I think many of us in the industry have only a vague idea what the term User Experience means. So it's about time we took a look at the whole UX thing and the mystery surrounding it.
The X factor
What do UX, UXD and XD mean anyway? Well, unless you’ve been off on some sort of hiatus travelling around the world’s rain forests in recent years (without a phone signal!), you’ve probably heard of UX and maybe even some of the other acronyms listed above.
User Experience (UX)
Broadly speaking, this is the process of enhancing someone’s experience interacting with something or a situation – you’ll probably hear slightly differing explanations, but it’s basically about the experience a person has. There are almost limitless scenarios, but in our case it’s all about using a website or piece of software. If we take websites for example, the user is generally split into two camps – which are the end user (the customer) and the back-end admin user (the online editor, say). This gives you a quick idea to kick off with.
We’re all different
By having web user personas (which are essentially the different types of people interacting with your website) you can start to understand how different people will interact with and use your site. There are all sorts of things to factor in, including skill level, browser type, the age of the user and so on.
We won’t start profiling Bartholomew, who is a 47-year-old news editor, who’s been using the internet for 19 years and only uses Internet Explorer 9, on Windows Vista. In short, there are a lot of folks to consider.
Knowing who the potential users are is one of the first steps you have to consider, before you can start the process of designing or building. It’s not always possible to dig deep and explore user personas, but it certainly helps to at least have an idea of who and how the website will be used once you hand over the reins.
User experience design (UXD or XD)
This is the process of designing the way the user interacts with a website or software. It could be a workflow, it could be a form, it could be the user journey navigating the site. Usually it falls into a design phase of a new project, but the reality is that it’s important to have the user as a central consideration throughout a build and should therefore be all encompassing! The ultimate aim is to make things easier to use, which promotes client satisfaction and builds confidence.
Here at interconnect, we’ve always focused on how we want to integrate UXD into each project we tackle. The user has always been a central consideration for us, but we’re adopting a more structured pragmatic approach where we can.
There are some clear benefits to understanding UX specific problems before, during and even after a site has launched. If you’re not considering who you’re building stuff for, then you’re not looking at the problem holistically. It’s just good design practice, which we feel can’t be ignored.
Staying in touch
One of the benefits of attending regular conferences and meetups, is that we get exposed to the current practices and approaches being adopted throughout the industry. We try to get to as many as we can.
We’ve attended a number of one off and regular events this year, including UX Cubed Liverpool, held at the Shop Direct headquarters in Speke, UX in the City, which we attended in Manchester and the more regular meetups at Northern User Experience, which have events in Liverpool and Manchester, amongst other spots in the North West.
They’re a great chance to chat to and hear from like minded UXers, which is sometimes the best way to pick up new knowledge and insight.
So, why is UX important?
There are the doubters out there, who feel this can be an unnecessary project cost. And although we understand budget constraints, as long as you budget and plan the project accordingly, there can be I’m sure, room for all the X’s.
After all, we build stuff for people to use.