Five elements of successful UX projects
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Published on January 18, 2014
By taking UX classes at the American Graphics Institute, you can learn what sets great products and services apart from the competition. In today's digital society, UX - a common abbreviation for user experience - has become of paramount importance. Media consumers are becoming ever-more demanding in their expectations of Web-based services and mobile applications, and long gone are the days when functionality alone can carry a product. Once you've mastered the fundamentals of UX design at AGI, you'll be ready to start incorporating these principles into your work - but what qualities do all successful UX projects share?
1. Manage expectations
From a design perspective, even tools that will be of substantial business value to your company are unlikely to succeed if customers do not fully understand how to use them. Most media consumers approach a new app or website with preconceived notions about what it should do and how it should work. For new products, the "onboarding" process - in which users are introduced to a new way of performing a familiar task - is crucial. Step-by-step tutorials, navigational aids and even helpful explanations about why the service or app was designed the way it was can all help users become comfortable with your product more quickly.
2. Balance support with discovery
Although it is vital that UX design takes new users' expectations into account, providing too much guidance can be detrimental to the overall experience. For this reason, it is important that UX designers achieve the subtle combination of intuition and discovery. Allowing users to "discover" new features autonomously can be of substantial benefit to their level of engagement with an app or service, but throw them in at the deep end and you could risk losing them. Achieving this balance can be challenging, but if done correctly, can make a good product exceptional.
3. Always think of the user
This might seem obvious, but the demands faced by UX designers sometimes result in functionality that may appeal to project stakeholders, but not necessarily to the user. When designing an app, website or product, it is vital to keep the end user in mind, especially when dealing with features that allow users to complete mundane or common tasks. By keeping the user at the forefront of the design process, a skilled UX designer can make even the most drab tasks seem easy, simple and even fun.
4. Invite feedback early and often
One mistake that many companies make when designing a new product is waiting too long before unveiling their project to the users who will ultimately be using it. Today, the mantra of "release early, release often" has become a central tenet of many Web development and technology companies, from the smallest Silicon Valley startups to giants such as Facebook. Although it may seem counterintuitive at first, releasing software on a rapidly iterative basis allows developers to tighten the feedback loop between designers, programmers and users, which can actually substantially streamline workflows and reduce time wasted on features that failed to resonate with the product's target audience.
5. Create a community
Even the most useful Web app will fail to make the impact it could if it isn't fun. The best mobile apps and other products offer the unique blend of functionality and ease-of-use, but also make the overall experience enjoyable and fun. By focusing on these goals, your marketing department won't need to break the bank to get the word out - your product or app will speak for itself, and so will its users. Creating an ecosystem of loyal followers shouldn't be a business goal, it should be the end result of a well-designed product built with users in mind from the very start.
About the author
Jennifer Smith is a user experience designer, Photoshop expert, educator and author based in Boston. She is the author of more than 20 books on design tools and processes, including Adobe Creative Cloud for Dummies, Adobe Creative Cloud Digital Classroom, and Photoshop Digital Classroom. She has been awarded a Microsoft MVP three times for her work with user experience design in creating apps for touch, desktop, and mobile devices.
Jennifer delivers UX training and UX consulting for large Fortune 100 companies, small start-ups, and independent software vendors. She has been hired by Adobe and Microsoft to deliver training workshops to their staff, and has traveled to Asia, Europe, India, the Middle East, and across the U.S. to deliver courses and assist on UX design projects. She has extensive knowledge of modern Windows UX Design, having worked closely with the Windows team to create educational material and deliver UX workshops to key partners globally on behalf of Microsoft. Jennifer works with a wide range of prototyping tools including Fireworks, Photoshop, Illustrator, Blend for Visual Studio, and Balsamiq.