What is User Experience (UX)?

Over the weekend I decided to research user experience (UX) which is a subject of interest to me because of two reasons:

  1. I have spent a lot of time helping my parents and other older relatives to use web apps when they do not understand what to do next or are confused by a user interface.
  2. The improvements I made to the web installer and the development of an onboarding wizard for the Koha Library Management System in my summer internship (discussed in my first entry ‘My initial thoughts on research’), included a strong focus on making the system easier for new users to follow and understand.

The first place I went to learn about UX was Wikipedia, however I quickly realized that it is a huge topic with a great many sub-disciplines as the below screenshot shows:

see also.PNG

So instead of trying to wade my way through all these related articles I decided to go back to basics and understand what the concept of user experience is.

I found this useful resource (https://www.usertesting.com/blog/2013/12/10/14-must-read-articles-for-the-ux-newbie/) offering 16 articles about UX, after reading through these 16 articles I would like to discuss what I learned:

What I learned and my reflections:

What is user experience? It is the thoughts and emotions we generate from interacting with a system, website, person, device, or anything that gives an output that we can reflect on.

Although generally applied to our interaction with websites and apps,  UX could also be the interaction we have with a member of staff at the supermarket, or using an appliance like a microwave.

I see UX as the whole emotional experience you get from performing an interactive action with a responsive system or object. UX isn’t generated from sitting in a chair doing nothing, but from actively seeking interaction with something.

What is the difference between usability and UX?

Usability (a sub discipline of UX) concentrates on making systems easy to use so that users do not have to think but can intuitively navigate and perform tasks with the system.

UX and usability are often confused but from what I have read UX takes the idea of usability and expands it further through the goal of making systems actually enjoyable to use. Something I learned from article 5 is that “the primary objective (of UX) is to help people”(Hess, 2009).

The mission of UX professionals is not just to make a easy to use and enjoyable product but more importantly to help make the users lives better.

How do we implement good UX in software systems?

As I see it there are three important things to be considered to implement good UX:

  • Devise a message that you want to communicate to all users of your system. This message can then be used as the baseline for all design and front-end development decisions to be checked against.
  • Don’t assume UX is just about the user interfaces. In addition to the design of the UI the way content is structured needs to be considered so when a user enters your site/app they know what page to go to to get the information they require. Otherwise they will just get confused and use a competitors site/app.

Let me expand upon my first point: This article  (http://52weeksofux.com/post/320399665/the-first-rule-of-ux) talks about the first rule of UX which is that all decisions made by designers will affect the users impression of the system.

This means not only intentional but also unintentional actions on the part of designers and front-end developers can have a direct impact on the user experience. Therefore by devising a message to communicate rather than just having the vague intention of wanting to implement good UX means designers can actually analyze every decision they make to ensure it is adding value to the message they want to convey.

I found this to be a particularly interesting concept because I have never consciously sat down when designing and developing websites and thought of a message I was always too keen to get on with the coding.

For example when designing and developing my portfolio website my goals was for  visitors to leave the site with the impression that I am professional, and highly motivated, I did not spend time coming up with a specific message to convey.

What needs to be considered when implementing good UX?

In order to perform their profession’s mission to make users lives better UX professionals must think about many different aspects of the systems user experience  (as the below info graph shows).

user-experience-areas.jpg

(Harvey, 2013)

As a side note: Information architecture analysis (identifying the audience and their needs and then designing the site layout and content to meet those needs) is what we are performing in WEB701 at the moment (I also used it to design the Koha onboarding wizard) however as I said above I have always been too keen to get on with the coding and so I have never used information architecture analysis in side projects.

Not only does good UX help and entertain users but it also conveys the business message of the company behind the system. So if you think of a company with a strong mission statement: Facebook, for example, whose mission is to make the world more open and connected.

facebook mission.jpg

(Bell, n.d.)

Well they are conveying this message through the UX on their site because there are Like, Share and comment buttons on all posts so that people can connect with their friends and family.

So I see Facebook as a good example of UX both helping/entertaining users and conveying a corporate message.

Why is UX important?  In our world of short attention spans (research now shows that human attention span is shorter than a goldfish (Watson, 2015)) if a product is either difficult to use or not interesting enough to grab our attention then we are likely to leave/exit the website or app and look for something better.

As Clare discussed in class the other day we are unlikely to look beyond the first page of google search results, in much the same way if a software system is hard to use we are likely to give up or if we have to use it for work for example then we are likely to have a very poor opinion of the website/app itself and the company it represents.

A real world example I would like to give to illustrate the effects of bad UX on a website is when my father first had to use the Westpac internet banking web app to transfer money to MasterCard account. He found the process to do this confusing because it was different to transferring money between accounts. In other words instead of making the site consistent the decision was made to make the process different thereby making the site un-intuitive.

Now although this is a minor example and is unlikely to cause my dad to change banks, if companies sites are not designing with the user in mind (this type of design is called user centered design) then customers view of the company running the website/app can reduce having a knock on effect on profits.

Conclusion

So you can see that UX is hugely important in attracting and keeping customers and this is why it is one of the hottest jobs to enter at the moment as judged by TechRepublic (http://www.techrepublic.com/article/top-10-hottest-it-jobs-for-2017/).

I know that next time I build a side project website I will sit down and devote some time to actually coming up with a message (and performing information architecture analysis) I want to convey to the audience, in order to make good design decisions that  makes for good UX.

Bibliography:

Hess, W. (2009, January 10). 10 Most Common Misconceptions About User Experience Design. Retrieved March 5, 2017, from http://mashable.com/2009/01/09/user-experience-design/#qOGkb_MjaqqB

Watson, L. (2015, May 15). Humans have shorter attention span than goldfish, thanks to smartphones. Retrieved March 4, 2017, from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2016/03/12/humans-have-shorter-attention-span-than-goldfish-thanks-to-smart/

Brewer, J. (2010, January 6). The First Rule of UX – 52 Weeks of UX. Retrieved March 5, 2017, from http://52weeksofux.com/post/320399665/the-first-rule-of-ux

Harvey, A. (2013, July 2). User Experience: What Is It And Why Should I Care? – Usability Geek. Retrieved March 5, 2017, from http://usabilitygeek.com/user-experience/

Bell, J. K. (n.d.). Facebook Media Kit. Retrieved March 5, 2017, from https://www.slideshare.net/jbellatl/facebook-media-kit-us1

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