Over the last 100 years of product globalization through the industrial age, we have seen an enormous leap in the quantity of higher quality products and services we are able to provide. In the last 20 years of that century, the internet has put fuel to the flame in that growth. Products were being made more accessible and more widely known as businesses started to grow their outreach through e-commerce and business advertisement. With the growth of the internet, there is a crazy amount of events that happen online, every minute of every day. An article claims that around 570 new websites pop up online every minute. There has been no more appropriate of a time than now to put User Experience (UX) design into the forefront of your project. What is UX design? UX design is a discipline birthed from a merging of information architecture and business analysis with a bit of visual design sprinkled in as well. Since the early 2000s, this role became much more than just a title. Multiple disciplines within UX design split from these areas. The purpose of UX design is to stabilize the experience a person receives when using a product or service. The best experiences are derived from heavy research into the existing patterns and pain points of users, coupled with proper execution by the design and development teams. I did a quick Google Trends search for UX design and UI design and it shows a slight exponential growth in popularity by 2016. The graph here shows that it’s still a growing industry to be in. What we know a year from now could be drastically different, but let’s explore the topic.
Let’s face it, people are lazy. Every person wants the path of the least resistance. It won’t matter how pretty the design is or if it has the nice videos and, please forgive me, introductory product tutorials. What matters to the customer is how easy is it to use and does it solve my problem?
Using separate notes with titles instead of the notes section on each title. Each one of these tasks are actually titles of empty lists. Instead of pulling up each note that has lists of things to do, it’s easier for me to be lazy and put my list in the title and clear them that way. Nowadays, there’s a need for understanding the way people are going to use your product or service. Business analysis did a great job at this by understanding the value in interviewing or surveying their customers. They were focused on how to make their company stronger in the industry by analyzing large amounts of research. Information architecture was great to make sure that the information people needed was displayed correctly and that it was usable from a user’s perspective. A UX designer aims to merge the two by providing an umbrella of disciplines into one role where the research is best utilized and executed. Some of the areas expand into visual design, communication and messaging, interaction design, user research, usability, and content strategy. Instead of focusing solely on how to improve the company, or what lays on a web page, the idea of this discipline is to focus on the total usability and experience both parties receive. UX design is supposed to be a bridge between the customer and the business, making a more seamless and beneficial relationship. It truly speaks to the final interaction one has with the company. The Difference of UX and UI
You’ve probably seen this before. There’s been a recursive image thrown about on the idea if people short cutting trails to get to their destination sooner. Even though the design was for sharp corners, the user found a way to make their design easier to use in a way the designer didn’t intend to. Demonstrating a clear misunderstanding of where the person needed to go, the design hindered the easiest route to their destination. What differentiates the user experience design from user interface design is the difference of something looking nice and something feeling like a nice experience. It’s also expressed that someone you meet can look friendly but feel odd or awkward. You don’t have to have a history in visual design to be a great experience designer either. One of the strongest user experience designers I know, Sarah Doody said to me that she was originally going to study psychology and found UX by mistake. Though having a bit of history with visual design helps, you want to understand how a person is going to interact with the product or service. Doesn’t mean your designs aren’t user oriented. A visual designer uses tons of user research and assumed information when creating a visual design. It’s possible to have a strong foundation in both visual design and experience design, though this takes years of practice or a solid understanding of both disciplines. I admit I am being utilized for my knowledge of both, but I consider myself to be more of a Visual Designer than a User Research specialist. There is a strong advantage someone would have of specializing rather than being an all-around jack-of-all-trades designer; Salary. Someone who specializes can usually see a bump of about 25–50% more in space for salary negotiation. Other factors are years of experience but by then, you’d know what you’re good at (hopefully.) For those who are starting out, definitely spend time experiencing some of the tasks, practices, and duties of both regardless of which side of the fence you’re landing on.
Where does UX belong? Ideally, it belongs in the scope of the whole project. This isn’t an area for afterthought once you guys have a design mockup and are about to hand over to the developers. In many cases having the proponent of user experience from the beginning of the project will help make sure that each user is voiced. There are several stages within the design process where UX should have a prominent lean towards the outcomes. There’s the User Research Analysis phase, which within a large company, could take weeks of planning, interviewing and presenting large amounts of data. Then there is the Page Hierarchy and Wireframing parts of design where the user’s actions need to be as fluid and free of restriction as possible. Labelling and Metadata is another area where we want to make sure that the information is easy to find, search, or share. Where I see the need for it in the future There is a whole world of UX design and UX research to still be explored. Companies all over the place are starting to realize the benefits of UX design with articles are popping up everywhere that are challenging the status quo of previous design and marketing tactics. As we continue researching and keeping our designs user focused, through the years forward we can expect plenty of specializations, standardization, and prominence in design culture. I’ll open up more on this in a future article. Where do you feel the direction of User Experience Design going?
Darian Rosebrook is the Lead Designer of KeySpark. He works a lot with the crazy (and awesome) developers with the design aspects of our projects. UX design is one of the many studies that he’s gone through, and one of the many hats he wears at our company. If what you just read was helpful, consider sharing and liking this article to help others out too!