How you know if your app is good

You have created an app or website? Congratulations! But how can you tell if it is any good? Figuring out if it does the job is vital for its success. The answer is simple: Test it.

Let’s start with the basics

The interface of your app or website is what your users see and interact with on their device. Testing it gives us insights into the user experience. This way, information can be collected about how users get along with the app. Can they perform certain tasks successfully or is it buggy, too complicated or missing a necessary feature?

To avoid unhappy users that sooner or later switch to your competitor, test your interface against the 10 Usability Heuristics of Nielsen (Check out the link for more info; each heuristic is explained really well in the videos, too).

The 10 heuristics are an analysis method that helps you find issues on the user interface. They can help to answer questions like “Why is the bounce rate of my website so high?”, “How can we drive sales on the app?”, “Why is the rating so low?”, or “How can we improve user satisfaction with the app?” 

Here you can find the 10 Heuristics of Nielsen:

Heuristic #1: Visibility of system status

The system informs the user what is happening at the moment via feedback and in real time. 

Heuristic #2: Match between system and the real world

The system speaks to the user in an appropriate language with familiar words, phrases and appears natural, logical and as if from the real world. 

Heuristic #3: User control and freedom

It is always possible for the user to undo unintended actions by using ways out such as „Back“, „ESC“ or „Undo“. 

Heuristic #4: Consistency and standard

The system is consistent. Users do not have to consider whether different words, situations, and actions in different areas of the system mean the same thing. 

Heuristic #5: Error prevention

The system does not allow errors to occur in the first place. It warns the user and lets him confirm actions to avoid errors.

Heuristic #6: Recognition rather than recall

Instructions on how to use it correctly are visible and easy to reach with the help of objects, actions or options. The user does not have to remember how it works.  

Heuristic #7: Flexibility and efficiency of use

The system provides shortcuts, customization, and personalization for both novice and experienced users with touch gestures, customized content & features, and individual choices.

Heuristic #8: Aesthetic and minimalist design

The interface contains only relevant information for the user. Any irrelevant information competes with the relevant one. This reduces its visibility and distracts the user from the information they really need.

Heuristic #9: Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors

It needs error messages written in plain language (no error codes), describing what went wrong and offering the user a constructive solution.

Heuristic #10: Help and documentation

It is sometimes necessary to provide the user with concrete help on how to perform certain tasks. This information is easy to find and focuses on the user task. The system offers step-by-step instructions when necessary and gives users reassuring feedback when something has worked.

Quick guide on how to use the 10 Heuristics

Pick one heuristic and open your app. Start looking through every page, every feature, all of the content, and every button. Then check if it holds against the heuristic. Write down your findings: What is the issue? What is causing this? If possible, also note first ideas on how to solve it. 

Rank each of the findings on a scale of 1: good, 2: marginal, 3: unacceptable, or whatever terms best fit your case. This lets you identify positive findings and simultaneously rank the negative findings by severity and assess how urgently they need to be corrected. 

Ranking the findings plays a big role in prioritizing your fixes. Image: Andre Taissin / Unsplash

Define the issue the right way

During our UX & Interaction Design course with Fleur Jeanquartier, we did a big heuristic analysis for the Too Good To Go-App. The app lets you buy food at restaurants, supermarkets and other nearby stores that would otherwise be thrown away.

During the implementation, we learned that it was essential how we formulated the findings. This is the important part because our findings were presented to the team of TGTG only in a written report. In order to successfully shape the transfer of knowledge we had to word them in a way that was as comprehensible as possible. Therefore the findings should capture not only the symptom of the issue, but also its cause. That way the team could make an informed decision about improvements. 

Here’s an example on how to phrase your findings:

Initial situation: When users want to checkout, they have to click "Reserve". We found that users might think they are buying food instead of reserving it.    Therefore, the caption of the checkout button might cause confusion, because    users don't associate it with a normal checkout, especially new ones.  
‚Reserve‘ button to start the checkout process can be confusing for some users. Screenshot from ‚Too Good To Go‘-App
Don't phrase it like this: The checkout process is confusing.

Describe. What makes it confusing? What would solve this issue?

Try this instead: The caption "Reserve" does not provide sufficient assistance during checkout, because it is not a common phrase used in the checkout           process. As a quick fix, the checkout could be labeled "Buy (Step 1 of 5)".

Conclusion

Testing your user interface is a great way to find inconsistencies and improve your app’s or website’s UX. Not only will you get more positive reactions from users but also an advantage over the competition. Skills like these should be part of any content strategist’s repertoire. Knowing what matters for a good user experience and interaction design is a great advantage for working with UX designers, (app) developers and content creators. Find out more in my blog post on how you build an app.

Image: UX store / Unsplash

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