UX For #togs – Your Site Is For Your Customers, Not You

March 14th, 2012 by Theodore Stark

UX For #togs - Your Site Is For Your Customers. Not You.

Hello there OPG folks! This article is the first in a series called UX for #togs. What is UX? Well, it stands for User Experience. UX focuses on research and the design of easy to use software (or websites). Aside from my photography, I also work as a User Experience Engineer. My love for UX and photography is what lead to this series.

Many photographers either currently have a website, are thinking of/or are designing a website, or have some sort of web presence. The question becomes, who are you creating (and designing) this web presence for?

Here’s a hint, it’s not for you…

In UX, we focus on user-centered design. At a high level, the needs and wants of the end user are at the root of every decision made when creating a user interface (in this case, a website). User-centered design approaches apply to elements such as the labels for your menus, your color scheme, typography, and task flows (for example, purchasing a print).

To have your users at the heart of your decisions, you must really get to know your users. Although helpful, this extends far beyond a target demographic. You must watch people interact with your design (and then your website). This will help you identify issues.

You would be amazed at the information you can get. Recruit about 5 clients (not photographers), have them meet you at a coffee shop (one on one), buy them a cup o’ joe, and watch them use your website. It is helpful to give your users a task (filling out a form, searching for a print to buy, etc.). This is called a task scenario.

As they try to complete the scenario, you want to encourage them to think out-loud. You can get tremendous insight by hearing your user’s inner monologue.

If your users struggle, do not immediately bail them out. The goal here is to see them struggle. The struggle indicates areas where your site needs to be improved from a UX standpoint.

Perhaps you think people really want to see all of the EXIF data for a photo. But, in displaying this EXIF data, the purchase button gets buried and it is hard for the users to find. Watching how users interact with your site will give you this insight.

Another, all be it less effective, way to gain insight on how your users interact with your website is Google Analytics. You can gain insight from analyzing the data Google Analytics collects. What you lose is the inner monologue as well as witnessing the struggle. Naturally, you cannot also ask follow up questions. But, it is free and very powerful.

By exploring your site from the users perspective does not mean your site will be perfect from a UX stand point. But, it’s a good start.

Get to know your users. See how they use your site. Make the site easier and more intuitive for them to use. Now, you’re thinking with the user at the center.

Why do all this? Sites that work on a good user experience reduce the number of barriers to the purchase. Thus why large and small companies alike focus on UX.

Find some users, buy them some coffee, and take in their feedback. Improve your site. Then get out from in front of the computer and chase the light.

Check out Ted’s work on his website, and follow him on Twitter.

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