Am I late to the party? I am just now delving into the magical world of UX, and the more I read and study, I can’t help but take the principles of this glorious tech/business/design world and think about how these frameworks apply to how I would like to live my actual life, too. Why, you ask?
1. UX is, by design (see what I did there), unselfish.
One of the first things I learned about UX is that the last person the design of a product should cater to- oddly enough- is me. In this field, we- the designers- take a backseat. UX, instead, fundamentally places the user above all else, because their ease, preferences, and consideration are all that matter. We design products not based on our vision alone, but instead on a collaborative one, with the user’s needs put ahead of our desires each step of the way. We understand that what makes sense to the user might not make sense to us, and that’s okay. We are here to make their lives a little easier. This process- even though we are the ones running it- is not about us.
Additionally, we must be able to take criticism and feedback without feeling personally bruised. And man, this is a hard one. (*goes home and writes “my value is not that of my design” 100 times*) We are required to reach a point where we not only welcome critique and review, but make it an integral part of our design process. Because again- it’s not about us. It’s about the user. It will always be about the user. The reality of UX is rooted in its selfless nature: it’s about putting others first, it’s about ego-taming, it’s about benevolence.
Lord, if I could live my life this way: constantly thinking about what other people want and need instead of myself, treating people as users of the experience I provide them with every interaction, how glorious would my life be? What kind of life could I provide for- forget myself, I’m always thinking about myself- but for other people?
2. UX honors- above all things- ease and simplicity.
Look, it is too easy to approach a problem with a myriad of solutions, ideas, and thoughts. Our minds are trained, with all our schooling, to overthink things. We are constantly asking ourselves- why does a problem exist? What is every solution possible for that problem? How do we pick the best one? Can we combine multiple solutions? Have you seen my laptop charger?
UX does away with all of that by providing us with a mantra that dictates the way we approach any problem the user may face: the fastest way to determine how successful a design can be, is the ease with which a user is able to interact with it. Simplicity and ease are key (major keys, if you will #DJKhaled). And if we provide users with too many options, they will get turned off and overwhelmed- so we try to keep it uncomplicated. We want to get users to where they want to be with as little obstacles as possible.
Life isn’t all that different: how many times have we overcomplicated simple, easy fixes through overthinking, frustration, and over-dwelling? We are hardwired to entangle ourselves into bigger messes than we started out with (did you check your pocket for your keys first?) and often, without even realizing it, we actively put obstacles between ourselves and the solution.
After all, how hard is an apology anyway? Or a kind word? Sometimes, the solution is just that easy- and that simple. UX wins again.
3. UX is empathetic.
UX is not only constantly putting the user first- but it is also constantly aware of how the user feels at all times. We are taught, time and time again, not to make decisions without accommodating the feelings of the user. By incorporating the user in every aspect of the construction of an experience, we are able to make the experience is that much better.
What is my user like? What kind of a person is he/she? Based on that, how will the user feel about this? What will the user think if we place this here? What could be a potential pain point of a user be? – These are questions we ask ourselves not with every product we make, but with every step in the process.
Now I step back and look at my own relationships: with my parents, friends, and siblings. There’s that saying that you don’t really know someone until you put yourself in their shoes. And UX is literally teaching me just that- even going so far as to create user profiles to better understand people and their needs. Once I read about this, I started creating, in my head, user profiles for the people in my life. How can I best serve the people I know, and their needs- how can I make them feel happy and fulfilled- based on who they are?
Maybe my mom’s life would be a little easier if I picked up the groceries for her, because I know she’s been busy lately. Maybe I know my sister is having trouble with friends so a movie would be a good pick me up. Who knows?
4. UX is a conversation.
Even after all of this, after constantly incorporating what we know about the user, in every freaking step, UX is a conversation. Our users, after all, don’t remain stagnant. So why should our product? UX, then, needs to be a two-way street, a constant back and forth about what is working and what isn’t (anymore). Change needs to constantly be at the forefront of design: understanding that as a business grows, so does its audience, and vice versa.
Here I think about how easy it is for me to fall into the habit of treating people in a way that is easier for my own understanding of them, rather than where they might be in their lives. I think about my little brother, who is 16, but who in my head is anywhere between 5 and 8- and I realize that I need to come to terms with his growth just as I do my own. Treating people as flat and stagnant instead of dynamic and growing is a disservice to not just others- but myself. Thank you, UX!
5. UX is consistent.
Another staple of UX is its dependability. We don’t only want people to use our product- we want them to come back again and again and AGAIN (and then some more). We want to build confidence and rapport with the user, to establish a trust between us and them in which they believe, wholeheartedly, that we will provide them with the same extraordinary, easy, beautiful experience every single time. And if mistakes are made, no problem- we try our hardest to provide a reliability in the experience that is also based in an ability to reverse errors easily. We want to be consistent in what we offer, always.
When I go to the Netflix app, I don’t think twice about where my fingers have to go to access House of Cards, and the next episode, and the one after that, since there’s a 98% chance I am binging. It is this consistency in ease and design that provides users like myself with an experience they don’t have to think twice about- which is the ultimate goal.
When I think about the people who mean the most to me- it’s always the people who showed up when many others didn’t, when in the hardest times of my life they stood by me, remained loyal, and never wavered in their support and reliability. This consistency didn’t only give me faith in them, but also in myself. And while I hope to be as dependable as the Netlfix app one day by always being there whenever someone needs me, I understand that I can never provide as much joy to others as Netflix provides to all of us. There is some value in the struggle, though.
And thanks to you, UX, I am inspired to try, again and again, to be even better than my best self.