Survey Design for UXD – Six Tips

You, as a User Experience Designer, need accurate and useful data from your surveys to influence your design and create usable, flexible and cost-effective designs. However, if you do not design your surveys properly, you cannot achieve the quality feedback you will need and end up wasting your time and more importantly the time of your users.

Keeping the user at the center of every stage of survey design is vital if you want to gather reliable and useful data that you can then use to improve the User Experience of your systems.

Here are six tips that will help you create effective surveys to influence your design decisions positively and improve your system’s user experience.

1. Stay Focused

Limiting your topics is one way to limit the length of your surveys. Once a user gets bored or frustrated with a long survey, they are likely to start providing less reliable and thought-out feedback. To avoid this, choose a single topic per survey to help keep respondents focused. You can always run another survey on another topic to add to your data, and even reach out to the same respondents or an entirely new group.

2. Screen Your Respondents

If you want UX data, make sure you are surveying your actual users and this process is called screening. It is a valuable tool for making sure the survey data you collect is applicable to your needs. Even if you are not sending your surveys to your current customers, make sure that you provide enough detail on the features or experience you are studying. Before you collect screening data, decide who your target customer or user is and what the objectives of the survey area. For example, if you are selling cooking equipment, you may want to limit your survey to people who have bought kitchen gear online before or to people who cook a certain number of meals per week. Further, you could be even more specific and only contact recent customers. It depends on what input you would like to receive. You may decide you want to get data from several different groups of users. Screening questions are also valuable here, as they can help you differentiate the various groups when you crunch your data. Typical screening questions include data such as gender, age, economic status, employment status, marital status, and location. Make sure to add filtering questions that help you determine whether you want a given user’s survey data at all.

3. Keep Questions Simple and Easy to Understand

If you are running a focus group to get UX data, you have the opportunity to explain your questions. In a survey, that is not possible. Therefore, you must make sure your survey questions are clear and unambiguous. Unclear questions can result in incorrect answers that skew your data.

In particular, try to avoid questions that involve double negatives, which are often very confusing. Questions that have two parts or that contain two concepts are also likely to lead to mushy UX data that is hard to interpret. For example, if you ask “Do you use a blender or food processor when you cook?” with a simple “Yes” or “No” response, you have no way to know which users cook with a blender but not a food processor, and vice versa.

Maybe the distinction does not matter for your study. But if it does – or if it might – add questions to avoid squeezing two concepts into the same question.

Make sure to include “Don’t know” or “Not applicable (N/A)” options where appropriate. Sometimes users really do not have an answer, and if you force them to make a choice, you will end up with low quality or unusable data.

4. Use Consistent and Balanced Rating Scales

When you ask your users for UX ratings regarding services or products, make sure the ratings scales you place before your users are balanced. This means you provide an equal number of positive options and negative options to choose from. If your cooking equipment survey asks, for instance, how often your user uses a microwave, you might provide the answers “Never” and “Rarely” on the negative side and “Sometimes” and “Frequently” on the positive side. It is often helpful to add a neutral option (“Neither frequently or infrequently”).

If your survey ratings are not balanced, you skew the data by giving yourself, for instance, a greater chance of getting positive feedback. If you are truly interested in accurate UX data, make sure you do not put your thumb on the scale when designing your survey questions and rating scales.

5. Support Quantitative Data With Qualitative

While yes/no questions and rating scales are ideal when you want to analyze quantitative data from a lot of users, sometimes you need qualitative data that provides you with fine details of your users’ thoughts and opinions. Open-ended questions are especially valuable here, and they are also your best bet when you are drawing from a very small group of users.

Feel free to add open-ended, fill-in-the-blank to larger quantitative studies as well, but consider making them optional. If you are designing your survey for use on mobile devices, use more quantitative questions that involve clicking on a radio button or checkbox to increase the chances that your users finish the survey.

Qualitative question types are often more fatiguing for your survey takers, so keep respondent attention spans in mind.

