Three Essentials in UX Design
There are three essentials in user experience design:
- Visualizing and documenting design solutions to communicate them to others who implement them
As UX professionals, we do this really well. There is no shortage of ways to document a current user experience or what an ideal user experience should be, including wireframes, prototypes, customer maps, customer journeys, scenarios, and workflows. Oh, my!
- Tracing all elements of user experiences back to human needs and interactions, so we can create products that are meaningful
We generally do this well, too. We don’t design user experiences in isolation. We’re always aware that there’s a human component to them. Whether it’s primary research we’ve done ourselves or a book we’ve read about someone else’s research, we relate everything we do to human beings and their needs, behaviors, thoughts, attitudes, and emotions. We know that this is what differentiates our products from those of competitors who complain, “We have people who can do UI design, but we don’t have anyone who can help us understand our users.” To trace human interactions, we have a myriad of approaches, including ethnography, task-based interviews, surveys, remote usability testing, and analytics.
- Conceiving of user experiences holistically
User experiences comprise systems of elements that we should design holistically—not in isolation of each other. The broader our perspective and the larger the context of a user experience, the greater its impact and value. Unfortunately, appreciating that everything we design is a system is where I think we’ve not stepped up our game. Sure, we do a great job on a tactical, micro-level. We know how to optimize a Web site’s or mobile application’s layout, content, features, navigation, and functionality. But I’m not talking about user experience at that level. I’m talking about game-changing, human experience–altering, business-impacting system thinking.
Many of us talk the talk: “It’s the entire experience that’s important. … We design holistic, end-to-end user experiences. … It’s critical that we understand multiple touchpoints with our customers.” Sounds great, but this chatter and discourse belies a truth that we often don’t want to admit: we rarely ever get to do it.
How do I know this? Because poor experiences continue to outnumber the great ones. Every day we see glimpses ourselves or hear stories from others of customer experiences that fail at the macro-level. The disconnect between airports that led to an 11-hour tarmac delay. The insurance company that didn’t communicate the right prescription coverage to a pharmacy.
These are not the same kinds of problems that exist at the level of Web site information architecture or user interface design. The solution of these design problems requires a broader and far-reaching perspective—looking at who’s involved; what systems, processes, and communications are in place; where they occur; and where things fall apart.
To be clear, a macro-experience that you create is only going to be as successful as its supporting, micro-level experiences. The details matter. For example, making it really easy to look up and understand your medical benefits on an insurance Web site (micro) is useless if the doctors who treat you have no access to that information (macro).
I want UX professionals to avail themselves of this game-changing, human experience–altering, business-impacting, system-thinking opportunity. For this reason, I have a passion for service design, a relatively new field that I believe offers UX professionals an opportunity to have the level of impact to which we all aspire.