When I was in art school, heirarchy, typography, composition, theory and color were king. We’d try our hand at writing slogans and catchy product names but the look and feel were what it was all about. Was it clever, was it cool? Did it make one think, did it make one want to buy?
Back then, the ideas that push user experience weren’t labeled as such. They were mostly considerations that fit into the process of making things. Now, with human-computer interaction being a daily (correction: many-times-a-day-ly) occurance for most people, UX really is king.
How a product makes someone feel, what it encourages them to do and how it changes their minds is given equal value to the three traditional usability metrics: efficinecy, effectiveness and subjective satisfaction. Traditionally, designers get the project pretty far down the line -- after the problem has been discussed, budgeted and a solution agreed upon. The who, what, where, why and most of the how is predecided with a “make the thing and go” attitude. As with waterfall processes of old, I believe this way of work is on its way out as well.
Just like the distance between designer and developer is growing increasingly smaller (as the possibilites of the web expand seemingly infinitely), so will the distance between everyone involved in the process. It’s been proven that small teams that are in the same location work better than large, remote ones. It’s been proven that early collaboration and exchange of ideas works better than a “divide and conquer” plan. Instead of cogs in a machine, everyone involved in a project becomes part of one organism that has to come together in order to “make the thing." The starting point is the same for the entire team. And as the project progresses, the different expertise of each team member plays its collaborative role in turning the problem into a solution (instead of layering one expertise on top of another and using whatever happens to fall into the intersection). Everything adapts or gets tossed.
I say every designer should learn UX but, really, everyone in the business of creating should learn UX because, as our user options increase, so do our expectations. Something as small as a second-long lag in load time or navigation that causes the least bit of confusion can and will turn people away. The trick isn’t in making the finished work sell. The trick is in creating delight and surprise without confusion. Clarity with innovation. Creating a desire instead of a need. And while nothing is foolproof (we are human, after all), UX gets us as close to the sun as can go without having to worry about getting burned.
- Karol Miekina