This is a guest post by Imran Hussain, Director of IxDC (www.ixdc.org) and a user experience consultant (experiencematters.pk), as part of our post series on world usability day (www.worldusabilityday.org). IxDC recently organized Pakistan’s first usability event called World Usability Day 2008 (www.ixdc.org/events.htm) in Lahore.
This is the second in a series of three posts about usability. In this post, I’ll be looking at some of the skills and components that go into creating a good user experience.
In my first post, I mentioned that most software developers and managers have a very simplistic view of developing software: hire a bunch of coders for programming the backend and grab a graphic designer to design the frontend of an application. The problem with this approach is that both types of professionals usually lack user focus and requisite skills for designing interfaces.
Developing high quality, usable interfaces requires a multidisciplinary approach and a variety of design skills – this is especially true of web and mobile applications which are multifaceted in nature and are usually a combination of features, information, and other media content. There is a great conceptual model called ‘The Elements of User Experience’ <http://www.jjg.net/elements/> which illustrates some of these essential components and skills:
- Business Objectives – understanding the business model and business strategy of the organization behind the application is a key starting point for a successful design.
- User Research – understanding user needs through ethnographic studies and contextual inquiry, and identifying usage scenarios.
- Content Requirements – this involves identifying content features, appropriate content formats, along with preparation of the content.
- Functional Specifications – this involves specifying features, tasks, and use case scenarios.
- Information Architecture – this is concerned with the structure and organization of information, developing labeling, navigation, and searching systems.
- Interaction Design – this is concerned with the behavior of the product and how the system interacts with the user.
- Information Design – this involves choosing appropriate formats for presenting information, both textually, graphically and visually.
- User-Interface Design – this involves the appropriate selection and layout of interface controls so that it facilitates ease of use.
- Visual Design – this involves the visual treatment of interface controls, fonts, and colors so that the interface has an aesthetic appeal.
In addition to the above, good usability and a successful interface design also requires use of evaluation methods such as usability testing, iterative prototyping, efficient interface engineering by using web standards, and assuring accessibility. Lastly, all threads need to be woven together using an appropriate design methodology.
By looking at the above details, its quite clear that software coders and graphic designers alone lack the combination of analytical and creative skills that are essential for creating a truly good user experience.
In my next post, I’ll take a look at some of steps that need to be taken in Pakistan to improve understanding and awareness of usability and a recent related event.