What is UX design and why should I care?

UX Design: A definition

I think it’s fair to say that a true definition of UX Design is still in the making. Here’s one of my favourites from The Interaction Design Foundation.

User experience (UX) design is the process of creating products that provide meaningful and relevant experiences to users. This involves the design of the entire process of acquiring and integrating the product, including aspects of branding, design, usability, and function.

Who doesn’t want meaningful and relevant experiences?

The term User Experience (UX) Design was originally coined by ex-Apple VP Don Norman. (He also wrote the first book I read on the topic, The Design of Everyday Things).

My goal is to humanize technology, in part by making it disappear from sight, replaced by a human-centered, task-based family of information-appliances. Easy to learn, easy to use. Easy to understand…”

Don Norman

What an aweosme goal! Technology is largely designed to make life easier for us, and for a while it did. Sometimes it still does. Sometimes it causes more frustration than it should. That’s where UX swoops in and saves us all from ourselves!

UX design is a process. One where constant iteration is encouraged, but always based on feedback from the user. The user – the actual person who will be using the actual thing that’s being designed, is the only person qualified to decide whether the thing helps them or hinders them. They are the only person/s qualified to decide whether the result is something that is easy to learn, easy to use and easy to understand. So if that’s the case, why do we still insist we, (the business, organisation, company, gov dept, university) know best?

When was the last time you gave any thought to the experience you provide to your users, your customers?

A User Experience exists whether you pay attention to it or not. Unintentional UX Design can lead to a poor experience, where frustration builds and the problem remains unsolved. This can be catastrophic for your brand. If a user thinks you can’t solve their problem, they’ll quickly move along looking for someone who can. If you can solve that problem, but it isn’t clear on your website, or the app is too clunky, or too slow, you’re most definitely throwing business away and most definitely have unhappy current or wannabe customers.

Attention spans are getting shorter, patience is thin and the world seems to turn faster while technology moves ahead at an alarming pace. We have access to a seemingly endless amount of tools designed to save us time but in reality, we have never been busier. Here’s the kicker. No one has the time, energy or even the desire, to learn how to use your new thing. If a solution creates another problem (e.g. you have to spend a day figuring out how to use it before you can), before it solves the original problem, then I’d argue it’s not really a solution at all.

If products are designed without the user in mind, then who are we designing it for?

Sounds simple. All we have to do is ask our customers what frustrates them about doing business with us and work with them to design a thing that takes that frustration away. Yet, time and time again the user must jump through hoops of tech, red-tape, internal jargon, procedure and painfully slow/poorly designed digital platforms before they can even give you their money. See how that might be a bad thing for your organisation?

I today’s global economy, our potential customers can buy anything from anywhere. Choice fatigue is literally a thing. If we confuse, we lose. Smart organisations understand this and are investing in finding out what their perfect customer needs and how they can give it to them in a way that’s easy to learn, easy to use and easy to understand.

Stop. Making. Them. Think.

It’s always difficult to prioritize, especially in larger organisations and departments where getting lots of people on the same page can be challenging. So what if we stopped promoting our own agenda and started thinking about the people we’re trying to serve? Thinking about your website or app, answer these questions. Is it:

Useful

Does it fit the expectations of your users? Does it do what someone needs it to do?

Usable

Is your site easy to use? Can people work out how to use it quickly and easily? Does your navigational structure and information architecture help people to find what they are looking for?

Accessible

Have you considered people with disabilities? Are you leaving business on the table and unintentionally discriminating against one in four people who have a disability?

Credible

Does your website or app build trust between you and your users?

Valuable

Does your website or app deliver value? Does it improve customer satisfaction? Is it a good return on investment or an expense?

Desirable

Does it look good? Is it on-point and on-brand? Does it show empathy and connect on an emotional level. Do people want to use it?

What’s in it for me? UX design is just another expense?

If you’re worried about the cost of UX design, check out this video: The ROI of User Experience.

The ROI of User Experience Design.

A few takeaways:

  • Developers/programmers spend 50% of their time reworking a project.
  • The cost of fixing an error after development is 100x that of fixing it before the project is completed.
  • 3 of the 12 top reasons a project will fail can be avoided with UX Design.

Summary

User Experience, like recycling, is everyone’s responsibility. Taking the users needs into account during every step project lifecycle will result in good things for both your organisation and for your customers. Without human-centred design, we’re leaving everything to chance. Sometimes it works out ok and the customer sticks around. Sometimes they tell you they’re not happy. Sometimes you just lose them never to return again.

As the saying goes, ‘if you can’t think of anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all’. Well, ‘if you can’t create something useful…’

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