As UX designers, we always want to make sure the products we're producing are the best they can be. In this case, user testing is a huge factor in making sure our creations are responsive, and not only meet the standards of our users, but also increases their overall user experience.
User testing is when you measure the user experience of a product. You can test the entire project as a whole or just one section of it. It’s testing how users interact and use your product, which can be very different than how you think people should be using the product.
For example, it could be testing whether users respond more to one color than another, or if users take the desired action that was intended by the design. User testing observes the tasks that users would perform, finds errors and areas where things can be improved, and then rates the overall experience.
Well simply put, you want to make sure the kinks in your product are worked out and that the user is following the desired user flow. “User testing” is the product’s first taste in to the real world where the mistakes can always be worked out before pushing to a live launch.
The product can’t be user tested within the set team making the product. In theory the team can user test, but they also know the product better than anyone else and created it with a desired path in mind. Getting out of the office and testing outside of your immediate product circle is ideal. Someone who is new to look at the product, a set of fresh eyes, might catch small details that could use improvement. This way you’ll learn how your project is being consumed in the real world, and how best to design for its optimal use.
User testing procedures take time to plan and execute. Depending on the amount of data you want, it can take a significant amount of effort but can be scaled to whatever size you need. Although, there may be costs to research and extra time involved to user test, the return on metric research will be worth user testing and might even save time in the future.
There’s an assumption that user testing won’t save you money and that it’s an unnecessary step in the process. Although sometimes this might be right, there’s a large chance there are underlying problems in your product that wouldn’t be noticed without user testing that will have to be addressed later on.
It can save you by catching costly mistakes sooner when it’s less of a hassle to fix because the product is still in development. Especially in web design, the more complex the product gets over time, the harder it is to solve mistakes. Finding a mistake (or area for improvement) before a project is completed will be cheaper than fixing it down the line.
Products and services that have a focus on the user’s experience will increase customer satisfaction. Not only will your customers be extremely pleased, but they’ll want to keep using your product for the unique experience alone. The bottom line is: increasing customer satisfaction will have a positive effect on sales and clients.
At the end of the day, any business owner or stakeholder should want to have the best product and service they can get/offer. Why not utilize a user testing process to understand your audience and improve aspects of design for the user? It’s easy to make someone’s life harder, but it takes significant effort to make it easier. Investing in user testing isn’t always an easy sell, but it comes down to a really a simple formula:
User testing can save money, time, and increase user’s satisfaction for your product. Not only will you see improvement in satisfaction metrics, you’ll also see increased engagement, conversions, and ROI. At the end of the day, any product can be refined and user testing is the first step in the improvement process.
When it comes to UX design, the simpler the better. No one likes a complicated process and UX’s purpose is to make life easier for the user. Use these hacks to make your website more user friendly.
Understand where and what your users are clicking on. We can use tools like Google Analytics to track who’s coming to the site and what they are clicking on, but it won’t tell us how long they hover on a specific area or what buttons they press. Utilize heat maps to decide on where to move things. For example, if your sign up button isn’t getting the clicks you want, rethinking the design and position might be a solution. Data trackers like Enhanced Link Attribution can be added as a Chrome extension and you can easily understand how people are interacting with your site.
Sketch out your wireframes and prototypes on paper. Sketching out UX ideas will help you think out of the box without being restricted by programs and an overwhelming amount of tools. Using a classic pencil and paper will allow you to freely brainstorm and put together your design flows. This is extremely helpful when deciding your content hierarchy and planning out navigation.
First impressions are important. Start observing how your audience interacts with your website. Does the user follow the desired journey? Test initial impressions, completing a task, and any final thoughts that occur. Finally, instead of sticking to one niche, have a variety of people from different backgrounds test your site.
In almost every website there is going to be a hierarchy of content. Instead of just making important text bigger, create a contrast with your text. It’s all about having the right weight, size, and color to create variation. When deciding on contrast, use different weights in font sizes to create a hierarchy. Use a bolder style for primary content and smaller weights for less important copy. Instead of thinking “the bigger the text the better”, remember the bigger the contrast the better.
