UX (User Experience) and UI (User Interface) are abbreviations that I see more and more these days. Traditionally, they have been used in the framework of software and product development. Now their reference is more frequently associated to websites, mobile devices and apps.
In our constantly connected world, the use of these references has expanded and are frequently combined – as they should be. They now often encompass everything from when a user picks up a device to whenever they put that device down.
But to me – there is a lot more to the User Experience.
My User Experience Roots
I’ve worked in technology solutions throughout my career. As a programmer way back when, I was deeply focused in the weeds of mainframe code. I was all about successful compiles and data outputs.
Later, I was doing cross-platform work that steered me to focus on the user perspective. That work was done to ensure our products behaved the same on Windows, DOS and Macintosh (clearly I’m not a millennial – although you probably guessed that at “mainframe”).
In both of these roles, my User perspective was entirely focused on the software product. It wasn’t until after a few years of working in enterprise solutions that I came to truly understand what I see as the full User Experience.
I find UX and UI completely fascinating. Whether you are a User Experience geek like me – or just want to learn more – here are two great places to start:
Semantic Studios & the work of Peter Morville
The UX and UI of It All
UX and UI are incredibly important to the success of any solution. If the product at the core of a solution isn’t developed with these, IT WILL FAIL. I’ve seen more poorly designed products over the years that have been set aside, worked around or straight out sabotaged by users. And after seeing the actual products, I really didn’t blame them.
But you can have the best product – with optimal UX and UI – and still have a failed solution.
In my opinion, the User Experience goes beyond the products involved. And if you fail at the Full User Experience, your solution will fail.
A Definition Reset
In the world according to me, the User Experience begins at the identification of the Users. Your Users don’t just interact with software or hardware. These are the people who will be involved throughout your solution.
Once you’ve identified them, it’s up to you to ensure that they have a truly positive experience – throughout their time with you and your products or solutions. That can only be achieved with three key factors: Relationship, Process and Communication.
The Key Factors
Relationships At HL Group, we frequently talk about how our business is personal. In our twenty years as a company, we have built our organization around our focus is that the best outcome is built around relationships.
Think about the businesses that you go back to again and again. For me, they are the ones that gave me the best overall experience. They seem to take the time to get to know me, get to know whatever problem I’m trying to solve and then help me solve it – not just sell a product off a shelf.
Taking the time to gain an understanding of the people involved and their individual needs can go a long way to ensuring that the solution that you are offering is right for them.
Processes What is the problem to be solved? Usually one of the first things we ask clients is about what they are trying to accomplish. Often, the issue that they identify is actually a symptom of a problem and that problem stretches further than they thought.
Finding the true problem to be solved can only happen when you take the time to understand the processes that are currently in place. This includes understanding the why’s and how’s that those processes evolved.
Once you have that information, you can identify the problem to be solved – and refine (or reconstruct) processes to accommodate your solution offering – and the people that will use both.
Communications I had a professor in college that drilled into us that it didn’t matter how smart we were if we couldn’t properly communicate our ideas. Over the years since then, I’ve seen that statement repeatedly proven. Communication is one of the most critical aspects of a successful project.
Communications is a practice – and a multi-faceted process. You need to understand (from your relationships and your process review) all of the members of your audience and how they best receive information as individuals.
Since one size doesn’t fit all, you’ll have the best result when you convey information in multiple formats to complement the needs of your different audience members. But to be sure everyone is on the same page – take the time to confirm what your audience heard – and understood. It’s additional effort – but it can save you a world of trouble – and Excedrin – if you can avoid misunderstandings as your initiative continues.
Without energy around these Key Factors – I don’t think that you’ve really addressed the Full User Experience. If there is a fail on one of these fronts, it can easily taint your whole experience.
Think about your own User Experiences. I’ll bet that there’s one or two that quickly come to mind where maybe elements of the experience was good – the product, the timeframe, the cost, etc. But something happened along the way that tainted your overall view – and may very well prevent you from going back to that vendor again.
It takes an investment of time, resources and effort to ensure that your customers have an optimal User Experience. And sometimes there are forces beyond your control that will impact all of this.
But if you look at the Full User Experience – and not just the interaction with products – you’ll have a much happier User. I guarantee it.
Next week I’ll share with you some of the experiences and stories that have shaped my perspectives over the years. In the mean time, I’d love to hear about your experiences – good & bad.
Anne Hale is the Director of Client Services at HL Group, Inc., a premier provider of mobile inventory management, RFID and supply chain solutions. She manages our client engagements, helps with sales and marketing and can easily go into a solid geek spiral on all aspects of User Experience.