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UXD – User Experience Design

What is UXD?

User Experience Design (UXD) doesn’t fall within the traditional design realms as some may think. Although great design is part of the UXD process, what’s vital to great UXD is a thorough understanding of your users needs and expectations. Que the meticulous planning, industry-standard techniques, practical methodologies, behavioural patterns, and a dash of experimentation.

Let’s start by defining and demystifying UXD.

User Experience (UX) is often described as the interaction between human and computer, but in reality UX is much more than just interaction – it’s about how users feel emotionally when they interact. We humans create affinities with brands, we establish these emotional ties (its what Marketers call ‘longevity’) and it’s a well known fact that consumers are loyal to brands so when users are presented with a product that is as useful as it is usable, we’re creating an experience whether it’s good or bad. UXD isn’t just a brand and packaging, it’s what is inside the bottle that ultimately decides whether users keep using your product.

A good user experience is one that requires little additional thought. A great experience takes complex tasks and makes them effortless for them for the user. The best experiences leaves users’ completely satisfied. I highly recommend ‘Don’t make me think‘ by Steve Krug. Although the book is more applicable to web, the main principles can be applied to UXD and most other digital products.

An example of a bad user experience would be walking into the supermarket and not being able to find an item I require in the most logical, expected location.  One of my favourite examples (witnessed on many occasion!) is push/pull doors. People will attempt to PULL a door that clearly says “Push” – why? Grab handles on both side of the door suggests a pull action, even if when post signed to do otherwise. Human intuition overrides instructions, no matter how clearly they may be presented.

“A person’s perceptions and responses that result from the use or anticipated use of a product, system or service”

Wikipedia – User Experience

We don’t tell users to ‘click here’ anymore; users understand what a button looks like and how to interact with one. Users have grown to expect certain feedback i.e. when a user hovers their mouse = show a hover state and when a user clicks = show an active state. So we’ve evolved to remove ‘click here’s and instead we use  logic-orientated call-to-action like ‘Get Started’ and ‘Skip’.

It goes without saying there’s a perfectly valid reason why it’s crucial to understand your users and carefully (sometimes painstakingly) plan your digital projects – focus on the importance of understanding your users and the marketplace.

The below shows a visual representation of the UXD process, the spectrum is split into three main sections; Business Analysis, Visual Design & Prototyping. Each then sub-section relies on the support of the other i.e. IA (information architecture) will directly influence the Interface and so on. UXD is at the heart of the whole process and neatly orders each of the disciplines.

UXD Process

Source: iA

Designers and UXD

Having worked alongside traditional graphic designers for the past 8+ years, I find designers to be narcissistic. The main difference between a UX designer and a more traditional graphic designer is the ability to balance function AND form.

UX designers typically think in what if’s, how’s and why’s. We use user stories and personas to further our understanding of user actions, for example: As a user I want to do ‘W’, I want to see ‘X’, I want to achieve ‘Y’, and I want to easily view ‘Z’. We ask ourselves, ‘What emotions should the user be feeling when ‘X’ happens? Can we draw any assumptions? Can we test? Does it validate? What proof do we have that it validates?

Clients and UXD

Despite hiring professionals (like us) clients like to get involved in the design process, therefore be prepared to manage this relationship and their expectations!  A great product will meet your clients’ expectations and business requirements but more importantly it will consider user above all else! Be prepared to fight your corner as striking the balance between ‘wants’ and ‘needs’ can be tricky.

“User experience encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.”

Nielson Norman Group –

Often huge amounts of time and budget is spent meticulously researching, wireframing, prototyping, validating, designing and revising digital products. Products like Instagram and Facebook are refined, altered and tested as their teams learn about new behaviours from their users. Questions like: Is ‘X’ being used? What is the value of ‘Y’? Do users understand and able to navigate to ‘Z’? etc. This process has huge benefits for clients of course… Happy users + regular users = increased product engagement and ROI.

I’ve worked on many projects over the years ranging from extremely well planned and regimented projects to completely open and brand-lead aesthetical projects. The best outcomes are rarely those that start with the synthetics and without User Experience. Products fall to the wayside and often die of death and/or costing hundreds of thousands of pounds in superficial fixes.

A breakdown of UXD terminology

Here’s an explanation of industry-related terms often thrown around:

  1. UX – (User Experience) – the overall description for end-users product and/or service experience
  2. UXD (User Experience Design) – refers to specific design approach and processes such as Lean, Waterfall and Agile
  3. UCD (User-centered Design) – a multi-stage problem solving process that requires designers to analyse and to validate
  4. Lean UX – a stripped back process/bare minimum for designing products and services, efficiently. Typically works well for lower client budgets
  5. IA (Information Architecture) – typically involving tasks such as wireframing, prototyping and content strategy
  6. HCI (Human-computer Interaction) – involves the study, planning, and design of the interaction between users and computers
  7. MMI (Man-machine Interaction) – aka HCI
  8. CHI (Computer-human Interaction) aka MMI
  9. UI (User Interface) – an interactive, functional, actionable and often meaningful graphical representation
  10. User Journey – typically fairly complex gant charts consisting of various user routes and basic content framework
  11. User Flow – aka User Journey
  12. Content Strategy – refers to the planning, development, and management of content – written or other media such as social media
  13. Consumer Research – the process or set of processes that links the consumers, customers, and end users to marketing
  14. User Research – behavoural patterns, marketing and demographics etc
  15. Agile Development – an efficient software development process designed to streamline self-managed development
  16. Waterfall Development – the ideology of sequential design process from step to step (often adopted by agencies and consultancies) – considered an old hat approach
  17. Wireframing – high or low fidelity greyscale or sometimes colour visual representations to help guide users actions toward content
  18. Mockups – a visual representation of a final product in its environment i.e. phone, tablet, desktop etc
  19. Prototyping – often to aid validation of IA and the interface functionality
  20. Usability Testing – a technique used in user-centered interaction design to evaluate a product by testing it on users
  21. Eye Tracking – a method of user testing using a device that measures a users eye movements
  22. Heat Tracking – generally used for web products where mouse activity to recorded

If you take anything away from this article it should be that UX is more scientific than artistic and learning UX is largely about anticipating, understanding, experimenting and testing etc. The more we can observe from users, the better our products and service offerings will be. The great thing about UX is its still in its infancy, so watch this space as we continue to share our learnings.

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