You’ve probably heard about UX Design, the buzzword that has gained popularity over the years, but what makes it so important and how has its practice evolved?
What is UX Design?
User Experience, more commonly known as UX, is a fundamental part of any product’s development process. The term was coined by Donald Norman, a prominent advocate and researcher of user-centred design, in the ’90s as computers became more common in workplaces and design was becoming more user friendly.
UX Design’s focus is to ensure the user gets the best experience possible out of a product once it’s in their hands. With UX in mind, the design process is influenced by empathising with the user to make sure that their needs are met.
Their whole customer journey is mapped out to solve any problems before they can encounter them. However, that’s not to say that good UX design will guarantee zero flaws, but it will offer users options for troubleshooting if they do encounter them.
When a UX designer is designing a product, they think of the voice of the user, and advocate for their needs to balance them with a company’s business goals.
How is UX design present in everyday life?
UX Design may be commonly referred to in the tech world when it comes to software designs, but it is also practised in everyday products, even ones without a screen.
Take for example a sink and a faucet. If you were to have a hand good washing experience, the faucet should be at an adequate distance from the back edge of the sink for you to fit your hands comfortably under the stream of water. Too close and you’ll land up with a few bruises from punching the sink while barely getting your hands clean. Too far and, well, you’ll get more of a wash than you bargained for.
Here is an example of bad UX design for a sink:
Good UX design offers convenience and efficiency and it’s fair to say that most travellers would appreciate that in a busy airport, especially during baggage check-in. The RGM Airport in Zimbabwe builds on the already great design of four-wheeled roller suitcases with a ground-level scale. All you have to do is roll your bag onto it. This works well because no one has to lift a heavy suitcase, not even by an inch. Taking some load off an already stressful situation adds a first-class touch.
When using this scale, users simply have to slide their baggage onto the conveyor belt scale, instead of having to lift the weight of their bag. Now that’s a first-class touch.
And it’s not just airports that can benefit from a time-saving design that eases user frustrations. Navigating a mall parking lot to find an empty spot gets difficult. But more frequently malls are installing sensor lights above each parking space. In the dimness of the parking lot, these lights stand out like a beacon, relieving customers from driving up and down with little hope trying to find an open space. The light turns red when the parking is taken and green when it’s free. It’s a great system that gets customers to reach their goals faster while benefiting the mall’s business since people will be spending more time shopping.
Why is UX Design important?
Good design goes unnoticed. Users don’t typically want any intrusions on their day to day comfort and it’s why they won’t pay much attention to your product’s design unless it’s flawed. Statistics show that 88% of users are less likely to return to a website after a bad user experience.
Although there is no set definition of what makes up good UX Design, the design, usability and function should work together seamlessly to provide an efficient and fun to use product. It also needs to teach users how to take full advantage of the product.
Good UX Design increases trust and credibility.
Back to the design of the faucet, if someone walked out of a washroom with bruises or wet clothes, they will most likely avoid using that faucet again and probably wouldn’t consider using any of the products from that brand. For instance, PWC found that 32% of the customers would leave a brand they loved after just one bad experience.
But, if their needs were met, they would form loyalty to your brand because they trust it and know exactly what to expect from it. This also means that product development will be cost-efficient. You can predict pain points and work on them earlier on and avoid damage that will be expensive to repair, or may not be repairable at all.
How has UX Design evolved?
When technology was still in its early days, designers focused more on making things work, rather than them also being pleasant to use. As design possibilities grew, so did the importance of UX.
Think back to the earliest versions of Microsoft Windows and their error notifications or command prompts. They weren’t very pretty to look at, and they also didn’t offer us much when something went wrong.
Users would only be informed that “an error had occurred” and the only thing they could do about it was click “OK”. Very frustrating.
In more modern designs, users are given a solution and can report the issues or troubleshoot them ourselves by following prompts. The functionality of design has evolved so users don’t always hit a dead end and can work their way through different interactions with products. This saves time and resources because a user doesn’t always have to wait for someone to help them, they can help themselves.
UX designers are also starting to incorporate users more into their testing processes. This gives them a better sense of how users interact with their designs and their preferences as users. Designers can get a detailed view of how various design decisions affect the user, from layout, to flow, to colour to the precise size of buttons.
What’s next for UX?
Only time can tell how designs will be influenced in the future, but they will definitely still be evolving to make the best-informed decisions that keep the users’ needs at the forefront. If you’re looking for a way to ensure your users are getting the best experience out of your products and that they will keep coming back to your brand, investing in a good UX is definitely the starting point.