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User Experience Tools for Beginners

A guide to help you find the right tools for the right situation

Discovery Tools

Tools and methods that help you define your users and how they interact with your website. Web Analytics and Heat Mapping fall into this category, as do these other tools.






Personas are characters created to represent different segments of your user popularion.  A persona's needs, feelings, and behavior are generalized from real needs, feelings, and behaviors found in a particular user segment.  In UX Design, you create personas in order to see your website through your users' eyes.

For more information, take a look at this article about Personas, including a link to a Persona Poster Template.


User Journeys are scenarios describing the path a user takes through your website.  They are generally a series of steps and can be used to describe what is currently happening or to describe what you'd like to have happen in a new design.  They are an effective way to humanize what can be a very boring and technical description.

The UX Review does a nice job of giving you the basics to get started.


Conceptual Design

Tools and methods that help you figure out what you should include in your website and where it should go. Card Sorting and Tree Testing fall into this category as do these other tools.



Mind Mapping is a great tool for gathering early ideas.  It can help you identify basic components, connections, and reveal the way your users think and feel about your world. can be a good place to get started.



A wireframe outlines the content on a website and how that content connects.  It shows the basic function of the website without showing how the website will actually appear.

Some suggest that wireframing is unnecessary and even detrimental to the design process (UX for the Masses).  That's for you to decide. 




Prototyping is creating a mostly realistic model of your website to be able to test with users.  It is one step beyond wireframing, because it adds design elements.

Some tools that have been recommended: Axure and Balsamiq.



Site Testing

Tools and methods for letting your users tell you whether your design or final product works for them. Usability Testing falls into this category as do these other tools.

A/B Testing compares two versions of a website to see which one is better (according to whatever criteria you select).  Here's a good guide for getting started with A/B testing.

Google has a free tool out there, but you may require more technical know-how that you have.  Thankfully there are commercial tools out there as well, such as Visual Website Optomizer or Omniconvert.  You just need to have the budget for it.




Accessibility testing is like usability testing, but where your population are people with a variety of disabilities so that you can test your site's performance with that particular set of users.

The W3C has a nice entry about it.