In yesterday's post about design and implementation professionals working hand in hand, Software Architect, Ben Cochran, shared his thoughts. Today Senior Product Designer, Mark Anderson, weighs in.
User Experience (UX) Designers are responsible for defining how people will experience technology. That experience is almost always better when we build the product around the way people already think and act, rather than making people learn and adapt to how the product is built.
When the implementation drives the user experience, we force people to figure out how the product works. But those products don’t usually delight people. One reason VCR clocks are such a widely used example of bad user interface is that they typically make people guess what sequence of button pressing and holding will get them to the right time. The sequence may be well-defined and repeatable, but good luck trying to figure out what that sequence is! (To make things worse, our only clues are usually tiny black-on-black molded plastic letters…)
When designers and developers work together, the results can be beautiful, responsive, easy to use, and other great things. To make a successful product, teams of designers and developers must avoid two main pitfalls.
It’s useless to design something that can’t be built. That’s why developers prefer to work with designers who will take the time to learn about and work within the constraints of technology. It’s also why UX designers like to work with developers who know lots of ways to implement functionality, and who can accurately estimate the effort it takes. That said, just because we haven’t done something before doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, so the best teams push beyond their comfort zones when it will win them the prize of user delight. This brings us to the other pitfall.
It’s useless to build something that people can’t use or don’t care about. That’s why it’s so important to define products around a vision of who will actually use them, and what they might want to do with them. Designers and developers are rarely the actual target users, so it’s important to research what real customers need and try things out with those people to find out if we’ve hit the mark. Sometimes this even means leaving out features; when it comes to experience design, just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should. UX designers create a vision of what will be useful, usable, and fun for the target customers and define that vision in a way that can actually be built.
Fundamentally, if everyone on the team wants to delight the people who use their products, there is a built-in incentive to overcome obstacles and move things forward. That’s why the user stories Ben mentioned are so important; when we understand real people’s problems, we’re wired to help. And when we build products to fit the way people already think and work, they experience less frustration and more delight. That’s our goal, and we invite everyone to help us reach it. So please keep the emails and suggestions coming!
Continuing the discussion of how we develop software is alive in the lab.