Designers often brand themselves as “User Experience” designers. In fact, it is almost impossible to find a designer today who doesn’t use this attribute in their resume. But the question is: Are they genuine User Experience (UX) designers?
In general, the primary concern of UX designers is how the product feels. There is hardly a single right answer to a given design problem. As a result, UX designers need to explore various approaches to resolve a user issue. Logical flow of the product from one step to another is the responsibility of the designers. For this they often implement in-person user tests to observe their behavior. They need to identify tentative verbal and non-verbal blocks and refine them to create the “best” possible user experience.
But user experience does not depend only on how the product is designed. There are other aspects as well that make UX design more challenging. This includes the user and the situation where they use the product.
Let’s consider the factors that make it difficult to design User Experience.
It Is Not Possible To Design the User
Users are different; they have different needs and expectations. While some can use a product easily to accomplish their intended purpose, others may face difficulties. The experience of an individual with similar products often determines how a product stimulates the user. It is a general tendency of users to compare the experiences.
For example, when we visit a spa, we compare the quality of service provided and our experience to other spas we have been to. It is a natural thing to do as our previous experiences shape our expectations. Again, someone else will compare the service to their previous experiences, which are again more likely to be different from yours.
Worse still, different users have different goals. They will therefore be more likely to use your product in different modes. Let’s go back to our spa example. Say, for instance, your goal to visit the spa is to get anti-ageing treatment, while your companion is taking the service just to relax and feel rejuvenated. The goals are definitely different and this will also reflect on your experience with the place.
The same reasoning can be applied with websites, apps and software. In fact, the evocative qualities with these items vary even more as users come with a unique history, experience and expectation.
It Is Not Possible To Design The Situation
As previously mentioned, the user experience is often determined by the situation in which the product is being used. And situations often go beyond the concept of your design. They justify the use of a specific product and thereby shape the future expectations of the user.
Let’s consider the example of the very common CMS and blogging tool, WordPress. Almost all of us have used this platform at point of time. While we have usually enjoyed and explored its features, on some occasions, those very features seemed too complex to work on.
It is therefore not just the features of a product but also the situation that determines the experience of the users. In addition, user experience evolves over time. When you first tried the SnapChat iPhone app, chances were you got a little confused by it. It is a very common effect that happens when a user first tries any application. Many also complain about the resulting negative experience (read here how a user had bad first time experience with Bitcoin ATMs). But with time, people get used to it especially after they start discovering the features and potential of the application. In short, they learn to handle it properly.
There are also several ways to build a great first-time user experience but one thing remains true – the more people use your system, the more likely they are to get emotionally attached to it. This, in turn, helps to create more positive user experience.
So it is indeed the situation that largely affects the behavior and experience of a user towards your product.
But then you can design for UX…
Yes, you heard us right. While it is almost impossible to design “User Experience”, you can of course design for UX.
We generally design a product or a service keeping a particular type of user experience in mind. Unfortunately, the user may or may not appreciate the product or service the way we initially intended. As mentioned, it is not possible to define our users’ expectations or the situation in which someone uses a product.
What is more practical is to gather enough data, analyze it and understand how a user might respond or react to your product and design the experience accordingly. Based on users’ behavior, requirements and market trends, it is possible to predict certain experiences. You goal as a designer will be to design “for” that experience.
Also remember that the effectiveness of a design depends on the context in which the product will be used. In addition, the knowledge and the analytic skills of the consumer, which is shaped by their prior experience, are crucial as well. Although advertisements, for instance, are designed to elicit user experience, there are many other factors like emotion, fun, motivation, usability, and user engagement etc. on which the success of the commercials depends.
There is a subtle difference between designing user experience and designing for UX. Here is how you need to do the latter.
You need to first understand UX properly to design for it. As said, you need to understand the factors that trigger users’ emotions. Some factors to consider include its usefulness, usability, accessibility, credibility, desirability, and value.
Interviewing users, surveys, direct feedback and observing market trends are some of ways you can use to understand your users. Factors that you need to consider when designing for UX include:
- What are your users’ needs?
- How do they respond to a product/service similar to yours?
- What is missing?
- How can you address it?
- How are users likely to respond to your product under a given situation? (explore your options here)
Conclusion – Focus on Designing Flows
Designers often start designing a product/service without understanding the user experience thoroughly. Now, information architecture and designing is essential but you need to focus more on the user flows that have clear objectives. This must be supported by your designs to add value to users and create a positive user experience.
The goal is to give users what they want and that little more. In other words, exceed their expectations; they must be astonished with your efficiency. Something that would make them think, “Wow, this is the best application I’ve ever used!”