What is the term User Experience all about?

The term “User Experience (UX)” is perhaps the latest top term to do the rounds on the Web, one reason being that as just about every business area is getting more and more competitive and that means that every site has to fight that little bit harder to keep any visitor it gets. After all, it may have gone to a lot of trouble getting that visitor, so the last thing it wants to do is to lose them because of an ill thought out interface.

However, user experience covers a lot more things than web pages, the biggest growth area here no doubt being Mobile Phone / Device Apps.  Given that the screen area of these devices is a lot smaller than most Desktop PC’s or Laptops, plus (some think) these users are even more pushed for time than desktop users, one has to be very clever when designing an interface.

But, what is it all about? The term a “Good UX”  has been used to describe the look and usability of an interface, but what does that mean? After all many people can tell you about a bad (or good experience) that they have had with an interface, but few can really tell you what was wrong.

 

The first thing to remember is that UX Has Many Layers

In 2000, Jesse James Garrett (JJG) was able to create a simple diagram helping visualize the core components and dimensions that create a positive experience with his “The Elements of User Experience” model. And, for the most part these concepts still hold true 17 years later.

 

Going Back to the Foundation of UX

It is an unfortunate truth that many designers give too much focus to the ‘upper layers’ of this model (in other words the features / design) when they should really be looking at the objectives of the users and their needs, this being dubbed the ‘Business-Centered Approach’.

 

The Business-Centered Approach Explained

When building an interface it is essential to have a clear understanding of the REAL USER NEEDS (you must have a clear understanding of the actual User Needs), and then you must ensure that you apply them throughout the entire development process.

The problem is the these needs are often buried under a list of site objectives and it is therefore necessary to make sure that you talk to the right stakeholders (this can be a hard task) and keep them involved throughout the development process.

The hardest problem is however finding some tangible KPI (Key Performance Indicators), as until these can be found and agreed it is impossible to craft the user experience with any great expectations of producing what is needed (or ever being sure you have actually completed the task in hand).

 

Focus on User Needs First

JJG described the ‘User Needs’ as the “externally derived goals for the site: identified through user research, ethno/techno/psychographics, etc.” (citation)

The key word here is EXTERNAL, as to create a truly user-centered experience, it often necessary to have an unbiased person or group working on the project as well as those who are ‘very close’ to the project. This is where Rouge come in, as we have a lot of experience in conducting the right sort of research (so we can extract many types of qualitative and quantitative data) , whilst still remaining that little bit detached.

The important thing here is build up a total picture of a user’s needs. Our research covers the following areas:-

 

Primary Research

  • Analytics/Proprietary Data
  • User/Usability Testing
  • Focus Groups
  • On-site observations/session recordings
  Secondary Research

  • Search Engine Data
  • Third Party Studies
  • Sector Audits
  • Social Audits

 

There is an ever expanding list of tools which can provide insights into the needs of your users, as well as getting over the barriers that can get in the way of truly understanding the problems and desires of your users. Another of Rouge’s talents being that of keeping up to speed with these new tools and their use.

 

Observation is VITAL

The most important of all of the inputs to the design process of building the perfect user experience is that of ‘observation’, it being vital to see just how potential users work with an interface. As Jakob Nielsen said, “Pay attention to what users do, not what they say.” This truly is the only way to understand WHY an interface does (or does not) work.

 

Conclusion

It is all too easy to get caught up in the requirements and complex backend systems that together deliver the optimal user experience, but we must also remember that a good user experience isn’t just about KPIs but also in ensuring that you always keep conversing with your customers / users in an on-going conversation. That way you will be able to pick up clues about how you can make the experience an even better one.

Like most things, maintaining a quality user experience is something that is never totally finished, but at least with a design company like Rouge on your side it can be completed (and maintained) in the most efficient manner possible.