4 Misconceptions About UX Design and One Hard-to-Ignore TRUTH

In the increasingly design-savvy state of the world, it’s never been more important to stand out and develop a unique brand identity through UX design. While most organizations recognize the ability of UX design to be the key driver for customer conversion, they often don’t recognize how to use UX design strategically to deliver new values driven by core business metrics.

Having overseen UX design-led business transformation at several organizations, here’s my take on the common misconceptions about UX design that can derail you from maximizing its impact on business outcomes.

Misconception #1: UX Design = Design Thinking

In the design world, UX design and design thinking are often considered synonyms. But in reality, design thinking is just an integrative thinking process that involves approaching problems in the right way. When you get the design thinking right, it doesn’t directly translate to getting the design right. UX Design is a much broader process that begins with understanding the business model, performing user research, and designing the service to fit into the users’ lives in a meaningful way.

Design thinking is all about examining and exploiting opposing ideas and constraints to understand the needs of the audience. For instance, a leading bank took a human-centered approach in designing their loyalty program. They even went an extra mile to exempt a loyal customer from being charged for a bounced check. In this sense, solving a complex customer loyalty problem with empathy is design thinking.

Image 2

SOURCE: WHITE PAPER – CHANGING THE STORIES BANK CUSTOMERS TELL THEMSELVES BY WWW.MCORPCONSULTING.COM

While better use of design thinking methods is useful for any company to solve its largest problems, design thinking will not, in and of itself, drive better design.

Misconception #2: Enabling Better UX is the Design Team’s Job

By creating a design-centric culture and by hiring design-centric marketers, engineers, product managers, etc., the design team can rely on the larger team, which serves as an extended UX arm. This holistic design-centric team is aligned with UX needs and can easily get started with the build process on their own, rather than waiting for the core design team to initiate the mock-up first. And that’s what makes everything about the product so much better than any individual designer or design team can provide.

With the increased popularity of agile methodology, it has left most organizations to wonder if Agile + UX work at all. When companies adopt an agile development environment, UX teams often feel like they just lost their seat at the table. It’s never easy to change, but when you design your agile process to explicitly include UX as a key component and assign a champion to it, you can have the impact on design you always wanted.

“Everybody at Apple is thinking about UX and design, not just the designers.” – Ex-UX Designer at Apple.

Misconception #3: All Fancy New Tech Compliments Design

Anything that requires users to learn new and complex tasks to perform a desired action has little or no chance of adoption. Period.

Tempted by the new technology, numerous app makers have attempted to blend fancy tech with design, making actions extremely difficult to master. The result? A  drop in app and product popularity. Iconic examples of design failures in an attempt to get too cool with technology are the Gesture control TV remote controls, the seldom used Samsung Eye-ball tracking feature, and the fascinating Google Glass. While the idea of the new tech was attractive, the use of these were too complex for the audience.

Misconception #4: Optimized Design Leads the User to the Outcome You Envision

It’s often considered best to overly question user behavior and direct them to the outcome you desire, but redirecting the user who is repeatedly going off the rails with an intention is useless. For example, there is nothing more annoying than mobile websites with “Download Our App” messages every other second before you’ve even had a chance to read what the app can do for you. If users deviate from your intended path, it is absolutely fine to bring them back on track, but if they do it repeatedly, it’s probably intentional. And you should stop badgering them, and learn from their preference.

Image 3

The Truth: UX Design Has an Incredible Impact on the Company’s Top and Bottom-Line

Any organization that moves beyond an ad-hoc user-centric mindset to a sustained and centralized UX practice will find that a successful UX design has an incredible impact on their top-line and bottom-line. By institutionalizing UX, every team learns to communicate problems, rather than devising abrupt solutions; every engineer will explore and anticipate additional use cases and will communicate the best technical solution; every visual designer will learn to think beyond the visuals and will consider how it works and behaves.

A disappointed customer will not patronize with your business again if there is a mismatch between what the customer initially sees from the design team and the final output from the development team.  While the QA team acts as a middleman to ensure the output is as promised, it can never be a reality when the QA team has no design DNA. It is only with a design-centric culture that any organization can bridge the customer expectation vs experience divide.

