Client-centrism persists in the fight for even the slightest increase in competitive advantage. A lightning-quick leap in quality of the websites, web pages and applications made the average user very exacting. It is already the non-basic usefulness that defines our decision to use a given solution or not.
Every contact with the interface has to be simple, pleasant and intuitive. The product needs not only to meet its objective (whether it consists in return of a client, acquisition of a lead or a finalised purchase) but also the provide the user with a pleasant experience. EXPERIENCE: the modern user is increasingly driven by emotions and likes to be pampered. Without strong support from user experience (UX) and user interface (UI), the “experience” might not meet the expectations and, as a result, a software house’s client may receive a product that, while working well when it comes to technical matters, may not work so well in terms of efficiency.
UX and UI: definitions and differences
The notions of UX and UI coexist and overlap. “User experience” is currently the more “fashionable” of these two notions, but let us not forget the solid foundations, that is, the UI.
“It is particularly interesting that on an average day we do not wonder how important the interface of the tools we use is. We usually notice its negative aspects when we complain about these elements of it that we do not like. Meanwhile, every window, field, menu, and system message, as well as their placement, planning and implementation, have a significant impact on how the product created is received by the end users. And even if we create a tool that is almost perfect from the technical point of view, the whole good work can be undermined by a poorly designed interface and the user experience resulting from it. And this is exactly what our team is handling in Programa. We care for the use of the tool to be convenient and satisfying rather than associated with some “fight for survival”. However, we sometimes joke that every time someone finds something that we could have done better, one of us stumbles or experiences some other misfortune,” says Denis Pokotycki, Business Analyst and UX/UI Designer in Programa.
UX designers are responsible for translating the whole idea of the final product into code (both the front-end and the back-end). They may participate in creation of the graphic design, and they also handle designing, planning and implementing all the possible scenarios within the scope of application-user interaction. It is a job that requires a versatile set of skills: starting with cognitivistics, through aesthetic values, and ending with exact sciences and familiarity with the client’s processes. The most import thing, however, is experience: the priceless knowledge gained during the implementation of previous projects helps in efficient implementation of the following ones.
User Experience (in contract to UI) cares for the impressions of the user, that is, preparation of the final product (web application, mobile application, website, online store) in such a manner as to make the whole process of using it joyfully, efficient, encouraging the user to use it regularly, and, additionally, motivating to take the action specified in business objectives.
The work of a UX designer starts with examining the business needs of the client and then (often in the form of focus groups or online tests) examining the expectations of end users and patterns of their behaviour (what is particularly useful here is the so-called heatmaps, i.e. charts presenting the activity of users within a given area of the interface).
UX studies the competition, collects the needs and builds the whole project strategy. It watches over the excellent quality content, which - together with the interface improved by the UI - creates a joint whole, that is, the final product tailored to the needs of the software house’s client and the end users.
UX skilfully combines functionality, appearance and client’s business processes. It is a complex discipline that combines many fields, including e.g. prototyping or business analyses. In view of that, it is worth underlining that a UX Designer is a specialist who combines competences from many disciplines.
In a few words, we can say that UI is responsible for the foundations of application functioning and the interface, while UX consists in perfectly designed experiences and impressions after using the product.
What do UX and UI mean in a good Software House?
In the modern Software Houses, the fields of UX and UI should no longer be a bargaining card, but a standard that is required for good functioning. Even the small companies need to design in compliance with good UX and UI practices in order for the product sold to the client to not only meet the technical specifications but also answer the business needs.
“A good UX Designer is a versatile person who understands business, understands how devices and interfaces work, knows the behaviour of the user, has a very good sense of aesthetics, and is not afraid of talking to people and interviewing or surveying them. The UX Designer is also often called the user’s advocate among programmers, a person who makes sure that usability and visual aspect of the design is maintained rather than considers the design with regard whether it works or not,” says Denis Pokotycki
When talking about design teams working for the client, it is worth mentioning that one of the roles of a software house is to collaborate closely with the client on each stage of the design. Mutual trust and transparency make it possible to finish a project that is “healthy”, one that will provide the client with benefits expected, irrespective of whether that means a well-functioning online store, a tool for generating leads, or a beautiful and efficient mobile application.
