In this introduction to user experience design, Hamilton Jones, Digital Editor at Macmillan, explains what UX is, why it’s important and how it works.
Digital Editor Hamilton Jones unravels the mystery of what user testing involves, and how Macmillan uses it to improve experiences of our products and services.
If you follow any of our social media channels at Macmillan, you may have noticed that we’re often looking for people to come and take part in user testing. We think of user testing as a great way to help us to improve the experience of our products and services, but what does it really mean? This piece aims to unravel the mystery of what user testing involves, what it can and can’t test and why we do it.
What does user testing involve?
User testing (often referred to as usability testing) refers to evaluating the effectiveness of a product or service through observation. In order for us to carry out user testing, we must engage with participants that represent our user base, plan tasks that will effectively test our products, and analyse our findings.
In practice, this involves participants trying to complete specific tasks, under controlled conditions, while we watch, listen and record qualitative and quantitative data about their experience. During the session, users are encouraged to think aloud by talking through their thought processes and decisions. This enables us to make notes on and discuss the user’s journey more clearly, helping to identify any usability issues raised.
After user testing is carried out, we are able to collate the data and work out what changes we need to make to improve future users’ experiences.
What can and can’t it test?
User testing can test how well people are able use our products or services for their intended purpose. This could include websites, micro-sites and apps, and can test interface and content. User testing is just one of the ways that helps us to understand our user’s needs and create holistic user-focused products and services. At Macmillan we also carry out surveys, monitor analytics, gather feedback, visit users in their environments and much more.
User testing does not focus on the user’s opinion, instead it tests their ability to complete a set task and whether this journey is good. Importantly this does not reflect the user’s abilities with digital platforms, but whether or not our products and services are user friendly enough for them to be able to complete the tasks.
Why do we do it?
User testing offers us direct input on how real people use our digital platforms, the issues they face and the changes we can make to ensure they have the best possible journey. It is vital in helping us to understand how people use and interact with our digital products and services. This is predominantly interactions with our website, but user testing can help us understand users’ interactions with any of our digital touchpoints.
We rely on all of these approaches to try to constantly improve our services for people affected by cancer. We often ask for people affected by cancer to get involved, to tell us what’s important to them, what challenges they might have and how we can improve their experience. Ultimately, it’s to make our digital products and services as helpful and supportive as possible for everyone who needs them.
Sorry you potential comic book nerds (like me) but I meant the rising trend of Parallax scrolling on websites.
Although this technique has been around for a while 2013 has seen an explosion of this style/effect as a rising digital marketing trend amongst website design and interaction particularly in businesses promoting a specific product or service via a microsite.
What is Parallax scrolling I hear you ask?
From Wikipedia: “Parallax scrolling is a special scrolling technique in computer graphics, wherein background images move by the camera slower than foreground images, creating an illusion of depth”
This is basically a technique that uses a combination of multiple layers of information showcased through text and images. These clusters of organized information are given different speeds to create the effect of movement and 3 dimensional depth.
History of Parallax scrolling
Though the name can be mistaken for the DC comics arch nemesis of Green Lantern, the concept of Parallax scrolling actually dates back to the 1980′s in the age of 8 bit video games.
A great example would be the much loved Super Mario Bros – this game was one that followed the early concept of Parallax scrolling in an interactive environment.
But as with all Technology it has evolved through the introduction and implementation of the latest technologies like HTML5 & CSS3, where web designers & developers alike are utilizing this old school technology into a new school way to interact with the user.
Did you know?
The term Parallax, is derived from the Greek word “παράλλαξις” (Parallaxis), which means “Alteration“.
Is it a great tool that can be used on any site?
No and yes. Like any tool it has the potential to be over used which can end up as a digital marketing disaster but if used in the right (and minimalistic manner) it can provide a great method of interactive story telling that can engage your target audience in consuming the relevant information in a structured way that you control.
Though it may not fit well within a site that is content & information heavy it can be used subtly via limiting the Parallax effect to a certain component on a otherwise static page i.e a home page slider plugin.
And like all online tools that need to be considered for mobile usage first it must be flexible and ‘responsive’, but alas that is another blog post in itself!
I leave you with these examples of Parallax scrolling:
This one is quite interesting and minimalistic: http://www.tedxguc.com/#
I hope you enjoyed this post, if you have any further questions drop me a line and of course feel free to let me know what you thought of this article in the comments box below.