Thought Leadership

March 17, 2021

What is UX and should my company care? 

The importance of caring about good UX for your software solution or application impacts your willingness to have an efficient solution for your audience.

If you have an idea about what UX is about but you're still wondering if your software development project really needs it...

Well then, there might be a little misunderstanding about what UX really is and its importance. But don’t worry, let's hope this article can help clear things up. 

Every scenario where there’s a human interacting with a system (be it a computer, a machine or device) there is an experience process taking place, the user experience (UX). Now it may not be the best experience from the user’s perspective but there is one at a certain point when people use that system. And what those users feel when interacting with software, mobile apps, websites, machines or devices is what we call the user experience. 

You may already know that when your business has competition, there are several ways of keeping ahead of the game, including quality, price and service. For starters, you can consider UX as a fundamental part of the service.

How does a user feel when interacting with your system? 

Are they happy because: 

  • He/she accomplishes tasks quickly and efficiently.
  • Your system runs smooth.
  • The menus and buttons are where they're needed.
  • The information is well organized and easy to read.
  • The interface is user-friendly.
  • The design is coherent with the brand and visually pleasing.
  • When an error pops up the reason is clear and he has options to continue without losing the progress.
  • Help is always available.

Or are they unhappy because: 

  • Is frustrating having to wait constantly because the system is slow.
  • The interface is overwhelming and/or confusing.
  • The system lags or crashes frequently.
  • Information is hard to read or not well organized.
  • Some tasks take 10 steps to complete when it can be done in 3.
  • The interfaces design seems to be from the 90’s.
  • When an error pops up the user just sees strange code, the system stalls or shuts down losing all progress made.
  • Help or support is lacking.

The above are just a few of the common issues to address in a regular UX audit (commonly called Heuristic Evaluation), but they can be hundreds! In other words… How usable is your system? 

So it is the job of user experience designers (UX designers), user interface designers (UI designers) and in some cases marketing specialists and even behavior psychologists, working along with the client in order to understand what people need from your system, in order to design and build the best way to fulfill those needs in the quickest and most efficient manner, while overseeing an aesthetically pleasing interface. If this is accomplished, then you’ll surely have happy users. 

So does your project really need UX? The real question is: 

Do you want to have people using your system efficiently while making them happy?

Of course you do! Why wouldn't you? Or at the very least, strive to avoid giving users reasons to be frustrated by making your system efficient. 

And how is it that an experience can be designed? A reasonable question. To answer that, a common analogy is that of an Architect and blueprints for a house; the Architect designs functional spaces in blueprints according to the future homeowner’s needs, so that the Contractor can follow the guidelines. But the contractor only builds the house, he’s not the one choosing the type of doors, windows, floors, furniture, color palette, wall decorations, etc. that would be the job of an Interior designer (sometimes the same Architect has knowledge of this area)

So in the previous analogy translating it to a software solution or mobile app, the UX designer would be the Architect (defining the overall structure and features of the system), the Contractor would be the Programming Developers (coding all the functionality of the system), and the UI designer would be the interior designer (designing interface elements like buttons, menus, windows, screens, reports, etc. while taking aesthetics into consideration). 

I thought that UI and UX were the same thing?

Are chocolate and milk the same thing?... of course not but you sure need them both to make chocolate milk. Different ingredients required to create something delicious. That’s more or less how UI and UX work, they’re different fields but you can’t have one without the other. 

Here’s yet another analogy: You wouldn’t be able to have a wonderful experience taking your better half to dinner at a nice restaurant with an amazing view if you found out the place doesn’t have chairs, plates, forks and knives right? The tools you need to eat while sitting on a table would be the User Interface (UI) that would allow you to interact with your food.

And if the restaurant is visually pleasant, smells good, music is nice, the service is great, the food is delicious and your waiter is friendly; all of the above would contribute to a great customer experience. In terms of service, the customer experience would be our User Experience (UX).

User Experience v.s. Customer Experience are they the same? 

The short answer is Yes and No… okay that’s not clearing things up I know. So YES they are similar as they both attend to people’s needs and desires when using or consuming something, and NO they aren’t because a Customer implies a person purchasing or consuming a product or service, while a User can be any person interacting with a system where there is a human-machine relation, and while a user can also be a customer (i.e. an online shopper buying from an E-Commerce website; or a gamer purchasing and playing video games) a user doesn’t necessarily imply a purchase or consuming a product. 

Let’s shed more light with a few examples to tell the difference... 

Examples of User Experience Scenarios: 

  • Searching in Google (or any other website).
  • A couple using a wedding registry kiosk.
  • A tourist using a digital travel map.
  • Using a car’s dashboard and driving wheel controls.
  • Someone using a vending machine.
  • Paying for your shopping using the self-checkout.
  • A photographer using a digital camera.
  • A mechanic operating the smog-check computer.
  • A baby interacting with a toy (yes...a baby and a toy).
  • A person using the hand dryer on a restroom.

Examples of Customer Experience Scenarios: 

  • A coffee lover going to a Starbucks instead of having coffee at the office/home.
  • A couple going to IKEA instead of Walmart or Target to shop for furniture.
  • Mac lovers using iPhones instead of Android Phones sometimes cheaper, and with more features.
  • A family going to Disneyland.
  • A traveler using the airport facilities.

On the planning side, a User Experience is commonly the job of a visual designer (a designer experienced in graphic, web, and app design) focused on Usability issues (things that make systems easy to use). While Customer Experience is commonly the job of a Marketing and Advertising team focusing on product design, brand, supply and demand, and consumer behavior. 

And yes, the User Experience can merge with the Consumer Experience in many cases.

Conclusion 

If there is a system and a human is interacting with it, there will always be a user experience regardless of being good or not. 

A system needs an interface for a human to engage with it, otherwise the interaction is not possible. That interface can be created with design principles, as well as user efficiency with usability principles, in other words have a pre-planned UI/UX design. 

And the importance of caring about good UX for your software solution, mobile app or any project that involves people consuming or exchanging information, is in relation to your willingness to have an efficient, easy to use and visually pleasant solution for your audience. 

Upcoming Project? Ask our UX specialists 

If you want to know more on how your project can benefit from good UI/UX practices within an agile environment please let us know. Write us a message here.

Case Study from Arkusnexus
Walter González
Walter is in the Digital Commerce team as a UI/UX designer. He's always thinking about being in the user's shoes and cares a lot about service. He's a Star Wars fan and likes strategy boardgames and videogames. Golf, boxing, and NFL are his favorite sports.
wgonzalez@arkusnexus.com
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