, after wireframe, after prototype, whenever you’re testing).

Identifying your audience:  Who your target demographic is can really change whether or not you need a “Home” button.  Let’s say for example your audience is older folk who know the internet but aren’t really too online savvy.  This is a case where you may consider using the “Home” tab.  Your audience sounds like one that can get lost rather easily if your information architecture isn’t flushed out correctly.  Make it extremely simple for them to “get back to start” rather than rely on the back button.

During your Testing Procedures:  Sometimes what you thought initially may not end up being the case for your website.  For example, you’re testing your wireframe with InVision, and you ask your test subject to “Go back to the Homepage”.  You think that he or she is going to click either the header image you used or the top-left logo image.  Your heart drops when you watch them delay, then press the Back button!  No! Something’s not working right!

On the flipside, let’s say you did include both a “Home” button and a logo image link.  You ask the same task to be completed, and you notice most of your users hitting the logo image rather than the home button.  Well, the “Home” button didn’t work here.

If either of these cases happen then this is the time for them to.  Make notes of how your users are performing with similar cases like these and evaluate them!  See where you can improve, and whether or not a “Home” button is needed!  If you have the time, test both and see which yields the better result.

Alright, I hope this helps in your endeavor of using the “Home” button or not!

“The problem is there are no simple “right” answers for most Web design questions (at least not for the important ones). What works is good, integrated design that fills a need—carefully thought out, well executed, and tested.”

                        -Steve Krug: Don’t Make Me Think:  A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability
——-User First, Designer Second——-