Why Must User Experience Be A Top Priority in Software Development?
People use or buy software-based solutions that can solve their daily problems, may they be life- or work-related. Software can be as feature rich as the required user goals, but good software should convey these features in an accessible manner.
User Experience is your business card
User Experience (or UX) is the sum of all the elements involved in the way customers interact with your products first hand:
- The logic and intuitive design of the Graphic User Interface (GUI): buttons, controls, display, fonts, and colors
- The consistency of labels, messages, and tooltips
- The relevance of warning messages and design patterns, especially in manufacturing
- The overall mapping of user stories and features onto actual usage
- The findability of information along moments of truth
In other words, it is not enough for a product to tick some boxes on a feature list, but rather to make these features available to customers for actual usage. Products which brag about how sophisticated and top-notch they are, but which do not correlate their proficiency with actual usage will not be the customers’ first choice.
Businesses need to treat User Experience with just as much importance as they treat their technology stack and the quality of their product features. The reverse is also true – a pretty design and interaction which does not deliver the user goal is just as frustrating. Striking the right balance is an art, and businesses tend to give less weight to User Experience.
User Experience keeps customers satisfied
User Experience must be designed and integrated with products in such a way that the product as a whole delivers on its functional promises while engaging customers. User Experience done right:
- Keeps customers happy and satisfied
- Prevents churn
- Ensures loyalty
- Mediates further sales
Customers need to see that the business they work with thought about user needs, real-life scenarios, context, and goals from the get-go. In other words, customers need to feel reassured and supported by the product in achieving their goals.
User Experience keeps businesses attractive
User Experience requires businesses to make an investment into user research, competition research, target audience preferences, and focus groups. Translating these research results into a sound User Experience which is flexible enough to evolve at the same pace as customer expectations is key to business success.
An attractive business:
- Adapts to market requirements and uses User Experience as statement of its capabilities
- Delivers a homogeneous implementation where User Experience makes features consistent and predictable
- Sends a compelling message that the interaction its User Experience delivers is reliable and has customer satisfaction at its core
Elements of good User Experience
A good User Experience must be your business mandate. User Experience is not a one-man show, but rather a strategy where several roles contribute: Information Architect and Technical Writer, Product Manager, and Business Analyst.
Imagine that you have an application with several views and several tabs, and that there is a recurrent entity (let’s say process) across these views and tabs. The GUI uses the term process in some places, and uses the term workflow to designate the same entity in other places. Will users be confused? Will they contact support? Will they check the product documentation? What if the product documentation uses the terms just as loosely as the GUI? To cut the matter short, you will end up with an unhappy customer who notices that you do not know what you are doing.
The GUI must enforce consistency in terms of: labels, buttons, controls, fonts, approved brand themes, terminology and text. A consistent User Experience:
- Reduces guesswork
- Immerses users into the application
- Decreases the learning curve
Consistency across design and interactions means users will not need to recreate their common knowledge background each time they open the application or each time they decide to use a new function. Consistency must be backed up by intuitive design, so that relearning or rewiring are cut down to a minimum.
To achieve consistency, prepare mockups, prototypes, or PoCs (Proof of Concept), and ask internal stakeholders and customer focus groups for feedback and approval.
User Experience must be tailored for every device, while still maintaining overall consistency and balance of form and function.
Imagine you log in to your account from your desktop and start an operation. Midway, your desktop runs into some trouble, so you switch to your mobile or tablet. You continue your operations successfully from where you left off, and are extremely grateful that the product you are using is so versatile.
What would have happened if your product had not been made available across several devices? What would have happened if the GUI for desktop and mobile would have been designed by 2 teams who worked independently from one another? Would users have had a consistent experience and would they have benefitted from high-availability?
User Experience must be designed organically and consistently across devices based on common specifications.
Good User Experience means users:
- Know what to do without thinking too much about it
- Enjoy working with the product
- Navigate and find information with ease
- Trust that they will be successful in their endeavors
A seamless interaction with products means that form and function correlation is accounted for in terms of: optimization, speed, error handling, portability, and adoption of future features.
Users want products that are relatable, and that meet their expectations.
Ease pain points
When working with products, users can have common difficulties or common wish lists. Good User Experience addresses them as a top priority and ensures higher adoption rates for your products.
Solid and data-driven knowledge of your customers’ issues and questions is a prerequisite, but investing time in this activity can help businesses decide on their next best actions. Take pain points as they are, integrated them into your User Experience strategy, and build products that place user-driven questions at the core.
User Experience must go hand in hand with SEO. Your products can be easily discovered if your website is optimized. In other words, users will try and buy your products if they can find them.
Your company website and promotion materials should be aligned in terms of keywords and overall interaction with your product.
User Experience needs to be designed with technical flexibility in mind:
- Write your code (classes and methods) with the future in mind (new features, new interactions)
- Design your features, so these can be transferred to or enhanced by other third-party technologies
- Test and retest the user flows, so that technology does not break things that users love and use
Choose technology not because it is the latest kid on the block, but because it is an enabler for user-driven enhancements and revenue, and keep it aligned with User Experience and user behavior.
Good user experience translates into a comfortable, straightforward interaction between customers and businesses, leading to customer satisfaction, loyalty, and profit.
Addressing user experience must be done structurally and incrementally at several business levels:
- Mapping features (code, modules, databases) against user flows, interaction, and goals
- Designing intuitive UI (labels, text, icons, sequence of controls)
- Conveying a consistent experience across the product (concept naming, search, linking, breadcrumbs)
- Finding the right information at the right time
- Delivering a compelling brand experience