Users are more willing to continue with a process when it’s quick and easy. Whether that be automatically filling in a city when entering a zip code, or saving user information for next time, automate what you can. This design hack makes it easy for the user not to go through the pain of searching for their wallet and entering all their personal info again and again.
It’s a jungle out there, and while most of the jungle is wild and filled with some rather vicious monsters, we’d like to consider ourselves the jungle guides. Nothing scares us and no beast is too large to manage or tame (*cough* 10 cooks in a kitchen *cough*). Many of our previous clients return because they value the CreateApe difference and know that we are experts in our field when compared to what’s out there. The pickings are slim people!!
We attribute our success to a successful kick-off with our clients. The first meeting always dictates the tone, direction, and collaboration amongst our clients and our team. Our founder and CEO, Alessandro Fard, has broken it down to some key questions to kick off the meeting, and we’re proud to say it works!
Aside from narrowing down a meeting date, time, and location that works for everyone, we also have a general pattern of the questions we like to ask for the first meeting. We make it a point to hear out the client’s vision and expectations for their new product/service launch. Leadership is not just about directing the path and giving orders, leadership takes an open mindset and ability to adapt skill sets into the path we map out collaboratively speaking.
This question is a given. This is their opportunity to shine and dazzle you with a history of how they got started and where they see the company or product heading. The important part to address here as UX designers (which usually doesn’t come up) is how the company makes its revenue. Did you get that? HOW DO THEY MAKE MONEY?!? No money, no business. No business, NO client. NO CLIENT!!! WHAT?!
Create Ape knows successful UX ninjas prioritize not only the user, but the business as well. While learning the history and vision of the client, it is important to know the profit and benefit for both the user and the client from a business perspective. And guess what else? Some of the best challenges are when the users goals and the business goals are completely different. How do you marry the two? Great UX gurus live for that!
You also have a chance to address the essential reason of why they called you in the first place: how they can make it better and how they can MAKE MORE MONEY. What else draws businesses to launch new services and products?
With years of experience, it’s safe to say that most companies come with limitations, and it’s a ninja’s job to exploit those limitations and convert them into possibilities. Mind blown, yet?
This question opens the discussion about time and money. Another favorite thing to talk about! Many times than not, a client comes to us when “sh*t hits the fan” and they are down to a final deadline, the last inning of the game with little to no resources left to spend. Then you’re left to clean up the mess, and possibly start from scratch…depending on the beastly damage. Yup, damage control. We said it!
Remember to keep realistic expenditures and time frames for clients, especially if they’ve already been burned. It is better to be real than to try to meet their demands in order to land the job. It all takes time and money, don’t beat around the bush! Transparency is what wins the client and keeps them coming back.
Give the client an opportunity to expound on what has worked and what has not. AND MEMORIZE IT!! Ok…maybe not memorize it, but definitely pay attention. This is different from the company history in that it relates specifically to the project at hand. This is important information to make sure that you’re not busting out the same ideas as the last team.
It also gives you feedback on direction and concept with what has worked in the past, and allows you to expand that concept to further limits. We love pushing limits, not buttons.. Dive deep into the core brand/product and don’t be lazy in your review.
SO don’t just flip specifically to what has worked and ignore what hasn’t. The stuff that didn’t work is equally as important. Knowing what exes to avoid from the past saves you time and money.
While the client has already given you an overall goal of where they want to go. This question is meant to deepen the goal and methods or conversion rates they wish to apply.
Driving traffic is easy, but what you want the traffic to do is where the nitty gritty stuff comes in. Questions like: Do you want to increase sharing? Increase page views? Increase sign ups? Increase retention rates?
As the client answers these questions, explain to them that for every action there is a reaction. We can’t escape Newton people!! This will help you remain transparent (and apply some physics to your accolades) so that the client can decide what the priority is and how it will affect their results. You can’t have your cake and eat it too…..or can you?
Who is going to report to you and who will be reporting to them? When it comes to UX design it’s a lot smoother to have less collaborators because the more eyes it needs to reach the longer the turn around rate is before it actually gets approved. (Remember that kitchen *cough* we talked about?).
