A Scrutiny of User Experience Design (UXD)

You must’ve heard the term user experience (often abbreviated as UX) by now. Put simply, UX refers to creating the greatest experience possible for those who will be using your website. Easier said than done, but not so. The secret to creating good user experiences is making the flow as natural as possible that the users need not think what to do next. That is, processes should be intuitive to the users. This is, in actuality, a challenge to the design itself hence the term UXD that no digital marketing company Philippines is not familiar with.

In most digital agencies, UXD may be the responsibility of the entire team or a single user experience designer. Nonetheless, there are also digital marketing firms that focus solely on UXD, offering user experience consultancy services among others.

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The dilemma of the designers

UX and UXD are, currently in strange positions. UXD, in particular, is new to even the design experts and yet there are many industry experts that tout UXD as an essential component of web design. Seemingly, UXD is increasingly becoming pervasive in the same intensity as UX. Nonetheless, UXD remains to be mysterious to some more so because not even the experts can pin down what it really is. It is either subjective, hard to describe, or both.

If there is one succinct description of UXD that would be everything that encompasses the organization, presentation and interaction of any digital product, which in our case, is a website. Thereby, UXD is designing the experience of the user from start to finish. UXD is not only about how the website will look and how it will function.

The premise behind this is simple: users are differentiating each website based on its baseline features and functions and how each work. That is, it is their experience with each feature and function that must inform the UXD. Here lies the challenge.

Creating an experience for any user is already a given. The harder task is creating a good UX that the user will take with him or her. Human decisions can be very irrational. Thus, there is no checklist whatsoever that the users use in deciding how trustworthy a website is. The same goes with UXD wherein there is no definitive checklist of what the design should include and not.

Instead, designers need to master a toolkit of techniques and decide when to use the appropriate technique best. Regardless of which techniques the designer is most comfortable with of using, the process of UXD should always start with educating the client about the importance of the user-centric approach. Clients’ usual concern is tangible. However, there is a connect between the business and the intended users.

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So what is user advocacy exactly?

Regardless of the UXD-related services provided by a freelance or an agency, the goal of UXD is user advocacy. Given that there are business objectives that must be met by the designers, there are also user needs that must be considered. Oftentimes, the clients are not aware of them and so, it is the designer’s responsibility to remind the client of these needs.

Knowingly, the greatest projects are those that achieved the perfect equilibrium between objectives and needs. This can be easier once you know who your users are. For instance, are you aware of the tasks that your users are trying to accomplish once they land on your site? Browsing, comparison shopping, looking for facts, downloading, etc.?

Easier because the designer will be able to design or redesign the site around the user types’ behavior patterns. The designer may better equipped and come up with valuable insights regarding:

  • Why users are coming to your site (and why some abandon it)
  • How they use your site
  • Where they usually use your site
  • What content they are expecting and seeking from your site
  • How much time your users have in exploring your site

Cutting down the tasks to a few cannot be emphasized enough. Clutters don’t add any value to the experience, and they only distract and confuse the users. Know exactly how you want your users to travel from page to page, as if guiding their hands while navigating within the site. Surely, you are not only creating a great UX when they see what’s coming next, but also happy users.

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How to implement a UXD?

Here’s another secret: a one-size-fits-all approach is not applicable to UXD. There are only proven techniques that you may also choose to adapt.

1) Set goals for the redesign project and make sure that you understand each of them. Aside from brainstorming, collaborative workshops can be also conducted to come up with the right goals. Define solid strategies on how you can achieve these goals.

2) Define design principles (much like guidelines) with the client. The guidelines will inform the overall personality of the site to be redesigned and provide context whenever a tough decision must be made.

3) Talk to and observe potential users if possible in their actual contexts. Make informal sketches and formal documents based on your observation.

4) Start planning for contents, features and functionalities. That is, after understanding business objectives, competitive landscape and user needs.

5) Start thinking about site structure as well as user flow. Sketch out the probable interactions. Sketch as many interactions as possible.

6) Create site prototypes. Test the pre-defined assumptions on actual users. Document the issues that will arise during the testing phase. Fix these issues accordingly and in a timely manner. Fixing them later when the redesign project is done will be too costly an undertaking.

Don’t forget that the UXD operates on strategic and tactical levels. Strategically, there is a need to identify and understand the audience. Next, the designers need to find ways for communicating value with the users efficiently. Tactically, it requires designers to look more at interaction design as well as usability problems.

Taking a cue from the discussion above, it is safe to say that UXD is collaborative in nature. Everyone in the design team including the client and if possible, the users all have a hand in making any redesign project a success. It is only through this that UXD can create the best possible experience for the users.

 

Image credit: Nextopia.com | OctavDesign.com | Akilliyazilim.org

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