Software development companies and professionals have a lot to consider when creating their designs. One of the most critical is the user experience (UX). Strong planning and execution, elegant code, and beautiful images are worth little if users get frustrated or if the software doesn’t perform its intended function.
But UX isn’t just about usability. It’s about higher-order company goals, including conversion, retention, revenue, loyalty, and cost-cutting. In fact, better UX design can lead to a400% increase in conversion rates. Here are some tips for making sure these considerations are kept top-of-mind during the development process.
1. Get a Professional on Board
UX is so important that there are people who perform this function specifically. Their titles include Usability Engineer, Interface Designer, and User Researcher. UX professionals serve as a go-between for product developers and software developers, bridging the gap between “what we want this software to be and do” and “how should we design to make those things happen.”
These professionals should be involved in user research, concept development and prototyping, interface design, usability testing, and post-launch user evaluation. The function of these professionals isn’t to tell developers what to do but to collaborate with them and together come up with the best design to serve the intended project purpose.
For best results, these team members should be included throughout the research, development, and launch processes — not just at the beginning of the project. This way, they can be available to help work through questions, issues, and problems that may arise. Otherwise, designers may deploy solutions that stray from original UX intentions or don’t fully embraceUX principles.
2. Research and Analyze
The more information designers can get upfront, the better. That means gathering information about the client’s (whether internal or external) needs, how customers will use the software, comparable applications already on the market, and any other useful data. Team members must then analyze this data to generate preliminary ideas for the software design, including how it will look and function. The research and analysis phase may be reiterative as more may be needed throughout the design, development, and evaluation phases. All these factors are even more applicable to custom software development projects.
3. Don’t Confuse UX With UI
The user interface (UI) isn’t the user experience. UI is the way the users interact with software while UX is how they feel about it. For any company, UX goes way beyond software to things like how fast customers’ deliveries arrive, how quickly customer care representatives resolve their issues, and how easy it is to find what they’re looking for in the online store. UI can contribute to positive UX. Or it can detract from it, such as an app with controls that are missing or appear in unexpected places. For example,more than 70% of small business websites don’t include call-to-action buttons. If a user wants to take the next step to engage with the company, they’re out of luck — and so is the company because it just lost a sale, newsletter signup, or demo request.
4. Choose a UX Process
There are several models that design teams can choose from to approach UX. The appropriate model will depend on the time, resources, and technology available for each project. Determining an approach at the beginning of a project is critical for ensuring each team member understands the expectations for their role and for the whole team. The followingUX models are the most common:
- Waterfall UX involves a strict scope and timeline that may limit time for reiteration. This approach is useful when requirements are easy to understand and implement but it may inhibit creativity.
- Agile UX is the most popular method being used today. It allows for frequent requirement changes and highly iterative development.
- Lean UX focuses on the elimination of wasted effort by generating multiple implementation ideas upfront.
- Pain-Driven Design involves determining pain points and responding to them from the beginning.
- UX Runway incorporates both Lean and Agile principles, focusing on “just-in-time” design.
5. Consider Change Requests Carefully
Changes to design can come from a variety of sources: clients, other team members, or users. While these opinions are important, they aren’t necessarily valid. The research and analysis performed earlier come into play here because it’s important to reconcile individual opinions with that data. If the data doesn’t support a change request, it may not be worth making. Any changes that are made should be compatible with the UX foundation established. That is, it doesn’t make sense to change anything that will degrade the UX already in place.
UX isn’t an add-on feature for software, but something that must be built-in. Ensuring positive UX with a company’s software begins a chain reaction of additional wanted results. When customers get a positive impression of a company, they make more purchases, spend more per purchase, make referrals, and even evangelize the company and its products. Of course, software is just one component of this chain reaction but it’s a highly important one.