What is User Experience and who might find it useful to know about it

Łukasz Łosin
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3 października 2017

If we take a very broad understanding of the concept of User Experience, as a user experience encompassing all aspects of interaction with a company, its services and products ( Don Norman explains quite clearly what User Experience is), then UX in IT companies involves not only the work of UX designers themselves, business analysts or front-end developers, but also employees of customer service, marketing, sales, help desk.

You may be surprised by this approach to UX, but aren't the employees of the above-mentioned departments involved in the process of analyzing requirements, determining business needs, designing, creating, selling, providing after-sales service to customers or, more precisely, users of products and services? Isn't it the case that every company, with its products and services, is evaluated by customers, not only for its product, but also for the quality of customer service, readability and accessibility of the offer, for the quality of after-sales service?

Who, then, should have the knowledge, know the tools, prototyping techniques and research methods used in UX?

You have certainly encountered the typical answer to this type of question --- "it depends...". However, I prefer to be more precise. In my opinion, considering the tasks I have performed while being a Business Development Manager, Project Manager, Product Owner, Analyst, and finally User Experience Designer the answer to this question is... Note... anyone who has an influence in a company or project on the shape, quality of a product or service, its evaluation and user perception.

It doesn't matter if we offer a car, smartphone or software we are in a similar situation. It is our product, website, application or entire system that is the product or part of a larger service that can elicit positive or negative feelings and evaluations from users. And the sum of these evaluations affects whether we will have business success as measured by sales volume, number of new users, number of transactions made or number of visits to the site.

Every user has a problem to solve....

But we can't forget that beyond beautiful design, the latest technology, the number of new functionalities, the most important thing is the fact of solving the user's problem, which often becomes the main design problem[^1]. Because what is another vocabulary learning app with a system of reminders, rewards, repetitions, when it is not able to teach us the chosen language, that is, solve our main problem?

What is the latest model of smartphone, full of functionality, with computing capabilities surpassing the first Apollo spacecraft, when some users cannot easily operate it and use it to solve their primary problem, which is the need for long-distance conversation. And this is a shame, since the solution to this problem was patented as early as 1876 by Alexander Bell....

What, after all, is a system that supports the work in a manufacturing company, logistics company, office or hospital, if instead of improving processes hitherto documented in traditional form, it duplicates them. How often the operation of a new system, instead of speeding up, slows down the work of medical personnel by requiring additional staff to handle it.

In each of the above examples, the victim is the user of the application, system or product. But he is not the only one. The aggrieved party is also the provider, the manufacturer of the service and product, i.e. our company, because we lose a satisfied user, customer and an efficient employee. And however we count it, the financial or image losses for our company can be huge!

The reason is often the lack of knowledge, awareness, ability to use tools and techniques from the field of UX to support the process of designing, manufacturing and testing the product.But not every organization employs people responsible for UX, not every team has such a person available, not every project has enough of them.What can we do in such a situation?

We should ensure the success of the project by taking care of the User Experience of our products and services.

Being aware of business needs and realities, I believe that User Experience should be known to everyone who influences the product and service, and to everyone who cares about the business success of the project, especially:

Product Owner/Manager --- because it is he who, according to Scrum, should contact the customer and the market to create the product vision. He is the one who creates the backlog, describing user needs in the form of a user story. He is the one who, together with the team, presents the next results of the work to the customers/users, e.g. during a "Demo" --- product review. And it is he who is responsible for ensuring that the product solves the users' problem and sells well.

Knowledge and ability to use techniques and tools from the UX area can surprisingly quickly improve the work of a Product Owner, Product Manager or even Project Manager in the process of determining the target market, customers/users of the product and service, their expectations and business needs. Importantly, people in the above positions are often responsible for the budget and the relationship of time and cost of producing a product and service to potential profits. The ability to quickly prototype and verify the correctness of the adopted solution can significantly reduce the risk of failure and the total cost of the project.

The business analyst --- because he is the one equipped with knowledge of UX can identify user requirements faster and more effectively. By creating high-quality prototypes quickly, he can be more independent of front-end developers, catching future problems early in the design process. Knowing the methods and tools, he can also easily assess the level of usability and the need for changes to an already existing application.

Tester and QA --- because they are the ones who, by learning the methods of usability research and testing, depending on the organization's structure and work methodology, can catch problems that affect UX.

Developers --- because they are often the ones who interpret in their own way the requirements described by the Product Owner or Business Analyst, creating the final product. Without awareness and basic knowledge of User Experience, they often create an ideal application, clear and full of functionality, but... useful and easy to use only for themselves, and not for the user, i.e. a child, senior citizen or average person using a computer or tablet to handle emails, browse the net or work in a text editor.

Surprisingly, but I keep discovering new applications of User Experience knowledge and techniques. It turns out that HR Professionals are also starting to use UX to study and improve the experience of prospective employees participating in the recruitment process by taking care of their clients, i.e. candidates and their Candidate Experience.

In this post, I tried to introduce what the field called User Experience does and to whom knowledge of UX tools, techniques and concepts can be useful in IT projects.

I'll talk about what a person who cares about UX should know, as well as techniques and tools from the User Experience field in future posts.


[^1]: The problem of thinking too soon about the final product instead of focusing on the users' needs is also mentioned by project teams from Google

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