Why Good Design Matters: UX and Beyond

I am a business owner who’s obsessed with UX.

I’ve studied art, and I’ve lived simply. These days, I’ve taken years of lessons learned in that “art of communications,” and molded them into the collaboration solution I only wish I could have seen in the market.

Here’s what I know to be true: good design and a great user experience (UX) are at the heart of making something that matters.

For me, it comes down to making a great collaboration and visual communications solution. For my customers, it’s about an approach that brings their own ideas, designs and iterations to life. 

Good Design Matters . . . It Makes Us Happy.

Don’t take my word for it! Those much smarter than me credit good design with deeper emotional connections, more meaningful work and higher sales numbers.

Take the theories from Donald Norman (@jnd1er) for example, who according to Businessweek, was named one of “the world’s most influential designers.” His books, Design of Everyday Things and Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things, show that how we emotionally connect and experience products, solutions and the world around us has everything to do with the subconscious.

In a digital context, developers and product architects have potential to pick up on those subconscious or behavioral cues like: user intent, flow path, conversion rates, engagement, usability, and micro-gestures like keystroke dynamics, pulse, movement and more. From there, we’re able to better design for the user.

This not only makes consumers happier and improves their experiences with our platforms, apps, websites, or products, but it also enables our businesses to better serve customers and achieve profitability.

In short, good UX is the key to doing well in business and in life.

For more design or development inspiration from the best, check out Norman’s 3 Ways Good Design Makes You Happy TEDTalk from 2003 (and oldie, but a goodie).

EMBED TEDTALK VIDEO

UX: What It Is. And What It Isn’t.

UX is a skill that’s in high demand. According to an article from Brazen Life, UX design tops the list of the seven most in-demand careers for design and planning. UX designer job growth is up 30%. 

Yes, UX is about serving up outcomes and solutions in an efficient way, but it’s much more than that. 

Image via @cliffseal on SlideShare, Meaningful UX at Any Scale.

What can make a UX designer wildly successful? When he or she goes beyond the typical situation, motivation, outcome methodology pictured above. Building apps, pushing new features, and implementing contextual web design alone aren’t enough.  Great UX designers pay attention to the comprehensive experience they’re creating.

“A UX designer is responsible for understanding both customer problems and business goals, crafting testable hypotheses, designing the solution and then vetting the solution with customers.” 

—Joe Baz, the CEO, above the fold

UX is about more than tactics and tweaks. It’s about creating a comprehensive experience.

Experiences communicate on levels that are non-visual and non-verbal. When you design an experience, you’re creating an emotional connection. You inspire action. You’re engaging an actual human. You’re starting a relationship. And if it’s a great experience, you’re building trust.

And at the end of the day, trust builds great business results. UX is a win-win: it’s the key to delivering superior value to customers, and it improves how we work together as humans.

Delivering On UX Potential.

So how do we get there? Following are some of the best tips and approaches I’ve picked up so far, when it comes to achieving best-in-class UX. 

Creating a powerful user experience begins with the skill of observation.

From Norman: “Question the obvious and you will discover many hidden insights. What seems to be obvious often is not.”

Designers must observe intent: both of your product, and of those using it. Observe behaviors: what’s actually happening, and does it deliver on intent?

While observing, designers must master the skill of empathy. After all, good UX is partially what you want or desire from a product, and part putting yourself deeply in the mindset of a prospective customer. From a customer’s shoes, know what matters most to them.

Think of UX beyond your own product and consumers.

Which apps, brands, experiences, or people make you feel good? What do you enjoy, and why?

For example—I love when business takes me to Chicago because of its big-city feel, lakefront development, Midwest vibe (people in Chicago are always smiling and approachable), and clean city streets. Plus getting around in Chicago—within and to the city’s central business district—is convenient. Plus you can’t forget about the deep-dish pizzas!

Now think: How can you bring those elements or types of descriptions home to your own brand? For example, ask:

  • Is app design clean, with access to helpful, charming support if needed? (It’s similar to Chicago’s clean streets and Midwest charm.)
  • Does the user feel they have access to vast and trusted information, while finding it is easy to navigate? (Here I’m nodding to a big-city feel, without sacrificing some of the convenient modes of transportation.)
  • What special elements distinguish your app, and make it easy to share with others? (What’s your product’s deep-dish? Finding it can go a long way in surprising and delighting users with an above-and-beyond experience.)

For a more digital example, think about how you check your phone. (One survey found nearly 50% of us check our phones at least 50 times / day!) Which apps do you go to first? Or, what makes you reply to a message instantly, versus waiting until later to respond? When not responding to those red-bubble notifications, which apps do you find yourself checking into proactively? Apply the same practices above to your own brand.

Get to know the human brain.

The cognitive science and psychology behind the way human beings think and engage is a fascinating topic. And it’s one that’s often left off the syllabus for coders and developers.

Do some research into the science behind human intent, habits and reactions. The results will be apparent in the why behind your next design. You can usually search “neuroscience + UX” for a starting point, but I’ve also listed a few favorite articles to get you started.