The way people use and interact with your software can leave a lasting impression. And whether that’s good or bad, it will depend on a lot of things.

Over the last couple of years , the demand for frictionless user experiences has increased. Today’s users have high expectations and want products that are convenient, easy to use, and don’t require a steep learning curve to set up and utilize.

Software companies have taken note and realized that users who don’t have a great experience will cut ties with your company. This usually results in lower customer retention, bad publicity, and a loss of time, money, and resources, so it’s definitely not a risk worth taking.

That’s why today’s developers have shifted their focus to using tools and data to create better interactions. These tools allow them to test, get feedback, and analyze their results with ease. The majority of them are relatively inexpensive, and most have a free option as well.

Based on our experience, here’s a list of five tools that will help you improve your software’s user experience:

Collaboration: Slack

Everything starts with communication. In the development process, you need to be able to communicate with teams, users, and stakeholders at the same time.

With so many conversations happening simultaneously, it can be easy to get disorganized and feel overwhelmed.

These days, most conversations are made remotely because software companies operate at a fast pace. They tend to use email, a phone call, video conference software, etc. The options are quite extensive. And while this is good to keep track of conversations, it can also leave you scrambling to remember who said what, and where they said it. That’s why we recommend you keep all of your conversations under one platform. And the best option we’ve found right now is Slack.

Slack is a free messaging app that makes communication between all parties easier. Slack also includes multiple features that improve collaboration, such as:

Open Channels

This works as an open group function. When you create a channel and add people to it, everyone can see what’s going on. This makes it a great tool when you’re collaborating with multiple people at the same time.

Private Channels

Sometimes you need to have groups where there are specific things to talk about. Not everyone on the team can know about it. Individual channels allow you to create groups with a deeper level of security. From our experience, we’ve found this to be a great way to segment groups based on their specific function.

For example, an open group would be great to include everyone that’s involved in the entire project. However, a private channel would be great to segment team members according to their roles. You can have a private channel with managers, the developer team, the research team, etc. This allows organizations to communicate with each other without any outside interference.

Open Messages

One of the hardest parts about collaboration is the back and forth conversations you have. Since most people are doing this remotely, it can take a long time to receive the feedback you need to proceed with your work. Open messages solve this problem. It allows you to reach your coworkers directly and receive feedback more quickly. As a result, this speeds up the process as well.

Aside from these communication features above, slack also offers a variety of advanced features that make work simpler. One of them is the ability to share data. You can drag-and-drop files, add stars, comments and other features to keep track of your work. You can paste links from Google Drive and Dropbox and access them directly in the chat box. Finally, there’s a search option available, so if you remember what you were talking about you can quickly go back to it.

Flowcharts: Visio

Once you’ve decided on the basic requirements and what you’d like to include in your software prototype, you need to map out your flowcharts. Visio is a Microsoft tool that not many people know about. Its goal is to express data in a way that’s clear and concise. So instead of mapping things out on sticky notes, and relying on hand-drawn processes, it allows you to link data and visually share information.

For development purposes, it’s best used to create diagrams and flowcharts. This program offers a variety of objects and shapes to work with. Their goal is to allow you to build these things with ease.

When applied to prototype development, you need to understand what pages you will have and where each interaction will take you once you’ve clicked on that page. Visio allows you to recreate these procedures clearly and makes it easy for you to get an overall view of how everything is supposed to work and which parts are interconnected.

Prototype Design: Axure

After you’ve decided on the requirements you’d like to include in your prototype (along with its workflows) you need to translate your ideas into a usable design. Your goal at this stage of the process is to get feedback. The best insights you receive will come from the people actually use your software. They need to be able to interact with it and document the things they like, dislike, and would love to include. This is done through a website wireframe tool.

Wireframe tools can be used to create high fidelity prototypes that can be viewed on a desktop, tablet, or mobile device. It’s a great way to express what your project will look like to your team. The best part about it is speed. Most developers spend far too much time trying to get their prototypes to look and function correctly. However, if this happens, they’re entirely missing the point. Prototypes need to be built quickly, and wireframe tools allow you to take your ideas from paper to a fully functional digital prototype in an hour or less.

This is possible thanks to how easy and user-friendly the software is. Everything you do can be created through a drag and drop interface, and can easily be exported to HTML or PDF’s. This makes it easy to share your prototypes to receive the much-desired feedback you need. Which leads us to our next favorite tool.

Research: User Testing

After you’ve got a working prototype up, you need to get people to use it. Often, developers fail because they don’t choose the right people to test their software. You see, you can’t just pick people at random. Part of the customer-centric development process is picking the right people to work with. In this case, these people are the ones who are most likely to buy and use your software. Now, the biggest challenge is finding them in large quantities and in a short time. Depending on where you live, and who you’re looking to target, you’re limited as to how many people you can work with. That’s where User Testing can help.

As we mentioned before, speed is one of the most important things when it comes to prototyping. Your perfect customers are somewhere out there using their computer. User Testing provides you a database of people segmented based on their age, demographics, experience, and so much more. For a small fee, you can get your perfect customers to try your software as soon as possible.

When you conduct your tests, you can guide users through a real-time interview, or record them using your solution. This is the closest thing to being in the room with them.

The insights you receive will be valuable. Unfortunately, due to client budgets and the scope of your project, you often can’t choose to pursue multiple things at once. Therefore, in the final step, it’s crucial that you conduct A/B split testing to see which things are worth pursuing the most.

A/B Split Testing: Google Optimize

After going through the entire prototyping process, you’re going to see things that will stand out. Others will leave you scratching your head because both the users and teams couldn’t decide what a better solution would be. That’s where Google Optimize can help.

This is a free tool which allows you to create personalized experiences and put them to test. It’s integrated with Google Analytics so you can easily understand, through data, what needs to be improved. You can set up your test in minutes and combine them with other Google Solutions as well. This allows you to run experimentation on a high level, while saving time, and increasing efficiency across teams.

Final Thoughts

With technology moving at such a fast pace, you can’t leave your results up to chance. Not too long ago, you needed to make assumptions, build your product, and then adjust according to market feedback. These days it’s never been easy to create a winning product from the start. You can skip through this painful and costly process by using a specific set of tools that will give you insights into what your users genuinely want.

By taking this approach, you ensure that your company operates in a customer-centric way. This allows you to create products that match your audience’s needs While boosting the performance of the development process and decreasing any financial risk.