“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough” – Albert Einstein
What is User Experience (UX)?
It’s all about to give the best experience to users no matter what our product or application offers. They should feel that the app is easy to use and receive good services. User Experience (UX) is the research that is carried out before starting any product design. The product may be a game, toothpaste or jumbo jet but every product requires design and flow plan because we need to analyze the service we provide to the users according to their expectations. Everyone provides services with different options, however all the applications have common requirements like registration, booking, storing, purchases and so on. The product therefore has to provide an overall excellent experience to the user.
Even if we know our product is great, why do we need to perform user experience research?
Very few inventions were discovered by accident but most evolved from research. The microwave oven is one classic example of a great invention discovered by accident and advanced by research over various iterations. However, we cannot “invent” user experience by accident. Instead, we can assess the user experience by various methods as on ongoing process. While the product we create may be great, its success depends on the number of the users frequently using our application. We design products for users and not what is convenient for us and our developers. The product has to reduce user’s time and workload while at the same time ensuring better results. Usability of the product therefore, plays an important role in any product’s success, than its likability component.
User need influences business model
Our business model and user requirements need to be assessed to build a usable product. One needs to balance both requirements in order to eliminate unwanted design and optimize development cost.The illustrations below expresses that a product emerges from the confluence of business application and user needs.
However, I have seen many products being changed based on user requests, after it has been launched into the market. While this perfectly acceptable, it may be worthwhile concentrating on user experiences as much as possible before the start of development through prospective customer research, beta testing, etc. The illustration below takes development into account and the product emerging out of this confluence is a more robust product than the previous case.
Even a few weeks of research save months of development costs and time and months of research saves years of development cost and time.
Does User Research depend on product’s market potential?
Yes, this is true but a small product may need more user research as compared to a large product. Since we are in the software field, let us take the example of the calculator. The calculator is just a one-screen application. We will need to concentrate more on the design and user experience of a single screen application. A simple non-functioning button could annoy the user and s/he may never use it again.
If on the other hand, we developed calculator application in 10 pages, with each page serving a different function of the calculator, then even when one page is not functioning, the user will still use rest of the application if they need the service. However, this is not the case with single page applications. The user will simply move to a better product or application.
I would like to narrate a small story here. Once a person met a summit speaker in Europe, a very successful stage speaker. To know this speaker’s success, the man asked him regarding his preparation time before any lecture.
Person: How many days do you take to prepare for a 3-hour speech?
Speaker: 1 day
Person: How many days do you take to prepare for a 2-hour speech?
Speaker: 2 days
Person: How many days do you take to prepare for a 1-hour speech?
Speaker: 3 to 4 days
Person: How many days do you take to prepare for a 30-minute speech?
Speaker: 1 week
Person: How many days do you take to prepare for 5-minute speech?
Speaker: 1 month.
It is very clear that for the success of a short speech, one needs more research on the topic and the audience. By this example, I hope you can understand how much user research is needed for a product with a simple application. While designing the product, one must keep in mind that knowledgeable, technical and business people are not the only ones who are going to use it. The product is for everyone. Even non-technical people need to use our product with ease. Only products that are simple to use, reduces user time and workload will go on to become successful products. One must remember that irrespective of our product’s application – be it large or small – its success is directly proportional to the amount of UX research we have executed. An illustration of this concept is depicted below.
How to research users?
Our users could be anyone: Literate or illiterate, rich or poor, tech savvy or not, etc. They may belong to different continents or countries and they may use different platforms to use our product. Hence we need to research on all these scenarios. We also need to ask many questions. What about the OS they are using? How will our product display in their system?
The website is the best example. In a website, there are many systems with different sizes and types. System size starts from 10 inches up to 32+ inches and OS could be Windows, Mac, Unix, etc. When it comes to mobiles, imagine how our site will display in mobile devices of varying screen size and resolution. Even mobiles have different operating systems. A thorough analysis of system behavior, operating system functionality, and how users work around their systems are the main points to note before designing a product. This will help us to deliver the best product.
An example for well executed user research: Facebook vs. Orkut
Ask yourself this simple question: How could Google’s most popular social platform at one point called Orkut could have flopped against Facebook? One must note that when Orkut was at its peak popularity, Facebook was only a startup. The simple answer is, Facebook’s user experience (UX) were phenomenal in comparison to Orkut.
Facebook promoted SMS service in a unique way that Orkut had ignored. In a largely populated country like India for example, internet was not well penetrated and Facebook worked around this problem by letting users reply to comment on their posts through SMS. This way, even without internet, Facebook enabled user engagement effectively. People became curious as to what others have posted on their page and were compelled to respond immediately because it was as simple as replying to the SMS received.
The Facebook vs. Orkut is a classic case study that expresses the significance of “Usable vs. Likable” feature. People liked Orkut, however, some of its usable components where making people uncomfortable or uninterested. Whereas Facebook overcame the “usable” obstacles and people adopted these features with little hesitation, thereby allowing Facebook to reach over 2 billion users today. It was both usable and likable!
I would like to conclude with the following quote by Morrison: “UX Designer and UI Designer are two vastly different roles and a single person should not be hired to be responsible for both. There, I said it!” UI is about giving information to the user before using the product, while UX gives a comfortable feel to the user while using the product and getting the desired information or service.
Therefore, it is imperative that user experience (UX) be given top priority over the course of product development, irrespective of the technology’s application. One should also note that user experience is a never ending process that begins with product development and continues to evolve across various stages of the technology’s lifecycle.