6. Test Your Surveys

When you pretest your UX surveys before administering them, you can confirm that the data and measurements you are getting meet your objectives regarding overall UX.

Tweak and refine the questions by conducting short interviews. While you can do this with someone from your own company or organization, make sure you interview people who are not familiar with the survey questions or protocol. Look for questions that do not make sense to the interviewees, add any missing questions, and make sure the questions are eliciting the answers you need.

Run field tests as well on the mechanics of your survey to make sure it is working correctly. End your testing phase by running a small sample survey with a subset of your target UX audience to see how they interact with the survey.

Conclusion

UX research helps you uncover the preferences and insights of the users of your products and services. It helps you focus on your user rather than on your own preferences or preconceived ideas.

As you design your UX surveys, keep in mind your goal of creating the best possible UXfor your customers, and you should get data that helps you design and market your products with the user in mind.

User Experience Design – It Matters!

User Experience Design – It Matters!

Usability and User Experience Design (UXD) are two of the most popular topics of discussion on the internet these days. In fact, today these fields have become so huge that it’s opened doors to entirely new industries. Even though we are only becoming aware of this now, designers and manufacturers have been implementing usability and user experience design in their products for centuries.

Usability and user experience design is not just limited to web or app design. It’s actually an important aspect of all product design, which helps to achieve the best possible outcome. If you think about it, you’ll see that every product you use today follows some sort of usability practices to make them more convenient for you. Take a bar of soap, for example. The shape, color, and smell of each soap has been designed to offer the best user experience. Imagine how hard it would be to hold a bar of soap in your hand if it was shaped triangle.

Same principles apply for app design. So, before you wrap up your design, make sure it’s compatible with these best practices. These usability practices are not specific to app design, so feel free to use it for all your digital design works.

Navigation and Search

Navigation is a key element in every app design. Without navigation, users will simply be lost. However, randomly placing some links on the bottom of the pages is not helpful either.

study by Jakob Nielsen revealed that 77% of people who visit a website don’t scroll down. Which means you have to make the most use of the top half of your website or app.

The best practice is to place the menu on top of the page and highlight it so users can easily select to navigate to different pages. One of the popular trends in navigation is the Hamburger button, which squeezes long lists of links into a small icon. Google uses this technique heavily in its apps. If your app has a large menu, it’s worth looking into it.

Similar rules apply when placing the search function. Unlike an ordinary website, an app needs to make Search more visible to users to discover more content. Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, are perfect examples for that.

Proper use of Call-to-Action

When talking about Call-to-Action (CTA) in design, the first thing that comes to our mind is those annoying websites that use CTAs to force people into buying unnecessary things. Those are actually not the type of CTAs we’re talking about here.

A good CTA can come in many forms. It can be a button to download a product, a section to subscribe or register with a service, or even something as simple as a text phrase that gives directions to the user to take action (eg- Watch this video, visit this website, follow us on Twitter). The main goal of a CTA is to convert your visitors into leads.

Design your CTA to suit your target audience. Personalize the text to connect with the visitors and remember to place your CTA on the top half of your app. But, be careful with the copy because the use of one wrong word can cost you 90% of the engagement.

Designing forms that work

Every app includes forms. Be that a signup form, an order form or a contact form, there are certain usability practices for form design that you need to follow in order to generate effective results.

Here are a few ways you can design forms that work -:

  • Place the labels below the fields (or within the fields itself)
  • Name the form appropriately explaining its purpose
  • Use simple and easy-to-understand words
  • Add mouse-over buttons for additional help
  • Include clear and user-friendly error and success messages
  • Indicate completion progress
  • Get creative with the submit button (eg- Use phrases like Create account, Get started)

Designing user flow

The user flow is an important part of web and app design. This is where we design the path that leads a visitors through our app. Simply put, this is the part where the conversion happens.

In order to design perfect user flow, you must first figure out your objective. Do you want more visitors to register with your service, or purchase your product, or subscribe to your email list? Then design and map the flow of your app in a way that takes users through a process that ends with your objective, from clicking on an advertisement to visiting your landing page and finally to signing up for your app.

