What is UX and Why is it important?
Updated: May 13, 2020
Development a few years ago usually started with the stakeholder/client or project manager/business guys working with a graphic designers to bring their ideas to life without involving your targeted user base.
These approved visual designs were usually used as a starting point for development.
Most of the features were designed based on how the client thought he would like to use the app or some other stakeholder/team member.
Hunches were given a special importance and good design was often lost in ego of team members to put in their recommended features.
It used to go all well till the product release. Product went into the hands of users who either don’t get the idea or found it very difficult to use.
This is how it looked
Something was missing, the client or stakeholder thought they understood the app very well and that’s how they would have used the app themselves. What is wrong with these people? they asked.
It was not until a few years ago, a majority in the tech world started to realize that how important it was to involve the user in the process of designing or creating the app. This didn’t necessarily mean just asking the user what they want but much more than that.
Henry Ford once famously said “If i had asked people what they want, they would asked for a faster horse”. Turns out he didn’t actually say that but it’s a good point anyway.
What is UX?
“A good user experience is simply a process of increasing user satisfaction by improving usability, accessibility of the product. A good user experience simply brings joy to the user”
Joy doesn’t mean that you add some animations and put in some UX tips from some UX guru. It’s not something that can be added to a system as an add-on. It’s a complete process that requires involving users right from the start.
What UX is not?
UX is not visual design tips.
UX is not done by some UX expert who designs things alone without involving users because now he is the UX expert.
UX is not something that can be added to the system.
UX is not working off the hunches of stakeholders or team.
Where do you involve users?
Good question! You involve users right from the start of the process. You need to speak to the users. Users doesn’t mean the client but the end users who are actually going to use the product.
Let’s go through some of the things that could be done to create good user experiences for the product.
UI designs are done mostly with great detail. When you focus on the detail, you can easily loose focus on the bigger picture. The designs are difficult to make and difficult to change.
You can start off by simply creating clickable visual designs of your product and take them to user. You can do some user testing and record how they use the system. This would give you a good idea on the feedback of users.
There is a catch here. It would now be very difficult to change your designs as it would cost much more. Starting from the visual designs would also limit you to try different options as again, its very expensive and time consuming to create UI design.
It’s still better to testing this with users then testing your end product. Changing a product after development is done is 10x more expensive.
Good thing with prototypes is that they are easier to change as compare to UI design. However, a lot of work still goes into creating them. It’s a good point to start your product development and user testing. There are some techniques which i will discuss below that will make the user experience process even better.
I know what you are thinking. Drawing! I am not good at it. I will stay away from it. Believe me, i am very bad at drawing but i still create paper prototypes and i don’t worry if its looking good or not.
Paper prototypes are really the best and fastest way of bringing you UI ideas to life. Don’t worry about making them look excellent and you can quickly create multiple ideas.
Having multiple ideas and multiple designs done on paper is always helpful. Its also helpful because you can put on paper the ideas from the entire team or the client. No one’s ego is hurt at the end of the day because you gave everything a chance.
One of my main concerns was that i would only take good looking paper prototypes to the end users. I didn’t want them to see my bad drawings. Believe me, it helps a great deal getting feedback on your paper prototypes. You can educate the user on what you are trying to accomplish and they would be happy.
The biggest reason for failure in software projects in assumptions that the user would be similar to people in the development teams or clients. It is very important to understand the audience of an app or a project.
Personas are simply users from your target audience. They are mostly fake but you give them real names. Here is a sample persona .
Apparently, this seems like a small thing. However, we have found the use of personas extremely helpful in project discussions.
Personas are really helpful in detaching problems from people and also dealing with the ego of the team members or client. The discussion is not really about how someone in team thinks the app or software should work but about how xyz persona is going to be using the app or that particular feature.
If you don’t know what storyboards are, i am sure you have read comics? Storyboards are just a visual representation like comics of users using the app in the real world scenarios.
Storyboards are great because they show users in real life in real world scenarios using the app. This helps the entire team understand the scenario in which the app will be used.
For example, if your app is for users on the go like they are going to use it while they are on a walk, or on a train. The storyboard can help you understand the real world tasks which the app is helping the user to accomplish.
Storyboarding is a technique least used by UX teams mostly because of the drawing involved in creating storyboards. Most people are bad at drawing including myself. Here is a recent storyboard i drew (forgive my drawing)
The biggest fear in a software project is failure. Failure can happen for a lot of reasons and your users not understanding your app or not finding it too hard is one of the biggest.
You can see how each of the above processes helps you decrease chances of failure and also decreases your cost for change.