You’ve probably heard about user experience, user-centered design, usability and a host of other names for following a customer-centric approach to designing products. There is a wealth of nuance here, but these are the key things you need to know.
It’s Not What You Think
It may seem pretty straight-forward, but the user experience (UX) design process is frequently confused or misrepresented. Let’s talk about what it’s not first. In the past, I’ve been asked to spend two hours to “UX some wireframes.” While I wish there was a magic UX wand to allow me to do that, creating a great user experience does not equal “doing some wireframes,” and it’s certainly not something that happens with the snap of a finger.
There is also a big difference between expert-led best practice design and user-centered design. There are many excellent designers out there who have a great grasp of best practices in design, but every product is different, and without focusing on UX from the outset, the output you’ll get is likely to be akin to a flashy but generic, ill-fitting suit. A great user experience is tailored. It’s important that you know what you’re asking for and what impact that has on your outcomes.
UX also is not market research. Market research often looks at demographics and attitudes. While that detail can be helpful to an organization, it is not nearly as helpful as understanding behaviors, needs and goals for solving design problems.
It’s a Process
Fifteen years ago, the field of usability emerged to fix the pain points of the nascent user interfaces of the digital age. Today, having an interface that is merely “usable” is table stakes. UX design encompases consideration of culture, emotion, context and behavioral models, and it looks for results that summon emotions like empathy, surprise and delight. UX is so much more than just usable.
To get there, it’s key to understand that UX design is a process. It is an iterative process which lays a groundwork through customer insight research, best practices, competitive landscapes, metrics analysis, business analysis and a variety of other activities to create an understanding of both the business and the behaviors, needs and goals of customers. Like a pyramid, every phase and activity provides a solid foundation for prioritizing and design decision-making in the next phase.
User experience design is not just about making something shiny. The outcome is a rational and justifiable final product that sets your business up for success.
Are You Ready?
If you’re considering working with a UX agency, there is one important question you need to ask: is your organization ready to collaborate? Working with a UX design agency is transformative for many organizations and requires collaboration not just with the agency but across your own company with stakeholders you may not have worked with before. Your customers don’t care if organization is siloed. They expect a cohesive and integrated experience. The goal of the UX design process is to help you get there.
About the Author
Ari Weissman is a lead experience architect at EffectiveUI. His expertise lies in understanding the entire design process and applying the right approach at the right time. He thinks big-picture about strategy to ensure the end product will be a delightful experience for both users and clients. He has a strong background in user research and analysis and extensive experience in content strategy/information architecture, interaction design and prototyping.
Ari is passionate about UX and design education, and was an instructor and blogger at General Assemb.ly in Sydney. A recognized thought-leader, he is the author of the popular “What Clients Need to Know” series on the EffectiveUI blog, and has written for UX Magazine. His work on AIDS.gov was recognized by the U.S. Director of the Office of HIV/AIDS Policy at Health and Human Services.
Ari earned his Bachelor of Science degree in engineering psychology from Tufts University. In his free time, he enjoys soccer, ultimate Frisbee, climbing, skiing, hiking, classical music, motorcycles, globe-trotting and puppies.
This article first appeared on the EffectiveUI blog.
EffectiveUI is the go-to UX partner for high-technology companies, including industry leaders within aerospace and aviation, biotech and healthcare, consumer and industrial electronics, defense, energy, financial services, software and telecom. In making technology more useful, useable and desirable, we help our clients reinvent significant aspects of their business — from the experience they provide to customers, to the tools used to streamline operations, to the products brought to market. We work collaboratively with clients to solve complex business problems and drive transformation through four tightly integrated areas of expertise: user research and insight, digital strategy, UX design and UI development and integration. Learn more at effectiveui.com.