If your app has multiple pages, you must also prioritize the page order depending on the user flow.

Using persuasion

The easiest way to persuade visitors to take action is to give something away for free. People love gifts and if you give them something for free, in return they’ll feel obligated to join your free trial, your mailing list or Like your Facebook page.

The use of simple encouraging phrases, like “What are you waiting for,” “register for free,” or “Buy it now for 50% off”, and positive reinforcement, like “Thank you for your patience,” “We value your feedback,” “You’re one of our most valued customers,” also help users make decisions more quickly and to keep them well engaged.

These are only a few of the best usability and UX practices for designing apps. There are many other aspects of usability that you need to explore to design an app that gives the best user experience. So, remember to do more research on the subject or it’s best to hire a UX designer to do the job for you.

10 Commandments of Design

10 Commandments of Design

In this article, I will discuss the 10 commandments of product design that has been revealed through the works of the designer, Dieter Rams.

Have you heard of Dieter Rams? If you haven’t, just remember that Apple’s main design guy, Apple’s Jonathan Ive is often quoted as saying Rams was one of his major influences.

In his interview here he credits one of his influences, his grandfather, a master carpenter who was a specialist with surfaces.  Even Jonathan Ive mentions how big surfaces were in regards to Rams’ designs:

“surfaces that were without apology, bold, pure, perfectly-proportioned, coherent and effortless”

Designers are actually an amalgamation of our history, upbringing, and skills; Much like Steve Job’s Calligraphy class. This reminds me of the quote from Lord Alfred Tennyson’s poem, Ulysses:

“I am part of all that I have met;”

Designers are not simply a trade that is learnt and applied in a vacuum. Good designers are multi-disciplined people. Ram’s has churned out 10 commandments of design through his work as a designer. They are:

1. Good Design Is Innovative

The possibilities for innovation are not exhausted. Technological development is always offering new opportunities for innovative design. But innovative design always develops in parallel with innovative technology, and can never be an end in itself.

2. Good Design Makes a Product Useful

A product is bought to be used. It has to satisfy certain criteria, not only functional but also psychological and aesthetic. Good design emphasizes the usefulness of a product while disregarding anything that could possibly detract from it.

3. Good Design Is Aesthetic

The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products are used every day and have an effect on people and their well-being. Only well-executed products can be beautiful.

4. Good Design Makes A Product Understandable

It clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product clearly express its function by making use of the user’s intuition. At best, it is self-explanatory.

5. Good Design Is Unobtrusive

Products fulfilling a purpose are like tools. They are neither decorative objects nor works of art. Their design should therefore be both neutral and restrained, to leave room for the user’s self-expression.

6. Good Design Is Honest

It does not make a product more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.

7. Good Design Is Long-lasting

It avoids being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years – even in today’s throwaway society.

8. Good Design Is Thorough Down to the Last Detail

Nothing must be arbitrary or left to chance. Care and accuracy in the design process show respect towards the consumer.

9. Good Design Is Environmentally Friendly

Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment. It conserves resources and minimises physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.

10. Good Design Is as Little Design as Possible

Less is always better – because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials. Back to purity, back to simplicity.

There are a few points that are applicable both to software design and industrial design and few only for industrial design (as Ram’s was an industrial designer) like #9, that speaks about design reflecting on our environment. Read these commandments with a more open-ended approach to gain the most out of it.

This list was created more than 30 years ago and they are as true today as they were then. One could argue that companies like Apple are using his very principles to dominant in their respective markets. I’m sure all of our own products could be greatly improved if we adhere to his 10 commandments of design.

Speed Up Your Game Design Process

Speed Up Your Game Design Process

A lot of things have to be done at the start of every new project. There are loads of tasks at hand, and it is hard to tackle them in the right order. As a game designer, our job involves quite a lot of writing.

