White paper written by Patrick Graf
Everyone is talking about UX; companies are desperately looking for five-legged sheep, training courses are springing up around the world, and it seems like everyone has a strong opinion on the subject.
Today we’re going to answer a few key questions: what do we mean when we say “User Experience”, why is everyone so excited about it, and how can organisations (like yours) benefit from the power of UX?
We UX specialists have long advocated for approaching a digital project by first prioritising the users’ needs. It’s taken time to develop new design methods (the UX process) and to preach the good word to our audience.
When it comes to evaluating the success of a digital solution, the user always has the last word. Sure, the adoption rate of your product or service depends on its desirability (is it attractive, practical, fun, and easy to use?), but also on its utility (will it improve my daily life?). The UX methodology considers the needs of users as well as your business objectives – in other words, how to improve your brand image by offering valuable tools that are also easy to use.
This is where a UX team comes into its own, matching your business objectives with the real needs of your users.
Let’s unpack the term “user experience“. We can quickly conclude that it is an experience, good or bad, made by a person (a less pejorative term than “user“) when using a digital solution. We are therefore talking about Design applied to Technology.
However, User Experience is a subset of a much broader concept: a person’s overall experience with a brand – their “Customer Experience“.
Let’s take a simple example. You order an electronic device online. The eCommerce platform is easy to use, and you find your product quickly; the ordering process is smooth, and delivery is fast. You have a good “user experience”.
But the connection cable you ordered with your device doesn’t work. You contact customer service for advice, and to exchange the cable. No one can answer your question or solve your problem, you’re shunted from service to service, and your device still doesn’t work. You have had a bad customer experience. Your confidence in this company has dropped, and you’ll be sure to pause before you order anything else from this platform.
UX, in all its forms, is therefore, an essential communication and loyalty tool.
And CX, in all its forms, makes great ambassadors when your customer is happy.
Now, let’s get something straight. User Experience and Customer Experience are two very different professions requiring adapted expertise. One of Magic Pencil’s strengths is how we can respond to your digital challenges with both visions of seasoned communicators.
At this stage, it’s tempting to propose a single definition of “User Experience”. Many specialists have endeavoured to do exactly this, but failed to nail down a short, powerful, and exhaustive formula.
So let me turn to Don Norman, the undisputed pioneer of UX.
I will take the liberty of adding the words of another pioneer to those of Norman:
Dylan’s message has never been more relevant. The times are indeed changing, and in frontier fields like UX, the pace of that change can seem overwhelming. But the key takeaway from the UX methodology is simple: to find solutions, you must first understand the problem
UX design is not just about creating pretty interfaces for digital applications. In the usual flow of a UX design process, the “graphic” design phase is one of the last steps. It builds on the knowledge gained in the previous stages of analysis, allowing creators to approach the ‘graphic’ design with well-founded arguments.
UX = Analysis and research phase.
UI = Graphic design phase.
The UX designer will participate in the complete development of your digital application, starting with a collaborative definition of the objectives, an analysis of the target audiences and their needs, iterative prototyping, testing with users, systemic design, briefing the development teams – oh, and some project management too. We’ll come back to all these aspects of UX in detail in future episodes, but for now, it’s useful to understand the scope of what UX encompasses.
The role of the UX designer is to facilitate the design stages of your product. For this reason, the job titles “UX Designer” and “Product Designer” are often used to express the same thing.
Whether you are a UX designer or a product designer: try it, and you’ll get it!
Adding an extra step at the beginning of a digital project is certainly not a waste of time. Sure, it involves adding new skills and stages to already complex processes. But the “decomplexification” of a given project is precisely one of the benefits that the UX process offers.
It’s all about activating the right tools – facilitation and planning – at the beginning of the design phase. Experimenting with working methods, exploring solutions, questioning certainties, and making assumptions are fundamental to your project’s success. These experiments should take place alongside the rapid creation of deliverables. If a change made during the UX phase takes an hour, it’s sure to take twice as long during the design phase – and ten times longer during the development phase.
Gone are the days when designers presented models according to their tastes to clients who validated them according to their moods. UX has transformed industries by adding analytical, pragmatical and rational notions to the purely instinctive aspects of design. The entire process has become more rigorous, both for designers and sponsors.
UX is, first and foremost, a methodology that allows you to consider all aspects that guarantee the success of your digital project. The goal is to identify the problems (and unknowns) and adapt the UX process to the specific context of each project, finding the optimal solutions for your specific needs in the shortest possible time.
There’s one more important (and too often underestimated) benefit that the UX process brings to your digital projects. The ability to create a shared vision of the project and to align the efforts of the internal (and external) stakeholders towards an identified and formulated goal.
If this methodology seems strict or overly analytical, take heart – there’s plenty of room for experimentation and improvisation. Discovery is the critical phase of the initial process, which is often when well-established convictions in companies and teams can be called into question. It’s then a matter of setting up a few UX workshops that allow your teams to unlock their creativity and spontaneity and explore new, unexpected avenues.
Adopting an UX approach in your digital projects means nothing less than adopting a new mindset within your teams and service providers. This leads to a new kind of collaboration, rapidly going beyond the UX framework to penetrate the broader sphere of Co-Design.
The issues analysed at the beginning of a UX process will often call more fundamental aspects into states of uncertainty. Asking the right questions may cause stirs, leading to new ways of thinking, and provoking necessary changes. The answers to these questions require tackling a number of related topics: branding and positioning, digital visibility, content strategy, content creation, technological context, digital transformation and employee training – to name just a few.
This quick overview of UX is intended to give a glimpse of the many topics and skills required to design a digital solution successfully. Specific UX specialisations are emerging (such as UX-Writing, cognitive psychology, quantitative analysis or collaborative workshops). Your designer needs to manage all these while still maintaining a holistic vision of your challenges. The UX designer then becomes a project manager who will identify the required skills and build an ad-hoc team that will be able to solve the challenges of your future product quickly.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this brief article on the nature of UX. By now, you should have a stronger understanding of the power of UX, and how it can be leveraged to help you achieve your goals.