By Owen Andrew
Trying to measure user experience as a general concept often leads to useless results with too many variables. Standardizing the user experience means looking at it as a more concrete idea.
The idea behind UX is to design a website with the end-user as the focus rather than your artistic inner-self or the capabilities of the software or system you are using.
User experience is made up of four interdependent elements:
If even a single element isn’t right, it will hurt the experience of your visitors and ultimately undermine the outcomes you’re hoping for.
Ways to Gauge User Experience
There are a number of ways in which you can measure the user experience. Some of them will provide more reliable data but are more expensive, while others are cheaper, but will result in more subjective data.
Conduct Your Own Analysis
The first and easiest approach is to conduct your own analysis, working through each of the four elements of the UX separately by creating statements for each section.
You then rate each statement on a scale from 1 to X, where X represents 100 percent divided by the number of statements. So, if you have 10 statements for each section, you would rate them from 1 to 10. This will give you a score for each section.
Objectivity might be an issue but you can try viewing the site as if it’s someone else’s work. You won’t be able to detach yourself completely, but it’s a start.
Alternatively, you could get your website evaluated by an expert in UX, which will require a small investment but the results will be more objective.
One of the most effective ways to measure UX is through user testing, but it’s can also be one of the most expensive. You can do this in person, in a lab or even online. You get a representative sample of your target market to carry out various tasks on your website and then you interview them to learn more about their experience.
User testing will offer you invaluable data from your target market instead of basing your conclusions off of heuristics, like the previous methodology.
An alternative is A/B testing. This approach allows you test various design elements against each other on a small user base. While it won’t offer as much information as user testing, it’s a more cost-effective option.
Conducting online surveys is a faster and cheaper way to gauge the UX of your actual target market. You can build your own questionnaire by converting the statements from the first methodology into questions. You could also use the Standardized Universal Percentile Questionnaire, designed to measure site usability, loyalty, trust and appearance, or use it as a starting point.
The main advantage to online surveys is that you can study a large segment of your target market relatively cheaply, while still getting more accurate and reliable data than by only analyzing the design yourself.
Find Out What Users Really Think
As technology evolves, so too do the methods employed to discover what users really think and how satisfied they really are. The methods detailed below are often expensive – sometimes prohibitively so – and require a lot more equipment and analysis, but they do offer highly valuable data.
Eye tracking can be used during user testing, and it involves recording where on the screen users look at first and what gets their attention. It also tracks what users are choosing to act on.
Measuring Trust & Emotion
This test involves using various prototypes that take different measurements such as heart rate, facial expressions and skin conductance to determine precisely how someone feels when using a website.
It might sound complicated, but there is no better way to gain an in-depth understanding of what motivates users and what their experience actually is like. You can often discover things about your users that they don’t realize and aren’t aware of themselves.
Measure Engagement & Emotional Response
Neuroscience technology, such as electroencephalograms and functional magnetic resonance imaging, are being used to measure people’s emotional response and level of engagement when visiting a website. It might seem more complicated that it needs to be but these technologies provide more accurate and real data than any other approach.
This type of technology allows you to discover precisely what appeals to your audience. You can discover which messages have the most impact and what elements engender the highest level of trust. It basically provides a window into the hearts and minds of your target audience, allowing you to discover precisely what affects them and how, offering you invaluable insight.
There’s pros and cons to each approach, so it’s a good idea to use more than one if you can. If cost is an issue, you could evaluate your site yourself at first, make the improvements you deem necessary, then do an online survey to dig deeper.
Regardless of the approach you choose, a good user experience is essential to the success of a site’s design. And the only way you can determine the user experience of your site is to measure it.
All images via the portfolio of enotmaks
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