Overview of the user experience
What is UX and why is it important?
By Niccolò Maria Menozzi
User experience is important for us, it touches upon our everyday lives. Ever since the Internet has become a central part of our daily routine you hear more and more about it. Yet, it is a concept that many people, and even companies, are not entirely sure about. That’s not a good thing. So, what is it exactly? How is it created? Let’s try and find out by looking at some of the main points.
What is user experience?
UX, User Experience, is what a person experiences when interacting with a service, a system or a product. It is a concept applicable to the use of a simple tool such as a fork, but also to the use of an online ecommerce service such as Amazon and even immersive experiences such as entering and being welcomed into a clothes shop.
By its very nature, UX is subjective, because it regards what each of us feels in a certain circumstance and it includes psychological and perceptual influences which work on different levels. It can even be referred to different moments in time since our use always has an instantaneous aspect (when it occurs in our here and now like when you explore your own smartphone for the first time), but, at the same time, when it is repeated it can develop more complex ramifications overlapping in the long term (for example the emotions and sensations you develop when you always go to your local cafè to get a coffee). On the other hand user experience can be occasional and end shortly after the interaction with rare opportunity to be repeated (for example when you are on holiday and you eat in a place that you will probably not go back to).
UX is actually influenced by factors that exist before our interaction occurs: the cost, the opinion of others, media reviews etc. All of this helps to create our perception, attributing a positive or negative value, depending on the situation, based on our evaluation scale.
In recent years we have heard speak – and continue to hear – about UX referred to software and the digital world (we offer consultancy services precisely for this type of user experience). This is because an increasing number of companies are using online platforms to manage significant aspects of their business, using the services of those who deal with UX design to optimise the advantages that come from specific software. So, what is UX design and how do we use it to create the user experience?
What is UX design and how does it work?
«UX Design always happens. Whether it’s intentional or not, somebody makes the decisions about how the human and the product will interact. Good UX Design happens when we make these decisions in a way that understands and fulfills the needs of both our users and our business.»
Laura Klein, author of UX for Lean Startups and Build Better Products
Paraphrasing Laura Klein, good UX design is the process that consciously studies and imagines practical solutions that will positively and significantly influence people’s experience. On a theoretical level, UX design is focused particularly on planning for the experience of the end user, based on their needs, although in fact, as Klein mentions, a compromise is usually reached between the needs of the clients and users and the sales needs of those who offer the products and services.
UX design comes from a research and analysis phase followed by a solution proposal and by any reviews and updates. Only research can reach solutions starting from data originating from a direct exchange with the users who will be using the final product or service. Just as an example, to lay out how a UX design process could be, here is an example from Dreamonkey.
UX in software development
Software UX is mainly related to interface performance and user friendliness for the final user. Therefore the main objectives are to increase software response speed according to client needs and help them find and use the commands they need. To do this, we need to study a structure that is suitable for the purpose of the service, carefully setting out all of the graphic and interactive elements that they can find on their screen (buttons, content, pages etc.)
Subsequently, the graphics are transposed into code following the best practices of the sector. The result is software that is ready to be tested by the client. Then the software is tested and regularly improved when unexpected UX problems arise (for example actions that are difficult to find, inconvenient interactions, content that can only be reached with a lot of clicking etc.)
As in other environments, also with software good user experience comes from the collaboration among multiple professionals: at least one UX designer (user interface, the interface the user will actually work with) and a developer, accompanied by other sector experts in the more sophisticated cases. When a project is commissioned by someone, they become an active part in the design process since they know their own business sector and are a precious source of input that is used by the team to come up with a solution.
Close collaboration among designers, developers, professionals and clients is a fundamental interaction. Since all of those involved have different yet complementary skills, communication is vital in all project phases, to obtain the best result to deliver the project as quickly as possible and avoid technical issues.
Why UX is important in business
How often have you been annoyed by an unprofessional shop assistant? How many times have you had trouble opening a package or tin of food? How many sites have you left because they had no convenient smartphone interface? How many emails have you sent (or how many social network pages have you contacted) without getting an answer for days if at all?
We can safely conclude that, when things go badly, user experience pops up in many contexts. There is often only one chance to hold on to the user/consumer: if their expectations are not met the damage is done and the negative impression leaves its mark. The consequences are usually economic or image-related, a missed opportunity for a sale or successful collaboration, a bad review, negative word of mouth etc.
Bit by bit the losses increase and the reputation continues to decline.
If we stop to consider the amount of input we receive every day and how much these small details can pile up in our perception of reality, you will realise how important user experience is in business. In this sense it can be useful to think about oneself: when purchasing a product or accepting a service, what were some of the reasons you had for not choosing one of the other options on the market? What extra care should the competitors have taken for you not to ignore them?
By considering questions such as these, business professionals can identify the small weaknesses to work on to improve UX in their corporate ecosystem.
At times it may seem that the borders between marketing and user experience are blurred and indeed business strategies – the virtuous ones – help create a good UX. However, marketing is not the only discipline dealing with user experience: there are many preceding technical aspects that influence people’s perceptions. After all, the first step towards making a winning offer is making sure everything works well in terms of ergonomics and performance.
An entrepreneur, like any other professional, should surround themselves with people who are sensitive to this topic and who can guarantee the safeguard and development of such an important resource for the reputation of a product or service) and consequently for the company who owns it).
If your Internet site, which is a little too long in the tooth, doesn’t quite behave as it should or if you have old software that deserves an interface update, maybe it’s worth improving your UX. Perhaps Dreamonkey can give you a hand with this. Let’s talk about it.