If you’ve seen HBO’s Silicon Valley, you might remember a recent episode in season 3 in which the Pied Piper app launched and had hundreds of thousands of downloads upon launch, but no repeat user interaction. The team ended up buying fake users to show app retention. They couldn't understand why people weren’t coming back to use the software. They spent the last of their seed money on user research, only to find that no one understood their product.
It was a funny episode, but all too familiar for developers who don’t take the time to learn about the way their users work. While it might not have provided fodder for a funny episode, if the fictional Pied Piper had bothered to study its users before shoving their software out the door, it might not have failed so utterly.
At UruIT, we don’t operate that way. One of the things that sets us apart in our software development process is our attention to detail, and user design is an excellent example. Our team of in-house interface experts ensures that the user experience is not only understood, but built into the development process. There’s a good reason for this; good user experience saves you money. Risks are minimized through careful consideration of who the user is, which platform is most efficient for the target user, and even what button colors are best for that user.
As a Senior UX Designer at UruIT, I study how users behave. I’ve seen costly mistakes in client projects that didn’t engage in user experience profiles ahead of time,and I’m here to tell you how to avoid those same mistakes so your software is a success upon release.
First, understand that no matter what you do, the user experience is always there. It isn’t something you can add. You can enhance it or make it worse, but it’s always there.
This means that even the most basic of user interfaces are still an experience. And if handled poorly, users will not interact with the software. Put simply, the difference between a successful user interface and a failure could mean the fate of your software and a lot of money.
What is User Experience and why does it matter?
At a theoretical level, user experience is the concept of understanding who your end user is, and what they will do with your software. On a practical level, it’s the user interface and the platform your software is built on.
A great user experience should be a major goal of any successful software app, but in order to create a great experience, systems must be useful and friendly. They must be built for the person who uses it.
Understanding who users are is vital. Every business is different, and so are its users. There is no one ideal business or user;one size does not fit all!
A common assumption is that sitting down with users takes too much time and money, but in reality, it doesn’t. And the potential losses of building software without understanding your user are huge. We see a lot of fear about the idea of listening to users, as though they will demand things outside the project scope. That isn’t really what happens;listening to users is more about watching how they use things and how they feel when they do. And really, wouldn’t you prefer knowing the exact needs and problems of your users?
Sometimes, when we ask users how they feel or what is happening while they’re using an app, I discover problems that we would never have known about otherwise. Typically, we work with a representative amount of users and watch them interact with the system over a period of time. What they do with the interface and what they say gives us a lot of information.
User Personas and Scenarios
Our team takes a methodical approach to user study by creating user scenarios and profiles. This is an exercise that benefits the entire team by providing a shared vision for the app’s goal for developers and designers alike.
To start with, we first ask the client questions. Then we validate the answers with the users. Our questions range from general concept to specific, such as, “What’s the objective or goal of the task you’re doing?” Even the user’s age will factor into our observations.
Once we begin to understand the user’s profile, we begin to get an idea of the situation and any problems that will need to be solved, which could include technical or more resource-based (such as an element of the app that requires more work and time in order to meet deadlines and time to market).
User profiles are characters, like a student, a parent, or an accountant;any typical user who might use the software. But profile isn’t just a job title or life role;it’s also a detailed description of what that person does and how he or she interacts with the world. What does that user do on a given day, and how do they do it? The profile includes work routines and backgrounds, which will then inform how the user does things.
Putting the user profile in a scenario where they then interact with the software is next. Knowing your users and how they behave allows you to prioritize what’s essential in the app and what’s secondary or complementary, which in turn allows you to make decisions on what’s included in the scope,which is essential when your budget and time to market is limited.
Checks and Balances
Think of user design as a kind of checks and balances system between end users and the developer. Of course, beginning with user design is ideal and means the chances of success for the project are much greater.
Beginning with user design as early as possible is ideal, of course. But there is no bad time to start; better late than never! Even if the development stage is far along, there is still value in learning about users and how your app is used. Such insights can give you a clearer vision of how to expand and grow your business. Having new information from your users allows you to pivot and gives you the background to reinvent your solutions.
If your product is already in development or you’re about to launch a new one, conducting an analysis of user experience is an investment into your product. UX doesn’t end when you launch your product. Continued user understanding validates your product in the market and provides you with tools to discover what else you can offer to users. This, in turn, will help you grow and expand your business.
Maria Jose Sanguinetti is a passionate UX Designer and the Senior UX Designer at UruIT. She helps UruIT's partners ensure that the user experience is built into their product’s development process. Having a strong background in Fine Arts and Graphic Design, she has been working since 2007 in the software industry designing different experiences, under the user centered design methodology, for a variety of industries including entertainment, real estate, healthcare, marketing, communications, telecommunications, tourism, sports, gaming, gambling, banking, education, beverage, oil, agro, social, productivity apps, and IT.