The World of User (UX/UI) Design

“Companies are trying to solve a business problem while people [or customers] are trying to solve a human problem.”

“These spacesuits’d better be user-friendly!” NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas, Feb 2017

Recently, I decided to check out the Interaction Design Specialization on Coursera by UC San Diego. It’s also where I got the above quote from.

I am typically the “Client” in the world of Design – mainly working with in-house Designers and very occasionally with outsourced ones. Now, I have a lot of friends who are graphic designers, or in the creative industry, who often complain about their clients. You know, the usual, “client doesn’t know what they want so they gave me a different brief each time, we’re on our 4th artwork proof now”, or “the budget is too small  to accomplish what the client wants”, or “client has no eye for design but likes telling me how to do my job” etc etc.

Some of it is beyond the client’s control, such as the directive from the top management changing at every meeting, inflexible budgets, or even differences in aesthetic preferences.

Well, me being the emphatic type, would take my designer friends’ comments to heart, and resolve not to be the client from hell they hate so much. Plus, it’s really not that hard, all it takes is a little diplomacy and understanding. Also, arguing with designers over work already produced is a waste of everyone’s time, and could have been avoided in the first place with proper planning and clear instructions, barring the occasional unforeseeable mishaps.

Anyway, I digress. I was originally talking about another design field – the field of interaction design, or according to Coursera, “How to design great user experiences. Design that delights users”.

I have a personal interest in this because I love consumer behavior, and finding out what makes people tick/what makes them do the things they do. Broadly, I am fascinated by human behavior in general, but because I’m in Marketing, it is now my job to dive even deeper into the world of user experiences and design.

I believe that user experience is about understanding how users actually navigate their world, and designing to that, while adding value to their lives.

“Good design melds physical, digital and social worlds. Many of the services that are exciting right now are things that combine the world of atoms with the world of bits and the world of culture.” Scott Klemmer, Associate Professor, UC San Diego.

“This can be the pop-up food truck that announces where it’s gonna be on Twitter. This can be Etsy, where we have people all around the world creating handy crafts and vintage items and then selling them through an online portal. This can be many common elements of political life that are coordinating large numbers of people through an online system.”

In the course, Scott also talked about “Laddering” – a market research interview technique to uncover consumers’ underlying motives and their decision making process before buying a product/service. Laddering makes explicit connections between an experience and the value they’ve put on it (e.g. self-esteem, accomplishment, belonging, self-fulfilment, family, security).

Which brings us to User Motivation. How do you learn more about that? By doing lots and lots of research, of course!

There’s the human way:

Through surveys, focus groups, interviews, diary studies (long-term user behavior), observing the way users actually use your product in the real world, truly listening to user feedback and then acting on it, and constantly testing new approaches/new ways of doing things. You can read up more about them here.

And the computer/data science way:

Analytics and metrics, artificial intelligence, data mining… We are in an age of big data. There are technology and software out there to help you analyse the data you have collated, by measuring and statistifying, identifying patterns, and predicting trends, among other things. Here is a great article about how data science affects user experience.

While I can see that we are heading in the direction of data science, (and why not? Data science is an amazingly cool field where we finally have the opportunity to use real numbers and figures to help us in our own decision making process and building a superior product/service), it is also vital that we maintain a balance between the human way and the data science way, using both to help us better serve our customers.

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