The large, almighty Game Design Document is a myth. I am talking here of a hypothetical file that contains all information there is to know about a game. For larger teams, they are too many elements to record and keep track of these elements in a single document. And sections of a GDD are relevant but to a small portion of the development team.

Documents are less than ideal when it comes to assembling coherent networks of information. But we still have to write a lot in the pre-production phase of a game. However, there are ways to limit the amount of writing we need to do and to facilitate our teammates’ jobs at the same time. If you are working in a studio already, you’ll have a lead designer to tell you how to work. In this article, though, I’d like to give you a list of general tips to design as efficiently as possible at the start of a project. It should be of use for your personal projects, as a freelancer, and it should work nicely with most studios’ guidelines.

1. Prototype – More than Words

A design document made of the raw text leaves a lot of room for interpretation. Any amount of words can’t portray accurately the expected feel of a game. On the other hand, the essential mechanics of most game concepts can be coded and tested in little time. Often, it takes about as much time to develop a prototype it takes to write a corresponding detailed design description.

A prototype both describes and provides means to assess the quality of a game concept. To me, this is an ideal starting point for the preproduction process. Documents or discussions are too remote from the actual game. However, they are useful in the long run.  A playable sample gives every team member a concrete sense of what the game could be. It gives everyone an experience to give feedback on. It is also both fun and motivating to have a working prototype.

A lot of time does not need to be spent on the initial implementation. Fancy visuals are a BIG NO. Pretty drawings tend to mask the pitfalls of our design choices.

The Ludum Dare gave us quite a few examples of full-blown game series born of a very efficient prototype.

2. Lean Documents

Everyone is busy in a game development team.  One can only process and retain so much of information at a time. An efficient design document should focus on conveying the key information that teammates are meant to use.

An Example of Screenwriters: The script of a movie is always written in a simple, descriptive language. The font is big and the document as light as possible. Everything is arranged so the reader’s experience stays fluid all along. Movie scripts are designed for busy producers and co-workers to get the author’s point.

Writing efficient and lean documents does not only clarifies your thoughts for everyone: it shows your mastery of the topic at hand, your understanding of the studio’s needs. Simple is also extremely fast to write, as it stays close to a spoken language. It gives you more time to focus on other exciting design tasks.

3. Empathize with Your Readers

As designers, we write design documents for others. It may be a client, a manager, developers, etc. They all have different needs and expectations. A client may not care about the details of your chosen technology for implementation. On the other hand, your developer teammates will likely need some details to estimate the technical constraints that will arise from your choices. In other words, you should adopt both your tone and content to your readers.

If you want to do your peers a favor and improve your writing skills, ask your readers for feedback. Your coworkers will be glad to tell you what they’d like to see changed. Or if anything could help them work faster. Ideally, you would want to know how each profession in the studio works. What does everyone’s job entail? That is the best way to get into the mind of others: share their craft. But well, getting feedback should be enough to satisfy everybody.

4. Run Tests to Prevent Unnecessary Chatter

This point relates to the first one on this list. Your ideas leave room for interpretation and for discussion. This is especially true for clients who don’t work in the game industry. They might dislike a coherent and efficient design if they have no opportunity to see the resulting game first. It is often easier to show, controller in hand, that a design choice does or does not work, rather than to explain it. It is common to disagree with a given mechanic and get bogged down arguing over the advantages of some choices.

When you are unable to take a decision over 2 options, a set of reference games can help. The advantage is that everyone in the team can experience the variation between 2 mechanics. Everyone can get a good sense of which one works best and why. Often, a prototype will help to unlock the discussion.

5. Do Your Research at the Start of the Day

Looking for new ideas is a brain-intensive task and can exhaust you within a few hours. Bouncing back and forth between concept research, programming, drawing, and writing will suck your juice in no time. This is a general productivity tip: if you want to stay efficient for a whole 8 hours a day, you need a short-term work plan. You should gather all the raw material, the ideas you need when you arrive at the office or even the day before.

Always plan and structure your work. It permits you to focus on the big picture, on arranging ideas all. Planning and structuring relieve’s your mind from heavy-duty for the rest of the day.

