I knew nothing about User Experience or UX design a few days ago. I never cared to read up about it as it was not related to my field of work. When I first heard about UX design or User Experience focused design, the famous Mona Lisa smile escaped my lips. A smile which says a lot without giving away too much. It said a lot about how little I understood. The next thing I did was flipped my laptop open and typed in the web browser – What is UX design? It took Google 0.063 seconds to produce a range of answers to my query. And none of it seemed very helpful.
Here’s what Wikipedia said – ‘User experience design (UX, UXD, UED or XD) is the process of enhancing user satisfaction with a product by improving the usability, accessibility, and pleasure provided in the interaction with the product. User experience design encompasses traditional human-computer interaction (HCI) design, and extends it by addressing all aspects of a product or service as perceived by users.’
To be honest, that was a lot to digest within a few seconds. So I hit Google again and spent hours trying to understand this new wave in design that is helping brands improve their sales by giving them a better experience. Frankly, no amount of reading helped. I felt like I needed to sit down with Don Norman (who coined the term User Experience) and understand it from him.
On that note, you should definitely watch this Ted Talk from him to understand design better.
I obviously couldn’t make that happen. But I got connected with some brilliant UX professionals in the business who have created amazing user experiences for start-ups and companies. And in this blog, I will explain what I learned.
So, What is UX Design, anyway?
Let’s break it down.
User Experience Design is a design that is focused on making the experience of the user seamless and enjoyable.
Simple, isn’t it? Seamless and enjoyable – two little words that can determine the success of most brands today, including yours. Let me explain what these two words mean.
How many times have you started using a mobile app or have visited a website and felt lost halfway through? Like, you didn’t know what to do next or didn’t know how to navigate to the product/feature you were looking for? I have had that feeling quite a few times. So, what did I do? I looked for an alternative – simple. That’s what most consumers do too.
If your website’s user experience is not good enough, users will go to your competition. There are enough options on the web.
As a brand, you have to keep the users in mind while creating a web product. Will your users be able to fill in all the details you are asking them to? Will they be able to find the product they are looking for? You should take into consideration all possible roadblocks that your ideal user might face, no matter how small they seem. And you should create an interface which addresses all aspects of the product/service to give the users a seamless experience. The visual design, typography, and ease of use play a huge role in making the experience ‘seamless and enjoyable’.
What is the fuss about UX design?
When it comes to UX design, there are no greys – it’s either good or bad. And there is a thin line separating a good UX design from a bad one. Which means that you either have the user coming back for more or not. That is what makes UX design so critical. I spoke to a few experts to understand this better and this extracts will not only help you understand what is UX design but also why is UX design important.
Rajat Bagree, a UX expert explains it with a wonderful example:
When Amazon launched its mobile app, it was downloaded by millions of people from around the world; people with different handsets and operating systems. Amazon has always been known as a brand that focuses on its users. With a brand as big as that, one expects UX design to be perfect and the experience, ‘seamless and enjoyable’. However, something was not right. The analysts looking at the performance of the app were surprised to see that while Android-based phones were showing promising numbers in terms of usage and conversions while the IOS-based phones were showing high bounce rates. With the help of some analytics, the problem was identified and it really surprised everyone.
IOS usually has an on-screen back button at the top left-hand corner of the screen (as shown in the screenshot on the left) while Android had it off-screen – at the bottom of the handset. The error done by Amazon was that they created the same design for both IOS and Android.
The top left-hand corner now had the hamburger-menu icon instead of the back button in IOS phones (as shown in the screenshot on the right). Whenever users wanted to go back, they couldn’t find the button. So, they were left with no choice but to exit the app and start again which saw a high bounce rate. Also, not every person who exits the app comes back and hence, the sales kept decreasing as well.
Conclusion: Seamless – No. UX design – poor.
Once they realized this, they shifted the hamburger-menu icon a little to the right allowing space for the back button in its original place and voila! The numbers started picking up.
I told you, it is a thin line.
So, what elements should I consider to create a good UX design?
Short answer – think of all the elements your user interacts with and clicks on. Think of every detail a user fills. Try to make the mistakes your users might make. If you are asking for the user’s phone number and a user enters 9 digits instead of 10, it should be highlighted rather than not allowing the user to move to the next page. Basically, don’t design for yourself, design for the user.
“Good design is actually a lot harder to notice than poor design, in part because good designs fit our needs so well that the design is invisible.”
– Don Norman.
Here are some do’s and don’ts to help you understand UX design better:
- One of the biggest mistakes made by most website/mobile app owners is that they create the digital real estate, upload the content (text, images and videos), launch it into the market and approach a UX designer only when the performance of their site/app doesn’t look promising. The golden rule of a good UX design is – ‘start UX before you develop your website or app.’
- If you look at Instagram’s app, it ‘feels’ easy to use. On the other hand, Twitter’s app looks cluttered and gives the ‘feeling’ that it might take a while getting used to it. And don’t even get me started on Reddit. The dramatic increase in users on Instagram as compared to Twitter is proof of this. Instagram has a neat and minimalistic design keeping the persona of the user in mind.
- UX design is a cyclic process. You can’t create a design and stick with it for the rest of your life. You have to keep assessing and analyzing user behaviour and you have to change your design if your users are facing problems. This helps you improve your product continuously and it also creates a brand image of being user-focused and evolving. This is why every app you have release so many updates from time-to-time. It is intended to make your experience better.
- UX design is a powerful tool. Established businesses have increased customer retention and successfully changed the identity of the brand using effective UX designs. A good user experience helps build brand affection among the customers.
- Be the user and not the brand. If you can think, feel and function like your target user, you will create an interface that resonates perfectly with the users. Be intuitive about it and always try to get feedback from your users.
To sum it up, if your target user can perform the core task (ordering a product or filling up a form) in minimal time and without much friction, then your UX design is a success.
To sum up, what is UX design? It is the process of enabling the user to navigate the interface of your website/app ‘seamlessly’ while having an ‘enjoyable’ experience at the same time. If you don’t have the resources to hire a full-time design person, you can hire freelance UX designer who can help you create a website/app or sales software. We recommend reading the 10 commandments to follow before hiring a designer before you actually hire them. And when you do interview them, try asking them ‘What is UX design?’ to judge their knowledge. 😉
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