User experience (UX) consists of two aspects – users and experience. The goal is to improve the usability of a product, to provide users with the best possible experience, which will, in turn, create trust and drive users to reuse the products or services.
When designing a product, you must keep in mind that the user does not focus solely on how things work, but also on how it is perceived at first glance. Many companies have noticed over the years that user experience is vital and should be their priority as it directly translates into your business goals.
User experience is something that makes the user want to use the product again. It is a whole range of feelings and impressions when using a system or service.
User experience includes such elements as:
- Research (usability studies)
- Usability (functionality, usability and an intuitive product or service)
- Information architecture (data structure and data in the product)
- Visual design (visually appealing and intuitive user interface)
- Content (well written and substantive content)
On the other hand, user interface (UI) is the visual layer of the product, which consists of color selection, layout, typography and general presentation of the project and its functionality in a graphic way.
The design process
If you want to create a product that is both functional and visually appealing to the user, it is worthwhile to get acquainted with the complete design process. Creating a product can be divided into stages. At the beginning, there is a user research. Then you determine who the user is and what the needs are. Various types of workshops are available, such as personas, user journeys, user flows, value proposition canvas, etc. At this stage, you can conduct usability testing that helps define a real user group.
When it comes the time to develop an information architecture (IA), it’s imperative to think about how to categorize and sort information, search and navigate. The results of the work will be a sitemap and user flows along with the names of individual menu items/labels.
Based on this framework, you build functional wireframes (UX) – paying particular attention to what functionality will include the application, how they will work, how they affect the user, how they will be deployed on the page and relate to other elements. This stage ends in the form of mock-ups and interactive prototypes. Usability tests are performed to evaluate the functional aspects of the product before it is graphically designed and implemented programmatically. At this stage, the revision of the user experience design is much cheaper than the later one.
Only at this point are the colors, iconography, typography or interaction chosen for the user interface (UI). As a result, the design will be ready for implementation, which will be passed on to the developers in later stages.
“A user interface is like a joke. If you have to explain it, it’s not that good.”
Martin LeBlanc, Iconfinder
Only a multifaceted and comprehensive product can meet the real needs of your users. How can this be attained? Through a simple, intuitive and easy-to-use product. The website or application should be useful and well designed so that the user knows how to move around without the need for additional explanations.
What do you lose by focusing first on UI instead of on UX?
Focusing only on the visual aspect of the project causes the original purpose of creating a product to be lost. A good example might be an online store. The business purpose of its creation may be, for example, 5% conversion of the shopping cart. You will not achieve that goal if your online store only looks great and contains interesting animations.
“The best products do 2 things well: features and details. Features are what draw people to your product. Details are what keep them there.”
The look and feel of the website elements will make it easier for the user to find the item by reading its description, adding it to the basket, and completing the transaction. Moreover, it will be intuitive enough to minimize the risk of abandoning the basket or unfinished transactions.
The interesting, consistent look of the application certainly affects the user’s comfort and aesthetic experience. Properly underlined in the design, its most important actions or elements, such as call-to-action, make it easier for the user to navigate the page.
But that would not matter without a good user experience. Why? It’s pretty simple – UX covers everything that involves defining a real user, defining his needs and problems while using a product. Both UX and UI are dependent of each other, but they need to be consistent.
Selecting UX at the beginning of the design path will allow you to more effectively tailor solutions to your users’ needs, as well as prioritize your site or application.
Functional, simple and intuitive user experience solutions should be tailored to aesthetically pleasing and consistent visual layer that emphasizes and enhances the functionality of the web product (e.g. by highlighting key actions on the page, clear iconography and legible typography).
Books and resources about UX and UI
If I’ve peaked your interest in the topic of UX and UI, you can dig deeper into the following books and resources I recommend:
- The ROI of User Experience [youtube video]
- 3 Practical Reasons to Invest in UX Research and Design [article]
- Impact of investing in UX [article]