What the main advantages of having a UX designer on board are and why it’s worth to invest in this domain.
UX designers as a separate position are new on the market. Until recently their responsibilities were split between developers, graphic designers, PMs and BAs. Despite the fact that the term “UX” has been around for a while, questions like “Why is user experience important?” and “Why is UX design important?” still pop up during the product design process. In this article, I’d like to talk in detail about what the main advantages of having a UX designer onboard are and why it’s worth to invest in this domain.
1. Why should I care about UX design?
If you care for your product, you should also care for UX Design. Following this track of thoughts:
- UX design techniques are aimed to understand the business and potential users.
- Understanding these two things is an essential starting point in creating a product.
- Great product is based on user satisfaction.
- User satisfaction and behaviours (such as ‘clicks’) can be measured and tested.
- Design can be optimised and tested on real-life users.
- User satisfaction can manifest itself as revenue.
- Satisfied customers are more likely to be more loyal.
To sum up, if you want to build a group of loyal customers, who simply adore your product and find it necessary in their lives and generate a steady revenue — then yes, you should beyond any doubt care about the user experience of your product. Especially when statistics are so appalling — there’s 10–35% chance that a new product will succeed and the lack of good UX is one of the reasons for failure.
2. What tangible benefits can I get from UX Design?
As mentioned above, design can be measured. You can receive a wide variety of qualitative and quantitative data.
Qualitative data is gathered from a bigger group of users — an example is a survey or statistics from Google Analytics. Based on the set of results it’s much easier to understand what happens.
Qualitative data is usually collected from a significantly smaller group — for example during in-depth interviews (IDI). Qualitative data makes it possible to understand why something happens.
Without going into details, some of the advantages of UX design are listed below:
- Increased conversion rates
- Diminished drop off rates
- Decreased number of issues raised by end users
- Increased brand awareness
- Guidance in attracting new users
- Consistent design experience
- Diagnosing areas for improvement
- Recommendation of solutions based on in-depth analysed user needs
A very interesting example of a successful UX investment can be found in a study performed in 2006 by Geoff Teehan, Director of Product Design at Facebook at the time. The so called “UX fund” allocated 50 000 $ in 10 companies paying attention to user experience. Over the period of 10 years the average stock price resulted in 450% gain and only 1 out of 10 of these companies didn’t profit.
Source: NEA Future of Design Survey
3. What are wireframes, mockups and prototypes?
There are 3 words that are sometimes used interchangeably (and shouldn’t be).
The first one is a wireframe. It’s a simple skeleton structure showing the main functionalities of a product. It is often used in the very first stage — creating wireframes is easy and not very time-consuming, usually made in black and white. The main purpose is to test the general layout and information architecture. They are static (meaning you can’t interact with it) and yes, they may (and usually do) look rough.
A mockup is a more realistic depiction of the final product. This is a medium-fidelity representation, meaning it’s usually made in colour version, with applied fonts, final text, images, logos, etc. Mockups are static but very similar to the final look&feel. They can provoke discussions about the layout, element order, content, colours, etc.
Finally, prototypes are interactive versions of mockups. They are clickable high-fidelity representations of the product. By clicking on them, users can experience something similar to interacting with the final product. On this stage possible future issues can be spotted. Importantly, prototypes can be tested on users.
The differences are nicely depicted below:
To sum up, creating these representations is relatively cheap and they can be changed almost instantly (the same can’t be said about an already developed product). They help to visualize the final product what is crucial especially for people with largely developed visual imagination.
4. Why do I need developers if I have mockups (or prototypes)?
Mockups are only a illustration of the final view and they try to pretend that something works. Mockups will not collect and store data, perform complex actions, predict all possible reactions of the system.
Let’s imagine that we want to create a booking site.
- what are the main functionalities (selecting a date range in the calendar, creating a reservation, payment),
- the group of target users who are going to interact with it.
This set of information can be interpreted in many ways depending on a personal or professional background (developers, business, designers etc).
Visual representations are created for all parties to understand the final product in the same way not only from functional but also from a visual perspective.
Mockups and prototypes are a huge help to developers who can base their job of the actual product on them but couldn’t possibly replace development.
5. Why can’t software developers design the system?
In many cases they already do.
I can reiterate the question ‘Why UX designers should design the system?’. A simple answer is — because the designers’ job is to care more about the users and overall experience when interacting with the final product. To achieve a “perfect product” they empathize with users, learn about their needs and use various testing techniques to check if their design suits the target users.
It doesn’t mean that developers can’t design. I know at least a few who have highly developed aesthetical skills and an open mind to suggest out-of-the-box solutions.
Normally, developers will design the system to the best of their tech knowledge whereas designers will focus on what they know about users.
It’s usually designers who tackle the problems and envision solutions. And it’s developers who focus on feasibility and are more down-to-earth.
The selection of these two roles is beneficial, and they both can learn a great deal from one another.
The perfect scenario includes constant collaboration between developers and UX designers. If that is the case, developers after receiving the design actively discuss the proposed design and share their feedback and suggestions as well as recognize technical limitations. In this idealistic scenario, both sides have an impact on the design and are in close collaboration during the development process.
UX design, for many a new and unestablished territory, might be perceived as a fancy and unnecessary addition to creating a product. A surprising benefit of having a UX Designer is finding opportunities as well as loopholes in your product even if you thought you knew it inside out. By investing in better UX design solutions, you’re able to avoid wasting human resources, time, and money. In fact, UX design is neither a graphic design nor just a bunch of pretty mockups — it’s a business strategy.