All IT solutions are created to maximally improve the work of users. User experience (UX) is a revolutionary idea that appeared in the work of developers when people started to notice what end users really expect. User experience is a kind of gateway to modern users and their individual world. How can you properly approach user experience as a programmer?
What is user experience?
As the name suggests, UX encompasses the experiences of the user while using an application or system. The pioneer of research in this topic was the Xerox company, which in the 1970s, in its research center, introduced such innovative solutions as a graphical interface that could be operated using a mouse. Their solutions were later used by such giants as Apple and Microsoft. Currently, creating applications focused on direct user experience is a very popular solution among developers. User experience is often confused with the concept of a program interface. Well, the latter involves everything that our user sees - navigation buttons, text input fields, graphics. UX, on the other hand, includes all the steps and activities that they have to go through when using a given application.
When using an application, users perform individual actions, which also depend on what the application has been designed for. For example - the actions involved in sending a transfer using a banking application will be slightly different than when scrolling through your photos on Instagram. In order to create a good program that will bring satisfaction to the end-user, it is necessary to adapt their perspective and understand how they will behave at a given moment.
How to approach user experience well?
“Remember that you are not the user. Always stay focused on the user's needs”, said one of the UX designers from the Tivix company.
As with any creative process, it's important to adapt the right strategy. To choose it wisely, we need all the information about the end-user. When working on user experience, you should learn as much as possible about those who will be using the product, drawing data from various sources. It's also important to create the most detailed "user personality" possible. According to the principles presented by the IDF (Interaction Design Foundation) - the best school for UX designers - the process of creating applications based on user experience should consist of five basic stages:
- Getting to know the audience – this requires very detailed knowledge of the target user. The selection of research methods usually depends on the group that is working on the project. It can take the form of surveys, inquiries and feedback, trend studies etc. that help you understand your target user characteristics and environment. As a result, it is possible to create a persona quite precisely - to examine its potential interests, expectations, etc.
- Define the problem (and thus the user needs) - at this stage, the designer must answer the question regarding what the user expects from this application. This step focuses more on the properties of the product than on the users themselves. When carrying out this step, the creator often looks at similar applications that have already been successful and attracted a wide audience.
- Ideate – this stage may seem the most difficult, but it will be an interesting challenge for creative people. When looking for ideas, a storyboard is often used as a form of creative expression of ideas. A storyboard usually includes scenes related to the users’ potential actions, helping to visualize their choices. A similar technique is the so-called travel map that aims to systematize the entire process that the user of the application goes through, from turning on the app until the end of using it. It also includes possible obstacles that will be encountered along the way and the basic needs that the user may feel while exploring the application.
- Prototype – this step is actually the transition from the creative-mental phase to the executive phase. Here, a ready-made program skeleton is built; it includes the layout of the windows, content and context menus. It is often created as a sitemap. Here, all elements should be arranged logically and sequentially. Prototypes are divided into low and high-fidelity ones. Low fidelity prototypes do not require large expenditures, they are “rough drafts” that can even be drawn on a piece of paper as this is the last flexible stage where loose adjustments can be made. Creating a high-fidelity prototype is to show the visual and topographic details of the application - at this point we try to reflect the end result of the project as much as possible. It is the high-fidelity prototype that is presented to the client.
- Testing – this is the most important step when it comes to validating the results of all the previous stages. At this point, the work is done by both users and professional testers. It's also a good idea to include a usability report here.
As you can see, creating applications based on UX is not a short and easy-to-carry process. However, it is worth bearing in mind that omitting any of the above-mentioned stages may result in numerous failures in the future. So what does a UX designer really do? "I say I humanize technology", says Fred Beecher, Director of UX, The Nerdery.