Great product & software design is about much more than individual features and visual appeal. User interface designers need to consider all of the needs that may arise for end users and comfortably meet them while giving an overall sense of balance and completeness too. Well thought out user interface design and the overall user experience can speak volumes about the character and intentions of an organisation or project, often adding significant value without needing to say a word.
What Are User Experience Design (UX) & User Interface Design (UI)?
User Experience: The broader aspects of the experience of using a system or product - beyond simply using the software. All aspects of the total experience are relevant, including customer support, marketing, packaging, styles of communication, symbolism, product usability and ease of access to information.
User Interface: The elements of a computer system that human users interact with as they access and use the features of the system. Currently most often focused around on-screen, visual components that are manipulated by mouse, keyboard and touch.
Designing technology, systems and websites requires a balance of awareness of both the digital and the human elements of the process. The complete experience of a person accessing a website, for example, goes beyond the design of the web pages themselves and encompasses every other interaction they have with the organisation, their teams, products and services. The process of optimising the software and website interface elements, such as the buttons and boxes we currently see on websites, is generally referred to as User Interface Design. Optimisation of the broader overview of how the person experiences contact with the organisation and it's offerings is referred to as User Experience Design.
Almost everything in our human world has been designed - from the structure of our homes, to businesses and public events - User Experiences and User Experience Design are all around us. However, not all of the designs are effective and sometimes they have not been thought through much at all! Deliberate User Experience Design consciously structures the process of understanding the real needs of a person who uses a particular piece of technology, product or service and seeks to meet those needs in a complete and holistic way.
In practice, this means considering and working with many issues, including:
What message will be given to the person in marketing campaigns?
What will expectations be of the product/service before it is first encountered?
What are the practical needs of people who might use the product/service?
How can each real need be met?
How can the usefulness of the offering be increased?
What limits of accessibility need to be considered for those with more limited abilities?
What are the values associated socially and psychologically with the offering and it's competitors?
Why will this offering be desirable and what needs to be done to increase it's desirability?
What are the options for increasing useability?
How easy is it to find information within the offering, it's documentation or elsewhere?
How durable is the offering? How long will it be around? How sustainable is the model being used?
CRUCIAL User Experience Design Process
The Crucial Web team keeps user centred design as a high priority at all stages of a project's life cycle. Understanding user needs is often a case of asking the right questions and getting a feel for the situation by putting ourselves in the position of an end user. This has always come naturally to us anyway, but we also employ some formal UX theory and processes to our design work too.
Generally, we can categorise the important areas of the process into questions and answers that relate to the classic questions - Who? Why? What? How? When? & Where?
Who will be using the system we are designing?
Why will they be using it?
What features and functionality will they need and expect?
How will the system need to work to meet their needs?
Where will the project be used and will that cause any challenges?
When will the product/project be launched/used and how will the design accommodate timing issues.
For new projects, we typically answer these questions and incorporate them into our designs through a combination of discussion with our clients and through gaining feedback from real users in response to prototypes and initial design. More established projects offer the opportunity for us to gain more detailed information through analysing the designs and results from existing systems, products or campaigns.
The process of iterative redesign may be brief in some cases or may be specifically intended to last an extended period in order to develop particularly competitive or novel end results that innovate and disrupt existing expectations in the marketplace.
After initial consultations our team will produce user requirement documentation and set about creating solutions to the identified needs. Early prototypes and mockups are tested by suitable people (usually in private) and the feedback allows us to adjust the User Requirements specification as we proceed through the creative process. Once stakeholders agree that the designs and improvement process has reached the needed level of completeness, we will translate our work into a finalised end result.
We generally aim to include as wide a variety of voices in the feedback gathering process as possible since everyone has a unique way of perceiving and can provide unique insights that may seem insignificant but which later turn out to be very valuable.
User Experience Design is a fundamental part of our process and will be built in to any design and development work that we undertake. Clients who have specific interest in taking the user experience of their projects to the next level can highlight this to us and we are happy to arrange specific deliverables and tasks in this area beyond our usual in-house process.
Finally, we are more than happy to take on clients who only wish to use us for user experience or user interface design abilities. If you have a development team handling the nuts and bolts of the build process but need designs and mockups for any reason then don't hesitate to reach out to us.