There are dozens of trends percolating within the tech industry right now, from the Internet of Things to commercial drones to the increased demand for cyber security. What might surprise you, is that one of the biggest trends in web design and development isn’t based in technology at all, but rather in the crucial—but sometimes forgotten—human element.
Companies can no longer ignore the importance of Customer Experience (CX) when building digital experiences. CX is defined as “the sum total of what your customer wants, does, sees, thinks, feels and likes,” and in an increasingly digital world, we must extend its best-practices to digital design and development. Now UX/UI Designers are stepping in to close the gap between user and creator.
User Experience (UX) Designers tackle how the product feels, whereas User Interface (UI) Designers work on the actual layout of its elements. Essentially it’s the UX designer’s job to make sure the UI designer knows exactly how to lay out the wireframe, or arrange the buttons on a machine, based on the interaction they want the user to have with that given product. Since the two roles are so intrinsically linked, most CX-concerned positions combine UX/UI into one role.
Here are five key reasons to bring a UX/UI Designer on board:
To Organize Your Website
All good designers knows how important a solid Information Architecture is to the success of a website. Imagine going into a grocery store with no signs, no aisle markers, and no clear exit. There’s a good chance you would get frustrated and leave rather than searching for the specific product you came in for.
This is exactly what companies want to avoid, especially those with e-commerce sites that need a clear path to the checkout page. It’s the UX/UI Designer’s job to map out a website, organize the content, and make sure users can find exactly what they’re looking for.
To Know What the User Wants
All websites should be created a specific goal in mind. E-commerce sites want users to make a purchase, editorial sites want users to read and share their content, and so on. The great thing about UX/UI is its ability to tap into user’s brain in a measurable way that can be communicated directly to the designer, developer, and client. It’s all about engagement and knowing the customer’s journey.
Google’s HEART Framework is a great tool for CX Metrics that measures Happiness, Engagement, Adoption, Retention, and Task Success. UX/UI Designers typically solicit test-users to try out a wireframe or website, then report back on how the experience was received. Real people, with real experiences that can be both quantitatively and qualitatively measured. Now that’s a beautiful thing!
To Make Your Product Accessible For Everyone
Sometimes we in the industry forget that not all users are 25-year-old developers working at an agency in Brooklyn. Users are real people, with a myriad of needs that need to be kept in mind. Don’t forget:
- Responsive Design: Ensures a seamless user experience across desktop, mobile, and tablet devices of all sizes. “Mobile users are five times more likely to abandon the task if the site isn’t optimized for mobile,” so optimizing across all devices is almost a requirement.
- Internet Connection Speeds: Although slow dial-up modems are largely a thing of the past, developers must still consider load times for when the user is away from their (hopefully) speedy home network. With 40% of online shoppers abandoning a page that takes more than three seconds to load, it’s important to keep things snappy.
- Browser Consideration: Not everyone uses Chrome on a brand-new MacBook Pro. It’s essentially to consider your audience, and make sure the site will work on all browsers, as well as older device models.
To Identify the User
Let’s be honest, not every site is for everyone. It’s unlikely that someone living in small-town USA will visit a website that lists upcoming concerts in NYC, just as the music-lover in Manhattan probably isn’t hitting up restaurant listings in Ohio. And different audiences mean different needs and concerns when it comes to design and development.
Many UX/UI Designers craft “personas” in order to better understand the target user. A persona is “depicted as a specific person but is not a real individual; rather, it is synthesized from observations of many people…[as] a way to model, summarize and communicate research about people.
By honing in on the different types of users that a specific site might experience, UX/UI Designers are able to identify their needs, desires, and behaviors that will factor into the ultimate site design and features. For example the NYC concert-attendee is probably on the go a lot, so he’ll want an easy to view mobile platform.
Get to know who it is you’re creating for! Key elements to identify include:
- Age, gender, location
- Daily behavioral habits
- Interests, likes, dislikes
- Accessibility needs
- Familiarity with your product/brand
To Advocate For The User
It takes many minds to create a website, and naturally everyone involved comes to the table with a different goal in mind. The designer wants to make the site as beautiful as possible. The developer wants to be sure all functionality elements perform properly. The project manager wants to keep the client happy, and make sure their expectations are met. No matter what, UX/UI Designers are there to advocate for the user!
Consider this common scenario: Your design team is hellbent on adding in an awesome, but unnecessary flourish to the homepage. The project manager thinks the client will love it and the developer is excited to build it using new animation techniques. The only problem? It makes the user sit idly by for 30 seconds until they can access the navigation menu.
A good UX/UI Designer is there to step in and remind the rest of the team that users get impatient, no matter how cool the effect. Abandoning the site in favor of a faster-moving competitor is never an OK outcome, and ultimately everyone on the team knows that. By bringing in ergonomics and human factors—aka industrial designing for the people—you avoid big problems down the road.