UX & UI: Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls
by Simon Phillimore
On the first of March we were lucky enough to have Mariana Morris of Oxford Computer Consultants give a presentation on a most modern phenomenon – digital UX and UI, or to give them their full titles, User Experience and User Interface. Unknown to many of us, each and every day we engage in a UX or interact with a UI, whether we are simply checking Facebook, buying something off Amazon, or writing a blog post.
A UX can be described as the overall experience that the user goes through, from the ‘trigger’ that makes them start their experience, to long after their initial interaction. This is because an experience can impact on future choices – such is the nature of the human being. On the other hand, UI is much more visual, in that it is simply the elements that the user sees and interacts with when using the interface.
Mariana works as Head of Design, overseeing a small team of nine staff whose day to day work revolves around developing apps and websites for a number of clients, including big players such as the National Grid and the NHS.
Her presentation had several stand out points, with the first being that design is no longer an afterthought in the development process. The phrase ‘lipstick on the pig’ used to be an apt zinger for the application of design to a UX, but nowadays as Moore’s law slows down and computing performance is no longer the selling point it once was, companies are having to focus on getting their UX and UI designs spot on to remain competitive.
It was also interesting to hear about how Mariana and her team make decisions in their quest for UX perfection. Rather than using the traditional waterfall development method, they have adopted an agile system which uses an initial discovery phase before fulling delving into creating an interface. This involves user research such as interviews, surveys, user testing, and creating ‘user journeys’. In turn, this allows the team to fully understand not what their users want, but what their users need. By keeping the focus on the user, it is possible to find the pain points and solve them at an earlier stage in the development process.
From a student’s point of view, this was a very useful talk as we have been tasked with creating a digital education product which will undoubtedly involve creating and UX and UI. It was helpful to be reminded that we need to keep the user at the forefront of our mind as we develop all aspects of the product, and that we need to conduct thorough user research to create an effective digital education solution.
In the words of Donald Norman,
‘We have to accept human behaviour the way it is, not the way we would wish it to be’.