User experience (UX) is more than simply creating an attractive user interface. It covers all aspects of users' interactions with an application, along with motivations and workflows.
There a number of techniques that go into UX, helping to create a well-rounded picture of how users are engaging with applications, and what hey get out of it. Christian Rohrer, vice president and chief design officer in the consumer division at McAfee, provides a great summary at the Nielsen/Normal site of the key methods that are employed as part of UX:
Usability-lab studies: Participants' engagements are studied at the software designers' site.
Ethnographic field studies: Participants are studied in their own environments.
Participatory design: Participants create their own ideal experiences.
Focus groups: Groups of 3-12 participants provide feedback.
Interviews: One-on-one discussions.
Eye tracking: Measuring exactly where participants look as they view applications.
Usability benchmarking: Rohrer defines this as "tightly scripted usability studies."
Moderated remote usability studies: Participants' responses are tracked remotely.
Unmoderated remote panel studies: Participants record and provide their own running commentary on their interactions.
Concept testing: A new item is floated before a test audience.
Diary/camera studies: Participants are provided a diary or camera to "describe aspects of their lives that are relevant to a product or service," Rohrer says.
Desirability studies: Participants review different visual-design alternatives.
Card sorting: Participants are asked to organize items into groups.
Clickstream analysis: Tracking the pages visited.
A/B testing (also known as "multivariate testing," "live testing," or"bucket testing"): Testing different designs among randomly selected groups.
Unmoderated UX studies: Software is typically installed on participants' computers to measure their interactions and goals.
True-intent studies: Site visitors are asked about their intentions, with follow-up to their interactions and experiences.
Intercept surveys: Surveys "triggered during the use of a site or application."
More details about these techniques and where in the process they should be employed are explored in Rohrer's post.
(Thumbnail photo by Joe McKendrick.)