UX, or User Experience is something we hear about all the time nowadays. Yes, it is one of the hottest skills right now! We live in a world where people interact with interfaces of all kinds – and the ability to craft the best possible experience for the user is indeed a prized skill.
1. What is User Experience?
Simply put, User Experience is all about creating beautiful experience for the users of a product, regardless of what is being built.
The field is a combination of usability, cognitive science, website development and visual design. User experience professionals go through a detailed process of user research, ideation, prototyping and testing, to find out the best ways to help make people’s lives better through great products.
User experience is part of a broader field called Human Computer Interaction. HCI is a discipline that explores the relationships between humans and computers – the numerous psychological aspects that affect users, and the cognitive model of the user’s system. It’s an overlap between computer science, ergonomics, psychology, anthropology and analytics.
Regardless of the medium, UX design is a scientific process that’s applicable to any product or service – websites, street lamps, cars and so on! Although User Experience may seem like a recent phenomenon, the fact is that it has existed ever since people began designing products. The principles of great UX has been around since decades actually, and followed by great designers such as Dieter Rams.
2. Why is UX important?
Do you remember the last time you had a great user experience? Well, maybe you don’t. But do you remember the last time you had a terrible user experience? Chances are, you do!
Because great user experience is so seamless that it enables us to achieve our goals and perform tasks without even noticing or even thinking about it.
Bad user experience just makes us frustrated, angry and impatient – the bad experience just remains in our minds for a long time, and we try to avoid it. Remember the last time you tried to book a ticket or called customer care? Did it seem like a task? Bad UX is incredibly costly – customers will be quick to abandon you and your product the moment you annoy them even the slightest bit.
3. What is Good UX?
It’s simple. For an exemplary user experience, the needs of the user must be met exactly – with no bother or fuss. True user experience is not just providing a laundry list of features – it’s a product of elegance and simplicity that delights the user every time he uses the product.
Let us take an example of a website which many of us use: www.amazon.in. Although Amazon is not exactly a bastion of good user experience, there are a number of features that prove incredibly helpful to users.
For instance when you log on to Amazon, the things on top of your mind would be:
- I want to search for a specific product (a book, a portable hard disk)
- I want to browse several products to help me decide.
- I want to be able to see what items I added to my cart.
- I want to be able to tag items that I may like.
Amazon addresses these needs by providing a prominent floating header on top that lets you search for any product instantly, view the items on your cart, and browse the favourite items that you have in your wish list.
(source : Amazon Website )
Another useful UX feature provided by Amazon is rated user reviews. Everybody knows reviews are helpful to buyers. But not all reviews are equally helpful. So Amazon has taken reviews to the next level, by allowing users to rate reviews as helpful/unhelpful, ensuring that the best rated reviews get featured first to benefit most users.
(source : Amazon Website )
Another powerful UX feature is the one click “Buy Now” button that enables quicker purchases. It gets you quicker to the checkout page, thus minimizing chances of you abandoning your basket due to frustration.
(source : Amazon Website )
For more insights into what goes into designing products and services that not just meet customer needs, but exceed them, take a look at this case study by an interactive agency called Fantasy.
4. UX, UI and Usability
Many people use the terms UX, UI and Usability interchangeably, but they mean different things!
User experience is the connection, intuition, emotion of the user when using a product; whereas usability deals with the effectiveness of the product and its user-friendliness.
UI (user interface) design deals with the actual interfaces themselves – the buttons, the windows, the pixels – the actual interactive elements! As a brilliant comment on Quora sums it up “UX is the ambience of the restaurant, UI is the tables and chairs”
5. Roles within User Experience
There are several roles within UX. Most often, these can overlap with each other.
- UX researcher gathers insights, analyses users, profiles them and creates personas through research, interviews and other techniques.
- Information architect focuses on organizing vast quantities of information in the most usable way.
- Usability testing expert tests, studies and measures user behaviour and derives insights that act as feedback for improving the usability of the system.
- UI designer designs the actual screens and interactive elements, and how they work together.
6. How can you learn UX?
Being a relatively new field, there aren’t many formal courses available in this space in India. Some formal as well as non formal courses and certifications are listed below:
- IIT Mumbai’s Industrial Design Centre offers a 2-year Master of Design in Interaction Design.
- Maharashtra Institute of Design is another option.
- Human Factors International, is one of India’s premier UX institutions offering several courses and certifications in multiple Indian cities.
- Design Incubator offers workshops and courses across India.
In addition to the classroom based programs, you can also look at online programs in this space. If you consciously engage yourself in these online courses, complete the exercises, and participate in discussions – you will take away as much as you would in any paid on-campus course!
Stanford’s Coursera offers a supremely crafted online course on Human Computer Interaction by Professor Scott Klemmer.
A comprehensive list of online courses for UX aspirants is available here.
7. Growth in User experience
As said before, there are millions of interfaces with which humans interact on a day to day basis on a variety of devices such as mobiles, tablets, desktops, watches and more! And soon, home appliances, automobiles, control systems in industries, navigational systems and more will evolve and will need solid user experience architecture to make them user-friendly. Touch, visual, voice and gesture-based two way interactions will require an expertise in understanding and crafting experiences optimized for users of all backgrounds.
8. Additional resources
Listed below are some useful online resources for you to explore more about the field of User Experience.
- 5 UX professionals share their career experiences.
- Nielson Normal Group offers training, case-studies and in-depth research
- UI engineering. Jared Spool’s blog offers in-depth blogs and webinars from industry experts
- UX Booth – a blog written by professionals
- The stack exchange community for UX is the go-to forum for any UX query.