User experience design can sometimes be daunting, but it needn’t be expensive or require a unicorn designer to establish best practices.

Ross Chapman, a UX designer in the eCommerce world, shares his top 10 tips for implementing UX design hacks for any business, with the focus on optimizing productivity when designing.

1. Start Usability Testing Today

Peek is a free tool from Peek.UserTesting.com. By entering your domain name, you’re able to request a short video recording of someone using your website (or mobile site). This simple recording can be incredibly useful, and can provide a catalyst for organizations to begin understanding user needs.

The recordings are roughly formed by three parts: Initial impressions; completing a task on the website; and concluding thoughts. The videos are made by a completely random user somewhere in the world (usually in the United States), but can show decision makers in the business what “all this usability stuff” is really about. And it’s totally free.

Check out an example review from Peek of HillRigs.com (powered by LemonStand).

Another way to eliminate the guess work of usability testing is to use software like HotJar to record live visitors on your site. HotJar offers 300 recordings for free!

best UX design

Additionally, a completely free and often overlooked alternative is Yandex Metrica’s Webvisor, which allows you to video record different kinds of actions on your site, similarly to HotJar.

Another way to eliminate the guess work of #usability #testing is to use software like HotJar to… Click To Tweet

2. Prototype with PowerPoint

You may be surprised to hear that anyone can prototype within your organization. PowerPoint is likely to be installed on most office PCs, and you can use this free tool to start prototyping. Head on over to powermockup.com if you want to add graphics that aid in prototyping a web page, or mobile app.

best UX design

PowerMockup is a wireframes toolkit specifically designed for PowerPoint with hundreds of reusable UX elements: shapes, icons, browser mockups, etc. You just have to drag and drop them into your sliders. The best thing is: if you work in teams you can share a public repository of all the UX design assets you use across your projects. PowerMockup starts at $59.99 and it’s a one-off payments download.

Forget about fancy unpopular prototyping tools. You can always use PowerProint to prototype. Click To Tweet

3. User Personas Everyone Can Make

Xtensio.com offers a tool where you can create user personas (key for understanding who you are designing for) in just a few clicks. From deciding goals, frustrations, motivations and specific personality traits, Xtensio has made it easy for anyone to create and share personas to start getting a firm grasp of whom you should be targeting.

best UX design

While tools like Slides and Word docs will prompt you to write longer texts, Xtensio allows you to keep all the key information for your user persona handy on one page. This helps to introduce new team members to your user persona easily.

4. A UX Workflow On-Demand

Ever been asked to “add some UX” to that? Now you can come back with a program that helps estimate time and resources needed to deliver on the promise of a great user experience design. UX Recipe and Usability Checklist have come to the rescue for those who are starting in user experience design and are unsure where to begin – it’s super easy!

UX Recipe is a calculator that allows you to automatically estimate the time required for a UX project by inputting a certain number of hours required for each portion of the job:

best UX design

It comes very handily when you want to be objective with price estimations.

5. Automatic Style Guides

I’d admit that these certainly aren’t the most comprehensive Style Guides around, but you can make a start by identifying shared styles across your website with StylifyMe. By just adding your domain name, you’ll be able to discover what colors and typography you’re using – very helpful for doing a user interface audit.

StylifyMe quickly identifies and lists colors and fonts from a page:

best UX design

StylifyMe even gives you standard image dimensions used on the site, with the option of downloading the guide as a pdf:

best UX design

StylifyMe quickly identifies and lists colors and fonts from a page: Click To Tweet

6. Plan Like a Designer Online

Tools such as Realtime Board and Mural allow teams to brainstorm and plot user journeys online. This can prove very effective for remote teams where putting together a design war room can be physically impossible. With Realtime Board, you’re able to breakdown problems, understand solutions and share easily.

Related posts:  3 Styles of eCommerce Navigation: A Comparison of Real Sites

If you’re a practitioner of agile development, working on story maps for a new movie, or you’re just in need a scheduling solution for your project, Realtime Board could offer a workflow for you:

best UX design

7. Prototype with Paper

I’ve talked a lot about digital tools, but there’s still room for paper! For touch devices such as iPhones, this technique is particularly useful. By simply putting your design together with paper (or using those spare Post-its you may have), you can understand what needs to be in the design and content hierarchy. This is especially useful for navigation.

Just grab some grid paper, or a classic Moleskine notebook and a pen and you’re ready to go. Sketching your UX ideas offline allows you to think out of the box without being restricted by any digital tools.

best UX design

Image source: UXMas

Just grab some grid paper, or a classic Moleskine notebook and a pen and you’re ready to go.… Click To Tweet

8. Design with Data

We’re told increasingly that using data is necessary for improving our websites and apps. In medium to large organizations, tools such as Google Analytics are often in the hands of a limited few.

You can start understanding the data by using Enhanced Link Attribution. By adding tracking and getting the Chrome extension, you’ll be able to understand what people are clicking on quickly and easily. This can signal where improvements can be made. For example, if your ‘Sign up’ button isn’t getting the largest percentage of clicks, maybe its positioning and design needs improving.

best UX design

Alternative solutions can be found with Heatmap tools like CrazyEgg and the Heatmap Widget by SumoMe. Ankit from AdPushUp has shared a comprehensive review on the best Heatmap tools out there.

You can start understanding your websites usage data by using Enhanced Link Attribution. Click To Tweet

9. Bootstrap a Pattern Library

One for the front-end designers here:

To cut down on spiraling design projects and pleasing strong-minded stakeholders, you really need a Pattern Library or comprehensive Style Guide. The best libraries have code snippets so you can create a page within a matter of minutes.

I’ve found that by using Bootstrap 3, you can not only use the styles (which, if your stylesheets and guidelines are a complete mess, I’d recommend you move to Bootstrap anyway!), but you can also reference documentation pages, which you can use as the basis for your own Pattern Library.

To cut down on spiraling design projects and pleasing strong-minded stakeholders, you really need a… Click To Tweet
bootstrap 3

Editor’s note: At LemonStand we use Zurb’s Foundation. The primary distinction from Bootstrap is that Zurb is not so heavy on the styles.

10. Usability Test with Anyone

Design best practices state that you should test the usability of your website or mobile app with a target audience. Some organizations may find that difficult, especially when beginning the journey of delivering awesome user experiences. I’d recommend that you observe as many people as possible using your product or service. Why? While it may be a bit contrived and their feedback may be a bit biased toward their ideologies, they may be able to experience something that needs improvement. Basic usability feedback such as completing a task (e.g. buying a product) or navigating the website on the customer’s phone is always useful but has the added benefit of educating the business as to what user experience and usability testing is.

Here’re a few tips for “Guerilla” usability testing:

  • First impressions are all important. Just observe and learn.
  • See if the user follows your desired user journey.
  • Record the session. Tools like QuickTime and Skype can be used to record audio and capture the screen, with the added benefit for you to share the recording with the rest of the organization.

What is your favorite UX design hack or tool? Share with us in the comments below.