Design has an inherent value in developing empathy and creating experiences that truly matter to customers, thereby increasing their lifetime value and translating to business results. When design is effectively integrated with business vision, strategy, engineering, etc., it serves as an influential force that helps businesses stay closer to customers, and in return, you can monetize customers for the great experience delivered.

What other common misconceptions about UX design have you encountered? Share them in the comments below the slideshare!

Slideshare Image

Go to Slideshare

By Mohan Krishnaraj

The Most Important Skill to Become a Successful User Experience Designer

the-most-important-skill-to-become-asuccessful-user-experience-designer-thumbnail1

Many people, from different backgrounds, non-designers, non-technical folks, ask me sometimes – Can I become a user experience professional?

This made me think, what is the most important skill one would need to become a successful user experience professional?  Is it a Master’s degree in UX or IX from a reputed institute? Or deep knowledge about the principles of UX?  Excellent design skills? Communication? Technical expertise? All of the above?

I think none of them matter beyond a point. Of course, they would help, but none of them, in my opinion, qualifies to be the most important skill you would need to become a great UX designer.

The number one skill to be a successful user experience designer is what I call empathetic UX mindset.

Let me explain.

For example, consider the compose screen of any email application, say Gmail.

If you ask a develthe-most-important-skill-to-become-a-successful-user-experience-designer-screenshotoper to tell you about this screen, he might probably say something like, “You know, it’s a layover, with two text boxes and a large edit box. In the bottom bar there are a couple of icons and a “send” button. When the user presses ‘send,’ the data is validated and submitted to the server.”

If you ask the same question to a designer, he would say “I love the minimal design in this, see how neatly they have arranged the textboxes and the message field. And they have used the blue color for the send button, which is a universally accepted color without any negative implications! Brilliant, no?”

If you ask someone from the business side, they would say something like “We need to send the data through the algorithm to pick up relevant keywords, so that we can show matching ads and increase revenue.”

There is no problem with any one the above responses, they all are genuine and true.

But, if you see the same interface from a user’s perspective, say a 50 year old dad, he would say, “My daughter has gone abroad for an assignment, it has been three days we spoke to her over the phone, but you know it is very costly from here. And maybe she is busy and we don’t want to call and trouble her every time. She, before leaving, taught me how to use this email thing and I am trying to send an email to her from me and her mother.” Her mom would add, “Can we send her those photos of Pintu too?”

enabling-people-with-low-vision-to-access-android-smartphones-pic20

You go beyond text boxes, colors and technical words. All you see and hear are emotions. Nervousness of using the app for the first time. Eagerness to communicate with their dear one. Love and affection.

The most important skill you require, my friends, to become a successful user experience designer, is the ability to understand that elderly couple. And thousands of others like them. Everything else will fall in line, when you make it your responsibility to make sure they are able to use the application without any difficulties.

If you walk a mile in their shoes, see the product through their eyes, empathize with the user – that makes the winning difference more than any other skill you might have.

When you step outside your technical boundaries, forget the rigid business needs and become your user, only then do you become a successful user experience designer.

And your user will thank you for that.

By Harikrishnan Menon

How to Read Customer Support Reports for Usability

In any usareading-customer-support-reports-for-usability-studies-blog-thumbnailbility study conducted in an organization, the focus is on conducting user tests to gauge the workability of the product. But customer support reports give an entirely different picture.

We have all called customer support at some point seeking their assistance for product or services that we are using. The call could be related to a bank account, purchase order, missing luggage, changing mobile plans, etc. The common thread in all these is the understanding of customers’ problems, solving them & keeping a record of it. Customer support is one division within an organization that interacts most frequently with its customers. And for a usability consultant, that’s a knowledge bank out there to understand its users. The key advantage of looking into customer support data is that usability enhancements can be done at any part of product life-cycle & don’t cost anything extra.

