Whitepaper The Five Planes of UX Design
UX Design, by Belatrix Software | Topics: Software Development
User centered development is a must for a software developer that’s looking to establish a solid foundation in their chosen market segment.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach for UX design, but there are a few best practices that any project benefits from, regardless of its methodology.
Many software companies focus on function over form. They put most of their research and energy into the software features without paying any attention to how user friendly the application is. Instead, they feel that reducing production costs and software cycles requires the UX focus to be cut out of the equation. While software can’t stand on its own without a solid design, it’s also worthless if the users are unable to figure out the software because the UX is unclear, frustrating, or otherwise problematic. Even worse, some companies assume that the developers can put together a design, instead of sending it over to their design team.
When they don’t see the sales that they expect, they blame everything before realizing that a subpar UX is the major issue. There are countless software developers out there, so unless the company has a stellar and completely original idea, chances are they’re in direct competition with at least one other company. It doesn’t matter how many stellar features they offer if they never get used because the UX has end users running away before hitting the buy button.
User centered development is a must for a software developer that’s looking to establish a solid foundation in their chosen market segment. It’s not enough to have better functionality than the competition. It has to come together with a cohesive UX that makes it simple for the end users to figure out which way is up.
What is User Experience?
User Experience has to come in at the beginning of the product’s life cycle not tacked on near the end. The question is, what exactly is User Experience? UX design used to be lumped in with everything else that a software developer handled in their standard workload. It wasn’t until the past few years that it split off into its own design field, as companies began to realize that a great UX makes a big difference in the effectiveness of software.
UX is sometimes referred to as the design methodology behind the visuals. Graphic designers make an interface look pretty, but a UX centric design also focuses on the user accessibility and user friendliness. It encompasses a wide range of how a user interacts with the design, their feelings during the process, and keeping that all in perspective to make a great software experience.
One of the first things a software development team should do is establish what, when, where, why, and how the product is being used. This helps to shape the entire development process around the UX, instead of trying to shoehorn it in a software framework that doesn’t work well with it. Every aspect of the user is considered during this process, down to the psychological responses created by the software. This adds value to the software package overall.
How Does UX Benefit a Business?
There are thousands of applications launched per year, due to the massive growth in software, web, and mobile industries. The amount of competition in the market requires every company to take advantage of everything they can to get ahead and carve out a solid user-base for their product.
The typical user isn’t going through datasheets of hundreds of applications to figure out which one works for the best. They go off several factors, such as their first impressions, whether a software selection looks like it can meet their needs, and what their overall user experience is. Much of the decision making happens on a subconscious level, which is where UX design comes in.
Deliberating designing software with the UX in mind helps create a favorable first impression, even if this particular application isn’t as feature rich as a competitor’s offering. The UX works to meet user expectations from a product.
Some tangible benefits that result from UX design includes positive responses from the customers, higher sales, better conversion ratios, and increased web traffic. If the UX is for a website, some benefits include lower maintenance costs, better user feedback, established brand or industry authority, and better brand awareness.
The Five Planes for UX Design
There is no one-size-fits-all approach for UX design, but there are a few best practices that any project benefits from, regardless of its methodology. These 5 steps go from abstract to concrete and each of them has special tasks, helping businesses develop a workable UX centered application from the ground up.
The first step is strategy. Most software developers have brainstorming sessions where they go over the feature set of an application, the general look, and other important considerations. The UX design comes in during this strategy session so it’s incorporated right from the beginning. Here are a few questions software developers ask themselves when sketching a framework for a UX design:
- What is the big goal of the product?
- What does the user want?
- What does the business want?
The next step after strategy is establishing the scope of the development. In a perfect world, software developers could add every single idea that comes up at the beginning of a project. In reality, maybe 10 percent of these ideas are incorporated.
Determining the scope of the project takes the strategy session and translates it into concrete requirements for a piece of software. A few ways of handling scope creation includes:
- Creating user stories
- List objectives for the software
- How does the product help the users?
- How many clicks does it take to get to each essential function?
- What type of user is interested in this application?
The third step gets down to the nitty gritty of development. The structure of the Whitepaper | The Five planes of UX Designapplication is established. This is the step where development ideas move from intangible data points to actual areas of the application. Some questions to ask during this step of the development process includes:
- How do all the pieces of the site fit together and behave?
- How does the user find what they are looking for in an intuitive way?
- What are the flow of actions and interactions throughout the site?
Two ways to visually answer these questions includes a site map to figure out how every part of the application groups together, while user flow diagrams shows how they move throughout the site or app.
It’s time to make a design blueprint in this fourth step. Typically, software developers utilize wireframes to move from structure building to the look of the entire application. They are basic drawings or renderings that simply have to display how the application looks, what form the navigation takes, the general layout of the software, all of the elements involved in the application, and where these elements go.
The wireframe is not complicated visually. It’s a simple representation of what the major elements look like, before flashy graphics and logos get added to the picture. Here are some essential questions to answer while developing a wireframe:
- What elements are on which page?
- Where do the buttons go?
- What types of calls to action are there?
- How many columns are used?
- How is the text displayed?
- What is the image placement?
The last step of the process is to bring the entire process together with a unified visual design that makes it attractive to consumers. A good visual design should also work together with the rest of the development process to help augment the features, function, and form of the software.
Some elements that are added during this step of the process include:
- Color palettes
- Brand identity
To get a better understanding of the process, we’ll see an example of the complete UX process for facility manager software
Definition of business and user’s needs:
The company has the need for its employees to be able to graphically locate where other employees sit within the various office locations the company has.
This allows for employees to easily find someone for meetings, locate conference rooms in the campus, and allow floor-admins the ability to do space/capacity planning
Creation of user stories:
In this case different site maps were created according to different user’s permits. This is the user’s site map:
Creation of general and specific wireframes emphasizing interaction and workflow:
There were presented two different visual options. Finally, a third version was chosen with the best features of both:
A UX centric design benefits the user and Software Development Company in many ways. The user gets a better experience with the application, resulting in customer loyalty, an extensive user base, increased sales, and other direct benefits.
Incorporating UX planning in each step of the development process guarantees that the user will have their expectations met while the software company also meets its goals. Pick and choose which best practices work with a particular project’s development cycle to achieve success with UX design. This is a value added feature that needs to be included with any app on the market today.
The Design of every day things – Dan Norman
The UX week 2009
Harvard iLab – UX Design: An Introduction with Scout Stevenson