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What is UX?

User Experience Design (UXD, UED), Interaction Design (IxD), User Interface (UI) Design and other web/application design professionals use the term User Experience Design to refer to the judicious application of certain user-centered design practices, a highly contextual design mentality, and use of certain methods and techniques that are applied through process management to produce cohesive, predictable, and desirable effects in a specific person, or persona (archetype comprised of target audience habits and characteristics).

Usability is of course one of the primary concerns of the user-centric web designer, so it is easy to see how these related areas overlap, and lead to confusion, especially when no dictionary entry exists for UX Design (that I’ve seen), and people often use novel terms in various ways before understanding them well.

Another dimension of UX Design, as it related to the field of web design, is the historical one. As professional web design has evolved, and roles and responsibilities have advanced and divided, the professional web design community has had to find ways to differentiate itself from so many entering the field as amateurs, claiming the Web Designer moniker, and as web software programs began to democratize web production.

History

The field of user experience design has roots in human factors and ergonomics, a field that, since the late 1940s, has focused on the interaction between human users, machines, and the contextual environments to design systems that address the user's experience.[3] With the proliferation of workplace computers in the early 1990s, user experience became an important concern for designers. It was Donald Norman, a user experience architect, who coined and brought the term user experience to wider knowledge.[4] The term also has a more recent connection to user-centered design, human-computer interaction, and also incorporates elements from similar user-centered design fields.

Elements of User Experience Design

With the rise of the information age, many generalizations of the components have been based on the building blocks of the user experience design of digital systems. User experience design is primarily defined as encompassing broader topics[clarification needed] that include talk of user's emotions, the appeal of a UI, and visual design.

Visual Design

Visual design, also commonly known as graphic design, communication design, or visual communication, represents the aesthetics or look-and-feel of the front end of any user interface. Graphic treatment of interface elements is often perceived as the visual design. The purpose of visual design is to use visual elements like colors, images, and symbols to convey a message to its audience. Fundamentals of Gestalt psychology and visual perception give a cognitive perspective on how to create effective visual communication.

Information Architecture

Information architecture is the art and science of structuring and organizing the information in products and services, supporting usability and findability. More basic concepts that are attached with information architecture are described below.
Information
In the context of information architecture, information is separate from knowledge and data, but lies indefinitely in the middle. It is information of all shapes and sizes: websites, documents, software applications, images, and more. It is also concerned with metadata: terms used to describe and represent content objects such as documents, people, process, and organizations.
Structuring, Organization and Labelling
Structuring is reducing information to its basic building units and then relating them to each other. Organization involves grouping these units in a distinctive and meaningful manner. Labelling means using appropriate wording to support easy navigation and findability.
Finding and Managing
Findability is the most critical success factor for information architecture. If users are not able to find required information without browsing, searching or asking, then the findability of the intarchitecture fails. Navigation needs to be clearly conveyed to ease finding of the contents.

Interaction Design

There are many key factors to understanding interaction design and how it can enable a pleasurable end user experience. It is well recognized[clarification needed] that building great user experience requires interaction design to play a pivotal role in helping define what works best for the users. High demand for improved user experiences and strong focus on the end-users have made Interaction Designers critical in conceptualizing design that matches user expectations and standards of latest UI patterns and components. While working, Interaction Designers take several things in consideration. A few of them are:

  • Create the layout of the interface
  • Define Interaction patterns best suited in the context
  • Incorporate user needs collected during User Research, into the designs
  • Features and Information that are important to the user
  • Interface behavior like drag-drop, selections, mouse over actions, and so on
  • Effectively communicate strengths of the system
  • Make the interface intuitive by building affordances
  • Maintain consistency throughout the system

In the last few years, the role of interaction designer has shifted from being just focused on specifying UI components and communicating them to the engineers to a situation now where designers have more freedom to design contextual interfaces which are based on helping meet the user needs.[7] Therefore, User Experience Design evolved into a multidisciplinary design branch that involves multiple technical aspects from motion graphics design and animation to programming.

Usability

Usability is the extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction in a specified context of use.
Usability is attached with all tools used by humans and is extended to both digital and non-digital devices. Thus it is a subset of user experience but not wholly contained. The section of usability that intersects with user experience design is related to human’s ability to use a system or application. Good usability is essential to a positive user experience but does not alone guarantee it.

Accessibility
Accessibility of a system describes its ease of reach, use and understanding. In terms of user experience design it can also be related to the overall comprehensibility of the information and features. It contributes to shorten the learning curve attached with the system. Accessibility in many contexts can be related to the ease of use for people with disabilities and comes under Usability.

Human-Computer Interaction

Human-computer interaction is concerned with the design, evaluation and implementation of interactive computing systems for human use and with the study of major phenomena surrounding them.[9]
Human-Computer Interaction is the main contributor to user experience design because of its emphasis on human performance rather than mere usability. It provides key research findings which inform the improvement of systems for the people. HCI extends its study towards more integrated interactions, such as tangible interactions, which is generally not covered in the practice of user experience. User experience cannot be manufactured or designed; it has to be incorporated in the design. Understanding the user's emotional quotient plays a key role while designing User Experience. The first step while designing the user experience is determining the reason a visitor will be visiting the website or use the application in question. Then the user experience can be designed accordingly.

Design

User experience design incorporates most or all of the above disciplines to positively impact the overall experience a person has with a particular interactive system, and its provider. User experience design most frequently defines a sequence of interactions between a user (individual person) and a system, virtual or physical, designed to meet or support user needs and goals, primarily, while also satisfying systems requirements and organizational objectives.
Typical outputs include:

  • Site Audit (usability study of existing assets)
  • Flows and Navigation Maps
  • User stories or Scenarios
  • User segmentations and Persona (Fictitious users to act out the scenarios)
  • Site Maps and Content Inventory
  • Wireframes (screen blueprints or storyboards)
  • Prototypes (For interactive or in-the-mind simulation)
  • Written specifications (describing the behavior or design)
  • Graphic mockups (Precise visual of the expected end result)

Designers

As with the fields mentioned above, user experience design is a highly multi-disciplinary field, incorporating aspects of psychology, anthropology, architecture, sociology, computer science, graphic design, industrial design and cognitive science. Depending on the purpose of the product, UX may also involve content design disciplines such as communication design, instructional design, or game design. The subject matter of the content may also warrant collaboration with a subject-matter expert (SME) on planning the UX from various backgrounds in business, government, or private groups. More recently, content strategy has come to represent a sub-field of UX.
Benefits
User experience design is integrated into software development and other forms of application development to inform feature requirements and interaction plans based upon the user's goals. New introduction of software must keep in mind the dynamic pace of technology advancement and the need for change. The benefits associated with integration of these design principles include:

  • Avoiding unnecessary product features
  • Simplifying design documentation and customer-facing technical publications
  • Improving the usability of the system and therefore its acceptance by customers
  • Expediting design and development through detailed and properly conceived guidelines
  • Incorporating business and marketing goals while protecting the user's freedom of choice

Criticism

The discipline of user experience design, though still in its infancy and without a universally recognised definition, remains subject to criticism. Critics of user experience design argue that:

  • User Experience Design is a buzzword for an existing best practice, therefore bringing no additional value
  • A user experience cannot be fully "designed", therefore questioning the validity of the entire practice
  • A user experience cannot be fully measured, therefore questioning the ROI of the practice

 

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