The user experience represents the sum of all end-user interactions with your company’s product or service.
When a user interacts with your product or service, there is far more going on than simply whether or not they achieve their goals through you. You must consider the complete journey they take, from the onboarding process they go through the first time they use your product, to the steps they have to navigate to reach their desired goals.
This total journey is called the user experience, and it’s perhaps the most important consideration when designing your product. In this article, we define the user experience, dissect the different parts and principles, and describe the role of a UX designer.
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What is the User Experience?
The user experience (UX) is the sum of all interactions that a user has with your product or service. It describes the journey they take as they go through different steps or interfaces while using your product. You can also see it as how users feel about their experience with your product.
UX not only includes the experience within the product itself but also how the user interacts with your company in relation to the product. If your users can’t get support easily, or if there isn’t a good knowledge base for information about your product—your UX will take a hit.
While UX is related to the user interface (UI), they are still distinct from each other. UI refers to the visual interactive elements of your product, including buttons, input forms, the layout of screen elements, animations, text and images. UI is an important aspect of UX, but it’s only one component and doesn’t represent the whole thing.
What are the Principles of User Experience Design?
There are a multitude of ways to approach the field of UX design. However, certain core principles are present in every approach. Knowing what these are can help guide your design philosophy and create a stronger, more fulfilling user experience.
The foremost principle of UX design is that it must be user-centric. Every component of your UX determines how your user will interact with it and appreciate it. This entails UX research, which you can conduct through any one of several methods:
- Focus group discussions. During this, users within the target audience discuss UX issues while guided by a moderator
- User interviews. Where you interview target users one-on-one about their experiences with similar products and their specific needs
- Surveys. Where you collect large amounts of UX feedback from a broader audience
- Product analytics. This helps inform UX decisions by showing quantitative data about user interaction with your current products
It’s important that this research forms the backbone of your UX design process. Oftentimes, UX designers may design complex, technically impressive interfaces that would impress many industry professionals. However, if not informed by proper UX research and user-centric design, they may end up creating a UX that satisfies technically-proficient users—but not the average users within the intended audience.
A very important part of modern UX design is accessibility. This means designing to accommodate as large an audience as possible, including those with disabilities. An estimated 15% of the world population has some sort of disability. By not having accessible principles in mind you, therefore, exclude a large portion of the population.
Accessibility can come in many forms. For example:
- Using high-contrast colour combinations for text and interactive elements, so visually-impaired people are helped in navigating an app or website.
- Implementing alt-text for images on a website to allow screen readers to describe image content for visually-impaired users.
- Allowing for alternative input options for users who cannot operate a touchscreen, mouse, or keyboard.
Accessibility doesn’t just benefit disabled users either. Many of its principles make products and websites outright easier to navigate, improving UX for all.
Every aspect of UX must also be easily discoverable. This is to say that its functions can be quickly identified and exposed by users. For example, important functions shouldn’t be more than a few levels “deep” in your menus, or else they might not be found by users.
You should also apply visual feedback, such as animations, to capture the user’s attention and show them where they need to go. Additionally, keep the use of unique and unusual icons to a minimum, or else users will have a hard time figuring out what to do.
It’s important to note that discoverability doesn’t mean that everything should be easy to discover. As you make more things easily identifiable, you potentially create clutter in the visual field. This may actually reduce discoverability. Be sure to keep the number of available interactive options and choices as low as possible. Only present priority functions to users as they need them.
A consistent UX design language ensures that your user doesn’t have to keep relearning new ways to interact with your product or service. Changing things constantly leads to frustration, confusion, and a worse product for your users.
Here are a few examples of ways you can implement consistency:
- Organize all your different menus in the same way.
- Have your UI gestures and interactions produce the same behaviour across the board.
- Keep the language of UX copy, such as buttons and terms in popup messages, consistent
Consistency reduces friction as your users traverse your interface. This allows users to focus less time on contending with the UI and more on achieving their goals with your product.
What are the Roles of a UX Designer?
UX designers are the principal architects of your product’s user experience. They are involved in all the various aspects of UX, including:
- Carrying out UX research, including conducting interviews and FGDs
- Looking at product analytics and data to better inform UX design
- Creating UX guidelines that ensure consistency across the product
- Designing wireframes and key screens for presentations to clients and product teams
- Auditing the final product to determine whether UX has been properly implemented
UX designers work closely with product managers to determine how best to approach the needs of the target market. While product managers identify what these needs are and what problems to solve, the UX designers craft approaches that enable products to solve these issues through elegant design.
User Experience: A Fundamental Part of All Product Development
UX is an unavoidable aspect of product development that must regularly take center stage during the process. After all, a poor user experience doesn’t just lead to “unhappy” users. It may also lead to users outright leaving before they derive any value from your product—even if it solves their problems.