4 Misconceptions of UI / UX

The term “User Experience” has received a lot of attention lately, and rightly so.  The success of every software product, mobile application and piece of interactive technology hinges on answering the questions – “Does this product give me value? Is it easy to use? Am I satisfied using the product?

A user-centered design process focuses on end users answering “YES” to the above questions.   Because there are misunderstandings of the role UI/UX plays, we want to clear up a few common misconceptions that we’re hearing and seeing about UI/UX.

Misconception #1-  UI/UX is all about the visuals

The first important misconception is that UI/UX is all about looks. In our last blog post UI/UX & Usability – We defined the difference between UI and UX. Now, we’re digging deeper into their meanings as well as their impact on a software project.

The co-creator of Foster.fm eloquently describes the differences and importance of UI and UX relating to design.

“User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) are some of the most confused and misused terms in our field. A UI without UX is like a painter slapping paint onto canvas without thought; while UX without UI is like the frame of a sculpture with no paper mache on it. A great product experience starts with UX followed by UI. Both are essential for the product’s success.”

UX and UI design goes much deeper than the colors or typeface within a software product.  Don’t get me wrong; color, typeface and layout are very important, but the strategy and development that goes into the UI and UX leads to the end visual product.

It is the usability of the software application that fits within both UI and UX.  It is measured to the extent at which a user accomplishes a goal.  A great UI/UX design balances the needs of your business with the needs of your users and integrates them into a seamless design aesthetic.  We’ve also written about the importance of a customer-centric approach to software design and development.

Misconception #2 – Design is a small part of the project

Some might think that design is just something that gets tacked on to a project. As I illustrated earlier, UI and UX are much more than just design and visuals.

A lot of time, strategy and development go into the final overall experience of a software product/ application.  To illustrate the point that UI and UX design is more than just visuals, take a look at an excerpt of a job description for an UX designer at Twitter.

“Articulate user needs and translate those needs into concepts and elegant interface designs. Define interaction models, user task flows and UI specifications. Communicate scenarios, end-to-end experiences, interaction models, and screen designs to stakeholders. Develop and maintain design wireframes, mockups and specifications…maintain design consistency and coherence across the product as appropriate…”

If you want your software to be successful, design cannot be an afterthought. It ebbs and flows like all other parts of a software design project. Requirements and priorities change, our development process (including design) needs to be able to adapt.  By taking a user-centered design process, the user’s needs are taken into account at every stage of the product lifecycle.  At Eureka, every single team member is responsible for UX, at every part of the process. Each person involved, actively works to make the product’s experience the best it can be, allowing us to streamline the process and build better, user-centered software, more efficiently and effectively.

Misconception #3 – Good design doesn’t need testing

However much we love a design or feel passionately about it, it CAN be improved.  It is important to test the design at every stage of the product cycle.  Eureka performs multiple types of UI and UX testing on each of our projects.  Example forms of testing we conduct are heat mapping, A/B testing, Analytics, and of course user research through interviews and observation.

A great example of why testing and observation is so important is the story of the “$300 Million Button”.  Jared M. Spool wrote an article that appeared in a book written by Luke Wroblewskit, Web Form Design: filling in the Blanks, about how a simple button and design change increased profits by $300,000,000 a year!  The ecommerce site had a simple form to fill out prior to check out, and the design team assumed that new customers “would not mind the extra effort of registering because, after all, they will come back for more and they’ll appreciate the expediency in subsequent purchases.  Everybody wins, right?”  Well in this case, new customers and the business were losing.  The ecommerce business eventually conducted usability tests and conducted interviews with customers.  They learned that that the “were wrong about first-time shoppers.  They did mind registering.”

“The designers fixed the problem simply. They took away the Register button. In its place, they put a Continue button with a simple message: “You do not need to create an account to make purchases on our site. Simply click Continue to proceed to checkout. To make your future purchases even faster, you can create an account during checkout.”
The results: The number of customers purchasing went up by 45%. The extra purchases resulted in an extra $15 million the first month. For the first year, the site saw an additional $300,000,000.”

So, no matter how tied to a design you are – TEST, TEST, TEST!

Misconception #4 – You can never have too many choices

Everyone loves having choices in their day to day lives. However, there is a balancing act between the number of choices and the associated satisfaction of choice.  Barry Schwatz, author of the best selling book, The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less, discussed this issue during his filmed TEDtalk in 2005.  He stated that-

“All of this choice has two effects, two negative effects on people.  One effect, paradoxically, is that it produces paralysis, rather than liberation.  With so many options to choose from, people find it very difficult to choose at all.”

As designers we must remember that we deal with complicated interfaces on a daily basis and it is our job to make them as simple and intuitive to use as possible. Saying that, we can still fall into the trap of assuming that everyone interacts with computers, dialogs, inputs, and components the same way. Crafting the right UI for the user/project takes research and knowledge of the end-user/consumer and how they will be interacting with the product.

Just because you understand the User Interface and the various options doesn’t mean that your user will.  If your user is given too many choices, the path of least resistance is to not use the product at all.

At Eureka, we build better, user-centered software, more efficiently and effectively.  We’d love to answer your UI/UX and software development related questions! Feel free to reach out to us at sales@eurekasoft.com.