Designing the Experience

Posted on by Leslie Johnson

Posted in Design, Usability

Why Add UX to a Project?

All of these questions are about the experience you have when you interact with the world around you. Something we often forget is that each and every one of those experiences was designed and thought through by someone, even if it seems invisible. In Warren Berger’s (from Glimmer) words:

This user experience (UX) happens on a project whether it’s designed or not.

If NOT designed, we’re hoping that the UX will be at least OK, that it’ll more or less meet the needs of the intended users, and that no one will be offended. We’ve all had that experience with applications and sites.

If it IS designed, we control how and what interaction our users have with our project, and can determine and predict whether they’re delighted, upset, or completely indifferent to what we deliver. Think of the application or site you enjoy the most or you get the most out of. This experience was designed, thought through, and refined through user research, iterated design and development, and user testing.

You NEED UX on Your Project

Just as successful business plans rarely include “hope for the best” as part of the plan, projects also need that attention. For the project to be as successful as possible, the fundamental experience – how the user interacts with the project – should be properly planned. Of course, once you have a plan, you have to follow up on it.

Business research ( http://www.uxpassion.com/2009/10/ux-roi-user-experience-return-on-investment/) has shown that the UX is the #1 differentiator when a user is determining which application to purchase and use, and that every project dollar invested in UX yields between $2 and $100.

$1 UX = $2 – $100 return

This is important to remember – more than reduced costs, more than improved compatibility, more than increased usability, which are all crucial to a project. If your project contains any user interface or user experience, you NEED a UX pro on your project.

But we Already Have a BA

And that BA is crucial. BA’s do analysis focused on business and business process. They help to ensure that the project meets the business needs, and that the business can adapt to changes from introducing the product. UX does analysis focusing on users and user expectations.

Often a BA has a “user bent,” which leads them to lean toward user needs. This BA works extremely well with your UX pro because the BA’s analysis and UX analysis will dovetail. The BA will help the UX pro understand what the business values, and the UX pro will help the BA understand what the user values. Beautiful synergy.

Set Your Project up for Success

So how does UX fit in? UX helps you correctly answering the following questions:

  • What are the project’s business goals?
  • Who are the users?
  • What are their goals?
  • How does your project help them meet their goals?

The answers to these questions will help you deliver a successful project, whether it’s software, portals, websites, mobile applications, whatever. Whenever a user touches the project, a UX pro will help you design the experience successfully.

To answer these questions, UX pros fit into the project in a phased manner:

Click on image to enlarge

Obviously, this is a waterfall project, NOT an Agile project. We’ll discuss UX and Agile in a later post.

Delivering Delight

Answering the above questions will satisfy your users’ needs. As the population becomes more literate, however, user expectations rise. Users are no longer satisfied with simply having their needs met. They want to be delighted. More and more, delight is becoming the baseline rather than simple satisfaction. To that end, more and more companies and individual designers are starting to include delight as part of their project goals: http://designm.ag/resources/5-proven-ux-strategies/.

But how do you know what’ll delight your users? Short answer – two possibilities:

  1. Observe and talk to the users. This is the best way to learn what your users will find delightful. If you watch them work, you’ll absolutely see and understand where their pain points are and where their delight opportunities are. Guaranteed.
  2. Talk to the people who talk to the users. Many organizations are sensitive about having consultants interact directly with their user base. If you’re in that situation, interview the people in the organization who talk to the users. They know the users, what issues they have, what things they struggle with. Their instincts may not be dead on, but they’ll be close.

There really is no shortcut for this – there’s no substitute for observing and talking with users (or user reps). All the great business instincts in the world can’t replace this. At best, business instincts and experience can get you partway there.

In Conclusion: Add a UX Pro!

User experience happens whether you design it or not.

Regardless of your methodology, your team makeup, your project goals, and your corporate mandate, user experience happens whether you design it or not.

If you design the UX, you set your project up for success.

It’s really that simple.

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About Leslie Johnson

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Leslie is a UX generalist at Online Business Systems, with experience in all the disciplines of user-centered design (UCD), which positions her to lead UX teams both large and small. Her past experience includes consulting, as well as providing design, research, and usability solutions to Microsoft, Intuit, and other smaller organizations. Leslie’s two passions are creating outstanding design solutions that satisfy and delight users, and teaching and training non-UX professionals in UCD principles.
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