User Experience (UX) Design

A Brief Introduction to User Experience (UX) Design

User experience (UX) design can be a complicated and overwhelming field for newcomers, as it a wide range of topics (from accessibility to wire-framing ). Some of these topics overlap, while some of them complement one another. Therefore, it’s important to come to a common and basic understanding of what the term “user experience” means in a design context.

Complexity and Perception

User experience design, as its name suggests, is about designing the ideal experience of using a service or product. As such, it can involve all types of products and services—think, for instance, about the design involved in a museum exhibition. However, in the main, the term user experience design is used in relation to websites, web applications and other software applications. Since the second half of this century’s first decade, technologies have become increasingly complex, and the functionality of applications and websites has become far broader and far more intricate. Early websites were simple static pages that served up information to feed curious searchers; however, a few decades later, what we can find a wealth of online are sites that are interactive and offer a much richer feel for users.

You can add all the features and functionality that you like to a site or application, but the success of the project rides on a single factor: how the users feel about it.

The questions that we as UX designers are concerned with are these:

  • Does the site or application give the user value?
  • Does the user find the site or application simple to use and navigate?
  • Does the user actually enjoy using the site or the application?

UX designer can say he’s or she’s doing a good job when the answer is “Yes!” to all of the above.

What is User Experience (UX)?

A UX designer is someone who investigates and analyses how users feel about the products he or she offers them. UX designers then apply this knowledge to product development in order to ensure that the user has the best possible experience with a product. UX designers conduct research, analyse their findings, inform other members of the development team of their findings, monitor development projects to ensure those findings are implemented, and do much more.

Icons and UX

The Trip advisor app uses icons with text labels on their start page and on their tab navigation menu.

ICONS COULD MEAN A LOT OF THINGS

The icons are given meaning by the user, in regard to the task they’re carrying out at the moment.

Icons are like abstract paintings. They get different meanings for different people. It’s all through the eyes of an observer. And that ambiguity is really exciting with art. But not so much in user interfaces.

Abstract art. Painting.
Abstract art. Painting.

What’s the icon for offline downloads? It could be a folder, star,  heart, down arrow. Or even a profile icon. It’s very hard to rule out any one icon.

ICONS SHOULD HAVE LABELS

When icons are used to save space, things go wrong. Icons should not be used in that way. To a designer of tight mobile interfaces, using an icon to save space is really compelling. At first glance, the interface looks so clean and tidy!

However, for the user it’s usually the second glance that counts. The one where they look at the icon when they are carrying out a task.

Icons + labels = Happy users

If you label icons, they suddenly become awesome, accessible and understandable. An icon with a label:

  • makes it easier for the user to find the most important features – the ones with icons.
  • makes it easier to remember where you clicked the next time you come back.
  • makes the interface more aesthetically pleasing than if there were just text buttons.

A text and icon combination also improves the experience for people who have a hard time reading, like many users with dyslexia, autism, aphasia or other reading impairments.

This article first appeared in Axess Labs 30 August 2017