UX is a term that is talked about a lot at the moment and not always fully understood. UX stands for user experience. In this article we will discuss UX and how we are using it as part of our new product development cycle.
What is UX?
Wikipedia defines UX design as follows
User experience design (UX, UXD, UED or XD) is the process of enhancing user satisfaction with a product by improving the usability, accessibility, and pleasure provided in the interaction with the product. User experience design encompasses traditional human–computer interaction (HCI) design, and extends it by addressing all aspects of a product or service as perceived by users.
The Nielsen Norman group, one of the leaders in user experience research defines it as
“User experience” encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.
In essence, User Experience is a problem-solving discipline that relates to what it feels like to use a product or service. It is not solely about product functionality but more about how users feel when using it.
Great products solve user problems and generate positive emotions. They should generate positive feelings such as the feeling of being in control, increased confidence or trust.
Negative emotions have a multiplier effect on users. This means that one negative experience will always outweighs many positive ones. People don’t notice good design as much as they get annoyed by bad design, we therefore need to ensure that we avoid making our users feel that they cannot do what they want, feel inadequate or that they do not trust the software they are using.
Elements of design.
Design is composed of 3 main elements, functional design, aesthetic design an experience Design.
Functional Design refers to what a product does, its features and helps determine the type of product we are building. A sports car’s functional design will be different from an SUV’s design as the features and characteristics of the two cars will differ.
Aesthetic Design has to do with the visual Appeal of the product. This is usually conveyed via the colours used, the materials the shapes etc …, in essence, this is what will give the product its own personality.
The third element of design, Experience Design is what it feels like to use the product how easy it is to use, how easy it is to find your way around the interface, how the software allows you to recover if you make a mistake or how it can anticipate you next steps and make useful suggestions. These details might seem mundane but are crucial to customers and do not happen by accident. Details create an emotional reaction from customers and need to be thought trough. This means that experience design should not be left to last as these details need to solve specific problems and should be considered at the very outset.
Without the 3 types of design, it is almost impossible to create great products.
We are not the users!
One of the main mistakes in product design is to assume that users want the same as we do as developers or stakeholders.
The product managers, product developers, executives and all other stakeholders have an important role in the product development, but they are not the user. UX professional’s role is to be the customer’s champion but they are not the user either.
The only way to solve users’ problems is to actually talk to users. Without doing so, we cannot solve the user’s problems. This is done via a number of techniques such as surveys, interviews and User experience recording sessions.
It’s not all about features
Big companies like the smart phone industries, have over the years launched into a feature arms race where they compete to try to offer their customers more features than the competition.
Based on current statistics, it appears that most users use less than 10% of the phone’s built in features. This highlights the fact that the wining product is not necessarily the one providing as many features as possible, but the one providing the best user experience.
In most companies, various stakeholders will try to add their own requirements and features to the app in order to meet their own requirements and resolve their own problems. These problems are rarely the user’s problems. These stakeholder’s request add complexity and cost to the app or website and contributes to confusing users and distracting them from the main purpose of the app, and therefore from solving their own problems.
It is the role of the UX designer to be the voice of the user and to question whether these features are really needed or if the cost and complexity they are adding is justified and necessary. Just because you can add features does not mean you should.
The following is a remote control from a VCR machine. As you can see, there are many functions on it and no prioritisation of features. The questions we should ask ourselves for each feature is:
- Does a user actually need it?
- What problem is it solving?
- What is the trade off?
- What is the cost and is it worth it?
When using a VCR, the functions used most are Pause, Play, rewind and Fast forward. These functions should have been prioritised to de-clutter the user experience and make it easier to use the functions used most. The other non-essential or less used functions could be moved away from the main interface or be made smaller
The image to the right is that of an Amazon Fire stick. In contrast to the previous VCR remote, it does focus on the main features and most of the other options are hidden or accessed via the on-screen home button. The simplicity of the product contributes to its greater usability and enhances customer experience by enabling them to perform the most common tasks easily.
The design process in Fexco Technology Solutions
The phases of the UX process (research, analysis, design, prototyping, validation) often have considerable overlap, and usually, there’s a lot of back-and-forth between each.
Our own internal development process is based on user observation and research with tools such as site visits, card sorting, surveys etc. The information gathered from the research is then used by the design team to formulate assumptions and translate them into mockups of the application.
Examples of surveys and UX research tools
Testing with users is an essential part of the UX process, we therefore carry out UX reviews with a number of users with the mockups to identify any major issues. As most of our users are in different locations and to ensure we can run such sessions often and for small sections of the application, we have decided to use online tools such as zoom or skype, to run our UX sessions. This allows us to minimise travel time and spend more time testing our software.
Screen shot of a UX usability session
Once this has been validated, we can create working prototypes that can then be put in front of users for further validation. This means that users get a chance to review the software at multiple stages of the development process.
In this post, we determined that User Experience (UX) is a problem-solving discipline that relates to what it feels like to use a product or service. We looked at the three essential elements of design and discussed the main pitfalls when designing new products. Finally, we had a very short overview of how we use UX in Fexco and some of the tools we use for our new projects.