It’s like plumbing: when it works, you don’t even think about it
One of Tom’s teachers in design school described Communication Designers as being like plumbers. When we do our job right, no one notices the pipes, only the information and concepts we’re trying to communicate. The same idea holds true for User Experience design: a well designed user experience is so seamless that the user will rarely notice how good it is; if anything, they will feel a sense of ease and familiarity, or occasionally relief as something they were conditioned to expect to be difficult suddenly turns out to be easy.
When we design a job from top to bottom, our User Experience and Interaction Design knowledge is built into the DNA of the project. We apply known best practices and focus on users as the primary inspiration for any piece of interactive design. Designing this way ensures that the goals of the client don’t cause conflict with the experience of the user, but work together in a harmonious way to leave the user with a positive experience. We’re also regularly brought in as consultants on interactive projects by other designers who are less familiar with the human/computer relationship and want pointers or validation of their work.
We take two approaches to user testing and data collection: Bootstrapping and BDUF (Big Design Up Front). Each method has its advantages.
Bootstrapping means taking your best shot, putting something out there based on best practices and gut feeling, and collecting data from your users as it comes in. The benefit there is lower initial investment: you get your user testing from real users doing real things with your website or web app. The drawback is that you then need to do something with the data that comes in, which will often be more costly than if you had gathered some data up front.
The Big Design Up Front approach, on the other hand, spends more money up front to conduct user testing and incorporate results prior to launch. The benefit is a more confident entry into the market.
Either way, a user centric design approach means a commitment to improving based on data gathered from tools like Google Analytics, A/B split testing, user focus groups, surveys and so on.