This swings both ways, and in an ideal world, we like to have 1-3 points of contact on a project to create true villain magic. It nicely ties back to our leadership spiel and navigating what it takes to successfully kick-off a product/service. Once you establish the team on both sides it helps establish you into that leadership role, which in turn helps everyone out and holds everyone accountable.
Another thing we’d like to address while on this topic is the method of communication that both teams will use to get the job done. One of our teams favorite is Slack. Be clear as to where the primary communication will go down so that the client knows exactly where to go to find the goods.
Sometimes with so many apps and management tools out there, it can be easy to get lost in communication. We also like to hold weekly meetings with our stakeholders to ensure that everything is getting communicated effectively and that goals are being met by the team.
The grand finale of the meeting is your chance to shine. We know it sucks holding in all of your awesomeness until the end, but trust us it works!
The conversation should end with the approach you’d like to take from there–that first meeting. Yup, how are you planning to tame the beast?
Talk about the research you plan to review of previous successes and disasters to avoid. Also mention future steps after reviewing everything they give you, the interview and selection of users you’d like to talk to, and the outcome of the similarities and/or differences that affect the vision of the product.
More future topics to shine light on include: the product mission statement, competitive design principles, success metrics to track, wireframes, and prototypes. Let the client know that through every step of the way, from infancy to maturity, you will be holding their hand–advising and answering any questions that arise.
Yes–these secondary steps will follow the initial approach, but it is important to highlight what is ahead so that they can see a light at the end of the tunnel and know what to expect from a UX ninja.
It’s been a fun tour of this jungle ride, but now it’s time for us to go tame more beasts!! We hope you feel better equipped to do the same. Or at least more organized with the kick-off flow. ?
We’ve all been there. You’re not alone! Project time estimates are one of the most uncomfortable pressures we face as designers and developers. It’s tough to estimate the time when so many variables are involved in the process, but we interviewed some of our top developers and designers (including our CEO) to gain some insight and perspective. Welcome to the break down of time estimations and jungle detours!!
Our jungle guides coincided that the best way to estimate time on a project is to subcategorize each section of the project. The smaller the sections, the more precise the time estimation. Major divisions should be set for design, development, and Q&A interviews. NO BRAINER, right?
Within those major sections, our team aims to break it down even further. For example: the Header, the Hero, the About Us blurb, the Contact Section, etc.. Seems like a lot of work, but it’s better than underestimating or overestimating a project time! Plus it keeps your team in check …We mean on schedule!!! *cough*
By dividing up sections within subsections we can equally share the workload. At CreateApe we all collaborate together on a project. There is an interdependence among each of us and if one falls-we all fall. Okay maybe we don’t fall, but we can miss a step and trip sometimes. When we subdivide and break up the workload, we can then point fingers at who dropped the ball!! Just kidding…maybe!
You get the idea, break it down don’t guesstimate a project.
Another thing all of our designers and developers mentioned as an important key part of the estimation process was: to leave room for adaptations and unexpected issues. In an ideal jungle, we’d love to have no coconuts blocking the trail as we progress, but the truth is we live in a NOT ideal jungle!!
A great example of estimating the unexpected issues is whether a designer will animate a website using some “new effects” and then consider how much time this adaptation would take as well as the “new effects” deliverables.
Considering the coconuts always makes sense because as our CEO would say: “it’s always better to overestimate than to underestimate.”
THAT being said, he also boasts that “the reality is if you’ve done this long enough– you should be able to estimate effectively as long as the client gives enough information.”
Which brings us to the next part of estimating time: jungle detours.
This is where you need an expert guide like us! Not to toot our own horn, but TOOT TOOT!
Remember how we all collaborate and work together? Well, sometimes there is a flat tire which causes an unforeseen detour.. When this happens it’s all hands on deck to get it back on track.
As expert jungle guides we need to be able to detour and switch gears to last minute changes. That can mean putting an assigned project on a brief hold to help a guide out when they’re stuck on the road. We know all too well to have a spare tire available (and spare time).
