Ten things you need to know about user experience design

It's time to set the record straight and put to rest once and for all the plethora of commonly held misconceptions that circulate in marketing circles regarding User Experience (UX) Design.
UX Design is not user interface design. While user interface design focuses on making the user's point of contact (interface) with technology as simple and efficient as possible, UX Design goes far deeper than this. It is a multi-disciplinary field that requires delving into aspects of the usefulness, usability, findability, accessibility, desirability, and credibility of a design. It seeks to tap into the user's thought processes, feelings, behaviour towards, and their experience of each and every aspect of the product at every stage of its use.

In essence user interface design deals only with the surface, the presentation of interaction possibilities to the user. However what makes a product or service intrinsically innovative, exciting and thereby coveted and ultimately successful, cannot only be limited to visual appeal and functionality.

UX Design is about more than usability. While usability remains an important facet of the user's overall experience, a product's ease of use will not ultimately determine its desirability. By focusing on usability alone, product and service designers limit the ability to create memorable, lasting and potentially life-changing experiences.

UX Design is not just about focus groups. The insights gained from focus groups certainly help bring understanding of how to sell a product. Designing experiences however, and ensuring every product or service is an experience, requires detailed information about individual needs and behaviours. Marketing tools cannot alone deliver the depth or richness of insight required to create amazing experiences.

UX Design is not just about the user. Ultimately it's about the business, and the significant positive difference the product by virtue of its UX Design will ultimately make to the bottom line. It is through putting the user first however, that guarantees return on investment and that sufficient value is given back to the business every time.

UX Design is not a step in the production or design process. While the production process can be seen as linear with different skill sets being called upon at each stage, UX Design is inherent in the entire process. From project sponsors who identify a need, to project managers who decide how much time needs to be spent on the various aspects of design, through to the marketers who choose the packaging. Each and every person involved in the process ultimately impacts the end-product. Understanding this is key to managing and understanding UX Design.

Because it is not just a step in the production process UX Design will not delay your project. The deep thinking and collaborative design used in UX design can in fact speed up the production process and the value that this adds to the success of the end-product seems a far better proposition than failure.

UX Design is not expensive; what is expensive is getting it wrong. Logically it makes sense that conducting proper research to validate the thinking will ultimately save time and money.

UX Design is not easy. The depth of understanding or the cultural shifts required can prove challenging, but that is part of the beauty and the benefit of UX Design. It facilitates having to question commonly held beliefs and processes and requires bending and twisting business processes to validate the thinking and bring to life what has been envisaged.

UX thinking is a great source of inspiration to innovate. The innovative product and service experiences of our time come from the marshalling of intellectual resources to satisfy an identified human need. UX thinking and its tools allows us to systematically identify and empathise with these human needs. This empathy, beyond any business requirement, can guide designers to an innovative product that resonates with customers and brings about true value.

UX Design is in fact necessary, it's not optional. Whether intentionally or unintentionally when we design a new service or product we create a user experience. However, it is only when we intentionally apply UX thinking that we can transform something mediocre into something remarkable.

8 Aug 2012 09:39

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