The user experience is not just ‘pretty fluff’
- 21 May, 2018 08:00
User experience (or UX) is a term developers use to describe how your customers interact with your software.
I’m sure you’ve used a website or an app before and been bamboozled or frustrated – this is an example of bad UX. Conversely, as well as simply delivering functionality to your users, good UX will go that extra step to make your software a delight to use.
When selecting a developer, it is crucial that they place a high value on UX.
Many developers are highly technical and therefore take great pride in the technical details of their work. They will often dismiss UX as just “pretty fluff” which a designer just tacks on at the end.
All the clever algorithms and technical wizardry that your developer builds are presented to the user through the UX. It is a vital and necessary part of building beautiful software.
This is a regrettable attitude. All the clever algorithms and technical wizardry that your developer builds are presented to the user through the UX. It is a vital and necessary part of building beautiful software.
Your requirements will vary, but to give you an idea of quick UX wins, you might:
Automatically focus the first textbox when a form loads
Allow the user to press the <Enter> key to submit a form, instead of having to click a “Submit” button with their mouse
Avoid technical jargon. If you have a contact form on your site, the button should say “Contact us”, not “Submit”
Guide the user through the site by highlighting the single button or action on the page which you expect them to need next
If a page has plenty of text, make sure it is broken up and logically laid out.
Use colour and layout consistently and judiciously. You should be able to squint your eyes at a site and still get an idea of the important sections
If your software is web-based, make sure you test its behaviour on a variety of screen sizes.
As you can see, a lot of UX is logical. But it is easily overlooked in many applications – make sure yours isn’t one of them.
Don’t forget the experience part of UX. Many people think it begins and ends with how your software looks, but that is only one part of the experience. Equally important are things like speed, accuracy, anticipation, relevance and follow-up
To get a good UX you need a specialist, and this is most often not the nerd that develops the main software for you. However, your developer is still heavily involved in the design because:
They dictate the constraints that the designer must work within. The extent to which your designer appreciates these constraints can massively impact the overall price and user-experience of your system.
Depending on what platform you choose, your developer will often be the one integrating the design back into the software. If your designer and developer have a complementary understanding, then you are more likely to get a final product that actually looks like the original designs
For these reasons I recommend obtaining your software developer first and then the designer. Often your developer can recommend a designer that they have worked with previously, which is a big help.
This is an excerpt from the book How to know if your software developer is trying to kill you by Ben Liebert (firstname.lastname@example.org), founder of Blackball Software.