Other common detours that can occur during the process are cloudy briefs or goals, delayed asset returns, and new destinations that are realized mid-project. These can occur in all three sections of the estimation process and in the not ideal jungle!
For example, in the design process–when a client approaches us with just a vision and no direction on what they want, we spend a little more time on designing – a lot more back and forth.
In the development process, it depends if we are building a new site, or using the client’s current site– issues normally arise when we update a client’s old/current site.
Q&A interviews may also take a few hours or a few days – depending on client edits. Leave room for the detours, they are bound to happen!!
What in the world is a retainer??!? Well…here’s the deal, as experts in the industry we know first hand how much time a project will actually take because we’ve been doing it so long. TOOT! As leading professionals we saw that there was an indefinite need when it came to business objectives, and that is where we developed retainers for our clients.
We offer a competitive retainer option for larger projects requiring ongoing support, or projects with ambiguous scope and frequent changes. This retainer helps our clients save money on a large project while also providing us ample time to cover all of the business objectives.
It’s a win-win for all involved and we usually offer it to all of our clients. The only time we don’t offer it is if we really don’t like them …or if it just doesn’t make sense for their project. ?
If a client has a small project or a project that has a really definitive start and end date that doesn’t encompass a lot of hours (let’s say 80 hours or less) then a retainer doesn’t really make sense for them.
THAT BEING SAID: We take pride in offering our clients more than just developing and designing their project. We love the feeling of business success for our clients and ongoing support to see the results through and through.
Sure we can design and develop what you ask, but we’d love to deliver success to your project investment through continual support and maintenance. Retainers help us do this and that is why we developed them for our clients.
If you’re interested in learning more about our retainers or starting a project with our team feel free to contact us at http://createape.com/contact/.
There ya have it: time estimations should be a piece of cake now!!! ..Okay, not really..but time will help. If you’re just starting in the industry give yourself time, EXTRA TIME, to learn how to estimate projects. Time takes time (ironically). But – we hope this guide helps get you started!
So you have an idea for a business and want to get it out in the world. How do you decide whether or not you want it to be strictly a web based application or make it a native iOS or android app?
At the end of the day, there are tons of reasons why you should choose one over the other- but we’re here to talk over the basics. Here’s what you absolutely need to know when deciding between using a web based application versus a native iOS android.
A web-based application is a website that’s housed as a domain and that’s how people primarily access it. An example would be the Safari browser. Many people have it on their iPhones and computers, but it’s not sold in the app store and it doesn’t need to be downloaded on the user’s device to be accessed.
A native iOS or android application means that users of native apps can download them in app marketplaces like the App Store or Google Play Store, an example being games like Candy Crush or Temple Run.
There are a couple reasons of why you would want to be in the iTunes store:
1) If it’s a native iOS, there are already a lot of developer tools that you have access to. This will make the app easier to actually produce and save time and money in the end.
2) Native iOS and Android have an existing basic UX/UI framework that already exists. As a consumer you’re familiar with the idea that iPhone/Android have pre-existing drop down menus, navigation and a pretty solid existing framework that you can borrow from and use.That means for the user, they’re already going to be somewhat familiar with navigating your app. With just that aspect alone you’ve already lowered the investment of time and effort you use to create an application using tools that already exist in the native environment.
The biggest reason why you would want to go native iOS or android is that the marketplace already exists. With some buzz and marketing around your product, you can become featured in an app store. If you’re product takes off and is featured in the app store you’re going to get a lot more users for your application.
If you’re just making a web based browser application, it’s like making a new website and trying to find new customers. You have to figure out how to market it and the existing framework is no longer there. Although that brings up a challenge, there are many pro’s to going web based:
1. There is more control when building a web based application vs. native iOS/android. There’s a possibility you’re coding the applications differently and want to be free from the constraints of designing for native iOS or android.
2. If you’re selling something off of a marketplace, the app store will get a piece of how much you make off your product. Whereas if you’re totally on your own you own building a web based application, you control the environment of your application.
