Do Research the Right Way
One of the most common mistakes companies make is implementing user interface changes based on what users say they want. Unfortunately, UX research shows that what people say they would or wouldn’t like doesn’t always match reality. Moreover, a user’s suggestion on how to solve a user interface problem might be unworkable, unreasonable, or both. While it’s important to solicit and listen to user feedback, users aren’t designers or usability experts, so you should not take their complaints and suggestions verbatim. Don’t confuse a design suggestion with a design solution.
To identify your product’s real user interface problems and solve them, you need to perform careful product management and UX research that takes facts—not users’ opinions—into account. Your research should identify actual user needs through techniques such as protocol-based interviews, paper prototyping, and usability testing. You don’t want to discover something after a new software release has launched that you could have discovered earlier through doing proper UX research.
Implement Changes Properly: A Bad Implementation Negates a Good Idea
Companies are often good at identifying useful ideas for improving user interfaces, but simply having a good idea is not enough. For example, your company might discover that it would be advantageous to include GPS functionality, a calendar application, and a games section in your smartphone design. But if the design and implementation of those features makes them difficult to find and use, you will lose much of the value you’ve set out to provide.
If your UX research has shown that a user interface idea has value, don’t leave its implementation to chance. Involve the development team early in the product definition process to ensure that the idea gets translated properly into concrete product design specifications and that the developers implement it well.
Expect Some Complaints
Nothing is universally loved by everyone. When you’re evaluating user complaints about your user interface, accept that there will always be some, and don’t react to them in a knee-jerk fashion. The complaints you get might identify a widespread problem, but they could also simply be gripes from a very small, but vocal group of users.
To evaluate whether you should act on their complaints, find out how widespread they are by conducting a random survey of your target audience—either through user interviews or an ethnographic study. This research can tell you whether you’re dealing with a common complaint that you should address immediately or a minor issue that should be a lower priority on your list of things to fix.
In addition, evaluate the groups of users who are complaining and the tasks with which they’re having problems. Are they representative of the primary users of your product? Do they match one of your key audience profiles? Are they typical users? Are they upset about something relating to a key task—or a secondary task that users rarely perform? For example, removing a command-line Interface tool might make a tiny group of users very upset, but benefit 99% of your target audience. This brings us to our next best practice…