When designer and researcher Don Norman coined the term user experience (UX) in the 90s, he never expected it to grow into a life of its own. After all, the UX field had been around for hundreds of years already before he gave a name to it. Today, no one in their right mind would design a product without considering the UX.
UX is about how the user feels when interacting with your product, service, and overall brand. We know instinctively whether we loved, hated, or felt nothing within a short period of using a product.
The role of a UX expert is to make sure you constantly love using their product or service. This is how brands build a strong base of loyal fans. The ones that do it well are more likely to grow into a household name like Google and Apple.
What makes a good UX?
Because UX is intrinsically tied to human emotions, you might think measuring UX is subjective. Over the years, many have attempted to quantify what makes a great UX. The Nielsen-Norman group identified 10 heuristics, or guidelines, for an interaction design. They include user control and freedom, recognition rather than recall, error prevention and a design that matches the real world.
One of the most popular yardsticks for good UX design was created by Peter Moville, and he called it the UX Honeycomb.
There are 7 factors that affect the user experience.
- Useful — users can achieve their goals when using your product.
- Usable — users find your product easy to use.
- Desirable — users are attracted to your product.
- Findable — users can find what they want and need.
- Accessible — users of all abilities can use your product.
- Credible — users trust your product.
- Valuable — users see your product as adding value to their lives.
When you’re designing a product, you can prioritise which UX factors you want to focus more on, especially if you have limited budget and resources. Ideally, you want to hit each measure, but it is more realistic to do incremental improvements over time.
Furthermore, UX is a broad field because it is not only one product, but the whole ecosystem. For example, your smartphone needs to synchronise seamlessly with your laptop, tablet, and any other devices. Your app needs to deliver a smooth experience when switching between the different functions, customer service and third-party software.
What are examples of bad UX?
If you want to know why you need good UX, you just need to look at what happens when you launch a product with bad UX. There are plenty of examples, even from behemoths like Google and Microsoft.
1. Google Wave
It made such a big buzz upon release in 2009, especially since the creators had also built Google Maps previously. But Google Wave was trying to be too many things at the same time. It was a communication, file sharing, and wiki-like platform all rolled into one software. Most users were confused on how to use it, and soon didn’t see any value it would add to their work. By 2010, Google canned it.
2. Clippit the Microsoft Office Assistant
Non-millennials will remember Clippit as the annoying paper clip that obstructed views or slowed down work on Microsoft Word when chasing down deadlines. The cute character was parodied and mocked all over the world, before Microsoft killed it sometime around 2007.
3. DeLorean Cars
Did you think this car was custom designed for the “Back to the Future” series? No, it is a real car manufactured by a company called DMC DeLorean. It was the only model released by the small company in the 80s, but which made the company bankrupt.
The driving experience was bad, and the car lacked power, even though it had a look ahead of its time. It’s a good lesson in why you should prioritise experience over looks.
What is a UX strategy?
A UX strategy is an approach to UX design that would satisfy the customers, business goals and the capabilities of the business. Your UX strategy is like a high-level plan or roadmap on how you want to create and deliver the best UX in your product. It involves establishing goals, creating a process and teams, and establishing key UX metrics.
What is the UX design process?
A UX design process typically has between 5 and 7 stages. The basic process flow starts with understanding and defining the problem and goals. You’ll dive into research and then map out the user experience. Next, comes prototyping and user testing. Once satisfied, you will proceed to build the product, launch, and check the results.
Research is a crucial part of this stage. You’ll cover:
- User interviews and feedback
- Focus groups
- Previous usability testing
- Market research
- User personas
You need to define the current user experience, the issues, existing products in the market and the UX goals. It’s about understanding your user personas and aligning it to the brand’s vision.
Based on what you have, it’s time to map out the UX you want to design, drawing from past experience and inspiration from others. You’ll be creating or improving assets like:
- Empathy maps
- Customer journey maps
Now’s the fun part. You will design a prototype for the next stage, building:
- User flows
- Site maps
You will test your prototype with up to 5 users. This article explains clearly why you only need 5, and anything more is an overkill. There are different types of testing:
- User testing: designated users are called in to use the prototype
- Guerrilla testing: walk up to anyone in a public place and get them to test your prototype
- A/B testing: give users two options, called A and B, and see which one they prefer.
UX experts will work with UI designers and developers to build the product. Constant testing, feedback and close collaboration needs to happen throughout this stage.
After the launch, assess the wins and losses. Document user feedback, stats, and issues for the next UX design cycle.
What is Lean UX?
The Lean UX concept is a strategy and process that marries agile development and UX.
Instead of spending a long time understanding and researching, the UX team outlines a few assumptions and then designs the prototype for testing. If it failed, the team moves on to the next assumption, until it gets a decent UX.
If the design passed user testing, it goes straight to development phase. This is a great method for bootstrapping startups keen to release a minimum viable product (MVP) to test the market or before a bigger competitor snatches the market.
Spotlight on your users
Contrary to popular beliefs, UX is not a highly technical field. It’s not difficult to get started in the UX world. And you will find that there is a fine balancing act between design, development, and the business. At the end of the day, if you focus on your users, their needs and wants, you will be all right.