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One of the most common misconceptions people have is that User Experience Design is all about usability. It’s easy to see why – usability means that a product is both usable and useful.
When you walk into an empty room, you can instantly imagine what purpose it will serve. Glance around and you get an idea for how to turn that space into anything that you want it to be. You can use it as a living room, an office, or a bedroom. It all depends on what furniture you choose and where you put it. The empty room is usable, but it’s not useful until you fill it.
In software, “the room” a user enters is never empty. Every software product has a user-facing side that was built for people to interact with. That interaction becomes an experience they go through when they use the product. It’s the UX designer’s job to make that experience a great one.
User Experience Design is about feelings
Ask yourself this question –what makes for a great experience? Is it the fact that it’s memorable? Not really, because it’s just as easy, if not easier, to recall one that was awful. Remember enterprise software circa 1990 to 2006? You had to fight it to make it do something, and products like that still exist. The emotional trauma they inflict heals slowly, because using them frustrates us to no end. Good user experience doesn’t have to be memorable, but it does have to make you feel something. Ideally, it should make you feel like getting a product to solve your problem was easy. Effortless, even.
Design isn’t just about problem solving; it’s about creating a more humane future. – Dan Saffer, The End of Design as We Know it.
People always talk about products that delight the user, but often misunderstand what that means. It’s not about the vibrant colors or how beautiful the design is. Great user experience is often completely disconnected from how the product looks. Sometimes the best user interface is no user interface, because UX is about how something works, and not how it looks.
You can delight a person by making your product work so well that they forget that it’s there. To delight the user is to charm them every time they interact with your product. Which means that:
UX Design is about Behavior
People are always in the middle of something. Living their lives, working on projects, building towards a goal they have. The UX Designer has to anticipate user behavior when they interact with a product, and how that interaction fits into their goals.
If you’re the end user – will it make you stop everything you’re doing? Does it have to? If it does – will that interaction be worth it for you?