The language of user experience success
Ultimately, what any company wants to achieve with the implementation of any new business system is competitive advantage – return on investment if you will. The crucial but often forgotten ingredient to achieve this is the delivery of great, more advanced and engaging user experiences. So let’s talk a little about “User Experience” as it relates to software.
It’s a term most often heard when discussing the design of a software application – where the shiny buttons will be placed, whether to use a drop down menu and so on. Some of you may therefore be wondering why we at Experior, being software testers, are quite so fixated upon delivering a great “user experience”. After all, when talking about testing and running a business application, the language used in meetings is often “quality” orientated – making sure something works, assessing the impact if things go wrong etc. Such discussions usually have a healthy amount of industry jargon thrown in. So assuming Experior is dedicated to quality (which we are and which our customers emphasize in their dealings with us) why do we have such a focus on the user experience?
The answer, for us, as software testers, is that the memorable “user experience” is the language we use to describe quality. It’s our job to make sure we understand what success really looks like for the client – not just “does the app work” but “does it do everything it needs to in the wider business context”. This, in our experience, means delivering two things: great user experiences and reaching overall business objectives.
How we do achieve these goals? Frankly, they can be quite hard to define because each business is different in the way they not only use an application, but how that application then fits into the rest of the business’ processes. Therefore, we must treat each case individually to define what business goals need to be achieved, and what a more engaging user experience looks like in that business.
In order to tackle the latter, you must consider that any large business is made up of multiple functions with specialisms that require software-powered data and inputs from other areas of the business to operate successfully – the user base of an app is often a lot larger than it seems. These users are varied in their approach and their needs, and so the way they describe what they want will be different too.
The key to achieving success therefore is by speaking the same language of our clients throughout their business. As consultants, we can communicate effectively with C-level stakeholders as well as with more technically orientated developers and less technically savvy, specialized end users. We like to challenge the status quo, and believe that communication is a vital part of software testing success. It is this communication which for us represents the language of user experience.
This is the only way to avoid guess work when it comes to truly knowing what the business wants and ensuring that this is what is ultimately delivered. Do we know what the client means by “quality”? How do they define “success”? What do the developers think “success’ is, and are there discrepancies?
The User Experience is the overall goal – it’s the sum total of what is felt when all of the above has been taken into account, understood and applied throughout both the development and the testing phase. This is our definition of quality. If we know the answer to all of the above and know how software will be used by the business, we can guarantee that goals will be met and that everybody in the business gets what he or she wants and needs. This can only be achieved through a deeper understanding of our clients’ requirements and by ensuring that the focus on delivering the right outcomes is never lost track of from the start to finish of a project.
Countless projects find themselves short because they had the wrong end goal – with success defined even slightly different to each team in a project, things are bound to slip between the cracks. Having an experienced, independent partner on your side to manage the process and test the end result is crucial for success in the long term – and it all starts by knowing how to talk the right language at the right time.
Originally posted August 12, 2015, by Martin Mackay, Experior Group