When you look up the definition of User Experience, you get, “the overall experience of a person using a product such as a website or computer application, especially in terms of how easy or pleasing it is to use.”
That definition is misleading because it boils UX design down to pretty interfaces that two year olds can use. Let’s note that most users are not two year olds and aren’t using a product simply because it looks “nice.” Rather, we should define UX design as a system of design that recognizes a user’s problem and solves this problem by providing an interface that makes accessing the solution pleasing.
This means that we’re thinking of the product itself rather than features. Instead of trying to design the most vibrant, eye-popping User Interface, we’re designing functional interfaces that are legible to users of all backgrounds.
The Wrong UX
For an example of how not to UX design, you need look no further than Microsoft’s initial release of Windows 8. This much-loathed OS update is a perfect example of UX designers favoring candy-colored visuals over practical design.
Sure, Microsoft’s Metro UI looks modern and cool if you’ve got this hooked up to your entertainment system. You’ve got time to kill and the visual collage is effective at distracting you. But, one of the most sacred rules of product development is knowing your audience. Microsoft has over an 80 percent market share in the OS market and you can bet that a large portion of its costumer base are business owners and employees who simply use their OS to get work done on their PCs. They rely on Microsoft’s products to be stable, reliable, and easy to use.
Suddenly, in an organized work environment, all of the visuals speak of disorganization and confusion. As you may have guessed, some users erupted.
Microsoft’s designers assumed that placing the avant-garde features found within the latest smartphones at the time would make their product sought after.
What they failed to do was think with a product-first mindset. The designing of new features only served to bury the problem Microsoft’s product was supposed to solve. The problem being that Microsoft doesn’t want to teach everyone the command line so that they can access files. The solution? Make accessing files easy by designing a simple GUI.
So, the UX design should have correlated with the solution. Microsoft learned a costly lesson. Their mistake is history and the reason we learn history is to avoid repeating the same mistakes.
The Right UX
Let’s take Twitter’s home feed as an example of how to UX design the right way. As a product, Twitter offers users the ability to write messages that can be seen by anyone using their platform. Users should be able to have real time access to the tweets of other users that share similar interests. To solve this problem, Twitter’s UX designers implemented an endlessly scrolling timeline.
The most important aspect of this design is the buffer that holds incoming tweets. The designers understood that the product was a rapid-fire messaging system and designed around the problems that would arise from too many tweets loading on to the screen. The call to action does an adequate job of drawing the user’s eye to the tab. You don’t need a tutorial to use this feature. Now that’s solid UX design.
As a designer, it can be very tempting to follow the latest trends. Designers will always be designing. Jaw-dropping features may seem too irresistible to pass up. But before you add that awesome parallax scroll, think, how does this serve the user? How can I bridge the gap between product and design?