The success of any product development project depends on a number of factors, and the importance of user experience is second to none. A product that is based on the latest technologies will still require excellent usability that matches to the desired customer journey to be successful in today’s highly competitive marketplace.
The Importance of Design in a Product Engineering Team
To develop a quality product (whether an application, website, software package or progressive web app), it’s important that all team members understand their role in creating value during the product development process. The designer or design team has the responsibility of making the product look great while ensuring a crisp and intuitive user interface. To be successful, regular interaction between the design (UI & UX) team and other experts involved (client stakeholders, business analysts, functional, technology development and quality/testing) is important to ensure everyone is on the same page and working towards a common goal.
There are many factors that can impact the user experience both from a design as well as a technical perspective. Let’s look at some of the most common factors that directly impact the user experience:
- Design is more than just aesthetics:
Most people think that design is used only to make something look pleasing to the eye. Although aesthetics is an important part of the design, there’s more to it. Design is a holistic process of building a product which requires an in-depth understanding of the user needs, customer journey, use case, user’s environment, and stakeholder expectations. Aesthetics need to be crafted into the product design in such a way that they maximize the user’s understanding of how to use the product – or make the user experience intuitive and instinctive.
For e.g.: Consider a home decor website which has a button to view wallpapers:
As can be seen, both have the same pretty flowers, however, the button on the right has a slightly different design which increases the readability of the text. This will optimize the visitor click rate.
- Incorporate white space:
White space is a vital part of an aesthetic visual. Without it, it is easy to overwhelm the user/audience by adding too much content. Information overloaded is all around us, so the more succinct and cleaner your message is to the audience, the better. You may be eager to over-elaborate or provide very detailed information to impress, but chances are they will not take the time to read it. Within the last few years, the average user’s attention span has dropped to only 8 seconds.
Minimalist design is in vogue. It highlights the elegance in the designer’s creation as well as makes interpretation of logos, signs, symbols, and products much easier for users.
Empty/white space leads audiences to the most important content or key elements of the page or application and guides them quickly and easily through the application or system for a sleek experience.
- Images – Yes, they should be hi-res!:
With visuals being a considerable element of application or web page design, they should always be high quality. Yes, there is a cost associated in purchasing images from a professional website but it is well justified in the long run. Designers are frequently asked “Why should we buy images? Can’t we just search online and download and use!”
There are two reasons why this is a resounding NO. The first is copyright infringement. When you click and download, do you know the source of that image? While many images are available for free, many are protected by copyright and can only legally be utilized once you pay for the license through the original author or a stock photo site. If you use these images without permission, you could be subject to substantial fines or back-payment for the length of time they are in use. In this digital age- there are tools that stock photo sites and others use to track use of their images to ensure compliance.
The second is resolution. When an image is captured or exported either by a digital camera or via design tools like Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator, its’ resolution (i.e. number of pixels in the image) is finite. It’s possible to increase the dimensions of the image, however, the pixel number will remain the same. The image will have a pixelated look, due to the increased size of each pixel, which makes the pixel square much more visible to the eye. Decreasing the size of the image can be done without pixelation since we are fitting more pixels into less space. Distorted or pixelated images can damage the user experience and brand perception. Your best bet is to always use images acquired through proper channels.
- An understanding of functional requirements is key:
Many think it’s enough to just provide the designer a color scheme and the overall layout of the product to create a powerful UI/UX. It is also important that the designer is well-informed regarding the requested functionality. These details will help the designer to create a product that is both user-friendly and efficient. The designer may then adjust their strategy, choosing colors and a layout that would holistically enhance the product’s functionality while also optimizing the number of clicks and screen transitions.
- Colors really do have emotions and meanings:
Colors are very important, non-textual elements of a design which indirectly impact user experience. When one enters a spa, what vibes does s/he get? The spa owners obviously want the ambiance to give a relaxed and soothing feel to clients who enter the premises. The reception area is typically decorated with images of people relaxing with a background of a lush-green forest or a blue ocean. These images and colors create a relaxing environment and a soothing ambiance.
Another key color consideration is the user persona (the target user for the product) and what they want to see/experience. Aspects related to user personas including demographics, culture and religious inclination should be considered. Certain colors may or may not appeal to specific age groups, genders or religion. Selecting a color pallet is a thoughtful process which both users and stakeholders should be part of so there is a clear understanding of the emotion which needs to be reflected in the end result.
- Content length and placement matter:
I have personally experienced businesses which provide too much information that overwhelms users. For example, a restaurant which has an online ordering option on their website has some drool-worthy cuisine that is extremely popular for regular clients. However, the restaurant crams all their cuisine options on a single page which hides the most popular dishes in a very long list. This could directly impact revenues and ratings of the restaurant if it is too challenging for visitors to find their dish of choice. The “keep it simple” principle comes in handy here. Designers and analysts need to work together to ensure that the most important content (the most popular dishes), which will be of increased relevance for their users and their actions, should be shown prominently, perhaps in its own section for easy reference.
- Templates are fine to use, if they fit requirements:
Each product has unique and varied features, functionalities and most importantly, diverse users. This is where a “build v/s buy” decision needs to evaluated based on requirement considerations. To avoid high cost of development and to reduce time to market, ready-made UI (user interface) templates can be used.
Templates can address most product requirements, but there may be a small number of critical requirements, especially in relation to user experience, that aren’t covered. In such cases, a development team will need to customize (and could potentially cause issues) with the built-in UI. The time and associated costs for added customization, testing, and reparations and may turn out to be higher than if the interface was built from scratch. It is beneficial to start a design by first defining the user goals and mapping all required functions to that design so it is practically and emotionally useful for users.
When design/UI/UX is given a top priority in product development and engineering, the end result is a powerful user experience.
If you have a product/application that requires a design refresh, improvements in user experience or a completely new interface, contact us to engage our design team.