User Experience – how to make it a tool of your trade
It’s become quite a ubiquitous term, but have you ever wondered what we mean when we talk about user experience, or UX? In this blog, our software developer, David McLennan gives you the low-down on this hot topic.
Digital technology has proved itself time and again as a window on the world, a means of keeping in touch, working remotely and enjoying virtual experiences when we can’t physically be there.
With a multitude of apps and websites available, we all regularly encounter a range of different user experiences (UX). That’s the term we use to describe the overall interaction between a user and a system – it refers as much to the overall feel of a system, the emotions it generates in us, as it does to its functionality and ease-of-use.
While our focus at INSISO is very much on the user experience of the software solutions we design for our clients’ businesses, user-centred design is something that applies to almost every experience and product we use and purchase nowadays. (The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman is a real insight into this topic).
Here at INSISO we’re all slightly obsessed with UX. It exerts a massive influence over the design and development of our software solutions. UX is that crucial – if a potential customer can’t find the information they’re looking for, or the software is counter-intuitive, or indeed if they struggle to access it, they are going to go elsewhere, and a business has lost out.
- So, what are the key things to consider? A great user experience should be intuitive, consistent, accessible to all and satisfying. A user should not have to process too much information, or go through too many steps to achieve their goals. (see Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug.)
- What’s more, most systems shouldn’t strive to reinvent the wheel – an example of this would be the ubiquity of a login page. Crucially, a system should meet the needs of all users, keeping accessibility concerns such as colour blindness and screen readers in mind.
- Finally, a system should provide users with an overall satisfying experience – that’s where the language, the visuals and the feedback really come into their own.
Of course, we can’t just pluck all of that information out of the ether. We can only create software that ticks these boxes once we have a sound understanding of our clients’ business needs, their target market and their customer profile. Fortunately, it’s always been important to us to maintain a continuous 2-way conversation with our clients, taking on board their input and feedback at every stage.
When we go through the initial design specification with our clients, we discuss the use cases or user flows that are expected. For example, a user should be able to select an item on the screen and add it to his / her shopping cart, before heading to check-out and paying for their shopping cart items. We then prototype a design to reflect that user flow by transferring the information to Figma, our collaborative design tool. Figma is a digital design and prototyping tool used to create prototypes for websites. Because it is a cloud-based application, designers, developers and clients can collaborate on the prototype in real-time. So live updates can be instantly revised and commented on in a truly interactive, collaborative process.
As technology evolves, so does user interaction. One of the most interesting challenges we are seeing at the moment in UX centres around immersive 3D experiences such as virtual and augmented reality. Moving the challenge onto a different level – from designing 2D user experiences to 3D immersive experiences – requires us to evaluate the process from a completely different perspective.
Interaction with automated bots, and voice activation such as Siri, Alexa and Google Home offers an alternative dynamic. User interaction is through voice commands rather than clicks, meaning we have to re-think how we manage that journey and interaction.
In another exciting UX development, abstract data visualisation techniques continue to revolutionise how we consume, interpret and make inferences from complex data sets. These techniques help us to view significantly complex data sets via accessible and comprehensible visualisations.
There you have it – UX in a nutshell. So, the next time you’re wowed by a website, or blown away by an app, you’ll have an insight into the technology and most importantly, the very human thought-processes that went into making your life that bit easier.