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User Experience Explained


7. December 2009 18:52

User Experience (UX) is what a user experiences while interacting with your website and encompasses everything from how easy it was to find the site to the journey a user takes through the site.

User experience is understanding and designing a user’s experience from start to finish, not just how the website looks or functions.

The aim is to improve the user journey - ironing out those frustrating fly-out menus, optimising the shopping cart processes and making the website more intuitive by placing information where users expect to find it. 

User experience honeycomb

UX includes, but not limited to:

  • User interface design
  • Information architecture
  • Usability
  • Interaction design

User Focused Process

User Experience is user focused, so the first step is to identify and understand your audience and find ways to communicate with them effectively.  You shouldn’t assume a user is familiar with your product offering or knows all your industry terminology.

Understand what tasks end users will want to perform on your website and create a series of use-cases to identify each task.
While you and your web design company know how to navigate your website, do your users?  The only way to find out for sure is to perform user testing.

User Testing

The best way to evaluate a website’s user experience properly is by assigning tasks to real users and monitoring their progress in achieving the tasks.  Users should ideally be recorded and asked to think out loud while carrying out the assigned tasks so you can understand their thought processes while navigating.

It’s important that the users picked to perform the tasks haven’t been involved with the design or development process.

Information gleaned from user testing is then fed back into the design process in an iterative manor to improve the end user experience.  Iterative design can help optimise sign-ups, maximise return on investment (ROI) and increase sales, so it has real benefits!

Picture used under Creative Commons from A-dit-ya

What Does Web Accessibility Mean?


9. September 2009 22:26

Everyone has the right to use the internet regardless of whether they have sight problems, colour-blindness or other impairments, which is why the UK Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) also applies to websites.

This law applies to all websites and therefore you have a legal responsibility to ensure your website does not discriminate against disabled visitors to your site by anticipating the requirements of disabled people.

By not complying you open yourself up to criticism, bad publicity or even legal action!

What's involved?

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has a series of guidelines on Web Accessibility which the majority of web developers and designers should be aware of, but it is always worth confirming with your web developer that your site needs to meet at least priority level 1 of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 1.0 before any work is carried out.

Examples of Accessibility Scenarios

  1. Users should be able to resize text on a website to a comfortable level for reading, either through the appropriate web browser menu or using a facility on the website itself.
  2. Visitors with colour blindness should be able to read and understand a website regardless of the colour of the text, and therefore require a good contrast ratio between the text and the background colour.
  3. Blind visitors should be able to use screen readers (software programs that read the contents of the screen aloud to a user) or Braille devices to browse a website and understand its content.
  4. Users with seizure disorders, such as some types of epilepsy should have the ability to turn off any animation or effects that may trigger seizures.
  5. Individuals with memory impairments rely on consistent navigation to browse a website.
  6. People who cannot use a mouse for one reason or another should be able to use alternative methods such as keyboard shortcuts.
  7. Providing deaf visitors with transcripts of video and audio presentations.

8 Benefits of Accessible Websites

  1. Increased reach to disabled web users.
  2. More business from impaired customers or older people.
  3. Greater compatibility with handheld devices used for browsing the web, such as mobile phones.
  4. Faster loading websites and lower bandwidth costs.
  5. Cross-browser compatibility.
  6. Ability to promote your website as being accessible.
  7. Accessible website are generally search engine friendly.
  8. Compliance with the Disability Discrimination Act.

Your Website and Legal Compliance


17. May 2009 14:44

When you are thinking about what content you want on your new business website one of the last things your mind will probably be a privacy policy, terms and conditions, or a copyright statement.

You may also not realise that the UK data protection act may be applicable to you if you handle personal information through your website, or that your website needs to be built with accessibility in mind.

Privacy Policies

A privacy policy allows you to state how you will respect the privacy of your users, by explaining what information you collect and how you store and use it.

Cookies
A form of data collection which your website may or may not use is the cookie.   Your privacy policy should also mention your website’s use of cookies, and how to refuse them.  Be sure to ask the company that builds your website if cookies are being used, as the use of cookies by websites is covered by the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive).

A sample privacy policy can be downloaded from the BusinessLink.gov.uk.

Terms and Conditions

A terms and conditions notice provides visitors with information about the content of your website and what they are permitted and not permitted to use it for.  A sample website usage terms and conditions can be downloaded from the Business Link website.

Copyright Notice

A copyright notice allows you to express how your website content can be used, downloaded or distributed by your visitors.  A sample internet copyright notice can be downloaded from Business Link.  You may also wish to consider licensing your work at Creative Commons, this will allow you to keep your copyright, but allow people to copy and distribute your work provided they give you credit.

Data Protection Act and your Website

The UK Data Protection Act requires all organisations which handle personal information to comply with a number of important principles regarding privacy and disclosure.

There are eight principles which are designed to ensure that personal information is handled properly.  The Data Protection Act gives individuals the right to know what information is held about them.

If you process personal information on your website then you will need to notify the Information Commissioner’s Office.  This currently costs £35 a year and adds your business to the public register of data controllers.

Accessibility

The UK Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) refers to the provision of goods, facilities and services.  The act makes it “unlawful for a service provider to discriminate against a disabled person by refusing to provide any service which it provides to members of the public.”  The act means that service providers must “take reasonable steps to change a practice which makes it unreasonably difficult for disabled people to make use of its services.”

Make sure the company that is building your website makes your website accessible, otherwise you could face legal action.