How to Make Big UX Changes on a Limited Budget

November 18, 2015

When budgets are tight, it can be a balancing act as figure out how to get the right amount of up front planning, user input and user experience design within the constraints and requirements of your project.

In this article we will discuss how to make the most of a small budget when you have big UX goals.

Heuristic Analysis

“Can you just tell us what is wrong with it?” We often hear this from our clients who are struggling with a user experience problem. We are able to identify common mistakes in an application based on our expertise working with transactional experiences.

There can be simple things such as inconsistent in color usage or placement of primary functionality that can have a big impact on the effectiveness of an application or process. Hiring an expert to analyze a site and provide examples to the implementation team on how to improve it, can be a cost effective way to make changes that will directly impact site conversions.

Working with a firm that specializes in a specific vertical market will provide even deeper understanding of some of the big pitfalls that are typical in the online channel. Odds are that firm has seen and learned from past work with their clients and can make recommendations based on previous research and experience.

User Research

There is a common myth in the business world that user research is expensive and takes a long time to do effectively. While it is true that conducting research with target users in several different cities over many days is expensive and can take several weeks, there are much leaner ways to approach getting feedback from the people who will actually use your site or application.

Often it is the usability phase that gets cut from a scope of work due to cost. Doing this often proves to be more costly down the road. It is more expensive to identify and make changes after implementation than it is during the UX design and prototyping phases of a project. When clients are looking to get some fast, cost-effective feedback we recommend 2 approaches.


Prototype Testing

We find our clients save the most time and money on a project when they conduct some high-level research as a design step in the process.

This can be done using what we call a “smoke and mirrors” prototype, clickable wireframes or even a paper prototype. We find it works best to build a handful of pages that emulate the key functional components of the site or application on both desktop and smart phone.

We then recruit 6-8 target users and run quick 30-minute one-on-one sessions to look for ways to improve the experience. Using this methodology, we eliminate the time and cost of a formal report and instead deliver a punch list of recommendations the day after the study. Doing this type of testing gets you feedback very quickly and does not slow down the project schedule.


UX Diagnostic

One of the best ways to get a few quick wins and improve your site experience is to identify an area or two that historically present user challenges and focus your research energy there.

For example, you might be noticing a drop off on certain pages, or that few users are engaging with primary site resources or tools. Analyzing your site metrics can provide insight into breakdowns in usability for a specific piece of content or functionality. Using a similar methodology to a prototype test we are able to focus on key areas of the site and identify the specific UX challenges that are resulting in failure.

In a UX diagnostic, our client identifies and schedules the participants, and we provide the facilitator and analysis team. Since this type of research is conducted on an existing tool or site, we are able to complete the entire process within a single week- often in 2 business days.

Accessibility Assessments

Many of our clients work in highly regulated industries such as health care, benefits services and financial services. It comes as no surprise that sites and applications that serve these markets must do their best to be accessible to all of their users.

Typically it can be challenging for an organization to understand what needs to be done to a site to improve its accessibility score. We often perform detailed Accessibility Assessments for our clients and provide them with a prioritized list of changes., There are many things you can do on your own to help improve your site’s accessibility score.

Performing some high-level tests on color contrast tests and evaluating your color palette to ensure this it is flexible enough for online use is a good place to start. Conducting a high-level evaluation of the front-end code can provide some quick wins as well.

We recommend things like reducing the use of modal windows, making sure your PDF files are accessible and using best practices with forms and alt tags. Front-end developer Tony Johnson’s article 6 lesser-known techniques to improve accessibility provides insight in some great techniques that can add tremendous value for your users.

Prioritized Feature Lists

Having a well-planned list of features and priorities can help to optimize implementation budgets by determining what features and content need to be released at launch in order to achieve a solid minimum viable product.

To create a feature list, we spend time brainstorming with clients about what their site or application needs in order to be successful and differentiate it from the competition. We collaborate to evaluate functionality that might be good to hold for a future site release and look for ways to design the interface to easily accommodate planned enhancements without looking as though there is something missing.

Feature lists are great tools to use as the site evolves and you learn more about what target users desire and will find valuable. As you create your own feature list, make sure every piece of functionality and content maps to a clearly defined business objective and user objective. It is also helpful to include release versions and specific target user groups.

If you are trying to plan for the most effective ways to use your project budgets in the new year, we can help determine what approach may be right for your business. Contact us to learn more about our User Experience consulting Services.

By John Golden

John’s career in interactive media design began in 1995 and has spanned over two decades with a focus on developing simple, streamlined approaches for complex problems.

View John's Bio


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