User Experience and Usability Standards


User experience (UX) is a user-centered design process of enhancing usability, accessibility, and ease of use by focusing on having a deep understanding of users’ wants and needs, values, abilities, and limitations. Nielsen Norman Group—a leading user experience firm with global experience—defines UX as “all aspects of the user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.”

Put another way, UX is a means to drive product innovation and differentiation, while enriching a company’s culture. Good UX takes into account the stakeholder’s business goals and objectives, and key performance indicators, along with the users’ goals, to create a product that meets everyone’s needs.

When developing and selecting tools, understand what your users want and need, and prioritize user impact in design decisions. Strive to optimize the experience for the entire user journey, not just specific channels or touchpoints.

Your product should work great on all devices and platforms.

User feedback is essential to the success of your product. We recommend that the user research and usability test a mandatory process throughout the design, testing, and implementation phase. This process is to ensure the product is usable, effective, efficient to use, and achieve user satisfaction. It’s important to make the products accessible for all users, regardless of circumstances or limitations using various devices such as a computer, laptop, tablet, phone, or assistive technology.

UX Matters defines enterprise UX as the design of products for people at work. Most enterprise software is sophisticated. Users who interact with the products to get critical jobs done tend to face a steep learning curve.

The customer who purchases the enterprise software is usually not the same user who ends up using it. Since there is less competition for enterprise vendors, once they already have a foot in the door, there is very little investment to improve the product experience.

Perform a usability test on the platform, measure the user goals against the interface. By testing multiple users at the same time, it helps to identify usability problems, collect qualitative and quantitative measurements to help determine the participant's satisfaction with the product.

Field studies are research conducted at a user's context and location. It helps understand user goals, challenges, and help to identify unmet user needs. At the enterprise level, the in-context behavior will help us to organize the design to maximize the organization’s needs.

At the enterprise level, design standards will help enforce consistency. It helps increase users’ productivity by making fewer errors or workarounds. It also promotes group-level usability and collaboration efficiently. We are actively working on a design system that will be available to share with the Columbia community in the winter of 2020.

Usability refers to the degree of a product, whether it’s hardware, websites, or applications, that’s easy for users to achieve their objectives with efficiency, effectiveness and satisfying to use. A product that’s efficient determines how fast an experienced user can accomplish tasks, while effectiveness is the amount of effort and understanding it takes for the user to understand the navigation or architecture of the site or application.

Another usability attribute is that the interface should be easy to recall for future visits with a minimal learning curve.

Below are the 18 usability principles to evaluate systems, applications, and interfaces:


Great design is rooted in keeping the users in the center of the design process. It involves developing a deep understanding of the users through research while organizing the content, information, or visual design to meet user needs. To delight our users, we must create the products and services that are useful, usable, effective, efficient, and desirable.

We employ design thinking and ideation methodologies to help facilitate the conversation. We begin the empathetic process by conducting research and develop an understanding of the users. We then observe and combine our research to define the problems. Using the problem definition, we generate a range of creative ideas that lead to prototyping and testing the product.

We offer the following services to the Columbia community. The methods that we pick may vary from project to project. 

Observe and Analyze

  • Analytics
  • Audience Research
  • Card Sorting
  • Cognitive Walkthrough
  • Competitive Analysis
  • Contextual inquiry
  • Expert Evaluation
  • Ideation 
  • Design Thinking
  • Surveys
  • Journey Mapping
  • Pluralistic Walkthrough
  • User and Stakeholder Interviews
  • UX Teardown
  • Vendor Usability Evaluation

Envision and Design

  • Content Strategy
  • User Experience Strategy
  • Ideation and Design Thinking Workshops
  • Mobile Responsive and Web Development
  • Enterprise Architecture
  • Prototyping
  • Governance and Compliance

Evaluate and Define

  • Diary Studies
  • Benchmark Testing
  • Usability Test
  • Quality Assurance & Testing
  • Instructor-Led Training

The accessibility guideline is currently being developed.

Web and Application Development

Project Lifecycle

The project lifecycle usually varies from a website to an application, but it generally follows these few steps: We start with project discovery and kickoff. At the meeting, we will discuss the project requirements, identify users’ goals and tasks. At the end of the session, we will establish a UX strategy and plan of execution that includes user research and user testing. 

User Research

To ensure that the products that we create are truly relevant to our users, we conduct user research to understand users' characteristics, goals, behaviors, challenges, and pain points. After we identify the problems through observation, task analysis, and other feedback methodologies,  design solutions are prototyped and then tested with the represented user groups.

Usability Testing

A usability test is used to evaluate how easy a website or application is to use. The tests generally take place in a usability lab, where we put the represented users in front of the computer to complete a series of tasks. The session is often moderated. It's done to test the process of new features, products, or applications during the wireframe/design process in early development until a product is released.

Branding, Style Guide and Components

A design system is a library of tools that unifies the look and feel of a digital landscape and can be assembled in various combinations to build applications, websites, and other digital products.

This is currently being developed. We are planning to launch the design system in February 2020.

Content Strategy

Refer to content strategy for more info on headings, institutional names, affiliations and academic titles, acronyms, and a writing style guide.