We live in a bubble.
When I say “We”, I refer to my fellow travelers in user experience design. We read tech articles on new software releases, we look at design sites and study style guides from Apple, Amazon and Microsoft. We debate with our fellow designers as to what the proper usage of the hamburger menu is, or whether eye-tracking adds value to the design process or not.
Meanwhile, people around the world use technology and interface with scores of screens throughout their day… and when it comes to the stuff we user experience practitioners care about? They couldn’t care less.
Oh, they want software to work… And they also want it to be easy. But when it comes to affordance, and “design languages” and interaction modes and models… Honey Badger don’t care.
We often lose sight of that basic fact – users are focused on DOING or CONSUMING, not analyzing or deconstructing the UI they interact with in order to get things done. Design is a factor, but we must think about WHEN it is a factor to be better at user experience design.
Here’s some thoughts about how to look more at UX design from the perspective of users, to create better designs and make a real difference for consumers of our work.
UX design as differentiator? It’s also about UX design as sales tool
We “sell” UX as a differentiator, and it absolutely is. But it’s also a sales tool, because people are attracted to things that are clean, elegant and well designed. Just ask Apple. We need to make sure that form and function are both a key focus of what we do.
Do great UI design so users won’t blame themselves
Users like to engage with an interface that is aesthetically pleasing, but they also want to use something that aligns with how they think, speak and work… which is why user research is a vital part of the design process. If the experience aligns with what they expect, and lets them get things done, it’s going to be more usable and easier to understand. It’s important for another reason… it can help users not feel stupid.
Users often blame themselves, and not the badly designed UI – especially users who are not particularly savvy with technology. This reinforces the core point, stated above. Not only could they care less about “UI design”, they think less of their selves because they can’t “figure it out.”
Create solutions, not portfolio pieces
Too many people I know in the UX design profession are focused on impressing stakeholders, and building out their portfolio. That is not what UX is about. UX is about solutions to problems, not building a body of work. IF something looks beautiful, but doesn’t “work”… it doesn’t make a difference. Unless you want to frame it as an art piece.
Make the UI MORE invisible
Because the doing is more important than the medium the doing takes place (traditionally, a UI), our goal as designers should be to remove the unnecessarily, to make the process simple (but not TOO simple). We aren’t paid per screen – well, at least, most of us aren’t (or shouldn’t be). Users want to engage with technology to accomplish goals and solve problems, and sometimes… NO screens are the best solution. Think proactive notifications, intelligent agents, or voice interaction. It’s about the doing, not the seeing.
So there’s a few things to keep in mind… while users don’t care about UI design, we do. It’s our job, and we need to do the best job we can. Good UX work by us means users don’t ever have to think about it.