Opinion: Why Developers Should Care About UX

Two weeks ago, I spoke at the Tech In Asia Product Development Conference 2017 in Balai Kartini, Jakarta. I must say, this talk was different. Usually, I have the luxury of talking to an audience that has pretty direct experiences with some aspect of my job — marketing, design, strategy. Presenting at the Tech in Asia Indonesia Product Development conference was a rush because I was standing in front of an audience that wanted and needed to see how my work bridged with their own. It challenged me to discover the pain points of an audience I have always wanted to engage with more.

Setting the stage for my talk with a quote from Ben Curren

In a world where we can no longer have completely siloed teams, this exercise in getting into the mind of people involved in product development was awesome. My question was simple — how can my job help you? It is not often that we ask people that. It’s usually “how can you help me?”. I would argue that good UX is purely this — how can my creation help you?

Exchanging thoughts with attendees of Tech In Asia Product Development Conference
Exploring the different exhibitions and that was when I chanced upon this VR booth

So here is what I learned from opening this question to a lot of people in product development.

  • Understanding the user by understanding their context, lifestyle, and digital ecosystem is crucial in prepping your product/service to go “into the wild”.
  • Big mistake: Most people test with themselves as the user — if you’ve ever been shocked by how people use your products, then you know — you are not the target user. It’s better to get the shock during testing than at launch.
  • Test user goals not features. This makes testing much more realistic and helps you prioritize when you find problems.
  • Know the emotional journey to put bugs in context. Bad UX annoys users; when you’re annoyed, tiny, crappy bugs seem like huge, crappy bugs. Or worse, bad UX can make people more vigilant for bugs because they want to find the source of their frustration. All bad. Fix the UX bugs.
  • Prioritize features by emotional bang for your buck. Look at your biggest emotional highs and lows. Features that prolong highs and reduce lows should be the ones you focus on most.

One question I often get after my talk is — “I get it, it’s important to understand emotions. But how do you measure it?” This deserves it’s own post (stay tuned) but let’s just say there are a few ways, but not without each having their own pitfalls. Most emotions are a mixture of a physiological response and our own interpretation of that response. It’s always important to take a few measures. I use a mixture of self-report and behavioral measures. Now if I wanted to be much more accurate, I’d use biometric measures but it can be cumbersome, uncomfortable, and let’s face it — expensive. My goal is to get a simple gauge of “where are we going horribly wrong” and “what’s bringing users joy?” So part of it is asking what they liked most and least, or asking how satisfying or helpful something was, and the intensity of the feeling. The other is more difficult, which is looking at behavioral measures like rage clicking, meandering around and sighing, number of complaints, or even facial cues (Ekman’s Facial Action Coding System). Emotions are rarely beautiful and clean even in psychological research, but they can be powerful in getting a glimpse of how your user engages with your product on a deeper level.

“How can my creation help you” is good UX but “How can my creation move you” is great UX.

Actually I should refine my question — “how can my creation help you” is good UX but “how can my creation move you” is great UX. Both are important and they need to be asked not just at design, but just as much during build, implementation, and at launch. It’s everyone’s job to ask this because, at the end of the day, success is about answering this question well. That’s not one department’s job, it’s the whole team’s mission.