Introduction to UX Design

With the advent of the smartphone and tablet UX, or User Experience Design has come to the forefront of technology development. Here we give an introduction to what this field of design means for products and for the end user

For UX designers, the ‘status quo’ is almost never simply just that; the concept of a static state is an unusual one in a designer’s world and the ability to question, test and change things is at the heart of what they do. Relatively unheard of a decade or so ago, the ‘UX designer’ is becoming an integral part of how any organisation delivers their services to their customers. In the coming weeks, we are going to be investigating this field, untangling some of the complexities and making case studies of our own systems to demonstrate how this works.

Design can sometimes be relegated to the artfulness of how things look or the slickness with which a service is delivered. The bow, rather than the box. In the digital world the act of making things ‘look nice’ is UI (User Interface), the act of making things feel intuitive and function with a deep understanding of the customer is UX (User Experience).

“Design is about solving problems. It’s a process of constantly finding problems and creating solutions for them.” Nicole Saidy, UX Designer

A great UX Designer is able to build and consistently update for an entire organisation, an outline of who their customer base is, the diversity of their values and then leverage that with the business’s goals and capabilities. Customers need to be able to access value from a product intuitively and designing these sorts of spaces needs to be participatory. A UX designer will engage the voices of different stakeholders, be them builders or users, to ensure that everyone’s needs are at the very least, listened to. To achieve the best results, a UX designer questions what is being delivered and enacts small, cumulative change in consultation, in order to build better platforms. If a designer assumes themselves to be an ‘average’ user of any product, it will inevitably lead to building a project with fewer dimensions for a less diverse range of users.

“Rather than starting from a place of belief that you’ve created a good design solution, start from a position of curiosity and scepticism” Simon Pan, Product Designer

Peter Morville, UX Designer and head of Semantic Studios suggested six factors a digital space must fulfil to deliver meaningful and valuable information to users.

Useful: Your content should be original and fulfil a need

Usable: Your site must be easy to use

Desirable: Image, identity, brand, and other design elements are used to evoke emotion and appreciation

Findable: Your content needs to be navigable and locatable onsite and offsite

Accessible: Your content needs to be accessible to those with disabilities

Credible: Users must trust and believe what you tell them

Processes of UX Design

Many businesses deliver software and platforms without engaging directly with a process. This isn’t because they are bad businesses, instead a problem may be identified and a viable solution jumped upon without having the time to consider different pathways. Employing UX design is important as it engages a team and a process that can be adopted to build a roadmap and begin the thinking around who the end user is, what the business capabilities are, and how best to deliver that service. The following are examples within different sectors, broadly similar to A-to-Z journeys that aim to kick-start this process with a team:

  1. Nicole Saidy

Discover > Define > Develop > Deliver 

  1. Invisionapp

Research > Insights > Design Concepts > Test Prototypes > Develop

  1. Kjaer Global

Explore > Reflect > Define > Refine

What does this mean for housing providers?

In the delivery of social housing, the end customer of any design is likely to be a diverse base of people with varying complexities of needs. Designing systems, which are intuitive is a challenge for platform building organisations and is one of the more compelling reasons for building systems in partnership with practitioners. At Housing Partners, we seek out the experiences of our prospective customers and in some cases, collaborate in the development of systems, in order to design products which truly align with the social housing sector’s social vision and purpose. While in turn, for housing providers it means being in constant consultation with their own customers to find out what would be of most use to them.

“No matter what your aspirations are, aiming to get digital transactions ‘right first time’ will be crucial to any organisation’s plans for digital roll out and this is something landlords were keen to highlight when we spoke with them. It is vital that tenants have confidence in the systems because if they are not reliable or accessible, tenants are likely to revert to ‘old style’ methods and it can then be difficult to achieve any further channel shift.” Chartered Institute of Housing

A UX designer will see product delivery as a process of constant iteration; it is a never-ending task. The core of the role is to bring to the forefront of an organisation, the voice of the user whilst being sympathetic to organisational goals.

This is the first in a series on UX design and its impact on the end user. In coming weeks, we will be turning the lens on our own systems and demonstrating the importance of UX design in their development.