Today we "close" our series on the IDEATE Design Loop with "E" – "Evaluate the Results."
At this point we have either:
1. Finished usability testing of the designs with our target users or
2. Implemented our visual designs and have gone live with our site or application.
User experience design is an ongoing living and breathing process that can only be improved upon if we have measurable metrics and a clear plan for regularly checking how we're doing so we can keep steering the ship in the right direction. Usually we can not fix everything and completely change the world in the first launch, so we break it down and create new targets to the future. Evaluating the results of our major UI design revamps can help keep us on track and even give us ideas on how to make our site more meaningful and useful to our users.
In this evaluation part of the process, we can begin choosing what metrics we will use to track our progress and begin installing them now that the site is live. We should also set goals on how frequently we will monitor and re-analyze our stats whether it be daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annually.
Some Useful Types of Metrics
* Google Analytics or other Web Analytics tools that show data on traffic sources, entry and exit pages, popular content, length of visits and bounce rates. We can easily see how certain pages are performing and how users are responding on days when marketing campaigns are launched by cross referencing with launch dates and times.
* Feedback Surveys – We can send post-launch and regularly scheduled surveys with end-users or customers about their satisfaction and user experience with the site. Or we can offer persistent ways for customers to provide feedback when they feel like giving it, using widgets like the GetSatisfaction widget.
* Conversion Analytics – Deeper analytics from content management systems and other website management platforms can help us understand how well users successfully completed a task, or purchased that product, or acted up that call-to-action, like submitting a contact form or calling your toll-free number.
Once we've chosen our metrics and set benchmarks for the site, we should assign team members to be the keepers of this data and set up times to review them together with the whole team.
The Good, Bad & The Ugly
Our evaluation should not only measure our successes, but also our failures and areas to be improved on for next time. We should report on things like:
* How well we fulfilled the design specs and design brief – our original goals
* Strengths & weaknesses of the final site or application
* Strengths & weaknesses of our process and how well it worked for all our key players – end-users, management team, content contributors, usability analysts, designers, and developers
* Recommendations for improvements, and
* Any new ideas for adding on or enhancing the site or application in future phases, especially if a product roadmap has been started and needs to be completed
Remember, get real, do not just be a cheerleader. The point of this is to be objective and honest about what worked well and what did not, so we can make measurable improvements over time.
Truly, each and every website or application is unique with its own set of users, problems, constraints and goals. And yes, there are similarities and patterns that can lead to best practices but it's important to approach each new project with a fresh set of eyes and ears because what works for one site, may not work for the next one. This is why the IDEATE Design Loop is so helpful as a guiding process that ensures we cover all our bases along the way. You can see how investing even a little bit of time in planning and user testing can save us LOTS of heads down the road.