User Experience, or UX, is a term used widely in today's design and technology industry. User experience is critical for designing products, from a simple water bottle to complex software and online tools.
UX is all about the way the end-user interacts with a product. It mediates various disciplines encompassing engineering, user behavior, marketing, product designing, and interface design.
UX designers have to have a keen understanding of what the end-users want. But providing a seamless user experience calls for the merging of all the above disciplines fluidly, in a way that goes beyond what the consumer wants.
Many people are confused over user experience and user interface (UI). Although UI is a critical design element, it differs from UX on an elementary level.
A mainstream attribute of UI is usability, or the ease of using a product and its efficiency. However, UX goes even further and is a much broader concept than UI.
UX refers to all the aspects that affect the user's interaction with a product. There are four basic questions that users evaluate, which determines the UX of a product:
User Experience is about understanding the emotions and needs of human beings. An unparalleled user experience taps into the emotional and rational side of humans. As a UX designer, you should have a clear understanding of the value of your product to the user or the problem it would solve in the user's life.
UX is also a dynamic field that changes over time. While there may be early adopters, most people are generally skeptical about a new product. However, with familiarity, they get more comfortable adopting the product wholeheartedly.
To say that UX today is an essential aspect of designing in enhancing customer satisfaction is an understatement. With the needs and wants of the user held in high regard, it comes as no surprise that user-centric designs have taken center stage, especially in the IT industry.
This marks a shift from the previous decade when websites and mobile applications were designed keeping only aesthetics and the brand in mind. Interactions were built based on what the designers and the brand felt was right, with a very narrow view of what the user might want.
But in the ensuing decade of the 21st century, the internet has undergone a significant transformation process. With billions of users now populating the web, the race to capture their attention and loyalty has reached a whole new level. Today's websites and apps are loaded with features, and to stay on top of the game, they need to provide an impeccable user experience.
Furthermore, the different modes of access to web-based products are also very dynamic and complex today, thanks to multiple devices that people use to surf the internet. From PCs, laptops, tablets, and mobile devices to smartwatches, web-based products today need to cater to different aspects of user experience than ever before.
With this paradigm shift, the IT industry has endeared itself to user experience. As we get technologically more advanced, user experience will also keep evolving. But one thing is sure; it is definitely here to stay.
The emergence of UX has been pivotal in many industries and scenarios, most notably in the following instances:
Complicated systems with multiple functionalities and features need more planning on their architecture and user flow. UX design is pivotal in User-centric applications, multifaceted systems and e-commerce websites. Such systems which heavily rely on user interaction (social media platforms) are entirely dependent on core UX research and design implementation.
User experience research and design take time. UX designers can undertake traditional designing tasks from web designers and implement user-related elements to shorten the timeline of projects with a long development time frame.
Start-ups generally have limited resources. Their focus is more on deliverables and product launches than research and planning. However, they stand to benefit immensely by incorporating UX research and strategic designs right from their inception.
Imbibing a culture of efficient user experience processes from the start can certainly create a solid user base for start-up businesses. Even if the organization has limitations in their budget to hire a full-time team of UX designers, they can still consider outsourcing the UX work or having their employees trained in UX principles and processes to develop a user-centric work culture.
Whether digital or physical, UX design is all about creating practical and usable products for individuals who have never experienced using that product before. In terms of software, this includes technically challenged people, who, although they may not have used complex software before, still make up a significant chunk of end-users that digital products cater to.
In simpler terms, UX is the process that ensures that users or your customers find value in the product offered to them. Peter Morville stressed six points which ascertain the value of the information provided to users:
The product should be useful to the consumer, providing value and solving a problem faced by them.
The product or software should be easy to use irrespective of the user's skills, literacy, or technical proficiency.
Desirability includes invoking some emotion and appreciation of the product using design elements like brand identity, image, etc.
This refers to the navigational aspect of UX. All features and functionalities of your product should be easily accessible by the users. This includes both onsite and offsite content.
Accessibility of the product and its contents by people with a disability.
The trust factor involved in UX. Your product users must trust and adhere to the information provided to them about the product.
The tasks performed by UX designers envelop various other sub-disciplines. As the dynamic nature of this field calls for, a UX designer should be intuitive and pragmatic at the same time.
Here are some of the tasks fulfilled by a UC designer:
Understanding your consumers and their buying behavior is at the core of UX designing. Using analytics and web data, designers evaluate user-profiles and personas to imbibe emotional elements in the final product.
A holistic evaluation of the current system (if already existing) has to be done by the UX designer. They need to identify and report issues present in the system and suggest improvements based on their evaluation.
A/B Testing is an exemplary research method in UX designing. It consists of two variants which are then tested using statistical hypotheses. A UX professional compares the effectiveness and quality of different user interfaces during this phase.
In practical terms, the UX expert creates multiple design versions and identifies which element provides a better user experience after conducting a test.
User surveys are another vital aspect of UX designing. Existing and potential users of a system give their inputs on the designs that are under development. This user insight has to be gained directly by interacting with multiple users to form a unified basis.
Wireframing and Prototypes
Based on the statistical data obtained from the above methodologies, a UX designer can develop wireframes and prototypes using different layouts on each sample.
Developing user flows is yet another component of UX design. User flow indicates how a user should move from one information in the system to another.
Design patterns are about providing the user with familiar experiences. These design patterns could be pre-existing in other systems or derived into custom-made patterns by UX designers. Some common UI elements for specified tasks that are effectively prevalent is an example of using design patterns in UX methodology.
Changes to the information architecture of a website, like user flow and accessibility, are yet another way of enhancing user experience. This is done by managing or organizing content inventory or the organized web pages list in a way that is conducive to users.
Style Guide is a framework that designers follow in developing the system. A style guide imbibes consistency throughout the system, which is the fundamental aspect of user experience. Consistency removes redundancy in the system and eliminates the confusion of the users. Styles guides also help in aligning the design elements with the brand.
Incorporating user experience in your work culture is sure to pay dividends in the long haul of your business. When done right, it guarantees the success and mass adoption of products of the company.
By bringing a consumer's expectations and needs at the forefront of any product development, you can be assured of having a loyal customer base that would go a long way in building your brand image over competitors.