Why going live is just the beginning

I and several other members of our User Experience (UX) team recently attended a usability conference. Among the many inspiring talks we heard, the one that particularly stood out for me was given by Tero Vaananen, UX Design Manager for HSBC.

Tero talked us through the user experience processes his team follows and the range of techniques, research and methods they apply to their design process. It was brilliant to hear him talk with such enthusiasm about the importance of prototyping, and how testing and iterative prototyping is so critical in creating the best solution — and his views certainly rang true with us…

It got me to thinking about the challenges we can sometimes face as an agency in convincing clients that employing UX tools is worth the investment — not only during the development phase, but throughout the entire life span of the project. Research, prototyping and testing takes time and, of course, incurs cost, but, when it comes to ensuring that a website or platform functions (and continues to function) to its maximum potential, we think it’s invaluable.

What we need to remember is that the digital landscape is always changing, so it’s not possible to design a website that will ‘stand the test of time’ forever — digital solutions should constantly be modified, iterated and improved.

This type of process isn’t just limited to the digital world; you can see it being applied across other industries too. The Porsche 911 is a great example — first introduced in the early 60’s, every new model it slightly different from the last, yet the same basic shape is still clearly visible. The iterations are not to change its design every time a new model comes out; the iterations are to make tweaks and amends that will increase performance and usability.

This example helps us understand why, as UX specialist, we shouldn’t just be part of the definition phase of a project before passing on wireframes, moving onto a new project and only returning when the current solution is no longer performing and needs a re-design. Instead, we should remain involved in a project from start to finish, testing and iterating the solution based on facts and results from real users, both it’s in development and after it has gone live.

Further still, I place huge importance of testing and improving a site after it goes live, rather than defining every detail of a solution through wireframes and design before moving it into build. That’s why we incorporate ongoing testing and optimisation into many of our projects at Code. One of the most recent examples is the multivariate testing we’ve been performing on the Hillarys site, and we’re also currently in the process of defining tests with Oxfam to improve their donation functionality.

In both these cases, we are working to optimise sites we have already built and ‘finished’ — but, since we believe digital solutions should be constantly modified, tested and improved, our work’s never done…