fortunate enough to be working at an incredibly exciting time in our industry.
Yes, the challenges are considerable, but the opportunities are equally
transformational. It’s never been a more exciting time to work as a User
Experience (UX) designer.
designers deliver wonderful, considered, and memorable user experiences. Doing
that isn’t easy and — through this series of articles — I’ll provide a wealth
of pointers to ensure you’re on the right track. In short, I’ll ensure we have
all the bases covered.
first started working on the web right at the start (yes, I’m that old!), user
experience wasn’t even something that was on the radar. Our primary focus was,
“Just make it work.” The digital landscape has evolved rapidly, and ‘making it
work’ is now commonplace. As a consequence, our role as designers has evolved
to encompass delight — “Make it work. And make it delightful.” Delight is a
skill, and we’ll explore its importance throughout this series.
Design has evolved rapidly over the last number of years and, as the
field has matured, we have begun to see the emergence of what is ‘experience
design’ as a focus. What is experience design exactly? This series of ten
articles, which covers the breadth of the UX field, will build to encompass
user experience design in the broadest sense. I’ll explore how UX has evolved
and how it is changing as we accelerate into the 21st century.
I’ll kick everything off and tell the story of where we’ve been, where we are,
and where we’re going.
A human-centered approach
UX is an
ever-changing field, and the discipline has evolved considerably over the last
few decades. It can be a struggle at times to keep up as our deliverables have
changed and evolved over time — desktop and mobile, mouse and touch, web and
native, and the list goes on.
One aspect of UX remains consistent, however — users. Personally, I prefer the term “humans” to “users.” The former, “humans,” are complicated — living busy lives, eager for delight, yet, at times suffering from frustration. The latter, “users,” runs the risk of being a little too abstract and, as such, a little too easy to dismiss. Let’s design for humans!
people, and people have feelings. To design effective user experiences we need
to factor in those feelings — designing for delight and alleviating frustration
where humanly possible.
we need to design with functionality in mind, but equally, in our role as
designers of experiences, we should include a focus on delight.
truly human-centered user experiences, we need to understand how humans work
and that requires a degree of focus on psychology. Our remit as designers has
broadened over the last few years, and we now need to understand not only the
mechanics of how to build products and services but also why we build these
products and services.
two contrasting examples and I think we can understand a little more about how
our role as designers has changed. I’m sure most of us have used online banking
in our time and many of us will, no doubt, have experienced differing
experiences using these services.
moved from my old bank (who shall remain nameless) to Monzo, a relatively new
digital-first “challenger bank.” The experience was transformational. My old
bank — a traditional bricks and mortar business — considered its mobile and
web-based apps as add-ons, and it showed. The interfaces were complex,
unintuitive, and downright frustrating. Monzo, on the other hand, had built a digital-first
application. It was delightful; so much so, that I moved my banking to it.
consider the amounts of money — not to mention profit — that banks can make
through everyday transactions, it becomes critical to shift towards a
human-centered approach. It’s not just banks, either — all businesses can
benefit from a human-centered mindset.
always-on, connected world the temptation to shift to competing products and
services is always at our fingertips. If we don’t design for delight — putting
experience design at the heart of our process — we run the risk of losing
customers in what is often a cut-throat world.
we position delight at the heart of what we create, we can ensure that our
customers, humans, remain with us for the long haul. The bottom line? Invest in
delight and the rewards will be indisputable.
Building a UX primer
of articles will explore UX in the broadest context. I’ll be writing ten
articles that collectively will act as a “UX Primer.” My goal is to help you as
much as possible, collecting what I believe are timeless principles that will
stand the test of time.
explore the entire process of designing great user experiences:
- Starting by stressing the importance of a considered user
research process that informs our design decisions.
- Exploring the wealth of tools that we can use to design
great user experiences, stressing the importance of a prototyping process that
is fit for purpose.
- Stressing the qualities, one needs to develop when pursuing
a role as a UX leader, and that need to be considered when building a UX team.
Put simply, the user experience design process can be distilled down as follows:
Observation → Idea Generation → Prototyping → Testing
This is a
cyclical process. The best work is often iterative, running through this loop
multiple times to ensure that we test our assumptions and revisit our designs
fundamental. To address our users’ needs we need to put ourselves in their
shoes, we need to understand their goals and motivations, then design
experiences that deliver these high-level goals. It’s important not only to ask
those we design for about their needs, but it’s also important to observe.
Often the most telling findings are the result of observation.
is a process, which we need to consider at every step of the customer journey.
I’ll explore the importance of using research findings to deliver both paper
prototypes, visual designs, and, ultimately, high-fidelity prototypes, which we
can build to communicate and test our ideas, before building finished products
believe it’s important to focus on the qualities one needs to develop in order
to grow in this rapidly changing experience design
industry. It’s an exciting time to be a designer, and I believe if we
open our eyes to other industries’ approaches, we can improve what we do.
The ever-shifting context
bombarded daily with messages — whether that’s in a desktop or mobile context.
In this environment, it’s understandable that the people we design for can feel
a sense of fatigue in the face of endless calls to action.
industry first came into existence, we designed websites, which were, more
often than not, standalone experiences. Life was a great deal simpler. The
launch of the iPhone a decade ago changed everything. Suddenly, we were
designing for both desktop and mobile situations.
has shifted once again as we witness an explosion of “connected products” that
are starting to deliver on the promise on the “internet of things.” As
designers, we now have a new set of challenges — to tie everything together and
deliver seamless user experiences.
news is that we can learn a great deal by widening our frame of reference,
learning from other disciplines that are a little more mature than our
relatively new industry.
learn from the worlds of Industrial Design and Service Design, applying the
lessons learned there to our own design industry. If you’re scaling up your
knowledge (which I believe you should always be doing!), there’s never been a
better time for you to open your eyes to disciplines beyond our own.
believe that the present (and the future) is multidisciplinary. To truly stand
out as a designer, it’s important to have a deep understanding of your own
discipline, but — equally, and importantly — to be able to communicate with
others from related disciplines. The future will be dominated by what Tim
Brown, CEO and president of IDEO, calls “T-Shaped” people. I’ll explore the
importance of developing these qualities throughout this series.
opportunities ahead are fantastic for designers working in this industry. It’s
challenging, of course, to keep up with an ever-shifting digital landscape, but
equally, it’s incredibly exciting.
landscape is evolving fast, but it’s important to remember that fundamental
design principles remain constant. I’m an optimist. Yes, the challenges ahead
are daunting, but equally, I can think of no better time to be working as a
Continue reading about UX in my next article, the Universal Principles of Experience Design.