User experience (UX) and user interface (UI) are not new disciplines, but it’s only in the last few years that they’ve become mainstream concepts.
Both UI and UX place the user front and centre when it comes to dealing with a technology product. Considering the UX design of your software project is essential to ensuring its success. How user-friendly your solution is will make all the difference to customers – and you want lots of those!
UI & UX and the role they play in software development
Creating a software solution is a multi-layered project, but its the UX and UI designers on any software development team who’ll advocate the most for customers.
A fair degree of analysis goes into designing robust UI and UX experiences, and it’s on the basis of these whether your customers will think you’ve created a good product or not.
No one uses a software product just to use a software product. Users sign up to software solutions to solve a problem in their life. Companies need to understand this to offer the best solution possible.
Going through a UX process helps companies arrive at the understanding of exactly what their customers would like. A large part of getting the UX and UI right is analysing user behaviour. A solution that works in a seamless way with how users interact enhances user satisfaction and makes for a very happy customer.
Understanding the difference between UI & UX
Although the terms UI and UX are often used interchangeably, there are some differences between the two concepts.
UX take into account the whole user experience. While design is certainly part of the user experience, so too are the analytical and technical aspects of our product. These are often called “information architecture” and relates to how your users can find the solutions they’re looking for when using your product.
It’s the UX of your software that will determine how highly your users rate its functionality. Needless to say, you want to offer your users as much ease within the functionality of your product as possible. If you don’t, they’ll simply switch to a different software solution.
UX done right incorporates many different aspects. UX designers have an understanding and proficiency in psychology, content creation/copywriting, graphic design and programming.
Getting the UI correct is part of the UX process. While a lot of coding might be running in the background, your users are oblivious to this. Or they should be. What your users definitely won’t be oblivious too is the interface of your product.
The interface acts as the doorway through which your users use your solution. This goes further that just logging in; the whole product’s interface needs to be considered when designing for good UI. Design principles come heavily into play for UI, but that’s not all. There also needs to be a deep understanding of customer behaviour. And, more to the point, you need to know how your customers will behave on your product and what information they’re looking for from your solution.
What makes for good UI & UX design?
Each software development company will take into account the specific requirements of each individual project they are working on. At Netfully, we work with our clients as partners and fully immerse ourselves in their businesses to understand what their customers are looking for.
However, there is a series of steps that can be used as a road map to follow in order to ensure the highest rate of usability possible. Following these steps ensures that the user/customer is constantly first in mind while the development and design process gets under way.
- Research – diving right into developing the software for your product is highly dangerous. The software development process needs to be built on an accurate understanding of who your customers are, how they interact with software, market requirements and what problems your customers are trying to solve. Conducting client surveys and competitor analysis is imperative to the research phase.
- Analyse – the research you embark on normally throws up a lot of data and you can easily find yourself drowning it it. Stage two of a thorough UX and UI roadmap involves structuring the data that you’ve researched. Within this data, you’ll have uncovered insights about your customers’ pain points and what solutions they need, as well as information about their behaviour. Analyse the research you have to create foundation documents of user personas and user flows. You might add to these over time, but at this stage a clear idea of who your customer is and their behaviour should start to emerge.
- UX – at this point, your software development agency will start building out the experience you want your users to have. Using best practice UX design principles, your agency will build out wireframes and prototypes to provide an illustration of how your intended users will interact with your solution when its built.
- UI – UI and UX will be considered at the same time. Although UI is one component of UX, it’s a very important one. As mentioned earlier, your product’s user interface will need to focus on more than just the logging in page. The visual design and functionality will need to take into account each element.
- Development – your software development outsource partner will be involved in earlier stages of your UX and UI process, but it’s no surprise that it’s at the development stage that they come heavily into play. Close communication between yourself and your software agency is key to building a great custom software product. Let your developers work with the research and analysis you’ve done to this point.
- Evaluate – scheduling in smaller goals along the path to building your software product helps keep the project on track. Ensuring that usability testing comes in at each phase of the product build also helps eliminate bugs before they get a chance to become bigger problems.
Using information architecture to put your users first
Creating an effective foundation for your information architecture relies on working with robust data. Chances are that there will be more than one person involved in building your custom software, from the software development agency to your own internal stakeholders.
It’s only natural that everyone will have an opinion. There’s definitely space for discussions around differing points of view, but it’s imperative to keep users in mind and stick to the data. Opinions are not going to build a product that your users loving engaging with, but UX informed by data, facts and figures will.
As your agency accomplishes each part of the build, engage with potential users to see how they interact with your product. This real world data will add an additional rich layer of insight into the data you’re working with to build your overall product.
User testing helps you see firsthand how people are using the interface of your product. It also helps you locate issues that have the potential to derail your project or prevent it from becoming a stellar piece of software. Having the opportunity to fix these problems before you launch your product helps you improve functionality and drive the best results for your software product.
User design is essential to business growth
Far from being a “nice to have”, UX and UI design are essential to business growth.
Design is about so much more than just the way something looks. This point is particularly valid when it comes to creating a software product. Designing is as much about planning as it is about aesthetic considerations.
Understanding the importance of user importance is akin to designing with your intended user in mind. This goes beyond colour palettes, though the visual look and feel plays a vital role in UX and UI, and looks deeply into the question of why your customers, both existing and future, will use your product.
Your software product won’t exist independently of your brand. Users are not drawn just to your solution but to your entire brand – and to the promise they perceive your brand makes.
The user interface design will play a powerful role in your conversion strategy of turning leads into customers, by translating business strategy into tangible results.
Build software products people will like and use
The mainstream media might be doing a good job into scaring all of us that robots are coming to take our job, but software development remains a resolutely human-centred field.
This may be a surprising statement, but it’s true. Whether you’re working for a large company or a small one, you’ve come up with an idea for a solution that will solve a real world problem. The software development agency you choose to work with should be highly experienced in building solutions that turn customers into evangelists of your software. They do this by building solutions with a high degree of functionality and ease of use. And, most importantly of all, is the customer.
Without customers, there is no point in building any solution at all.
There’s no doubt that machine learning, artificial intelligence and robots all have a role to play in the future of software development and technology. But, it’s the relentless focus on people, and designing specifically for human interaction with software, that will dominate the technology landscape to come.