User experience (UX) includes everything from a user’s interaction with your nonprofit’s or association’s products or website to their communication with support associates. At the highest level, it’s how a user interacts with your organization in total. Because of that, improving the user experience can be done through numerous different approaches, such as better project management, more strategic content placement, prettier design … the list goes on and on.

Focusing specifically on the user’s interaction with a product or website, a key area of user experience is usability. Usability, as an official term, describes how easy it is to use something, whether it be a physical tool or a virtual game. In software and web development, usability is especially important to assess how user-friendly screens and workflows are. The more user-friendly a page or process, the more people will use it. Improving the usability of your application or website will make end users happy, which in turn, keeps them coming back to your product or service.

Within usability, there are many approaches you can take to improve how user-friendly your website or application is. A good place to start is with an evaluation of your current website. Here are a few methods to get started with a usability evaluation:

  • Usability testing: Perhaps the best way to test the user-friendliness of your website, usability testing is the process of observing typical users walk through standard tasks on your website. There are five main steps to conducting a usability study.
    1. Create a test plan: Define what you want to learn and create a task-based scenario
    2. Recruit participants: Recruit a range of users who represent your user base
    3. Facilitate the test: Give participants a task and observe what they do to accomplish it
    4. Compile results: Analyze data and identify larger trends that can point to usability issues
    5. Present findings: Make recommendations on how to fix uncovered issues
  • Heuristic reviews: While this is not a replacement for usability testing, it can be a more cost-effective way to evaluate usability. A heuristic review is getting a usability expert to evaluate your website against a set of standard usability principles. There are different sets of principles out there, but one most commonly used is Nielsen’s Heuristics. Heuristic reviews can produce a list of potential issues for fixing.

In addition to gauging how easy it is to use your website, it is also important to understand who your users are. Doing user research and developing a better idea of your target audience and how they work is a big step in improving the user experience. One of the most important ways of conducting user research is through collecting feedback. User feedback, no matter how little, is an effective way to gather user demographics, measure satisfaction, and hear about pain points.

The point of improving the user experience in general is to enhance the relationship you have with your users, whether it be through usability testing, heuristic reviews, or gathering feedback. Most of the methods mentioned above incorporate one important factor: talking to your users. Not only does usability testing benefit you and your organization by providing insight into the user’s way of thinking, it also benefits users because they become more engaged and know their voices are being heard.

One of the greatest benefits of improving the user experience of your product or website is the ability to connect with users in a way that you would not normally be able to do. These interactions are more than support calls or town halls, they’re a way to talk with users one-on-one and really listen to what they have to say. You’re not trying to sell your user on something or resolve their issues, though this may end up happening, depending on how your interactions go. The purpose of improving the user experience, usability evaluation, and user research is to listen to users and use their thoughts and opinions to help you better your product or service – for them.