The fundamentals behind the user experience
At Experior we believe the user experience is everything. It is for us the most important element of any project and has to start long before the new system goes live, being an essential part of initial system design.
But what actually defines the user experience, given that each IT project is by definition different in terms of technology and deployment?
In the design phase of all IT projects, questions are asked to ascertain the optimum user experience regarding individual interaction with the system at different levels:
- “Will the user know how to perform the relevant actions on the system intuitively?”
- “Is the user able to understand the feedback and react accordingly?”
- “Does the system respond fast enough to allow the user to work optimally?”
- “Can the user see records of activity easily?”
- “Ultimately does the system meet the original business requirements?”
At this stage, a good user experience is therefore defined by designing a system that answers these questions in the affirmative.
Once designed and built what usually happens next is that the system that ticks all the right boxes is “handed over” to the software testing experts who run it through a battery of tests to make sure it works. If this goes smoothly, the system will be prepared to go live, usually as soon as possible.
There’s a fault in this process, and it occurs at the handover from the design to the build to the testing stage: The full user-experience focused criteria agreed at the design stage are often forgotten and the focus is on whether individual functions work rather than the holistic process.
These factors can have a huge number of implications, and often lead to systems that should otherwise be re-examined getting a premature “green light” instead.
Let’s run through a theoretical example but one which is based on our own experience:
A new website you found through which to purchase your favourite jeans is flawless: it’s beautifully designed (ergonomic and seductive with all the right buttons in all the right places); it’s also fast and everything is easy to find. You click to buy and you’re delighted—this was a brilliant user experience.
Two weeks later you realise the package you were so looking forward to from that website still has not arrived at your door. You go back through your email, you find the receipt and call up customer service. They can’t track your order in the system, in fact it’s almost like it never existed, yet you’re £100 lighter and incredibly frustrated.
The problem comes from the disconnect between the user experience in terms of the interaction with the system and the user experience defined by the end result – the holistic process has failed because of the lack of integration between the proverbial “back and front ends”.
The good news around all this is that, at its foundation, we’re not discussing an in surmountable technical problem (although the system integration challenge is undoubtedly difficult)—we’re discussing a communication problem.
This is why we at Experior ask to be involved within our client’s organizations from the very start of any project—we know the difference between a project being on time and going over budget is often a matter of good communication. It needs people who can bring together technology, business requirements, process and people. Where does this all come together? In the testing phase of any project. That is why our belief that the user experience is everything drives our focus on being the testing experts.
Originally posted September 14, 2015, by Martin Mackay, Experior Group