3. There is greater free range when building a web based application vs. native iOS/android. If you’re on the app store, you are beholden to their rules and requirements. For example, if you’re making an application that can be viewed to some circles as being inappropriate for some ages but you don’t think the age restrictions apply, you can still easily be kicked off. Even if new rules occur in the marketplace, you are responsible for making the changes whether they be small and change nothing, or are larger issues that alter your value proposition. If you’re working within an environment that you can’t control, there’s some risk that you always have to be aware of.
It’s much faster to do something native, get it out there, and start to prove the model before creating a web based application. We see this with a lot of our favorite social networks. Instagram initially started off as a native iOS and android app, but within the last year decided to add a mobile website component. It was easier to build an audience by using the app store and then move that audience to a mobile website.
At the end of the day, the biggest difference between having your application on a web based system and not native iOS or android is control. The control that you get to affect changes is huge in web based applications and you aren’t stuck to the rules of the marketplace but, you lose the pre-existing market place and framework.
Whether you go with a native iOS/android application versus a web based application is unique to the business. Every product, service, and business will have different goals with specific outcomes in mind. Although there are many factors that go into deciding which application platform to move forward with, control and existing frameworks are key components to consider first.
Are you a business owner or entrepreneur that needs help deciding on which application is best for your business? Let us help get you #JungleReady. Let our CreateApe expert team be your jungle guide. We will help you traverse the wilds as we take your project to new heights.
I also know the anxiety that comes from trying to make sure employee needs are met, client needs are met, this continues to come in, etc. After a successful IPO for TrueCar, a startup I worked with very early on, I launched my own design agency, Create Ape. Going from just myself to over 12 employees in the last few years.
I know that with so many closures and quarantines now taking effect across the country that many small businesses (and large businesses) will have a very hard time during the next few weeks and maybe months. Hopefully things can settle down quickly and life will go back to normal soon. But if it doesn’t, I would like to share 5 tips that might help you in your small business during these troubled times.
I know it sounds trite because we see these internet memes everywhere but truly panic doesn’t help you or anyone else. I can’t tell you how many times over the last six years of running Create Ape, a UX Design and development agency, that I’ve had to literally get up, leave my office, and walk around outside and just breathe. After a few minutes I notice the sun on my face, maybe a gentle breeze, I see the trees and flowers, and I’m able to refocus on the tasks at hand. During this crisis we really need to make sure we are practicing self-care and being gentle with ourselves. A lot of these things are unprecedented and we should acknowledge that it may take some time for us to get used to how things may be for the next couple of months. Don’t be too hard on yourself!
I remember in my early 20s there was a local bakery that created the most delicious chocolate chip cookies I have ever tasted. Getting a fresh batch was such a treat. During a particularly difficult college year, I had been dealing with large amounts of stress and anxiety. I remember running to the grocery store that evening and seeing a fresh batch of cookies. Not sure why, but I was so happy. After going to Blockbuster (who else misses Blockbuster!?) to re-rent a comedy, I went home and settled down to enjoy. As I watched the movie and had these cookies, I realized how happy I was. And I had an epiphany that has stuck with me since then:
“No matter how hard life may get, remember the milk and cookies that make you happy. “
Everybody has something that they love to do. Some of that may be limited now during this crisis, but try to find the things that you can do that make you happy and do them for yourself. It will help you and your loved ones as you’re able to recharge and refocus on the tasks at hand.
CreateApe has largely been a fully remote agency for most of its life. Utilizing tools like Zoom, Skype, Basecamp, and most recently Figma (if you’re a designer and not using this you are missing out big time), we have been able to engage clients locally, nationally, and globally. And guess what? We’re pretty darn successful at it. Why? Because we don’t let the limitation of not being colocated slow us down. Now I realize that’s not for everybody but maybe there is something that you can do to pivot your business during these times.
For example, if you’re a bakery, could you use video technology to showcase your wares real time or post online? Or post wares through social media/website and then offer a delivery service with a fee to customers who are unable to come to you? If you had those cookies I would be a repeat customer for life!
If you are a hairdresser, maybe you could be doing at home appointments (while obviously taking the necessary sanitary precautions). And maybe going above and beyond to reassure your customer base of your own health would help them as well by posting a picture of your temperature, that you are symptom-free, and that you have gloves and masks (or a scarf, or anything) to ensure your safety and theirs?
