When the term “user experience design” first started being banded about it made me laugh. As someone who works to design digital solutions, the user experience has always been paramount – this is not a ‘new’ thing. It’s our job to be an empath for the user. And, we do this by finding out who the users are and what they need from the website or application.
This is why it’s important for designers, clients and product owners to remove their ego from decisions that need to be made to benefit the user. There are times when project teams might think they know what the user wants or needs, but any changes and developments to products should be based on validation that this is required by the user. It’s important to create a team of people who have expertise in the required fields but are willing to and want to learn more, this helps ensure that the product can continue to improve and grow.
How do we find out what the user wants? We ask them! If you can arrange focus groups, interviews or user testing sessions with potential users of your product early on in the project it can provide a solid foundation.
On that note, users know what they need or want to do on a website, but they may not know how best to display this function or even to articulate it. That’s when experienced designers come into their own, taking the information from the user we can develop ideas on how best to meet their needs.
We’re not done there though. After creating concepts, it’s a good idea to go back and test again. Rapid prototyping is a fantastic form of usability testing, which reduces risk and smoothes the handover process from design into development.
Testing is unequivocally the one thing that is undervalued by clients. They set out with great intentions and say they want full usability testing. They understand its value. But, when presented with the scope of work and, ultimately, the investment needed to achieve it, this is often one of the first areas to get ‘cut down’. And, this is a trend we see across many other areas of the business (i.e. web development).
Being a designer and having your ideas constantly tested can be challenging and, at times, disappointing when you realise the idea you thought would work best, doesn’t. The way I approach this is thinking about failure differently. Every failure is one step closer to success, which means it becomes harder to define a fail but easier to find progress in your work. Ultimately, this boosts morale and makes it easier to accept feedback from users and peers.
It sounds obvious, but design can often be corrupted by ego and personalities. It’s all about validation. Not just doing something that you feel is right, or you like the look of. But, doing something that has been validated by the end user. The end result is something beautiful but, more importantly, something that serves its function and drives long-term success.