User experience (UX) is a set of practices designed to make software, a website or business application more ergonomic, accessible, intuitive and pleasant to use. With the advent of the digital revolution, UX design has become vital to the success of digital transition projects. During Microsoft TechDays, Thierry Raguin, a mobility and UX design expert at Econocom, gave a keynote on this very subject. So what exactly is UX design and what’s it used for?
UX: A STRATEGIC, multi-disciplinaRY APPROACH
Developed in the US, UX design arrived in France in around 2000. Far more than just a process for designing interfaces, UX occurs at every stage of a digital project.
“UX is an iterative, ongoing approach involving analysing, designing and assessing, whilst constantly focusing on the user experience.”
– Thierry Raguin at TechDays 2015.
UX is a wide-ranging, multi-disciplinary field that, as the name suggests, is entirely user-focused. The aim is to enable users to achieve their objective in using a product, be it looking for information, purchasing or using a business application. This requires focusing on the technical (interface performance), ergonomic, statistical and affective (i.e. the user’s feelings and perception of the product) aspects.
Magnus Revang, an American UX specialist, has identified seven criteria for assessing user experience: findability (the ease with which a site or application can be found), accessibility (ease of reach, use and understanding), desirability (making users want to use the product), usability (ease of use and learnability), credibility (how much users trust and believe in the product) and usefulness (how valuable users consider the features and functions of the product).
The concept of UX design, however, is not purely a pragmatic one as it includes an emotional dimension: above and beyond usability, the user experience needs to be perceived as pleasant. Although intended to be a holistic approach, UX approaches often address just one of its components, typically UI (User Interface) or HCI (Human–computer interaction), which are based on technical standards that focus chiefly on ergonomics and overlook such elements as trust, desirability and credibility.
5 factOrs TO ENSURE optimal design ux
Integrating UX into a digital transformation project requires starting with an accurate analysis of users’ needs: surveys, workshops, observing their environment, etc. This vital stage, which encompasses aspects of cognitive psychology, will enable designers to create a set of tools which can be used in succession: user profile types, user experience maps, lists of obstacles to overcome, etc. This data will also enable the designer to draw up a list of specifications for designing the project architecture and the associated interactions and interfaces.
The actual design phase will begin with mock-ups and prototypes, which are often interactive, and ends with adding visual element to the approved prototype to make the content easier to understand.
“Discovering, learning, efficiency, performance, enjoyment.”
This is what Thierry Raguin considers to be the five key elements for optimal UX design. But this can only be possible if the user is involved throughout the project and can assess the various interactions and interfaces. Analysing the user’s behaviour during this test phase will allow the design team to determine whether or not the project addresses the requirements identified at the outset, which will in turn be crucial for end-user satisfaction and adoption.
At TechDays, Thierry Raguin stressed the effectiveness of the System Usability Scale (SUS), a 10 item questionnaire with five response options, in measuring user experience quickly. Another frequently-used method is A/B testing whereby two variants are compared to see which one produces the best results. These tests can be used, for example, to change the name or colour of a button, reorganise a menu or, in certain cases, review the entire ergonomics of a software program or application.
IMPROVE EFFICIENCY AND CUT COSTS
“70% of failures are due to user rejection whilst 83% of KPIs are improved by UX.”.
These figures quoted by Thierry Raguin are extremely telling: for developers and manufacturers, the benefits of creating ergonomic, intuitive products far outweigh the costs. Raguin adds that not including user profile types into the design process can result in up to a 400% loss of ROI, and usability tests can help reduce user support requests by as much as 90%.
Although for the moment, UX is the preserve of IT organisations, Marketing and business are showing a growing interest in the subject. Service providers are thus adjusting their approach to address these new targets, and Marketing and business, meanwhile, are already rethinking their working methods and focusing increasingly on user experience when starting digital transformation projects.
Photo credit: Brian Talbot – you Can’t Depend On Your Eyes (Flickr.com, licence CC BY-NC 2.0)