Don’t %#*@ your projects. 4 steps to user centred solutions.

By Geff Harper on Feb 1, 2019
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We know the title’s a bit on the edge, but it’s really true

If you’re not making your design into a part of your software development, you’re going to run into some difficulties.  You need to incorporate user experience design right from the beginning; you need your code  to both work well, and be easy to use. That’s necessary because software is built for people to adapt and work with.  And while you can train people on software they don’t find intuitive,  it’s a lot of time and work, not to mention unhappy users!

You need to start off with the users in mind, think about what they’re going to want and need, think about how to make them happy.

Fact is,  you save tremendous time and energy by building something that starts out from an intuitive, user-focused point of view.

On top of that, face it - people are people.  If they don’t like the new software--both design and function--they’ll fight to keep doing stuff the old way.  Then you’ve got the costs of the new software, the challenges of trying to get people to adapt it, AND a morale problem.  Not good!

So what’s the answer?  What can you do?

Improve your product with user-centred design

As a software development company, we’re almost uniquely aware, more than nearly any other kind of business, just how critical it is to incorporate UX in the creation mix. Whenever we develop software for a business, there’s basically always some form of user interface or interaction which needs to be designed specifically with the user in mind. If the desired end-user can’t (or won’t!) take advantage of a new system or widget, that project suddenly risks being a liability.

What you’re trying to do to solve a problem. And you have a problem when you’ve got some data that doesn't work with one platform. By the same token, if I use two platforms and they won’t communicate, that’s a bad thing.

But we see it all the time in businesses. The company wants to solve a problem and focuses on a piece of software to solve that problem—without necessarily thinking of the kinds of challenges that might arise when your platforms aren’t good partners.

Get user feedback early and often

It’s really important to get user feedback early and often.  It’s true that we can’t (and shouldn’t) try to do what every single users might want; sometimes what they want isn’t practical or remotely useful!  But feedback doesn’t just let us hear more, it also lets us get buy-in, and that’s a tool we forget.  Honestly, people can like a product but still complain, if they feel left out of the process.   Someone who feels heard—whether as a part of a business or as a consumer—is someone more likely to be on your side, and feel positively towards you and what you’re doing.

Quite simply, you make a better software application through user testing and prototyping.  And it puts you in a good position to refine the design, and  keep on testing until we have a working prototype that users feel comfortable with.

And then the final step is product launch.  Before you get there, make sure you’ve focused on your design, not just user functionality, but user experience.  You’re going to need to do more testing and refining, and through that process, make sure that design and development are working together, not at cross-purposes.  Seek great feedback from both, and build constructive conversations.  Make sure that the design end is aware of technical possibilities and limitations, and that the tech end is ready to help advise about best ways to consider design ideas.

How do you apply all these?  We’ve put together four helpful steps:

4 steps to make sure people want to use your software product:

1. Specify how it'll be used:

Consider and identify who's going to use it, what they're going to do with it, and what circumstances they'll be using it. Is it going to be used by company employees while they're in the focused environment of the office?  Will it be used by consumers on-the-go?  Will it be used by business partners, coordinating an international team at all hours of the day?  Will it be mobile?  Will it be a bigger screen? You'll want quite different approaches depending on how people are making contact with the code.

2. Be requirement-focused:

Think about your "win" conditions. What does the product need to do in order to work well? That's not just its functionality (ie, "Needs to check the database to see if it's someone's birthday, to remind you to send a thank-you card", but also  how useful is it - "Is it actually the right choice to play 'The 1812 Overture' at full-volume whenever there's a birthday notification?"

What do users want? What do you want? List all those goals to get an idea of your scope.

3. The classic pattern for success:

Design > test > iterate > repeat.  Like any engineering project, you might have big goals.  Unlike, say, building a highway bridge that really needs to work right the first time, you're building a testable piece of programming. That means you can start with something simple and basic, and test it.  See what people say, how they like it, get their feedback.  Use that to refine the design, iterate something better, and then send it back in for testing.  Keep doing this until you build out your dream product.

4. Blast off & listen

Once it's live and in action, whether in the marketplace or the gated community of your team, get peoples' responses and reactions, and be prepared to change things in accordance with what works and what doesn't.  This part is always a great opportunity - don't miss it, or you're missing out on a chance to really make the finished version fantastic.

Quite simply, you make a better software application through user testing and prototyping. And it puts you in a good position to refine the design, and keep on testing until we have a working prototype that users feel comfortable with.

Sound challenging?  It can be, but it’s also rewarding. Get in touch with us – we’re experts, and we’d love to help. And your consultation is free!


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Geff’s been in design for nearly 20 years, in digital for the last 10. Geff uses User-Centred Design principles to develop CX and UX that delivers for clients. He loves problem solving, leading design sprints and prototyping. Geff advocates strongly for user feedback and enjoys the challenge of creating solutions that positively impact user behaviour and interaction with technology.

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