UX designers work on turning a bad user experience into a good user experience. So each UX designer should definitely know what UX design is.
Well, not quite. When we asked Eleken designers about their definitions of user experience design, we got six different answers. That’s why, we gathered all the answers in this article to help you figure out what UX design is all about. Let’s get the ball rolling.
What is UX design?
Remember the Indian story about an elephant and blind men? A group of blind men who have never come across an elephant before tried to imagine what the elephant is like by touching it. Each man felt a different part of the elephant's body so they ended up with radically different ideas about the elephant's appearance.
With UX, we have a similar situation. User experience design is a broad multi-dimensional field, and every design professional highlights a fragment of it that they believe to be the most significant.
If we take all the definitions we got from Eleken’s UI/UX specialists and put them together, we have a chance to assemble one holistic user experience design definition. And that’s what we are doing.
- UX design process aims to bring users from point A to point B
Tamara, a UI/UX designer at Eleken, believes that user experience design is called to bring users from point A, where they start their journey, to point B, where the app’s promised value is:
“UX, is about meeting a person's expectations, fulfilling their requirements. In general, to help every user reach their aim within the product without fuss or bother.”
Tamara, a UI/UX designer at Eleken
- UX meaning by Maksym - it's all about managing user's attention
There’s no direct way for a user from the app’s point A to point B. A UX designer has to build user flows as a riverbed, going around terrain features. This way, a user would raft down the river towards their destination with no effort:
“UX is about properly planning every user’s step and correctly guiding people along all these paths to make their experience effortless.”
Maksym, Design director at Eleken
- UI design offers a toolkit for managing users’ attention
The definition of UX is impossible in isolation from UI – user interface design – which serves as the second half of the “UI/UX” acronym.
The relationship between UI and UX is an evergreen debate in the design world. It has become trendy to demean user interface design because design is about “UX problem solving, not making things pretty”.
We at Eleken disagree. We do not separate visual design from UX strategy and recognize the value of UI as a tool to manage user attention:
“UI belongs to UX. Thanks to colors, sizes of objects, their location, designers can make user experience more or less obvious.”
Maksym, Head of Design at Eleken
- Product user experience is a balance between featurism and usability
As apps grow, their features tend to snowball. And it seems to be good:
- Customers come for the value that awaits them at the final destination of their user journey.
- The value is realized through the features offered by the application.
- More features = more value.
However, this is where the digital product turns into a mess, the original value gets lost and users get completely confused by the number of options:
“Piling up features can scare away clients rather than retain them. The role of UX designer is to bring balance.”
Natali, UI/UX designer at Eleken
Eleken designers often work with clients who need a user experience expert to redesign their overcomplicated apps. This was the case with the Ricochet 360 cloud phone system or Gridle client experience platform.
Ricochet 360: before and after Eleken redesign
- UX is about impressions users get at the end of their journey
“UX means thinking about the customer’s journey over time as they interact with the product and with the company as a whole. UX is the impression a person has after spending time with us. It includes everything, from colors to copy.”
Alex, UX Lead at Eleken
What are the other UX components that make up the users’ impression?
“Impressions consist of the structure and navigation of the application, the value that the functionality brings and the user interface design.”
Vitaly, UI/UX designer at Eleken
Do you feel that? The pieces of the UX understanding start to click together. We have the final piece before the puzzle is complete, and that piece is context.
- UX in product design takes context into consideration
“UX goes beyond the screen. You have to think not only about how the user interacts with the screen. Let’s take a taxi app as an example. You have to think about how it interacts with the screen in different conditions: on the go, in a cafe, in the rain, in a crowd, in the dark. In all cases, calling a taxi should be convenient.”
Maksym, Head of Design at Eleken
As I was writing this article one sleepless night, my wireless mouse stopped showing any signs of life. Changing a battery in the dark, I twisted a mouse in my hands trying to see plus and minus signifiers until a battery slipped out and rolled under the table.
So, what does UX mean?
Sitting under the table, with one hand holding the battery and the other rubbing the bruise from where my head met the table, I thought that the battery is a good summary of what user experience is NOT:.
- It ignores the context of usage,
- That leads to an awful user impression.
- It takes function over usability (why not design a battery that would make it impossible to mix up terminals?)
- Its UI (black signifiers on black plastic) fails to manage users’ attention.
- A user takes from point A to point B not because of the design but in spite of it.
But if battery producers may not yet worry about people refusing to use their batteries (because all batteries are equally bad).
For digital software products, bad UX means a death sentence.
And there are two main reasons for that.
- Because value goes first.
Most products trigger the payment before users have a chance to experience them. A washing machine, for instance, you try only after you buy it. The same is true for a new smartphone. Even traditional on-premise software takes your money before you get a box with a product.
SaaS model swapped paywall and value around. Before users consider the possibility to pay for SaaS software, they experience it through a free trial or a freemium subscription. Needless to say, users will churn in case of an unpleasant experience.
Let’s take a look at how it works on an example presented by Olena, a UI/UX designer at Eleken agency:
“When I need to distract myself, I play solitaire. I used to have an Android phone and play a standard game on it. Then I switched to iOS and downloaded another solitaire game that looked more modern and was generally nicer than the standard one. But when I started playing, I noticed that my new game doesn’t give me enough hints or shuffle cards when I want to.”
Guess, what happened next?
“I deleted this game and downloaded the standard one I had before.“
Olena’s story raises the curtain on the mysterious relationship between UI and UX, but more on that later.
Another important point Olena’s story uncovers is the high competition and easy transferability between different SaaS apps.
- Users have no reason to stay
If you just paid $239 for a yearly Photoshop plan, you’ll probably hold off with skipping it for another graphic design app, even if Photoshop just froze at 99% when saving a file you’ve been working on for the last five hours.
The situation changes if you have a monthly Sketch subscription and suddenly feel that your experience with Sketch leaves a lot to be desired. With a monthly subscription, nothing prevents you from shifting to Figma.
If we look at the 5-year Google Trends graphs of Sketch and Figma in comparison, we’ll see how quickly an underdog can overtake an industry leader in the world of SaaS.
Google Trends graph for Sketch (black) and Figma (blue). Image credit: bootcamp.uxdesign.cc
To earn thumbs up from your users, you will have to try hard.
Or consult with professionals in UI/UX for SaaS startups – like Maksym, Olena, Natali, Alex or Vitaly. If you are ready to talk, fill in a short form. It will only take a minute.