Even before a button is clicked, a page is scrolled, or a window is maximised, research states that you’ve already formed an opinion about the website. Chances are that if a website’s visuals or its functionality ‘feel’ cluttered, the average internet user will likely look elsewhere.
Be it in terms of security- how a website may potentially pose a malware threat, or even just how reliable an online seller’s business is- ALL websites communicate a great deal to users – purposefully or otherwise. These are mental processes determined in just the first few minutes of accessing a page; that’s the influence of user experience (UX) design in dictating our online opinions.
But what is user experience design? How does user interface design differ from user experience design? For tech entrepreneurs, what is the value of user experience design?
Here, we will explore the varied reasons why UX design is an important and distinct art, with its own specificities that pin it beyond user interface (UI) design and with its own set of benefits for a website – and one that requires priority investment.
What is User Experience (or UX) Design?
UX design is not just the end-result – it’s a process.
It refers to the creation of products and services that provide satisfactory, relevant, and meaningful experiences to users. Thus, enhancing the experience that users have when interacting with one’s product or service summarizes the definition of user experience design succinctly.
History of UX
The history of how the user experience has taken its modern form existed long before the contemporary computer was even invented.
How long ago, exactly? The origins of the principles underlying UX design can be traced as far back to works dating over a century ago.
In the early 20th century, Fredrick Winslow Taylor – a mechanical engineer – pioneered the concept of Scientific Management, focusing on improving labour productivity and economic efficiency in management. The idea that the relationship between people and their tools should be optimized form the fundamentals of key UX principles that are still applicable today.
In the 1940s, Toyota created a human-centred production system, which prioritised respect for the people that were contributing to it. Workers could stop production lines when they had suggestions on how to make it better, or on changing the work system. This served as a significant milestone in UX research, which not only recognized the importance of human interaction with the machines around them, but also shed light on the value of usability as a UX element. Henry Dreyfuss used some of these ideas with his most iconic products, such as the Royal Typewriter Company’s Quiet Deluxe Model.
Walt Disney is popularly known as one of history’s first UX designers. Disney’s Imagineers (the creative force behind the development of Disney products and services) were made to think along the lines of their audience, put themselves in their shoes, and communicate with them in ways that would resonate best with the way that they think. These are ideas that are imperative to UX designing even today.
In the 1970s, the era of personal computers was ushered in, which had tech giants like Apple and Xerox attempting to establish the user experience as comfortable and interesting as possible. Apple’s release of the Macintosh in 1984 is widely held as a breakthrough for development on user experience, prominently featuring a GUI and interactive tools such as a monitor and a mouse.
Don Norman, a cognitive scientist at Apple, coined the term “user experience design” in 1995 to encompass the entire creation and execution process that goes behind building user experience. His work on the formerly known book titled “The Psychology of Everyday Things” is still considered to be a staple in the field today.
UX design may have changed in form drastically over the past few decades, but its purpose has been the same: to provide comfort and simplicity in the user experience. On the topic of the importance of UX design, however, it would be criminal to omit an equally important and often conflated concept: UI design.
What is the Difference Between UX and UI?
‘UI UX design’, despite being a commonly used phrase when considering the product and web design, joins in tandem two vastly different processes used to achieve similar goals. However – given that they are used interchangeably – the difference between UI and UX is not as apparent as one might think.
Where user experience design is focused more so on the amalgamation of ideas and features that optimize the process of the use or consumption of a product or service by people, user interface (or UI) design focuses on the presentation of the product or service – emphasizing a unique look to it, and trying to focus on the interactivity aspects of it.
Most user interface and user experience jobs are defined similarly to graphic designing, or frontend development. This, however, does not capture the complete picture of the practice either and only further convolutes the UI vs UX discussion.
User interface design elements involve only visual and interactive tools. These involve the page layout, the buttons on the page, the typeface and font colours, and the responsiveness of the design. The goal of UI design is to be able to guide the user throughout the product or service visually in a way that seems intuitive and simple.
User experience design elements, on the other hand, are more involved with the ‘feel’ of the product or service. These involve information architecture, interaction design, content personalization, and so forth.
Though the difference between the two may not seem obvious at first, its understanding is key if UX design is to reach its zenith.
What is the Importance of a Good User Experience?
At this point, you might be wondering: why is a good user experience (UX) even important?
Over 75% of consumers say that they make judgements about a business and the quality of the services it provides based on just the ‘look’ of their website, and 38% say that they will refuse to engage with a website if its layout is not attractive.
Users are the focus of any product or service, and UX design attempts to fulfil their needs in the most efficient ways possible.
Websites where user experience design has been prioritised ensure that visitors are made to feel important, are guided through the webpage with extreme ease, and hence inculcate a sense of visitor loyalty. It can, when implemented correctly, be a simple and highly cost-effective way to ensure that your brand is positioned perfectly in users’ minds.
Benefits of a Good User Experience
What then, are the benefits of investing the time and effort needed to make your website’s UX design flawless?
Several advantages are bestowed exclusively upon those players that perfect the user experience in their product or service.
Loyal Customer Base
As alluded to previously, consumer retention is likelier to be higher in situations where users have felt that their presence is valued. Products and services that can empathise with the needs of the target audience, identify bottlenecks that are prone to frustrating users, allow users to interact with the content provided in unique ways, and plan out customer journey maps, are likely to stay loyal to the brand.
A survey showed 79% of people stating that they would be more likely to revisit a website if it were easier to use. This emphasises the importance of investing in UX design to improve brand equity.
Effective UX designing can not only allow designers to stay within production budgets but actively cut costs from them. Whether it’s the research phase, prototyping phase, usability testing, or the final implementation – good UX designs allow for better estimations and prevent feature creep, which saves valuable time and resources.
McAfee saved around 90% in their expenses after integrating more usable UX design methods across the board.
The benefits to revenues coming from UX designing accrue as a result of impacting the ease-of-use of the service or product (which are then likely to spur users to make desired interactions with the website), a reduced number of steps, and precise CTAs that are simple to follow.
Research has shown that every dollar spent on UX design gives a return of around 100 dollars, an ROI of 9,900%.
There is seldom a disincentive to improving the UX of one’s website. It is clean, easy, and – most importantly – extremely effective. Companies that perfect their UX design are always ahead of the curve, because they’re always thinking about what their consumers want the most.
Impact of a Good UX on Your Business
Clearly, UX design can radically impact -for better or worse – the outlook your organisation conveys. When done wisely, it serves as the great equaliser – allowing for the smallest of organisations to compete with corporate giants globally. UX looks out for the little guy, and helps humanise your business in ways that nothing else can do.
The value that an effective UX brings is self-evident. As mentioned previously, UX can create a consumer base that will remain loyal to your venture, will help minimise costs, and maximise revenues.
The possibilities with UX modification are endless, and hence, so are the way that users could interact with your content. From methods such as voice interaction that do not require the use of a keyboard or mouse and virtual reality experiences that immerse users completely in the content that they desire, to designs without interfaces – UX design is growing and evolving on an almost daily basis.
Given that the precise quantitative benefits of outstanding UX design are awkward to measure, its positive impact is clearly indisputable. Quite simply, superlative website UX design is expected.