Software systems do one or both of two things. They either save time, provide knowledge, or both, and UX is the method of delivering that value. The value of a product, especially when compared to its competitors, is dependent upon it’s ability to deliver this knowledge or time savings, and the delivery of this information encapsulated within the user experience.
Therefore, UX is core to the success of any digital product with a user interface that is used on a regular basis.
Implementing Great UX
The process of implementing great UX is the process of questioning every aspect of the system. This includes every button, every line of text, every line, every space, every action, every state of every element, every process and action a user takes for every kind of user within a system.
This is done by analyzing every step critically, understanding the priority order of every element and every feature, and having a deep understanding of how people use software systems and processes. The knowledge of how users flow through systems is not based just based on intuition, it is based on evidence and a study of usability. UX designers go through the process of understanding the needs of users more than those users understand it themselves and delivering a system that meets these needs in ways that customers often cannot express. Product deliverables are based on the specifications, data-driven decisions, critical thinking, intuition, education, focused training, and experience.
What Do UX Designers Do?
UX designers take systems that are complicated and make them seem easy. They make processes with many variables easy to understand and flow through. They deliver systems that make sense. When users see these final deliverables and use those systems, they often think “of course it would be that way, how else could it possibly be?”
Those users don’t see the many, many revisions the hundreds of hours that went into that design, or the thousands of hours it took to become a person or team that could deliver a system that couldn’t be simpler to use.
UX designers are problem solvers. They use strong critical thinking skills paired with the ability to look at systems from multiple angles to ask the right question and determine how to deliver the best possible product. They don’t deliver what’s easy, they deliver what’s best for the user and the client. Since business is at the core of most software systems, UX designers must think about the impact on business. They consider the bottom line and the impact of actions by users towards the goals of their team or client.
What is Great UX?
There is a difference between being a UX designer and being a great UX designer. Being great at UX doesn’t mean looking at systems and intuiting ways to do things or creating pretty pictures. It means having a study how users navigate programs, having read volumes on usability, it means examining and re-examining datasets and using that data to make decisions, then have analyzing implementations to determine success, then often times, doing it all over.
People that are great at this profession have failed, sometimes at great cost, and learned from those failures. As in every profession, there is no substitute for experience.
Great UX designers have spent many years honing their skills in order to know the right questions to ask, how to ask, when to ask, and why to ask. They have also spent time becoming great at applying the answers as designs to make systems as usable as possible. This includes years of practice mastering design tools, different styles, different systems, and becoming a great designer, developer, businessperson, manager, artist, and critical thinker.
Why I wrote this
I was trying to explain to a team I am working with what UX is, how it operates, and why it is important when I realized that I had never written out my thoughts on what it really meant to ‘do UX’.
After spending 20 years in SaaS business building and almost all of that time, in part, as a UX designer, I have come to understand how critical great user experiences are to businesses.
It doesn’t matter great your tool is if your users can use it, so make it great.
Jason Long is the founder of JH Media Group as well as a number of other businesses. He is always interested in new businesses, new ideas, and new ways to change the world. He has over 20 years of experience in design and development, he has served in a variety of different roles ranging from designer to CEO. Most of his time is spent working on the build and development of new ventures while traveling the world.