UX Design: What Is It and Why Is It Important?

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Alexander Georges
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Lydia Chamberlain
June 30, 2020

Researching the term “user experience design”, you will quickly find that there is no commonly accepted definition.

“the goal of ux design in business is to improve customer satisfaction and loyalty through the utility, ease of use, and pleasure provided in the interaction with a product.”Oxford Journal Interacting with Computers
“process of manipulating user behavior through usability, usefulness, and desirability provided in the interaction with a product.”Wikipedia
“encompassees all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.”Don Norman

Although there are many variations of the definition of user experience design, it really boils down to enhancing the experience that people have while interacting with a product.

Why is User Experience Design Important

You have probably been affected by user experience design at one point in your life, whether you realize it or not.

Most of the time, user experience design is noticeable when it is poorly implemented.

For example, you may have encountered this with a website that is difficult to navigate. There’s nothing more frustrating than going on a website with a task in mind, and having to click all over the website trying to figure out how to accomplish that task. Eventually, you may just give up if you can’t figure it out and your impression of the website has now been tainted with negative emotions. I saw this first hand while user testing a prosthetic website on elderly patients. I had designed the website so that clicking on the logo led to the home page (as is common practice with most websites). But I did not realize that most elderly patients are not familiar with established website protocols. So when I asked these patients to “return to the home page” they looked all over the website trying to figure out how to get there, but eventually gave up. The poorly implemented user experience design was quickly noticeable and memorable, tainting the patients’ user experience with negative emotions.

But negative user experience design is not limited to websites or phone apps; it could also affect physical products as well. Think about a time you accidentally pushed a door instead of pulled it. Why did you push instead of pull? Most likely the door was not labeled properly, or the physical layout of the door implied that it needed to be pushed instead of pulled. Either way, there is a reason why your brain told you to push, and you most likely you blamed yourself for failing. But self-blame is actually a common sign of bad design.

The users of the poorly designed prosthetic website blamed themselves as well; they blamed themselves for not knowing that clicking the logo would lead to the home page. Little did they realize that there were other people, like themselves, who could not navigate the website either. This is why user experience design exists. It ensures that the end-product you are designing meets the exact needs of the customer, without issues. But exemplary user experience design dives deeper. It combines simplicity and elegance, producing products that are a joy to use. An excellent user experience will leave a positive and notable impression on a user, keeping these users loyal to the product or brand.

Techniques Used by UX Designers

Evidence based design is the heart and soul of user experience design. How can you design something for the user if you do not know anything about the user population? Conducting user research informs the decisions behind the design.

For example, without conducting user research on the prosthetic website, I would have had no idea that patients were not familiar with clicking on the logo to return to the home page. Who knows how many patients would have become frustrated with the experience, given up, and ultimately decided not to use the prosthetic services provided. You can alleviate problems before they even begin by conducting user research: the backbone of user experience design. Below are some techniques performed by UX designers to achieve great ux design.

Evaluation of Current System

If a website or phone app already exists (whether it be from a competitor or there is an existing website from the company), a holistic evaluation of the existing product is a great start to determine current pain points and areas for improvement.

Competitive analysis of successfully existing websites or apps can also demonstrate what is already working very well in the industry. If 10 industry apps are doing the same thing, it’s probably because it well established already and there is no need to reinvent the wheel.

Evaluation of Current System

A/B testing is great to use when trying to compare the effectiveness and quality of experience of different user interfaces.

This can be done by stating a hypothesis, “moving this content in the middle of the screen will result in more ____”. Once the hypothesis is established, the two designs are created and tested and compared. It is important to note that the two designs should be exactly the same, EXCEPT for the item being tested. If more than one variable is changed, it would be impossible to confidently determine that the results were only based off of the one variable being tested.

User Surveys

User surveys are commonly used to conduct user research and inform design decisions. It is a cheap and quick way to interview existing and potential users of the system to gain insight into what would be the most effective design.

When I created the prosthetic website, I conducted user surveys on patients to initially determine what features on a prosthetic website were most important to them. Learning that the contact information, insurance information, and resources  were the three most important features to prosthetic patients helped inform my design decisions later. I made sure to make these three features easily accessible and quick to find.

User Flows

User flows are diagrams that display the complete path a user takes when using a product. It lays out the user’s movement through the product, mapping out each and every step the user takes – from point of entry through final interaction.

User flows display possible patterns in a user journey in a way that makes it easy for designers to assess the efficiency of the interface they are creating. Mapping out the movement a user can take also helps determine the options that a user has and available routes they can take.

User Profiles & Personas

By conducting user interviews, user surveys, and getting to know your users you can then create user personas. These personas summarize your typical users and usually list goals, pain points, desires, and other pertinent information that can inform your design decisions.

User personas help you stay on track as you design, ensuring you are always designing with your users in mind. If you want to learn more about designing user personas, you can learn more here. (link to master blog user persona article)

Information Architecture

Information architecture can be very useful in organizing the data on your website or app. It is essentially a map that lays out the information on the product.

This is especially important when creating a complex website or app with many pages. It helps to keep track of the information architecture and allows the ux designer to easily move and rearrange pages to ensure the best user experience.

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