As the design teams at elemental8 and the engineering teams at Acorn have begun working more closely together over the past few weeks, we have had many conversations about an often-used—yet rarely-defined—term: user experience (or UX for short). It seems like a good time to shed some light on user experience and why it’s critical to the work we do. Human-centered user experience design practices help companies understand the needs and desires of their users and develop those insights into relevant, innovative solutions that build strong brands. In this and future posts, we’ll explore different aspects of crafting great user experiences. Today, let’s get acquainted with this topic by breaking it down its component parts: The User and The Experience.
Understanding the User
User experience design is, above all, human-centered. Designing for user experience involves working outward from an understanding of users’ needs, values, and existing behaviors. Building a clear understanding of a typical user should take place long before defining a product’s features or technologies, and these efforts to understand users continue as prototypes are developed and tested with users. UX design research can be as simple as sending surveys to existing customers, or it can go in-depth with visits to potential users in their homes or workplaces to observe and interview them where they would use a product.
Delivering the Experience
If people do recognize the term user experience, it’s often in reference to things such as a website, smartphone app interface, or interface to some type of device/instrument with a complex interface. While color schemes, page layouts, and graphics can be important components of a user’s interactions with a product, user experience extends far beyond look and feel. UX designers pay attention to the seamless interactions of software and hardware, and consider other brand touch points like the purchasing process, packaging and setup,and accessing customer service. Frustration, confusion, distraction, and unnecessary features or aesthetic elements can happen during any of these interactions and detract from the overall experience. Delivering a polished user experience requires the tight integration of business strategy, design, and engineering to deliver products that match user needs with appropriate features, technologies, and aesthetic choices. And shipping a product is just the beginning. Each product in use is a new opportunity to evaluate and adapt the user experience to match an evolving marketplace.
In future posts, we’ll dive deeper into the user experience design process and discuss examples of user experience successes and failures.