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Not every project has a UX designer. Unfortunately, many people are still of the opinion that projects don’t need one and that they cost more than they bring in. Or the role is simply forgotten. The requirements engineer is often asked to perform a kind of dual role – ‘they can do that little bit of UX as well, no problem’. I’d like to use this post to expand your UX horizons a little so that even inexperienced requirements or software engineers who are given this dual role can understand the basics, and to possibly even highlight a few important points to consider when designing software solutions in the future.

The user experience is too multi-faceted and comprehensive of a topic to describe in a nutshell, which is why I want to focus on the most important rules for creating a positive user experience.

UX and UI – what are they?

UX and UI are different terms and they also have different meanings. It’s important to know, understand and internalise this difference: User interface (UI) is the term used to describe the surface on which the interaction between user and product takes place. User experience (UX), on the other hand, encompasses the expectations and satisfaction before, during and after that interaction.

A UX designer usually always starts with user research. Knowing the user is the be-all and end-all of successful UX design. There are a number of different methods you can use to learn about users. The best known are probably interviews, studies and questionnaires. If you don’t have experience in any of these areas or don’t have the courage to implement these techniques yourself, you can use existing questionnaires, for instance. However, this will only work for existing products that you want to renew or replace initially. The SUS (system usability scale) provides information about the usability of a product and the UEQ (user experience questionnaire) examines the UX in relation to the product used. Both questionnaires are available free of charge on the Internet.

A focus on the user

Make it clear to your customer that the focus is on the user and the product should be geared towards them. This can add value for those who end up using the product and focus on usability rather than features. After all, what’s the point in giving the user a product with 100 features that they don’t need and that are difficult to use as well?

User tests are vital. Even if you don’t have experience with usability testing, you certainly have colleagues who can help you out. You just need to convince your customer of the importance of these tests. This is the only way that you can really develop products for users and unearth real problems, obstacles and vulnerabilities.

Don’t overwhelm the user with too much information and too many features, just limit yourself to the essentials. Even if there is a rule that says you have to place the most important things of a website in the visible area on the homepage, users may not be able to process this overload of information and they end up leaving again faster than they arrived. The goal should always be to provide people with the information they need in the shortest possible time.

It all starts with the prototype

Even if you’re not a designer, it’s still a good idea to create a prototype first and only then move on to a real product. You can create your initial sketches and discuss them using simple tools such as Figma, PowerPoint or even just a pen and some paper. These prototypes are also suitable for usability tests and surveys. This allows you to test and validate hypotheses before starting real development. Remember – validate first, then program.

A couple of ground rules for good user interfaces are keep it simple and keep it consistent. The aim is always that a user doesn’t need a manual to use a product. The structure of a product should also be consistent. This means that elements are placed at familiar locations and are also displayed in the same way on different levels. Some examples of this are the user account, which is usually placed at the top right, the shopping cart, the search bar, the legal notice, which can be found in the footer of a page, or back and next buttons, which are always displayed in the same order. Don’t try to build highly innovative, creatively designed element icons to replace ones that everyone already knows and instinctively looks for. While not every user nowadays grew up in the age of the floppy disk, this icon is still generally recognised as the save icon.

UX design is a team sport

You’re not a UX designer and you might be reluctant to take on this role because you don’t want to make mistakes, you’re overwhelmed or you don’t have any ideas for the design? That’s no problem at all because UX design is a team sport. Get as much input as you can from the customer, stakeholders and of course real users, and work with them and your team to develop the product’s interface.

You can also refer to Jakob Nielsen’s heuristics and review them at each stage of development. Nielsen developed the ten principles for good interaction design, and by following these rules of thumb, even an amateur can design engaging interfaces.

The ten usability heuristics according to Nielsen are:

  • 1. Visibility of the system status
  • 2. Match between system and the real world
  • 3. User control and freedom
  • 4. Consistency and standards
  • 5. Error prevention
  • 6. Recognition rather than recall
  • 7. Flexibility and efficiency of use
  • 8. Aesthetic and minimalist design
  • 9. Help users recognise, diagnose and recover from errors
  • 10. Help and documentation

Lastly, it should be said that these tips and procedures cannot be implemented equally for every project. It depends, as they say. When developing new products, it’s likely that you’ll need to allocate more time to user research and analysing usage requirements. When relaunching or further developing an existing product, however, you’ll spend more time on validating designs using A/B tests, for instance.

Picture Eva-Maria  Kynast

Author Eva-Maria Kynast

Eva has been working for adesso SE as a consultant for almost three and a half years and has since worked on various projects for GEMA, the Federal Statistical Office and TÜV SÜD. Her work focuses on requirements engineering and UX design. She is also a trainer for the adesso training course "Usability and User Experience Design Basics".

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