Commercialism and accelerated consumption have given new opportunities for design to manifest as the deciding factor for purchases. Experience design or UX, as it is more commonly known, is an integral part of our lives. Most of us would think that it is limited to the design of digital products, while in reality the experience is thought out for all products and services that we consume.
Businesses are limited in innovation by the technology available to them. However, user data and accumulated knowledge of the human race allow them to innovate design. The philosophy of experience design explains why it is applicable beyond digital products and services. Experience design aims to solve problems, increase usage of the product or service, and garner a positive response from users.
How can we identify experience design in our lives?
UX designers have brilliantly pointed out that users notice design primarily when it is flawed. Think about the last time you used a wash basin that was the wrong height, a coffee mug with a handle that didn’t fit right, or an uneven set of stairs that you had to climb. These are common examples where we users think to ourselves “well I could have done a better design job at that”.
This is the first step of designing an experience. Designers understand the problems users are facing or might face, and try to solve those problems with better design while keeping the essential elements of the product or service the same as before.
Like innovation in other disciplines, design requires particular research to create an experience that will help alleviate a user's problem. Research for experience design includes ethnographic research, analyzing user feedback collected digitally, and consolidating results in easily digestible formats.
Through research, UX designers are able to identify the target users, their habits, and their expectations, and then apply these insights to the product design.
The building blocks of experience design
Redesigning the way we experience lives through each product, service, and essentially every facet of life is a daunting task when you think of it. However, like most processes, some fundamental guidelines make experience design possible.
Primarily, UX designers follow heuristics. The heuristic technique is a problem-solving method that enables quick resolutions. In principle, heuristics rely on the intuitive power of the common user. When users are introduced to new products or services, this speeds up the learning process. Even for recurring problems, such as ‘which way does the door open’ the most basic and intuitive design is adopted so users will figure out the solutions themselves without needing an instruction manual or third-party assistance.
Uniformity & Consistency
Another fundamental practice in experience design is uniformity. Apple’s iOS has placed the ‘back’ button on the top left of its screen since the beginning, whereas the home screen button is always placed at the bottom. Whenever there is an update, or a user upgrades to a new model, they will find these inputs consistent. This is the gist of uniformity in experience design. Uniformity can be observed in supermarket chain store layouts. 7-Eleven, Target, and lifestyle brands like IKEA follow the same store layouts at their locations so customers feel like they already know where the items they need are placed.
Efficiency is a core concentration of UX design. This fundamental is often overlooked, leading to users' extra effort, which dampens the overall experience. For products and services that are made for long-term usage, efficiency is key. An example to understand efficiency is how the volume key acts on a TV or any multimedia device. A highly efficient feature for the volume button would be long-pressing it to quickly increase or decrease the volume. If the volume bar offers values from 0 to 100 and users need to press the button each time to increase or decrease, they will probably get tired of the device very soon and give it up for a more efficient model. Designing low-effort experiences is the basis of innovation in lifestyle products and services. Inefficient designs just won't cut it in a highly competitive market consisting of users that critically evaluate the products and services.
What does experience design help achieve?
For consumers, experience design makes products more convenient to use and easier to understand. It solves frequently occurring issues and improves the quality of life for users. Countries invest in experience design at a national policy level to improve the efficiency of public goods and services, while also ensuring that public goods are used correctly.
On the flip side, product and service owners also benefit from investing in experience design. Uniformity in design is an excellent way to garner customer loyalty. Users opt for familiar products and services over completely new alternatives. Efficiency is also crucial in a user’s buying decisions. Efficient designs increase the trust users have in a particular product or service and also reinforce the value they get for the price. Overall, satisfactory design leads to better repurchases, longer product and service life, and happier customers. Positive experience design elicits a positive response from customers, which is the ultimate goal of a good design.
We can understand that experience design is not limited to digital products. It affects us at every scale, and outside the digital world as well. Innovation comes in all forms, and when technology is at the cutting edge, it is great to turn attention toward the drawing board and improve existing products and services rather than reinventing them.
Experience design relies on fundamentals like heuristics, uniformity, and efficiency to improve products and services by solving user problems. Not only is experience design efficient in terms of usage, but also efficient when it comes to resources during development.
At Ideate Innovation, we start every experience design journey with the customer. Our human-centered UX design team researches the problem and surveys target customers to understand their expectations. Our approach helps us dissect the problem and provide cost-efficient fixes to product and service owners.