We come across various websites on the internet; some of them simply have a breathtaking view whereas some are a sheer delight to interact with. But less do we know about the efforts that go behind making those websites the way they look. Web designers toil everyday in adding a wonderful dimension to site’s user experience. But a few hit the nail on the head. Websites today are not static pages anymore that people read and move ahead. They have become playgrounds for interacting, learning and communicating. You see customers are no more pleased with a site’s look but the entire experience.
When it comes to designing websites visual quality is dominated by functionality and interface elements that constitute overall user experience. Therefore web designing is subject to guidelines falling within the realm of user experience. Here are some tools that will curtail your stress and enable creation of websites users love exploring.
UX tools can be broadly categorized in two divisions: a. Wireframing Tools and b. Research & Testing Tools
a. Wireframing Tools
In software development lifecycle system’s look and architecture is contrived in the Design phase. These tools create blueprints for screens that enable developers to emulate the form and function in the live model. It can also be called idea testing from the designing point of view as it mainly focuses on functionality. You can create a mockup from your specifications to examine its working and to visualize ideas narrated by the client. A bunch of such prototyping tools are available in the market. Let’s take a closer look at some of the chosen ones here:
1. Axure RP Pro: One of the most widely used wireframing tools it produces dynamic prototypes as well as UI specification documents. Rich UI elements called widgets help you build interactive prototypes. It provides a huge widget library for a wide number of industry websites as well as apps. A rich collection of placeholders, shapes, gradients, icons, etc. makes it a workhorse producing almost real working models. Its HTML mockup makes it convenient for people to view the wireframe without installing an RP player, on desktop as well as mobile. The inbuilt SVN client feature allows users to share their work. Its intuitive interface can emulate even very complex websites. The inline notes allow UX designers to state business rules for clients and developers (this feature can be turned off when not required). It supports Mac and Windows Operating Systems.
2. Balsamiq: It’s a quick tool for creating static mockups. If you want speedy replication of multiple wireframes then this is the tool you were looking for. However it does have certain limitations. If you want to integrate interactive elements into this wireframe, then it fails to overwhelm you, as this is ideally suited for only sketching a system’s UI and not mocking it.
3. Invision: It’s not just a prototyping tool but it works as a good collaborative tool as well. It collaborates with Photoshop, illustrator and Fireworks. By uploading images and hotspots it gives an impression of an app. It is a versatile tool that creates interesting prototypes.
b. Research & Testing Tools
Information drives decisions. Our UI design is majorly derived from disseminated cognitive theories, which should be ideally based on user reviews gathered through surveys and research tools. Around 1000 papers get published every year regarding web design and usability. Still websites fail at providing the expected user experience and suffer sporadic traffic outpour.
A few accepted guidelines spur the design layout; however there are tools available to understand customer’s interaction manners and general site expectations. There are tools that perform quantitative research and those that perform qualitative research.
1. Usability Tools: It’s a comprehensive package of 9 tools to predict user demeanor. These tools are classified into 2 suites: First is the UX Suite that contains elementary methods of comprehending and connecting with users through surveys and scenario-based testing. Second is the Conversion Suite that gets you a more detailed overview of user input and analysis, especially the form-tester tool. So now instead of correlating the output from different tools, you have one tool performing most jobs. And the best part is, it does not restrict you to test a specific number of websites; instead it charges based on the data gathered from your research.
2. Userzoom: This is a research and analytics tool that provides insight into customer behavior with respect to your website. You get to see your site from an end user perspective. What you get at the end is tangible reports and no guesswork. Conducting in-lab tests is not always feasible, therefore tools that provide a framework to interpret user movements throughout a website and generate analysis reports based on it simplify designers job.
3. ClickTale: This tool set visualizes customer behavior and analyses friction points in a website. Its deliverables like mouse move heatmaps, click heatmaps, scroll heatmaps, link analytics, comparisons and visitor playbacks give an astute vision of site’s usability.
4. Formisimo: This tool mainly revolves around web forms and checkout process. Since these checkout forms are the last step to conversion, it’s crucial to know how users relate with them. Sometimes websites experience high traffic inflow but the conversion ratio falls much below the expected figures due to complex checkout procedures. Therefore it’s important to study your checkout forms usability and this tool does just that.
What led to the discovery and acceptability of these tools in the digital industry was the need to provide web designers with actionable data for designing user centric websites, which successfully attract and sustain traffic. Select the tools that best serve your purpose and fall within your budget frame.