Our design team has the unique opportunity to learn about User Experience with Akendi, a UX design, research & product strategy firm in Toronto. The first session provided an in-depth look at the theory, process, tools and techniques of UX design, and mixed it with practical application. Tedde Van Gelderen, President of Akendi, led the first session, introducing us to the human factors that influence usability, and gave us a thorough overview of UX and user-centered design and its applications. Without giving too much away, I’d like to hit on the most important bits of information I’ve taken away from this session that helped me better understand the importance of UX Design.
UX IS A PROCESS, NOT A THING
User experience is not something you can check off at the end of a list. Rather, it is an intensive process that starts from the beginning of a project to its completion, and back again to its many iterations. Akendi introduced us to a UX process that includes strategy, research, design, testing and construction. It’s important to note that there is no “completion” phase in this process. I don’t think a website or app can ever be “complete” because human factors such as shifting user preferences, changing conventions and emerging technologies constantly demand iterations to be made upon them for optimal performance.
Akendi’s Experience Thinking process uses research and testing techniques to involve stakeholders, customers and clients throughout the design process.
UX IS NOT JUST FOR DESIGNERS
A common misconception is that UX is handled by only the designers who create the sitemaps, wireframes and designs that govern how the site looks and functions. However, UX design is an immersive and engaging process that involves business and market research analysts, product managers, web developers, QA specialists, CEOs and more. Everyone and anyone who cares about the success of the company, and its products or services should be concerned about the user’s experience. All the research data and knowledge gathered by these teams together shape and influence the scientific architecture of the user’s experience. As a result, the product and service is significantly enhanced to engage and sustain users, while meeting organizational goals.
RESEARCH! RESEARCH! RESEARCH!
As a designer, I’ve had only minimal exposure to the research involved when making websites, so this topic was crucial for me. Conducting the right kind of research will help determine user wants, needs and influences.
We went through 8 types of research methods:
- Ethnographic Approach
- Diary & Journal Studies
- Focus Groups & Concept Testing
- Usability Test
- Heuristic Review
- Card Sorting
Research is important because it helps to gauge audience reactions and level of engagement in regards to a product or service. It helps determine the level of need, along with the best way to go about facilitating that need. It answers the 5Ws and most importantly helps determine how the product will function.
UX SAVES TIME & MONEY
Integrating UX at the start of the project can significantly increase the return on investments. What may cost thousands of dollars to fix at the end of the web development stage could cost zero dollars if it were handled early in the Information Architecture stage by simply erasing a box in the wireframes. When we think thoroughly through the IA and structure of the site as a whole, we begin to solve the issues before they arise. More importantly, UX saves everyone time and prevents less headaches.
Check out Akendi’s website to learn more about their UX services and training sessions.
There is no one UX Process that Fits All
Each company must tailor a UX process that works for them and their specific goals. It is important to spread awareness about the importance of UX to the success of the company and their product or service. I am fortunate to work in a place that values the importance of UX. These training sessions are just the start of discovering better ways to deliver remarkable experiences.