“When a Product is being developed, people pay a great deal of attention to what it does. User Experience is the other, often overlooked side of the equation—how it works—that can often make the difference between a successful product and a failure.”
- Jesse James Garrett, author of The Elements of User Experience
User Experience(UX) isn’t just about how people interact with technology, it permeates our lives. Observing your everyday interactions can inform your thinking process when planning out your next website or app. Take your experience with cars for example. Cars are incredibly complex, with thousands of moving parts, but think back to last time you “interacted” with a car unfamiliar to you, say a rental or friend’s car. Most likely you drove it with minimal effort because you’ve learned that pressing down on the gas makes you go faster, stepping on the brake slows you down, the steering wheel takes you left and right, and so on.
When things don’t behave as expected, the experience can be very different. For example, I borrowed a friend’s truck a while back and ended up returning it with the wipers still going. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out how to control them. “It’s easy” he said, “All you have to do is tap it up, down, wiggle, left, right, wiggle and it will stop.” Knowing my friend was joking, I laughed it off, but was still confused about why it didn’t work the way I expected it to.
UX for digital has many of the same pitfalls. When things don’t behave as expected and you end up needing to hunt and peck your way around, it creates a break in the experience. It takes you away from doing what you want to be doing and forces you to focus more on how to do it. This has the potential to cause frustration and even anger, emotions nobody wants associated with their brand and products.
When it comes to planning a positive user experience, there are things you have complete control over and things you simply don’t.
Content, interactions, and visuals are things you can control within the user experience. But, there are many factors like emotional state, distractions, time, and place playing a role, that you simply have no control over. These elements must be taken into account and planned for–by knowing your users, their goals, and the context of how and where they would most likely use your product. This planning has a substantial impact on the overall experience and can mean the difference between a disgruntled user and an evangelist extolling the virtues of your brand and products.
By Clemente Miller, Smashing Designer