Just because people are quarantine themselves at home or staying away from large gatherings doesn’t mean that they stop wanting the things that they normally purchase or do. In fact during this time, many of them may want those things even more. I overheard my wife talking the other day how she wishes she could go get her nails done but feels it would be an unnecessary risk since she’s asthmatic. Perhaps people like her would be more open to an at home appointment if proper precautions are taken.
The big take away here is that we should look to technology that already exists to help “virus proof” our business models wherever possible. While you may not double or triple your yearly business (and maybe you might), at least you can try to maintain income until the crisis passes. And this will pass!
So often we become too busy with everyday work and life that we tend to promote ourselves last. If you look at the CreateApe portfolio page right now, you will see a small fraction of the projects we’ve done over the last six months and quite frankly some of it is already outdated. The problem is we are often focused more on our clients work, and we lack the time or the resources to update these marketing avenues in a way that would best reflect our brand. But every now and then, usually around the Christmas season, things slow down just enough for us to start doing some maintenance on our site, brand, and services. I was looking back at this recently and realized that some of the best ideas we’ve had as a company have come during this time.
Sometimes when things slow down, it provides you an opportunity to rethink what you’re doing, how you’re doing it, and what you can be doing better. By analyzing and updating your services, brand, website, blog, social media, etc., you may find yourself in a better position then you were before and in the years to come. In fact by doing these things you might realize that this was a blessing of sorts in disguise.
Now may also be a good time to do some of the things that you have been holding off on because a lot of companies are in the same boat as you and are offering large discounts to keep the lights on. Maybe there is opportunity for you to trade services with other small businesses as well.
For example, Create Ape is offering other small businesses our lowest rate for the month of March and April without any requirements (we usually require a commitment to be on a retainer rate). This is a significant discount and the ability for businesses that otherwise might not be able to afford our services the chance to utilize award winning design and development for their brand during this time. It helps us and we think will help them. Think outside the box and see what happens!
I’ll be honest, I’m not a big fan of taxes. But I pay them and appreciate the things they provide such as roads, schools, security, etc. As things have been progressing and continue to progress it seems that the government is reacting positively to help people financially during this time. This will likely be a slow process. While many things are still being figured out, now would be a great time to reach out to your local mayor, congressman, etc. to ask what help they can give.
It could come in the form of tax relief, business incentives, etc. While I don’t know everything I do know this: you won’t know unless you ask and the more people ask, the more help there will most likely be.
Over the last couple of weeks you’ve probably seen examples of panic, ridicule, anger, etc. But I have also seen a lot of people come together as a community and offer to help others, and it’s made me realize that we are all in this together.
My hope is that regardless of our political affiliations, sex, creed, religion, etc. we will come together in these trying times as a nation. As Americans. As members of humanity.
Recently I saw videos of quarantine Italians singing on balconies, and ingenious gym owners doing free exercise classes on rooftops, and even military jets doing patriotic maneuvers over the skies of cities. I thought to myself: if they can do that, we can too.
Everybody has talents and gifts that they can use to help their neighbors and friends. Maybe it’s positive social media posting (Lord knows we sure have enough of the negative), or maybe it’s picking up the phone and asking how others are doing. If you’re religious maybe it’s praying for those in need, and if you’re brave (and young) maybe it’s delivering food and medicine to those who are stuck at home and unable to leave. Maybe you have a gaggle of kids at home who are no longer in school and can enlist their help in drawing pictures, creating funny videos, etc. and sending them to elderly neighbors who could use a lift.
My hope and prayer is that we can come together as a community and nation so that when our children and grandchildren look back at the pandemic of 2020 they will see that we rose to the occasion. That they would see the same resolve and goodwill that we saw in our grandparents and great grandparents during the world wars of the 20th century.
Hopefully this helps some of you. Below are links you might find useful and feel free to reach out with any questions. Stay safe and God bless ?
Health & Safety:
It’s a jungle out there — let the Create Ape experts help you traverse the wilds as we take your project to new heights.