I’d be surprised if you said: “I’ve never heard of the term user experience”. It’s also likely you’ve come across the abbreviated version: “UX”. It’s become a very popular term in most industries since the 90's. Although user experience has been talked about in terms of any interaction (e.g. designing a playground), it’s gained momentum with the growth of digital products and services and become the centre of most design discussions.
“Human interface”, “industrial design graphics”, “physical interaction” - huh?
Don’t worry, essentially you just need to understand that a user’s experience of your website is determined by multiple factors (see below). Basically how it makes a user feel. The more human, intuitive and effortless, the better the user experience.
Factors that influence user experience:
Ticking all the boxes to create an effective and pleasurable experience doesn’t just happen. Ensure you work with a company that builds products based on the user centred design framework. Which like the name suggests, puts the user (not business or technology) at the centre of the process. There are many tools available, within user centred design, that a design studio or software development company can call on, but if executed correctly will all go through the following stages:
Both you and your designers should be speaking to your users. What are their needs and frustrations? What does their day involve and where does your service fit in? If you’ve created Personas as part of your brand strategy, you’re on the way to understanding your users better. This is the foundation of building effective systems and services.
The design phase is when your designers will map out how your design will work and fit everything together in a user friendly and intuitive way. They’ll actually start sketching, designing and prototyping (building something to test).
The validation, or testing phase is when they either prove or invalidate their designs. This phase is typically followed by additional rounds of design and testing to solve the problems they will inevitably find when testing with real users.
This process is extremely broad and as an agency you certainly don’t need to know every detail, but having a broad overview can help you work with a studio to create better solutions for your users.
This topic from the factors that influence user experience above deserves expanding on.
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to usability. Sometimes things that look like they shouldn’t work do. There are however guidelines which should be followed like:
“You don’t need to know everything. As with any field, there’s a lot you could learn about usability. But unless you’re a usability professional, there’s a limit to how much is useful for you to learn.”
Steve Krug, Don’t Make Me Think
This list above can go on and on. The important thing is to use common sense and work with a studio that understands usability. In the end, what works and doesn’t work needs to be determined by testing your design on real users (Usability Tests). It will quickly become obvious if something is blocking their progress.