Introduction to User Experience

What is User Experience?

User Experience - abbreviated as UX - in the broadest sense, can be defined as the overall experiences you have when using or interacting with something. And that "something" could literally be almost anything in the world. For a lot of people, UX is some kind of concepts that only come to their minds in the context of "technical" devices such as smart phones or computers. However, contrary to their awareness, we human actually have hundreds, even thousands of "user experience" every day. Like when we drive our newly-purchased motorbike on highway at velocity of 80km/h or walking into the elevator with broken air-condition system. It could also be the remorse feeling and frustration after taking part into an expensive but inefficient training course, or even such simple routine activity like cooking a meal in the microwave (please do not be the egg) and vice versa. Yeah, the list keeps getting longer.

The Good Guy, the Bad Guy and last but not least, the Ugly Guy

An interaction is qualified as a "great UX" might go in the form of an outstanding customer service, a product which was incredibly easy to use. It could also "disguise" as user-friendly website that gives you the exact information you need, of course, go in just the right format and appear exactly at the right time. Try thinking how marvelous that might be.

One noticeable point is that UX definitely tends to get more of our attention - especially WHEN IT IS BAD THAN WHEN IT IS GOOD. If the UX is good, users do not even have to bother thinking about it. All they have to do is just use it, get what they need and move on with their life.

However, as for a bad user interface, things are not gonna be that easy as bad things happened usually make us feel frustrated, impatient, disappointed and angry, so so angry that we inherently remember and carve it into our memories for a longer time, maybe for eternity. Yes, the reminiscences about horrible experiences. If you think that I am just exaggerating the situations, think about the last time you had to wait too long at a high-quality restaurant because they had messed up your orders. Do you have any intention to come there again after such impressions? Are you willing to give it a second chance? If the answer is "Yes", believe me my friend, you are JUST TOO KIND. And too kind people are just gonna get hurt soon in this scary wicked world.

User Experience in Information Technology

"UX is concerned with all aspect of the users' experiences when interacting with the product, service, environment or facility" - stated by ISO

We have no choice but to admit the importance and essential of UX in our industry. As more products and services are moving towards automated and software -based solutions, which inadvertently extracts the "live human" factor completely out of the service equation. When that comes into implementation, the last man standing in the battle field of IT service provision will be those who is capable of double-checking that their software solutions are adequately anticipating and addressing the needs, desires, habits, expectations and thought processes of their end users as much as possible.

Challenges in designing UI/UX

If you have already been running a business, customers' overall experience with your product or service could very well make the difference between whether they will buy, or more importantly, whether they will come back to buy again and continue using your service or look for somewhere else next time.

In order to catch up with the trends and stay competitive on the market, most of all businesses have at least one web presence and the UX for the website will play a crucial role in attracting customers as well as maintaining their follows. For the most potential customers, you only get one chance to "get it right" because most visitors have the tendency to make the decision within a matter of seconds whether they want to stay on your website or hit the "Back" button to seek for something better. The stakes are indeed incredibly high, it is "Go Big Or Go Home".

Ok. Got it. User Experience. Crucial. Still, Important as it may be, is it difficult to define and create a successful user experience for our end users?

"Well honestly, that's gonna be a LOT of work..."

The short answer is due to the fact that it always takes a lot of work to design something - anything - that works well for a huge number of potential users who may or may not think like we do, no matter what the circumstances. Anyone who has ever involved in software development process knows that it takes a huge amount of planning, design, production and testing in order to create an end product that is capable of achieving desired functions. But to actually design and create something that not only works, but works well and in a way that actually makes sense to your end users, following their thought processes and anticipating every need they might ever have at exactly the right time as well as helping them get the job done in the most convenient and efficient way no matter what obstacles, that, is a completely different story at a total different level.

Psychic Power of Empathy

If you watch the X-men franchise, you will know about Empathy - the ability to feel or sense emotions and feelings of others. So how do I even develop a keen sense of empathy for our end users? Isn't it a supernatural ability that only appears in movies?

Well, actually it is not that impossible. "All" we need to do in order to acquire empathy is "just" stepping out of our own shoes, putting our own thoughts, priorities and goals on the back burner for a moment and really trying to get inside the minds of our users, which might be ultimately not comfortable or easy for some of us at all. What you have to make sure is that there should always be some people in your team who think about how things will function ** from the user's perspective**. We call that one the UX champion.

Morals: To build a great software in term of good UX, it might not even close to take a "village" but it is surely does take a well-rounded team.

Road to UX Success

The best road to succeed in UX field is to completely transform yourself into end users. Involve them and then gather the requirements. It is then you will hear a voice in your head saying that:

  • As an end user, I am here because I need something, and I either want to get it from you or find out if you can provide me with it.
  • In some cases I really may not even know what I need, so it would be great if you could help me work on figuring that out, too. (Do not laugh hysterically at me, these kinds of end users are fairly common)
  • I just want to get what I need from you and move on with the rest of my day as I do not have all night to explain, so chop chop. Please, please read my mind anticipate my needs and (above all else) just make it EASY for me to get what I have been looking for, without making me jump through hoops or wade through "junk" that I do not give a damn about.
  • Only when such things can be achieved, will I be your loyal follower for the rest of my life. Or at least, until someone who does all these things better than you do comes along...

=> And here comes the ultimate process of understanding customers' needs and anticipating their thoughts:

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