User Experience: More than Just a Pretty Interface
The rise in digitization is resulting in an increasing number of applications which aren’t just optional for users, they’re mandatory, which means that user interface design, and in turn issues related to user experience (UX) and user interface, are now moving into the spotlight.
Just think of the check-in process for low-cost airlines, which is increasingly being provided only online, or the ability to make contact with public authorities outside of business hours. This was completely impossible just a few years ago, but today is part of every digitalization strategy. And just over this past year, many of us are ordering food by smartphone, since more and more restaurants are no longer providing this service face-to-face.
User Interface as a Central Point of Reference
This increasing (and sometimes exclusive) use of online methods as a way to make contact with our customers means that user interfaces are replacing personal customer contact – the friendly word, small ways of showering attention on customers and interpersonal relationships in general – and as a result, our websites need to make customers feel at home.
What Makes for Good UX Design?
The obvious conclusion is that a good user interface must be modern and clearly structured, and must always be accessible by all users, including the disabled – this last requirement goes without saying. However, in reality many applications don’t focus too strongly on the first two items.
In particular, a good user interface must be appropriate to its task, and must also be able to helpand guide users through every step of the application, without being patronizing. Interface evaluation cannot take place in an environment which is far removed from reality, which unfortunately is often the case in software tests. For example, actual users will use their smartphones right in the middle of the street, use their tablets as they’re relaxing in front of the TV, or may just have something better to do than to muddle through the system of user guidance we’ve come up with. We need to be able to meet users at whatever point they actually use our application, and to be aware of how they interact with it.
As a result, it’s an absolute necessity to have a solid knowledge of not only our users, but also their environment, their suggestions and their usage habits, and develop our applications in line with that. Although a pretty user interface is certainly a great thing for customers and developers, it can be frustrating for an actual user if it’s not also appropriate to its task, helpful and in general a satisfying experience.
Key Factors in UX
User Experience describes a user’s perceptions and reactions which arise as a result of the use or presumed use of a product, system or service. Achieving a positive user experience requires work on a wide variety of aspects, which must eventually also brought into harmony with one another.
The following areas in the field of User Experience are especially receiving attention these days:
- Information architecture describes structuring and organizing information in such a way that it’s easy for users to collect, evaluate and use.
- Interaction design is concerned with the various aspects of human-machine interaction. In addition to technology as well as the timing and sequence of events involved in an interaction, its social and emotional aspects are receiving greater consideration and being included more.
- Usability describes how an application will support users in the given use context.
- Visual design, or UI Design, is the UX area responsible for the aesthetic design of the final product.
Considerations related to User Experience must begin right from the start of a project, involving close work with usability experts (first as a business analyst and later as a requirements engineer) to identify and prepare the groundwork required for optimal solutions.
We’ve just released a new training package which focuses on Usability and User Experience, and is based on recognized standards in the UXQB field. These courses will give you the tools you need to meet digitalization project challenges related to User Experience.