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The not so dark art of UX

Founders often fall into two very distinctive cohorts. Some come with background in computer science and software engineering who have the technical chops to build a product and others come with a sales and marketing background or insightful industry-specific knowledge. However, it’s safe to say that both groups often lack knowledge in design and user experience. If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed, you’re certainly not the only one. The UX landscape is constantly evolving, and thus UX can often be overwhelming when you first start thinking about it.

As Software development industry continues to grow, whether its creating an app for consumers, businesses, or enterprise-level companies, we are noticing that well designed, easy to use, and simple user experiences are the catalysts for the best products and the fastest growing companies. In this article we will explore why user experience (UX) is and will continue to be an integral part of your company. We will also break down the fundamentals of UX to help you get started on implementing good UX practices. Once you comprehend the basic principles of UX, you will be on your way in no time.

What is UX

First, let’s look at what User Experience really means because User Experience is an umbrella term with very little commonly accepted definitions…cue confusion. First let’s clear up one thing, UX is not the same as design. Incredible user experiences will utilize visual design, but it is only one component of crafting a great user experience. UX has many dimensions, and it includes different disciples such as customer interaction design, information architecture, visual design, usability, all working together to make an intuitive and easy-to-use product that people love. The goal of a good User Experience is to recognize a specific tension point for your consumers and create an effective solution for the end user.

Starbucks App for example realized that their main clientele for the app are frequent visitors who repeatedly order the same thing or rotate a short list of choices. For this reason, Starbucks uses Smart Personalization in their app for online ordering by understanding their order patterns and history. This way the user isn’t having to sort through their full menu before their morning coffee!

UX is understanding your user’s wants and needs

When it comes to design, not a lot should be left for guessing, instead research what your consumers actually need. There’re many different ways you can acquire this information, but one of the most effective ways to gather this information is by asking for their real feedback. You can then incorporate it back in to your design to ensure there’s a seamless journey for your clients; ensuring everything feeling like it was thought through the client’s perspective. Much of UX research depends on understanding and listening to how your products perform in the hands of real users. Therefore, it is vital you create an effective method to test your user experience and gather feedback from unbiased real users.

We’ve notice that most founders, largely due to their own personal excitement, are guilty of leading the witnesses answer questions. They will ask questions like “Do you like it?” or “Can

you find the home button on the top right corner of the screen?” these kinds of questions don’t yield the most honest answers. Instead. they actually end up hurting the product instead of allowing for constructive criticisms and honest feedback to help improve the process and the product for end users. We recommend asking very broad questions which will allow for the user to navigate the product or service as if they were doing it on their own. For example, if you’re testing the functionality of the navigation bar, don’t ask “did you find the email button at the top right-hand corner of the website?” instead ask, “Can you send me test email?” Once you ask them these questions, ensure you observe what they do. Record the screen and watch their user journey. Tell them to talk aloud about questions and problems they run into and any frustrations that might arise along the process. Take notes so you can refer back to them when making amendments.

User testing also plays a vital role in guiding you to make your product better. Your product isn’t going to be successful if it only caters to your specific wants and needs. The end users play a critical role in the success of your product, thus get their feedback as much as possible, and as early as possible in the initial stages of designing. Be sure to approach user testing with a clinical and scientific mind.

UX is a long-term fling

User Interface is an interactive process that needs constant improvement and finetuning. Freelancers might be cost effective for a project, but it is hardly the ideal long-term solution for companies. We often hear about founders contracting freelancers for their “one-time” project, but this is very much a short-term solution to a long-term problem.

It is very, and we mean very, rare that whatever your design works out just right the first time around. Research indicate that it will have at least small components that will fail. Great user experience relies on constantly measuring, testing, and analyzing how people view and use your product. Therefore, it is not just about making an app, but amending it when necessary to keep up with technological advances and best serve your clients. Apple for example, didn’t stop after they made Siri. They are constantly improving it based on user feedback. If you ask Siri to schedule something for “tomorrow” and its past midnight but before sunrise, it will ask you whether you meant tomorrow as in “after your alarm goes off” or “the calendar after the current day”. This helps prevent planning error and ensures a more seamless experience for the users.

Teach yourself UX

If you’re a founder who is relatively new to the world of UX, don’t worry you can still learn a lot by yourself and get the basics down. We talked about researching and user testing, now let’s dive into how you can come up with something to test in the first place. Tools such as Balsamiq, InVision make it ten folds easier for non-tech and non-design people to help create prototypes. Both of these products mentioned above help you create wireframes for websites- a simple presentation of a website on a structural level where the users can click through and interact. These wireframes won’t actually be functioning on the back-end, but they allow for opportunities to see how your users will interact with your product in real-time. However, since they don’t look the best, and won’t look and function like the finished product, in the UX world these wireframes are often referred to as low-fidelity prototypes. Once you have your wireframe down, you should hand it over to a designer(s) who will fine-tune it and turn it into a high-fidelity prototype- a functioning version of your product.

UX is not about reinventing the wheel

When you’re creating your early prototype, you don’t have to stress about reinventing the wheel every time. There are plenty of products with awesome features and interfaces that you can appropriate for your unique product.

Humans are hardwired to look for pattern, and when designers come up with reusable solutions to common usability problems, they are called design patterns. UX design patterns help designers develop workable solutions to common interface problems, whether it’s a sign-in form or a website’s navigation links.

 

Employing and adhering to patterns doesn’t mean the designers won’t need freedom for creativity. Web links for example, Initially, all links on the web were blue underlined text that changed their color from blue to purple after they clicked on it. Today however, web developers use different colors, fonts, and opacity to indicate interactivity, and this approach works equally well for users. It happens because users remember pattern behavior more than pattern visual design specifics. Design patterns work on many different levels for both designers and its users. For designers, employing design patterns saves design time whilst leaving room for creativity, they can take advantage of the fact that users can quickly match the new look to a familiar behavior. For users, it makes their digital experience better because they don’t have to learn something new whilst embarking on an exciting digital journey.

This article serves as an introduction to the world of UX and should provide you with enough knowledge about the basics to get you started. For the initial stages, you can implement the basics of user experience if you have a pretty good understanding of how people think and work. UX however has many layers and so many new trends to keep up with. The world of UX moves fast, there’s always new information being shared, and exciting new tools being introduced, but take comfort in knowing you don’t haven’t to reinvent the wheel every time and the fundamental UX principles will help you lay a foundation for a good product until you’re able to hire a dedicated team.



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