July 09, 2020
By: John Tomblin, Senior Solutions Architect
PhoenixBizz, a division of Sofvue, LLC
If you’ve ever visited a website and said to yourself “Wow, this site is so simple to use” or “This app is very intuitive”, then you have been the recipient of a design team who took the time required to design the application or mobile app properly.
In software development, it is understood that the better the User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) design, the better the user will interact with the software, but what does that really mean? Let’s take a quick look at what UX/UI really looks like and why it is so important to your next project.
UX is intangible; it is all about the experience people have when they use your software or mobile app. It’s how it makes them feel. It’s whether, during and after using the software, they believe the experience was valuable, useful, or even happy. For B2b companies, the user might be your company employees, or maybe the app is being used by a group of physicians or maybe you have OEM companies placing orders from your site or app. Whatever the use-case, the question is always the same. Were they able to gather the information they needed, find the next prospects phone number, or place the parts order successfully? These questions are driven by user-stories and use-case scenarios, all of which is part of the UX process. As a quick example of poor UX, one of my greatest peeves is placing orders for products from an e-commerce site, and then upon receiving my email receipt, seeing nothing about the date my package is going to be sent from the distributor, or worse, getting a confirmation screen on a website showing my order details, but never receiving an email confirmation. That drives me bonkers. This is just one example of the feeling one might have when interacting with software. Software development is so much more than throwing code together (and we’ve seen a lot of bad code when taking over failed projects from amateur companies) and hoping for the best. When making UX part of your project strategy, you will save a lot of time, heartache and your customers will thank you.
On the other side of the equation is the UI. UI is the tangible; it is the app design, placement of content on a page, the navigation structure and placement of buttons, to name a few. It’s about the color scheme, typography, layout, and communication tools placement, whether text, graphics, charts, videos, or table content. Nothing is more frustrating than a user arriving on a screen and not knowing or understanding how to navigate. If you are like me, nothing makes me crazier than using an app whose navigation is not crystal clear, or worse, has no help feature so users can quickly learn how to navigate a site screen better. I always blame this on project managers who failed to identify the problem and well-intended programmers who, at the time of development, knew exactly what they were programming and why, but upon their death, remain the only people on earth who understood how the component worked. Ask me to share the story of the application that had a six by six pixel triangle in the middle of the screen that controlled all search functionality in a mechanical drawing application, and if you were not told about it by someone else with the knowledge, you would never see it and never know of its existence on the screen.
These are just a few points detailing why UX and UI are so important. It is also why employees, staff, managers, and customers alike should be able to interface with the software prior to the start of any source code development. How is a programmer supposed to decide where elements should go or how users will interact with the software when the customers or employees have not first provided critical feedback created through the UX/UI process? It’s like telling a general contractor to build you a 10,000 square foot custom home, and when it’s done, you hope that a customer who has never seen the home before, will buy it the first time they see it. I fear for anyone who thinks that skipping the UX/UI phase of a project is going to have a positive outcome. It will not – and never has.
I’m adamant that every project must undergo a UX/UI design phase. It does not have to take months to complete, and often, it can be done with low- or mid-fidelity wireframing, but ultimately it has to be done. As I often tell my clients, you can go through a little pain at the beginning and complete the UX/UI phase of a project, or you can skip the process altogether and pay five times more for the completed source code at the end.
I am so passionate about the need for UX/UI, that PhoenixBizz will not engage a project without it, and in the projects where we are sent RFQ’s and RFP’s from other software firms, this to bid on a project, we simply return it back to the company with a note saying “thanks, but no thanks.” It’s not that we don’t want these projects, it’s that we already know the client is going to pay five times more to complete the project because of its lack of UX/UI, and time is too important to waste.
I hope I have provided some insight regarding the importance of UX/UI and why you must include it as part of your project charter.