The howls of frustration that we hear on many UX projects are often to do with how badly misunderstood the UX role is in business. Here are 5 things that everyone should know about UX work:
1. UX Research is Essential
The first barrier to many a UX project is people in the company who think they already know the customer inside out.
“We’ve done plenty of market research, just tell us what you need to know and we’ll tell you,” comes the offer of many a helpful marketing manager or project manager. In reality, we don’t care about their market research—we need to talk to users to build up a profile in relationship to the use of the product and not how they interact with the company in general. Market research is about broad trends in customers and what they are likely to buy; UX research is about individual behaviours of users when they use a product. These are different things, and without talking to users, we can’t know how they see the product or develop one of those lovely user personas that we need.
2. UX Work Tends to Be Iterative
While it doesn’t look like we’ve done all that much since the last time you popped your head round the door, in truth, we’re 5 versions farther along the lines towards a product our customers will like. To make great products, we make lots of changes and test them. Then we bury the changes that don’t make enough of a difference. We keep doing this until we finally have a product that’s substantially better than either our last one or the competitor’s offerings. It takes time, and it’s not exciting to look at from outside our labs, but it’s also very much necessary.
3. We Can’t Show You a “Process”
We warn against treating UX work as a “one size fits all” process. Sadly, this behaviour can alienate some clients, and in some cases clients might even demand this from the outset.
“Show us your process and we’ll tell you how it fits in with our product,” they might claim.
You need to step back and explain that each process should be somewhat unique, as each product is somewhat unique and as each user base is also somewhat unique. Your clients don’t want a standard process really; they just think they do and you may have to wean them off the idea.
4. Yes, We Have to Test
Author/Copyright holder: DaveBleasdale. Copyright terms and licence: CC BY 2.0
If you want products that users love, then we have to test them. Sure, we UX folks are experts in our field, but we’re not your users. Our job is to refine ideas to the point that we can hand them over to your users to tell is if we got it right or not. This may be time consuming, but it’s the only assurance you have that we’re really moving in the right direction too.
5. UX is More than Usability
Usability is important, but the user experience is more than usability. We like how Apple has managed to get usability on the strategic radar, but usability alone is not enough. Usability is the bare minimum requirement of a product that is released; UX includes everything else that makes the difference between “it works” and “it wows!”
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