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The Changing Face of UX

March 31, 2014 by

When most of us think about user experience (UX), we imagine a user interface (UI) designer working on a visual representation of a product, then doing a bit of front end programming to transform the vision into a usable product interface. It’s a solitary job for someone who must be prophetic.

This narrow view of UX neglects the underlying objective of the practice: to study and evaluate how users feel about a product or a system. Instead of envisioning a solitary genius, think of a busy project manager who must coordinate cross-functional teams, conduct in-person user tests, understand both the company’s objectives and the client’s objectives, and combine all of this research and sensory feedback into an executable product design. This vision is much closer to the reality of true UX.

ProdUX Labs and @lissijean recently hosted a UX Bootcamp in Boston to drive home the realities of UX and emphasize how these truths should shape product design and execution. The session predominantly focused on a predictable subject: you, the user. As users, you may hear about a product by word of mouth, or be given a product to use by an executive at a particular company. You may even have no previous knowledge of the product. In any event, you certainly won’t have years of experience with the product’s intricacies, known issues, or QA test results.

This reality is often met with vehement pushback from product managers. I frequently hear phrases like: “We conduct betas for all of our products, and our beta users gave the product fantastic reviews.” To this, I ask: “Did you meet your users? Did you watch them use your product? Did you ask them how they felt when seeing the product for the first time?” As manufacturers, we must ask the right questions, which will help us in two ways: first, by allowing us to evaluate our product design, and second, by giving us a sense of your feelings.

Once we have gathered knowledge of our users, we build “testable hypotheses” and begin sketching new product wireframes. The goal is to get what we call an MVP (minimum viable product) as quickly as possible, and to give this MVP to our users to evaluate. We want to know a variety of things about your experience as a user. How have your experiences changed? Are you using our product in a way that we predicted? If not, what is the next assumption and hypothesis that is worth testing?

We’ve developed a simple test for our products, wherein we have users look at the screen for five seconds. Do they know what they are supposed to do? Is the screen simple, intuitive, and executable? Or are they left confused?

The product team at Thinking Phone Networks is focused on UX for our next generation set of products. With the BYOD trend, a push towards mobile (iOS and Android) users, and an increase in user independence, it is essential for us to redesign the UX of tools to maximize adoption, ease of use, and functionality. We believe that if we succeed in understanding our users, we will deliver a product that brings maximum utility to both our users and their organizations—a combination that will ultimately lead to happier and more productive customers.


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