Over 12 years designing user-centered,
interactive digital interfaces for web & mobile.
I have been designing & developing user-centered, interactive digital interfaces for more than 12 years. While my background has been in providing end-to-end solutions directly to clients, I now specialize in UX / UI Design working directly with product owners or project managers both remotely and on-site on a contract basis.
UX stands for 'User Experience'. In short, it's the feelgood factor you get when browsing or working on a well thought-out website, it's the design behind the design. UX specialists design the experience for the user and not just for aesthetics. For example, how many times have you tried to perform a task on your computer or phone and felt frustrated? Many, I'm sure.
UI stands for 'User Interaction' also known as Interaction Design. It is the application of the interation design. The polishing, fine-tuning and bringing the product to life. Think of it as the icing on the cake, and more. It's the icing, decoration and presentation as well. And because of the clever and thoughtful baking process, it feels free to stand out front and represent the entire cake because it knows it can rely on the total eating experience to do it proud.
The internet is full of bad UX experiences and this is not because of neglect or malice on the part of website owners, it's more to do the the nature of the medium, as constantly advancing technology can leave older websites behind, often way behind.
A well conducted UX / UI process can help improve the performance of your website, new or existing. It is not set in stone and most phases overlap somewhat, but this is generally how it goes:
I meet with the client to discuss business requirements, establish 'must have' functionality and client wish lists. Research the customer group, establish what we already know & what we need to find out. Plan customer interviews & user testing to find the answers. Costs and time frames are hashed out at this stage.
Also known as Site Planning, this is drawing up the overall structure of the site to establish navigational strategies & menu structure. We may enlist the help of our users to find out what makes the most sense to them through card sorting and interviews. The techy part is deciding on data relationships and how the content will be set up in the database so that we can display it to the user in clear and clever ways, making it appear simple to the user.
Based on our research, we establish who will use the product, where, when and how they will use it. This helps us to get into the heads of the customer to see how they might interact with the product developing a picture of the user (or users) to keep in mind through the design and development life cycle.
Where the fun begins. Drawing work flows and basic layouts to get a feel for how the site will look. Initially on white board and moving into Fireworks, I like to hash out my ideas and get casual user opinions. In the business, this is know as guerilla testing, but it's plain old 'what do you think of my drawings?' over a cup of tea, to you and me.
Now for the excitement of bringing the wireframes to life. Usually by this stage the 'wire-frames' are more 'mock-ups' and close to being the finished design. I think it's better to prototype something as close to the end product as possible. This doesn't mean jumping into coding just yet, there are lots of helpful resources out there for quick proto-typing, which means we can test the product out with users before spending one iota of time on coding so we can quickly iterate and re-test until we're happy to move onto the next stage.
With our wireframes as a base, we can fine-tune the design. As I metioned above, the finished design is almost there by the prototyping stage, so this stage is mostly polishing and fine-tuning. These days, thanks to the power of CSS, there is no need to spend too much time tied up in Photoshop. I prefer to get the front-end coded up and work on fine-tuning the design directly in the browser.
Now, you have properly coded pages ready for the final round of pre-flight user testing. I say final round, but, if your budget allows, user testing and iterating should continue after the site goes live in response to live user feedback and behavioural information gathered from studing the analytics, seeing how people are actually interacting with your product.
If you build it, they will come
- Teddy Roosevelt
...doesn't apply here. Instead build the minimum viable product to entice users in, then fine-tune it based on their needs.