Usability Study Input Area
reading-customer-support-reports-for-usability-studies-pic1 (1)

Not all parts of customer support data will be useful for a usability study. It needs careful filtering of data to drill down to issues reported by customers on usage of product. It could be related to incomplete transactions, error scenarios, unsuccessful operations or difficulty in understanding product in itself. These reports give a clear picture as to where the application is failing with users. Sometimes, customer support executives walk customers through the whole process and help them finish it step by step. This is when we know the product’s not working with users & needs immediate attention. Most companies are opting to record conversations between customer support staff & customers for quality monitoring purposes. This enables us to listen to actual conversations & underline customer needs. Possible usability solutions could include fixing navigational flow, making cosmetic design changes, adding usable features etc.

Usability experts will then jot down these issues and give them priority & severity ratings. It’s also a good practice to check if the issue has been reported in any other study such as user testing, surveys etc.

Usability Issues Categorization
reading-customer-support-reports-for-usability-studies-pic2 (1)

Customer Support Data Sources

An organization will have one or more support systems in place to assist customer on their products or services. And these are the places to look for usability roadblocks.

reading-customer-support-reports-for-usability-studies-pic3

Customer Support Data Consumption

The data from customer support not only benefits usability studies, but has been regularly consumed by various departments of an organization. Examples would include identifying incorrect product details (content management division),fixing  system errors (development teams) and recording system bugs (quality assurance team).

reading-customer-support-reports-for-usability-studies-pic4

Case Study

In May last year, while working in the Las Vegas office of our customer, I happened to meet employees of a popular e-commerce site whose office was just a few yards away. During the conversation, I got to learn about their customer first culture. They take customers so seriously that all new joiners work for Customer Support for a few weeks before being added to their respective departments. That’s part of their induction program. Hearing this gave me goose bumps!

Bottom Line

Good usability practices will help cut down costs on customer support and gain customer confidence.

By Balachandra Shetty

They said the line needs to be straight. But i asked ‘Why’?

appreciating-the-need-to-alignment-a-straight-line-blog-thumbnail

Amidst all the number crunching days and being a science buff, I almost forgot the childhood winter holidays spent in ‘art competitions’ with my siblings.  Being competitive by nature, my focus always on finishing first, through shortcuts such as avoiding intricate details and taking the easy route (eg: Drawing a mermaid facing backwards as I could not draw faces). I was always happy to be the first to finish. But, looking back, I realize I failed to appreciate the joy that my siblings got from just doing a good job of the painting rather than finishing first!

I still remember how my brother and sister with their constant movement of pencil on a simple curve of the nose, taking their time to draw out each strand of the mermaid’s hair. They even seemed to enjoy every single mistake they made – the rework, erasing and drawing again, to perfectly lay out their thoughts and feelings on the paper with their beautiful fingers dancing to some silent music.

After almost over a decade lost in numbers, logic, rationality, sensible readings and debates which I adore a lot, joining Aditi has brought me back to a place where I can keenly observe some of the creative inspiring lot. I only hope I can make up for what I missed during my childhood winter holidays out of naive ignorance. People in my office are barely seen seated or glued to their seats; but once something catches their attention, they will deep dive and will not move till they are satisfied with their outcome. Delivery timelines or client deadlines don’t rattle them, but a wrong stroke on a wall painting or a muddled color contrast or imprecise alignment gets them all restive and they crib pretty blatantly about it. Mind you, these people don’t come under the “self-claimed artist” category. The ones that force you to visit their blogs, photography Facebook pages or websites and demand appreciation usually by forcing you to hit that insignificant “like” icon.

Coming back to my colleagues and their subtle problems with “discipline in presentation” which I love to mock at, who I think are real artists. They never fish for compliments; in fact, they are uncomfortable when you happen to like their work, and they are shy and very possessive of their creations. They are way too critical about their work and rest only when they are satisfied about their own critical comments.

They enjoy every extra effort spent in bringing out the minute details which are quite often casually ignored by the likes of me. They iterate and reiterate their thought process, and the end result is often an impeccable product oozing out with loads of creativity.  But the creators are often still dissatisfied! Maybe, that is how being creative feels, always being unsatisfied, living in one world and trying to capture a different world.

And for me, I still love my reliable numbers and will always continue to do so, but I sure have started observing and admiring the lost souls, so clear sometimes and completely blurred sometimes.

If you appreciate the finer points in design and if you believe you’re downright whacko creative, we would love to meet you! Interested in catching up with us over a cuppa?

By Mitali Shekhawat