On the weekend I was out in my backyard grilling up some steaks for a few friends (now that spring has finally arrived here in one of the world’s coldest capital cities). I like cooking in the great outdoors as much as the next guy, but my biggest challenge is knowing when those very expensive hunks of protein have reached the optimum level of doneness.
I’ve tried the finger “doneness test” for steak, which many people swear by, but I’ve never had any luck determining when they’ve hit that sweet spot of medium-rare perfection. So I usually reach for my trusty electronic, instant-read barbecue fork. It tells me precisely when they’re ready to be devoured by the assembled carnivores – and prevents anyone from having to politely endure a steak that has the consistency of shoe leather.
Why do I bring this up?
When I’m not toiling at the grill, I have a day job. I’m a UX designer. But my time around the grill got me to thinking: wouldn’t it be great if there was a “doneness test” for UX design? Especially for customers who are working with a team doing Agile development, where functionality is delivered in chunks during specific “sprints”?
If you’ve hired a UX designer and a software developer to design and build a new application for your employees or customers, wouldn’t it be great to have a tool to indicate whether what you’re getting is complete?
5 Tips for evaluating UX Design Doneness
Since it’s unlikely that someone is going to come up with the UX equivalent of an instant-read BBQ thermometer anytime soon, here are a few tips that will help you evaluate whether your application is ready to serve up. They’ll help you collaborate with your design and development team to get the best possible results for your users and ensure that the resulting software meets the needs of your business.
1. Don’t obsess over the UI
We often make the mistake of thinking that if the user interface (UI) is not completely polished, the app is not ready for release. This is a misconception.
When you see your new app, the UI may not be perfect initially. It may not be as polished as you’d ultimately like it to be. But this isn’t necessarily cause for concern. When you’re evaluating the application, ensure that it’s intuitive, easy to use, and that it helps users accomplish what it’s intended to. Polishing the aesthetics can come later in the process, where such improvements can be spread out across upcoming sprints in the development process.
2. Make sure your UX design lead keeps listening and iterating
Just because the product is out there in the hands of your users, the job is not done. Your UX design lead needs to stay engaged, listening to your users for feedback. This feedback will drive future design iterations that will contain enhancements and innovations. Users will help to determine how to make your application more usable, more interactive, accessible, credible and marketable.
3. Don’t fall prey to the allure of new and emerging technologies
It’s easy to be sucked in by the idea that incorporating new technology (think node.js, angular.js, Bootstrap, Google Material Design, etc.) will result in a better UX. The reality is that, aside from some enthusiastic tech nerds, users don’t care what technology was used to build the application. They care about using the software to complete specific tasks in the most efficient way possible. So new technologies are great and can offer some advantages, but they should be used only to the extent that they improve the user experience.
4. UX design is more than usability
Many people think that UX is synonymous with usability, but this is only one part of the equation. It’s possible that you’ll consider your application “done” when users find it easy to use. But there are other factors to evaluate its readiness. For example, is it easy for users to learn? Is it efficient in performing a specific task or action? Is it reliable and consistent? Does it evoke a positive emotional response (e.g. satisfaction) when a user completes a task?
5. Keep your business objectives firmly in mind
Your application, to be effective, needs to meet a set of business objectives that are driving the design – the “raison d’être” of the app, if you like. If you focus too much on the user, you may lose track of these business objectives. Your application should strive to present an overall experience that meets as many goals and needs as possible for both the business and the user.
So how about that electronic, instant-read UX design fork?
It’d be nice to have that electronic, instant-read UX fork, and maybe that’s coming. But in the meantime, use these tips to evaluate your application effectively and provide actionable feedback to your design and development team, so they can continue to make improvements in subsequent iterations of the software.
Robert Litalien is a Senior Software Developer at NetFore, a technical project lead and an expert in UX design.