User Experience and Usability

As web technology grows where the number of online users increases from year to year, users expect: web-based widgets to be useful, content to be relevant and interfaces to be structured. The end user wants to feel confident when navigating through a website and using its functionality. We can expect the user to get things done as easily and painlessly as possible.

We will go into both usability and user experience. Although usability and user experience have become synonyms lately both these two fields are distinct. User experience address how a user feels with using a system, while usability involves the user-friendliness and efficiency of the interface.

Usability should be seen as a component to user experience. This means usability plays a role in user experience but human behaviour, psychology, information architecture and user-centered design also have an ongoing part in user experience.

Usability

When a website gives the end user problems, they are less inclined to use it. From a design perspective, testing for good user experience is not always an easy task. Usability entails making improvements based on critical feedback, statistical reports and site interactions. Offering good user experience is critical during the lifetime of a website. Improving on usability does not end when a site is launched it's actually the beginning.

Developing a website often takes up several phases. These phases consists of discovery, design, implementation, internal testing, soft launch and delivery.

The development phases is different from usability. Unlike development, user experience questions can arise at any given time before, during, or after project launch:

* Is it easy to use?
* Is it useful?
* Is it clear?

A good way to view usability is as an iterative practice, completed several times during the design and development life-cycle. The end result is an improved product and a better understanding of the users that we're designing for.

Regular Upkeep

If a website is to serve its visitors well, then the people who maintains it must address the question of relevancy. Being relevant involves having content that answers questions that people have right now. However, as technology advances and events come a go, people's needs change and it is up to the site manager to reflect those changes.

One task to perform is known as “content audits”. Content audits ask how well each piece of the website's information benefits the users. If content might be useful some may not find it so. Whether content belongs on a website is determined by the website's purpose. If something doesn't quite fit, then the website will be less effective.

User Experience

User experience is not a one design that fits all. User experience won't work in every situation for every user, since we as humans have different needs, different taste and different styles. What may work for one person might have an opposite effect for another.

What we can do is design for a specific experience that will promote a certain behaviour, from the end user, but we can't impose or even predict the actual experience itself. To better understand our users; traditional methods such as user research surveys, interviews, and observation are a few processes we can use when designing for user experience.

Hassenzahl’s model of user experience assumes that each user assigns some attribute to a product or service when using it. These attributes can be grouped into four main categories: manipulation, identification, stimulation and evocation. These categories can be further grouped into pragmatic and hedonic attributes. Understanding the divide can help us understand how to design products or applications with respect to user experience.

The hardest part of it all is questioning one's assumptions. Learning to consider the pros and cons of risky, impractical changes are creative ways to shake up the paradigm and discover potentially better ideas and ways of engaging the user.