Nowadays, the expenses on IT technologies have to pay for themselves as soon as possible. The technology itself “does not earn money”, but if we create it according to the expectations of the end users, if we examine their behaviour, needs and habits in detail and also design a thoroughly tested interface, we can expect to bring to life a product that is efficient, friendly and realistic.
“I don’t need UX”, or the mistakes most commonly made.
In spite of the growing popularity, UI, and especially UX, are still brushed off often as an “additional service that is not necessary for the project to reach a successful ending”. In reference to the previous section, let us mention several mistakes that may happen when a project misses the “Interface” or the “Experience”:
neglecting the “zero point”
if we do not know who the recipients are, we basically stand no chance of creating a final product for a software house’s client that would meet the business expectations of such client in full. The lack of strategy, benchmark or pre-implementation workshops is the proverbial taking of a sledgehammer to crack a nut, because the unspecified target and the lack of comparison to the competition may result in the objects not being communicated properly between the client and the software house.
too much inadequate content
UX cares for excellent quality web page content. The onslaught of content, popping up windows and non-intuitive navigation may result in the end user becoming lost in the application and stop using it altogether. UX designers work according to the principle that less is better. Minimalism with regard to content enables maintaining complete transparency and control over the content quality.
lack of research on user behaviour
Specification of the target group is the first part of the challenge. The second part is LEARNING the habits of that group in a specific environment, e.g. a mobile application. When do they use it? In what way? What do they look at the most often? What would they like to change? Without studying the users it may turn out again that we are making an application “for ourselves”.
lack of correlation with business objectives
Is the application supposed to boost sales, or just look pretty? Do we want to acquire new leads, or do we need this website because the competition has a similar one? UX and UI serve the business objectives. They help turn them into content, the visual aspect, and the scenarios of use of the finished product. Specialists are going to take into account the business indices expected as an integral part of the very IT project – they will help create a solution that can meet the expectations.
lack of responsiveness
It might seem that responsiveness is an absolute “must have” nowadays. Indeed, it is, but responsiveness does not always mean the same thing. A good UX and UI are going to design mobile and desktop versions of a website in such a manner that the client can see the most important information on the small screen of their mobile phone. But it is not so obvious in the case of tablets, where users expect a standard desktop homepage that does not “stretch out”.
Profits from caring for UX and UI
In order to conclude this text with a few positive things (since the field of UX and UI is a bunch of positive business challenges), we refer to a few basic profits from caring for the right place for UX and UI in almost every IT project. Next, to all the values that have already been mentioned earlier, it is also worth paying attention to:
not creating “art for art’s sake”
We create web applications based on data and research that perform their tasks well: they sell, involve and build societies. Every single of them reflects the business objectives of our clients and meets their expectations fully. With the use of UX and UI, we increase the quality of user’s contract with the final product.
positioning in the eyes of the client
It is no big deal today to create a product based on IT technologies, as informatisation of the business had become standard many years ago. However, without UX and UI we will not be able to create well even that obvious form. When caring for the image of the company among clients, we need to create the highest possible quality of content and interface.
optimisation and development of software in collaboration with clients
Good UX and UI designers assume that no application is going to be a finished work. Together with the development of the business strategy, it may become necessary to introduce new functions, changes or improvements. Designing the application is such a manner that they can “grow” together with clients and meet the UX standards is one of the significant objectives of the project team. Supporting the execution with research on users and pre-implementation analysis often enables to anticipate the next steps of improvements already at the early stage of design.
User Experience and User Interface are two fields that only appear to be similar. And although both of them serve the user convenience, the tools they employ are completely different. These two fields are often confused (similarly to Business Intelligence and Big Data), but they are strongly related and collaborate actively.
In no event can we say that one of these areas is “more important” - both are equally important for the success of a given project. The UI and UX designer pay attention to different aspects of application building and get involved in different stages of the project, but their task is to create together an application that will provide the end user with convenient and PLEASANT use.
We instinctively choose things that are pleasant to use. Things that appeal to us, are useful, simple and intuitive. Whether it is an application for language learning or an information portal, what we look for in the ocean of the Internet in places created with us, users, in mind. And those that we return to most eagerly are usually backed by a team of User Experience/User Interface Designers.
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