UX Design – What is it and why is it so important today?

By: Chidu Subbiah

User experience (UX) can be defined as the customer’s perception and how they interact with the website, applications, products, services, and the organization. It is the lens through which your users view the company as a whole. UX refers to a whole continuum that starts with user experience research and ends with user experience design. We apply various techniques as part of UX research to help add context and insight into the design process. UX research primarily helps to understand the needs of the users and identifies the requirements of the product. The research is the core part of the planning process because companies want to design a website or mobile application that is user friendly for the intended audience.
I have been a technical lead in the web development space for the past 21 years. People ask me “who did you talk to before designing the application?” This is where proper UX research can help fill the gap. There are various techniques you could use for UX research. In Cheng’s blog, she mentions interviews, contextual inquiries, diary studies and usability labs as popular techniques.
UX designers study user behavior, expectations, and the usability of the systems based on the target audience. A thorough understanding of the target audience is key to designing the appropriate user experience. UX has become a key part in designing process for a software application. After defining the target audience during the discovery phase, a set of wireframes are created to describe the user experience in the application. Once it is approved, the creative design, which is the visual aspect of the application, is added to align with the brand standards.
With the growing mobile audience, it is imperative for businesses to provide a mobile platform to access their application. The display area available in mobile devices and higher probability of distractions is a challenge to keep users active in the application. Accessibility is another area which is gaining more importance these days and plays a significant role in UX design. UX designers are moving towards a simplified design with prominent call to actions as users pursue a user experience that is easy to use. As technology evolves, these designers will need to come up with more creative ways to engage the consumer and drive application usage.
Don Norman was the first user experience professional. He joined Apple in 1995 and requested that “User Experience Architect” would be his new job title. This marked the first time the term was used in a job title. The user experience took off in 2007 when Steve Job unveiled the iPhone which he called “the leapfrog product”. The iPhone provided a superior user experience that changed the landscape of mobile computing and expectations for any other smart phone. Today, all companies believe in a responsive design and applications are created based on user research and input. These companies continue to track feedback from websites using tools like Google Analytics to tweak their websites and applications based on analytical data and research.
With advances in technology, companies are investing resources into the UX field trying to keep web and mobile applications up to standard to reach the intended audience. Since 2008, “UX Designer” has been one of the ten most popular job titles that barely existed five years ago which is now 22 times larger than it was. According to The Future of UX, the future of UX is dynamic, intuitive and personal. The expectation for instant feedback and the number of connected devices are growing daily. Each mobile device is storing information about our usage which is being used to enhance the interaction of the user. The one size fits all approach is a legacy of the past and consumers are expecting a more personal approach on websites and mobile device. Unfortunately, this is going to come at the cost of users giving access to our personal information. Today, user experience helps create designs that will last a long time and anticipates the needs of the user. Tiny details are no longer overlooked.
The future of UX is right around the corner and it is exciting. All of us have come to expect the best and companies are responding to the marketplace.
About the author: Chidu Subbiah is a Tech Lead working on the development of web applications for a Fortune 500 company. He is part time doctoral student in Logistics and Supply Chain Management.