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Tech Tuesday – What is UX?

18 October 2016 | About a 8 minute read
Tags: front end design, ui, user experience, ux


If you were to explain to your new team what UX is – it can be a challenge as there are many things to think about. For example – ‘what does UX involve’, ‘what is the value that UX can bring to the product you are developing’ and ‘what is the difference between UX and UI’?

These are some of the questions that may come to mind if you were a new employee to a company that has no experience of working with UX and UI designers. This is because UX is a relatively new field that has come to aid development and bring the best user experience. It was only in the 1990s that UX came to the forefront for designers. It was a user experience architect by the name of Donald Norman who coined the phrase ‘UX’:

“I invented the term because I thought human interface and usability were too narrow. I wanted to cover all aspects of the person’s experience with the system including industrial design graphics, the interface, the physical interaction and the manual. Since then the term has spread widely, so much so that it is starting to lose its meaning.”[1]

To some, UX design may seem like it is just a bunch of artists that start drawing boxes and end up with a somewhat useful direction for the developers to take on. UX is User Experience Design and UI is User Interface Design. Both roles work side by side in a product’s development life cycle, but despite their closeness they do separate things and come with their own complexity and challenges. In this blog I will focus on the UX side as this is where my passion most lies.

 

The term UX is described via Wikipedia as:

“User experience design (UXD or UED) is the process of enhancing customer satisfaction and loyalty by improving the usability, ease of use, and pleasure provided in the interaction between the customer and the product.”[2]

The goal of UX designers is twofold, firstly to make sure users reach their goal with ease and through the least clicks, and secondly to make sure what they design has a positive effect on their user. These factors can be achieved by satisfying user research, usability, information architecture and testing. If done correctly this enables organisations to achieve their business goals of higher rates of conversion, customer satisfaction and greater number of returning customers to your site.

 

What UX design involves?

As mentioned earlier in this blog – explaining what UX involves can be a challenge. However to make it easier you can explain the process that one would go through as a UX designer. By laying this process it can help the your product team understand what you do and where you can add value to the development process.

User Research

This is first point of the process in which a UX designer would take on, this is where they would have find out what the user behaviour and motivation is whilst using a product. User research is usually done on the current product, and the UX designer’s job is to make improvements. So you would use user research to find difficulties they face, how they feel when using the product and what their needs are – the outcomes of this research drives the changes.

 

How is user research carried out?

  • Interviews/User testing – This is usually when a UX designer sits with a user and goes through the current site/product and gets an in-depth knowledge as to how the user feels whilst using the product. The interview process can be long depending on how mature your product is, it can also be carried out using web chats which can make the process a bit faster or more agile. In this stage it also helps to get the user to think out loud with their thoughts as they go through each stage of your site.
  • Online surveys – When a product has a lot of users and you want to get the most feedback as possible, you can use an online survey to send out and be able to collate a large amount of data. From this data themes can be derived from any issues your product may have.
  • Persona – Creating personas is also another research method that can be used, this is when you create an imaginary character who holds the traits that your customers have whilst using your product. You can create more than one personas but they must all have traits that have been found using your research on real users. This allows you to create a product with more than one user type in mind and when you are solving problems, going back to user personas can help you understand if you have found a solution yet or need to complete further work.

 

Design

With design you may think that it is going to be about pretty images and colours, but there is a lot more to it. The design phase is when you have found your user expectation and what you aim to sell to them from your user research, but now you want to portray your finding onto your website. This is when you need to have good understanding of functionality and usability.

 

What is involved in the design phase?

  • Information architecture – This when you have information that you want to put on your site but have to consider when the user can see it and how makes them feel. The example I can give is when users expect to see a logo or a search bar at the top of the screen, so for that expectation most sites have their logo and search bar at the top of the page. A successful site that does information architecture well in my opinion is Apple, going through their site shows how with minimal text they draw their users eyes to the right places – i.e the product.
  • Wireframing – When you start off with the design of a website you have to also consider how do you want your users to be able to navigate through all the content and pages that you have. A UX designer would be using low-fidelity designing software such as balsamiq to create the designs and most importantly making sure to have the navigation elements in mind.
  • Prototyping – At this stage you would like to have the wireframes available because it makes it easier to pick a designing tool such as Axure to create quick prototypes for of your webpages. By doing this you can have it tested on your users and you can get quick feedback on how to improve the designs further without having to waste time and money changing the completed high-fidelity designs. So the aim of the UX designer is to get quick feedback from its users and feed it into the designs so that the developers don’t have to waste time changing their codes and styles to fit a new design.

User Testing

It is important that UX designers test their product before releasing it to the wider audience. This will allow them to improve upon the original product or site design and to see if the changes embedded are able to withstand the tests.

 

What processes you go through for testing?

  • Usability testing – at this point of the process you would have a product that is ready to be tested and by putting it in front of your users you can see how they interact with it. You can enhance your feedback as a UX designer by asking them relevant questions that would get them to think out loud and respond how it makes them feel whilst using the product. Usability testing is important because you are aiming to have achieved your goals of eradicating any issues that you may have had when you were collecting data for your personas.
  • Remote user testing – Similar to usability testing, remote user testing is when the testing is done via webcams, screen sharing tools or any other online methods available. The reason for having remote user testing is so that as a UX designer you want the business to keep its costs down and if you have your demographics far away from your location, then to save on flight cost you take make tests online.
  • A/B testing – Another version of testing is called the A/B testing, this is when users are sent two versions of the same webpages or product and the role of the UX designer is to see which of the products does the users respond well to.

 

What value will the UX role bring to a development team?

Questions often arise for UX designers from around the business such as – why they would need a UX designer to be part of their development team, or where would they get the real value. It is your responsibility to show to them that the research, designs, and testing that you carry out are all for the good of the business. It is time to show your worth!

  • Increased conversion rate – by having user personas you can identify who your brand is aiming for and you can use personas to funnel your marketing, ads and text to attract these groups. This would indirectly have an impact on your conversion rate as you are increasing your customer potential. Meaning more business for you and less business for your competitors.
  • Customer retention – When you align your user needs to your wireframes and designs, you can create smooth navigations between your web pages. When a user hits your site and sees how easy it is to navigate through the pages and get what they want fast, they will be coming back again because your site gives them what they are looking for quicker and smoother.
  • Customer recommendation – Nothing feels more satisfactory to a business owner than to see their customers enjoying their experience on their website. When a customer is happy with the services a website provides them with they would naturally share it with their close network, via social media and word of mouth. Doing so is the best source of marketing because it is FREE for you as the business owner.

 

UX as a topic is huge – so if you are interested in continuing on the conversation, please email me at [email protected] Digital.com.

 

[1] http://adaptivepath.org/ideas/e000862/

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_experience_design

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