Propositional concept artist starts their work with thumbnails. Animators with rough animations. Composers with the chord progression or a thematic structure. And writers with an outline. This way we keep working at a satisfying pace over the course of a whole project.

6. Learn How to Code

To me, gameplay programming is part of the fundamental skillset any game designer should have. For one, we have to communicate with developers often. Because of that alone, it’s useful to understand what coding entails. At least to some extent. But more importantly, this permits you to test your ideas by yourself. It makes you more autonomous, knowledgeable and efficient overall.

A game designer who codes is also an ideal match for most game studios. You just need to know your basics and to have a few samples of your work to prove your skills. With that, you will have no problem finding work. If you can code, other developers won’t need to translate your documents and iterate based on your input anymore. Instead, you will be able to provide them with a playable example showcasing the basic healing balance you are aiming for. You will be able to stay productive throughout the whole game development cycle.

Strong programming skills are extremely useful if you are looking to progress professionally. A good lead not only needs to be skillful but also versatile to some extent. Game designers with strong programming skills are most wanted in the industry. Kudos if you have artistic skills on top of that.

7. Use pictures

“An image is worth a thousand words”, or so they say. You can illustrate a level’s layout and challenges well with a plan. There is nothing like a concept painting to give a good sense of your future game’s ambiance. You can also describe systems with easy to read diagrams better than with plain text.

Coming up with good figures for your documents may take a while. But they can both clearly convey your ideas and greatly enhance the reader’s experience. A lovely picture will even help to sell your writing. This is a sad truth, but a truth nonetheless: the overall visuals and feel of your documents will affect your peer’s perception of your work. It is not enough to come up with a great concept. You also have to know how to properly present it.

8. Short Iterative Loop

Don’t wait to have a whole slice of gameplay to put your game in the hands of testers. By then, you could have wasted time polishing poor controls, focused on a technical aspect that doesn’t matter to your players, or worked on the system so big that you can only backtrack at an unpleasant cost. In any design related job, it is critical to iterate and to do so fast.

An iterative workflow means that you should tackle a limited set of rough features at a time and get feedback before you polish them. It takes hours of focused work to code or design a small set of mechanics. But only a few minutes for your peers to ensure that your work is going in the right direction. So if you haven’t already, shorten the interactive loop.

9. Use Analytics Early On

Regardless of how many testers you have at hand, including yourself, you can track all sorts of useful data with an analytics API. How many times did any tester fail on a given level? How many got through a given challenge? Those simple pieces of information give you a sense of the balance of your game. They are hard to track by hand. Yet, they are useful in the early stages of a project as well. They stay relevant during your beta test sessions and even after the release of your game.

A tool like GameAnalytics will track and plot all of that data for you. If you’re using unity, the SDK is even available as a convenient package to load into your favorite IDE.

10. Use Efficient Tools

Some IDEs are more efficient than others when it comes to prototyping. Until now, for 2d prototypes, my tool of choice has been the Playmaker for Unity. The actual developers of the game can pick any other engine to code the final product. Obviously, within a fixed team, it is ideal for all to work using a common set of tools. As you certainly know, a tool like Unity is great for both prototyping and long-term work. A perfect fit if you are going to native games. If you’re a lone game designer or a freelancer like me, technologies like HTML 5 are great for rapid prototyping.

11. Placeholder Content

The early pre-production phase is no time to fiddle with unnecessary details. It is unlikely that the early prototypes will be kept as they are. They are often dumped because they are proof of concepts more so than solid bases for a product. At that stage of a project, you shouldn’t hesitate to use dirty tricks and other placeholder assets and snippets of code. The only thing that matters as far as a game concept is concerned is that you find the right design direction. It does take some trial and error to get there.

Summary

Overall, the list can be summed up in 3 general points:

  • Use and abuse prototypes
  • Write and code with your teammates in mind
  • And don’t neglect the clarity of your presentation

Lastly, here is an awesome video of the secrets of designing fun in games by wired:

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