It wasn’t long ago that the process of creating digital products and services required an entire team of highly specialized players, each possessing distinct skills to bring a project from concept to realization. These teams could include business analysts, functional analysts, graphic designers, information architects, product/project managers, user interface designers, and all types of developers and engineers. To say that digital product teams of the recent past were somewhat bloated is an understatement.
More recently, budgetary pressure from clients coupled with the desire to implement a more agile, leaner approach to project development has compelled the consolidation of many once decidedly specialized roles—not to mention increased attention to human-centered design—which has led to the ascendence of the user experience designer. Nowadays, a skilled UX designer shoulders many of the responsibilities that historically were handled by various individuals who possessed distinctive skill sets.
Depending on who you ask, a UX designer may have emerged from the ranks of researchers, information architects, interface designers, interaction designers, functional analysts, business analysts or graphic designers. While the hybrid role of the UX designer may have been borne from disparate (though recognizable) roots, the function of the UX designer has come to be more than simply the sum of its parts: adept user experience design is fundamental to the success of any brand’s product or service.
Here are four things you need to know about user experience design:
01. Meeting Users’ High Expectations Requires Excellent UX Design
It may seem obvious, but it bears repeating: consumers today have exceedingly high expectations for the interactions that they have with brands, which makes user experience design an essential step in helping companies meet their business objectives. Any ill will or friction that a user encounters with a brand’s highly valuable interactions—whether it’s online or in real space—could costs money for the company. More importantly, excellent conceived experiences can either lead to user loyalty while poorly conceived experiences can break user trust.
02. UX Design Anticipates Needs of Real Users’ Real Experiences
Great user experience design isn’t accidental. A UX designer has thoroughly considered how real consumers interact with a brand’s product—whether it’s an app or a website—thus, these real consumers intuitively understand how to use a brand’s app or website, even at first blush. Designers who talk about “easy-to-learn” interfaces have already stymied their ability to create great user experiences: unless customers come to an educational program with the intention of working their brains, they don’t want to have to learn anything just to use a product. User experience anticipates the real needs of real users, and is able to make decisions for them in advance.
03. Iteration Is Key to UX Design
UX designers may not always have all of the answers, but having deep empathy for users’ needs and understanding their behavior helps to uncover how a digital product or service should function. Creating an interface that accurately guesses the kinds of information a user needs at any given time—and presents only that information—is an essential component of fine UX. Moreover, a keen understanding of what users expect from brand interactions can lead to revealing where, why, and how users are actually experiencing brands. Paying careful attention to these important things can lead to insights and make designs more responsive.
04. One Size UX Does Not Fit All
Lastly, user experience design should be unique and specific to a brand. There is no such thing as one-size-fits-all user experience. A UX design that works for Google might not work for Facebook. Balancing the familiarity necessary to make a product intuitive and the uniqueness to make a product novel is difficult, but doing so can lead to a hugely satisfying brand experience. To do this, focus on the little things—pat the user on the back after they’ve filled out a form and thank them for their time. Tell them to have a great day when they’re logging off. Little touches set products with well-honed UX apart from the competition without the risk of alienating users by pushing them into unfamiliar territory.
by Mike Lee
FOUR32C is a digital agency in NY. We’re curious digital natives who bring creativity and intelligence to the world’s most beloved brands. We create thoughtful, compelling experiences by starting every project with questions. Our process leads to evocative products designed with a purpose for every pixel. For more information, visit us at www.four32c.com.