More and more people nod knowingly when I introduce myself as UX designer these days. The term “user experience” becomes more recognized, and for a good reason: we all have had experience with products (digital and tangible) that just work for us, where we feel confident and sometimes outright badass. And then there are those where we feel powerless, frustrated and ready to quit because we cannot figure out how to make it work. We want to walk away from it, but we often can’t afford to (see gas station interfaces or job application forms). When we can, we give up, because who has the time/energy for that? We cannot expect anything good from a product that has a confusing interface and structure, we think to ourselves.
UX is the difference between a frustrating product and a “user-feels-badass” product.
So, how does information architecture fit into the world of UX?
Practitioners of UX
- Research how real people (a.k.a. users) think and interact with artifacts when trying to solve a problem. This research happens through observations, interviews, tasks that probe users’ mental models, etc.
- Evaluate current solutions – either based on patterns and guidelines (heuristics) that we have established about human-computer interaction or/and also based on user research (see above). Where are the pain points where users start to get frustrated? Where do they look for way arounds?
- Design for a better solution – first on paper, make sketches, wireframes, solutions. Once you feel confident about your ideas (based on preliminary testing), time to make it look like the real (looking) thing: prototypes.
- Develop prototypes as soon as you can, and test, test, test your ideas with the help of potential and current users! This may lead you back to the drawing board, and that’s Ok because you are closer to a great solution.
…It took me a while to realize that what I have been studying, both formally and informally, is User Experience Design. The concept of UX was far from well-known at 15 years ago, and now it is an essential part of all digital design. What I love about UX is the combination of many branches of learning and practice, such as cognitive psychology, decision-making, anthropology, visual design, statistics, technology and more.