Month: January 2014

An Exciting Start

To start my journey in improving my knowledge and skills in the user experience and user interface design process, I began to research more about what UX designers do.

The first video I watched was called, “5 steps to a great mobile UX.” This video was by Darren Young, the managing director and lead of design at DigitLab. Darren points out that there are millions of apps in the ios and android market. While what the app does, and how well it does it are very important factors to an application; well thought out and executed user experience is what will separate your app from all the rest.

User Experience, focuses on how the user feels while using the product. Before designing anything for an app, it is extremely important to take a step back and really understand the user. By understanding the wants and needs of the user, a UX designer can create a product that customers will love to use.

Darren explains the 5 steps of User experience:

  1. Research
  2. Identify user
  3. Wireframes and Sketching
  4. Feedback
  5. Testing

I really liked how he broke up the process into five steps. I feel like it made it simpler and less intimidating. Each of these steps have a crucial part in making a successful UX design.

I then watched a video titled, “What the #$%@ is UX Design?” By Matthew Magain the launcher of a site called uxmastery.com. Matthew gets more in depth in what a UX Designer does.

Matthew explains that it is hard to give just one definition. He says that if you asked five different people you would get five different answers. This is something that I can relate too. When friends of mine ask me what a user experience designer does, I have a really hard time explaining it. This is because there are so many different parts and ways to do UX Design; there is not just one answer.

However, his video is able to describe the main objectives. All of the objectives I can relate to thinking back to my internship. Matthew explains that UX Designers are questioners. They must really understand the what, when, where, why, how and who for the product.

He simply put that UX is everything that affects a users interaction with that product. I agree with this completely. From the placement of things on the screen, to the colors and fonts used, to the naming scheme; the UX designer plans all of these components for the users of their product.

He also brings up an interesting point, that a product must not only be designed for the user, but also for the business. The business must profit off of the product after all.

At my internship we would meet with the designers and programmers and all share ideas on how to enhance the software. The programmers should meet to approve if the designers ideas are possible.

After those videos I tried to connect the word that they said to my own experiences interning on a user experience team. I see several overlaps. Matthews stress on the importance of questioning was not an exaggeration. The only way to successfully create something that people will be visually pleased by, easy to use, and functions in a way it is supposed to. One thing that may be tricky is how to come up with the questions to ask.

Darren’s fifth step to being a great UX designer was testing. This is crucial. I have observed and analyzed several usability tests and saw all of the changes made from them.

Usability testing can be useful before and after enhancements. By testing before, you can see what the user wants differently. By testing after, you can see if the changes you made were affective, and what still need to be done.

To get more information about the importance of usability testing I found a website titled, “Usability Testing – Purpose, Criteria, and Goals.” This site stresses further the importance of usability testing and some of the information you can get out of the tests. Some of the questions that they mentioned were:

  • Can users actually complete a given task, within a reasonable amount of time?
  • Do users understand the concepts and procedures of the task?
  • Can users retain what they have learned?
  • Could they re-do the task without assistance?
  • Are the users pleased with the product/document?
  • Do they feel positively about it?
  • Are they pleased with the outcomes produced?
  • Do users see value in using the product/document?
  • Does it add value to their work?
  • Do users see the tool as fulfilling a real need?
  • Would they use it again?
  • Do they think it works better than other available tools?

In my experience, these are all important questions to take into account. From here you have a much better idea of where to start when coming up with a design. Usability tests are a crucial part of the UX Process.

In my first project, I am going to find a mobile application that has a good idea, but was poorly executed. I am going to come up with a redesign for the app.

As a starting point I am going to read the reviews of the application. This will give me some of the answers that would be addressed in a usability test. I will ideally find out what parts of the app they like, what parts they do not like, and what they would like to see instead.

Starting this project I will be focusing on Darren’s first step of UX design, research. I will look at similar apps and the reviewers’ comments. Getting familiar with the types of users and other products out there is a crucial starting point to designing a well thought out application.

After I feel like I have put a lot of research into the application and I have a good idea of what the users are like, I will make a persona. The persona will be there for the duration of the project. I will be able to go back to it throughout my project to remind myself who I am designing this app for.

At my internship they had several personas that they always kept in mind while making designs.

As a start to the project my class, all took out our phones and looked at the similarities and differences. We gathered information and analyzed what it said about us as a class and what someone would create to gear towards us as a user. This was a great exercise to get us thinking about what types of things to be looking for when trying to understand a user. For example, their lifestyle, social class, age group etc.

This was a great way to start thinking in this way. I am so excited to research the type of users I will be creating my app designing for. The personas we create will be very useful as the semester progresses.

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