23 Jun

UX Design: At the Heart of Application Development – Part 1

UX Design: At the Heart of Application Development

We now know that the success, or the lack thereof, among handheld devices depends largely on whether pre and post-installed apps are intuitive. After all, reputation counts for much in this industry. However, in their blind rush to get their applications out in the market, developers tend to neglect the searing need for gratifying user experiences.

The evolution of an app from start to finish is a very interesting one. Application development is all about coming up with a rough plan explaining the features of the app. The next step is to transform that fundamental idea into an incredible offering.

Moreover, the challenge that is ever-present comes in the form of the hundreds of similar apps that are available in the App Store. The true test of an application developer’s prowess in such a scenario is to provide a unique experience.

But it is quite easy, considerably so at least, to separate the wheat from the chaff—between excellent and below-par apps. For every great app that is downloaded thousands of times, there are those that struggle to entice users. But why is this so?

While there is no cut and dry answer, one explanation could be that the more popular an app, the more exceptional its development methodologies would have been.

Try this simple test: If were to download dozens of apps and test them, a steady thread begins to reveal itself. All the much-sought-after apps have an extraordinary User Experience Design (UXD or UED) that earns them immense respectability the world over.

1. UXD – Basics and Beyond

User experience involves a person’s behaviors, attitudes, and emotions about using a particular product, system, or service. User experience includes the practical, experiential, affective, meaningful and valuable aspects of human–computer interaction (HCI) and product ownership.

Additionally, it includes a person’s perceptions of system aspects such as utility, ease of use and efficiency. User experience may be considered subjective in nature to the degree that it is about individual perception and thought with respect to the system. User experience is dynamic as it is constantly modified over time due to changing usage circumstances and changes to individual systems as well as the wider usage context in which they can be found.

Many factors can influence a user’s experience with a system. To address the variety, factors influencing user experience have been classified into three main categories: user’s state and previous experience, system properties, and the usage context (situation). Studying typical users, contexts, interactions and resulting emotions help in designing the system. But lest we develop wrong notions, it will help to remember that UXD is not solely user-oriented, but works to satisfy company goals.

Every single element that goes into producing a flawless UXD basically revolves around the layout and navigability functions. Simple things like ensuring that all the screen buttons are placed accurately, in the exact way it was intended. This facilitates users to enjoy seamless cognitive content.

Imagine getting into your home through a different door every day. Sounds like fun? No? I thought so too! Similarly, one of the cornerstones of devising an impressive UXD lies in the competency of the information architecture used. It should be one that complements and enables user requirements; and does not force users to communicate with the very same data in many, unnecessary ways.

2. The UXD-Usability Muddle

There are times when people fail to draw a clear distinction between UXD and usability—this, despite their overwhelming differences. Usability pertains more to the app’s logistics; for example, how user-friendly is the app? Is the app easy to comprehend? Terms or measurable deliverables related to usability are the ones such as: Effectiveness, Efficiency, Learnability, Memorability, Expedience and Error-Preventability.

A well-rounded UXD can be achieved only when it works unobtrusively, in the background, such that the user is unaware of all the complexities that enable a matchless experience. Interaction is the key in ensuring continued app usage. Lengthy upload or download times and unwanted interruptions when using apps, expose the downsides in developmental procedures.

For example, an event such as difficulties in navigating the app and/or interacting with it serves to ruin the overall user experience. This constitutes the result of inconsiderate or careless UXD.

3. Get on the UX Express!

It matters little if your app provides weather updates, health tips or makes literary suggestions—your UX should be top notch if you aim to cut ice with users and develop a long-term relationship between the them and the software. Once you achieve these goals, recall value will play its part and users will flock to download your app.

But, there are no quick-fix solutions or magic formula to achieve this heightened level of acceptability among users. So how exactly do the experts do this? Let’s find out…

4. Tailor-made UXD Formula

So by now it is amply evident that UXD is the bedrock of satisfaction-levels experienced by users, through app interactions. The benefit that the ‘satisfaction factor’ brings about is two-pronged—Users who like the app tend to return time and again; also, the chances of such a person recommending the app more than doubles. Solid UXD is essential for the viability of any enterprise.

As mentioned earlier, the user and the company stand to gain in myriad ways through a sturdy and seamless UXD experience. Let us now look at a few of those ways:

  • Increased Productivity Levels – A quicker exchange equals more customers.
  • Boost in Sales – Strong UXD means users are engaged from initiating their interaction with an app to concluding their use, so if the app is for commercial purposes, the user is more likely to make a purchase before ending their session.
  • Reduction in Training – Employees will spend less time troubleshooting and more time making advances and improvements to the app.
  • Lower Development Costs – Targeted app development means that resources are not wasted on bells and whistles the audience has little interest in.

Unless and until the app’s design is user-focussed and purpose-built, all the aspects mentioned above cannot be realized comprehensively. But sometimes developing audience-oriented is fraught with perils because attempts can be made to make the design of the app to appeal to a larger mass of users; thereby including even those who are not likely to use the app. Such thinking will prove to be counter-productive and is sure to backfire.

To outsmart such tendencies, a robust UXD requires a tremendous amount of research, whereby app developers can ensure all-embracing customer satisfaction and steady rise in app usage.

In the next edition of this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at the importance of Human Interface Guidelines (HIG), how to tap into prevalent trends, understand user behavior through UX research and much more.