User experience (UX) is a topic you don’t hear about until someone complains that a digital platform is not intuitive or user-friendly. UX should be part of the design process from the early design concepts through the final programming and launching of your digital product.
Why User Experience Design Is Important
UX is an important part of the digital experience, especially user-centered design (UCD). Instead of focusing your design on business goals or fancy features, UCD succeeds by predicting how the end-user will interact with the product, taking into consideration their wants, needs, and limitations. Employing UCD to your design produces a product offering a more efficient and satisfying experience.
UX is also crucial to the design process. It doesn’t matter if your website or app has great visual appeal or state-of-the-art features if users cannot figure out how to use it. It must offer a positive emotional experience during their interaction, encouraging them to return.
UX Design and Process
UX design is a process with a very basic framework; it is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Different products and services will require unique approaches, but all should have UCD as the top objective.
When beginning your design process, strategize how you would tackle problems that users may face and how to solve it. Collaborative design between various teams will help identify problems from all aspects of the process and correct them before they become an issue to end-users.
Think of the connection you want the user to feel, find the problems that you want to solve, know what it is that you ultimately want the user to do, and always test! Test your platform multiple times with different people, to ensure you get feedback from a variety of perspectives.
The first rollout of Healthcare.gov showed the pitfalls of an inadequately tested site that many users struggled to navigate. This confusion could have been prevented if the programmers had given sufficient time to work out all the possible UX issues, such as the broken and confusing navigational links and applicants being kicked off the site before completing their enrollment.
Benefits From UX Design?
UX is essential to simplify complex websites, such as retail or e-commerce, where the user needs to look for a product and simultaneously be ensured that their payment is secured. UX is also essential for start-ups, small businesses, and companies with small budgets, since their website is one of the only methods they have to reach their potential user.
Making Taxes Simple and Fun
TurboTax.com is one good UX example from an unexpected place. TurboTax released a more intuitive and visually appealing website during the 2015 tax season. Users feel at-ease and knowledgeable while using it, making the tax filing experience easier. The website is easy to follow, with various graphics and smart icons, creating a quick and painless experience.
The whole experience feels similar to a dating site, where TurboTax is looking for the user’s perfect match—in this case, the best tax refund possible—through a few simple clicks. The use of icons facilitates the task of answering a bunch of boring questions, lessening the risk of user error while filing.
TurboTax took a step back and utilized UCD to aid users and engage them as they used the product. TurboTax shows UX done right, focusing on how users would like to prepare their tax refund on the web, rather than how it has always been done in the past.
Protecting Our World’s Animals
Another great UX example is the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Rather than using its digital media to promote a service or product, WWF uses its digital presence to promote its cause. The easy-to-navigate Parallax website catches attention with large graphic tiles, news discussions, mission statements, social media pages, and a donation page, among other features.
For many non-profit organizations, users struggle to find their mission and values information buried in a History or an About Us section; WWF solves this issue by making it front-and-center of their Homepage design. One of the central tiles clearly shows its mission statement and work goals, which allows users to know the identity of the organization they are contributing to.
WWF not only visually grabs the user’s attention on its site, but also uses these graphics and visuals to teach who they are without having to dig deep on the site. This transparency about themselves and their cause gives users peace-of-mind and the knowledge of what the organization stands for—something that could not have been achieved without UCD at the forefront of the web design process.
UX is a very broad part of digital design. You can never completely predict how a user will use your site or app, but keeping the user in mind will certainly put you in the lead on better overall design. UX not only makes your product more appealing, but also shows that you keep them in mind, leading to a more loyal customer.
Written by Maria Fernanda Balandra
Maria Fernanda Balandra is a graphic designer with esd & associates, with a focus on UX and UI design. She is from Puebla, Mexico and graduated from Texas State University with a degree in Communication Design. Design is everywhere and she expresses her design passion through print and web designs, custom to the user.