Reasons to Have UX in the Development Cycle

Most technology products are designed to be used by a person, making the analysis of user experience (UX) an important factor in their design and development. UX is more than just designing a good user interface, a stylish and eye-pleasing design, usability testing, bug fixing, or customer satisfaction. The concept is a comprehensive approach to making the user’s time with the program enjoyable and entice the user to continue using the program for the task it was designed for. Beyond making a program functional, UX goes into the realm of monitoring users’ feelings and emotions while using a system or product. This methodology is vital for any type of development, whether it is a website, mobile application, or general computer program.

Elements of User Experience

The UX design (UxD) process begins with evaluating user needs with the objectives of the product. These tend to vary between projects, so there is not a definitive list of goals and needs. Once the UX architect or designer has ascertained these specifications, they develop a list of required functions and content to meet the project’s requirements. The requirements list can include items such as shopping functionality for an online store or help files and option menus for a video game. Next, come information architecture (IA) and interaction design (IxD), which relates to the user interface and how information is displayed. This portion of the UX process shares the most in common with traditional Human-Computer Interface design. Finally, all of these elements are implemented with an added touch for the visual appeal of the product. With such an involved process, it’s clear why UX architects are hesitant to accept over-simplified definitions of their work, such as “they make things user friendly.”

How Do UX Designers Do Their Job?

Inclusion of User Feedback and Comments

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Intuitively, one of the most important aspects of UX design is to incorporate the experiences of the system’s users into the design process. While a common office joke might be that the complaint box leads to the building’s furnace, a UX designer’s task is to incorporate both negative and positive feedback into sculpting that experience. Think of a UX designer as the person that bridges the gap between users and the design team. They take all findings and business requirements and transform them into something usable for the design team, and ultimately for the producers and end-users. The software company Valve defines one of the required tasks of its UX designer as being a “vigilant advocate for the user’s experience.” A UX designer will use tools like surveys, interviews, focus groups, and usability testing in order to gain these insights.

Wireframing and Mockups for Clarity of Information

Throughout the design process, various design methods are used in order to visualize the final system and set the stage for overall structure, navigation as well as look and feel. For more information about wireframing check out information architecture. In the planning stages, placeholders are usually used rather than actual site content and filled with Greek text “lorem ipsum.” The intent is to keep the focus off the actual content but on the overall page hierarchy, design, font, sizing, and other graphical page elements. This can be applied to any technology platform, whether it’s a video game’s main menu, a web site’s home page, or an iPhone app. Each of these will display information to the user and will demand user interaction. The UX designer ensures that a coherent and consistent design process is used throughout to reduce any potential negative user experiences.Prototypes also allow for a quick litmus test of user-centered designs, enabling the designer to elicit user feedback on key screens prior to developing the whole system

Flow of Information Analysis

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Monitoring how users progress and navigate through a menu or web site is essential to making sure information is given properly. If an essential piece of information requires navigating through five different pages to access, it can be overlooked. If the navigation is clunky or lacking clarification, the user can have difficulty moving through the information. Too much information on one page can be overwhelming, but too little information can frustrate users by forcing them to navigate more. All of these are considered in a flow design chart, which prevents issues that might arise later from poor information architecture.

What Will Incorporating UX Do For Your Project?

The benefits of UX are not always immediate and apparent, but will have a notable impact in providing a refined, professional system. When the system is more readily usable and enjoyable to the user, they are more likely to continue using the product. This leads to higher sales, word-of-mouth marketing, and enhanced company awareness. Some criticism of adding UX to the mix is the lack of a direct form of measurement for the work they do and the added cost of another member of the design team. Higher leads and increased conversions are definitely measurable results.

Some Final Thoughts

User experience design (UxD) is a growing field in the technology industry as Web 2.0 and beyond develop. Research companies like UIE are dedicated to the ongoing study of user experience and user interface (UI) design. There are also many blogs and websites out there sharing information and experiences about UX. Incorporating user experience into your project, whether by learning from, consulting, or hiring a UX architect or UX designer can greatly refine and polish the final result. Trust me — I’ve witnessed it first hand countless times.