UX is a vast field and understanding what it is and why it's important can be very daunting. However, it may be the case that you are already doing UX without realizing it!
I know now that User Experience (UX) is about the experience a product or service creates for the people who use it. But before Revolution Conf this year (2018) I had no idea what UX was!
My very first session at RevConf, I went to was “Focusing on Focus” by Chris Demars. One thing he said made an impression on me.
“20% of people have a disability, so accessibility is a MUST even for internal apps.”
My next session was “UX for Developers” by John Athayde. Two phrases stood out to me.
“UX debt is technical debt”
“UX is everyone’s problem”
Lastly, I appreciated “Web Accessibility: How to Be an A11y” by Aisha Blake. One quote put some things in place for me.
“Accessibility makes life better for EVERYONE”
After hearing these talks, it made me wonder:
- I’m developing an internal web app now, is it accessible?
- How can I improve the UX on the current app I’m working on?
- How would UX design work in my team?
I was now ready to dig deeper into UX and to tell my teammates everything I learned at the conference.
My team develops internal web applications for our organization. We are a five-person team that consists of one business analyst (BA), one quality assurance analyst (QA), and one backend developer, and two front-end developers (including me :} ).
Our business analyst (BA) takes business goals and turns them into requirements. He coordinates communication about the product and collects end-user feedback. He also creates our wireframes (he does them in Microsoft Paint, and they look fantastic!).
Our quality assurance analyst (QA) uses the BA’s requirements document to create user test cases. After the feature has been developed, she manually runs through her test cases and sees if everything works.
Our developers implement the BA’s requirements using technology. Sometimes because of technology limitations, they may have to propose some modifications to the requirements.
When I got back from the conference, I told my team everything I learned about UX and accessibility. I also let everyone know my ambitious goal of creating a design system for internal web applications.
Not only was the team on-board with setting UX as a priority, but they were really excited! Everyone was sharing ideas on how to improve the user experience of our product. I got to hear about their previous experiences, on different projects and in different companies, solving UX problems.
Next, I shared my thoughts with my manager. She also agreed with setting UX as a priority. Then she noted, “You know you already been doing some UX, right?”
“When you worked on making the application responsive, you were doing UX,” she added.
I couldn’t believe it! But It was true!
When I first started working on the project, I noticed that the view began to break down on smaller laptops and devices. Later the other front-end developer and I took the initiative and convinced the project owners to allow us time to refactor the UI into components and update the styles to allow for responsive design.
By allowing users to be able to use the application on any sized screen, we were improving the user experience. We were doing UX! This, in turn, opened up opportunities for our application to be of more use to our users.
So anytime you have ever made design decisions and improvements based on the needs and feedback of the users, you were doing UX!
Now that we are more conscious of UX, let’s make it intentional
The first thing our team did was get expert advice and help. Our team sought consultation from UX designers on the business side of the organization, where they gave us some tips and actionable advice.
This advice was especially helpful for our business analyst who creates our project’s mockups. He is now more conscious of making sure interactions are consistent and navigation is intuitive. He also makes sure the app is user-friendly by improving the wording of the error messages and tooltips.
The other front-end developer on the team focused on making content on the pages more readable. He was able to simplify the tables in the application by not showing columns that were not important. He also worked on making the visuals look organized at all screen sizes by prioritizing what’s important.
From a user perspective, we need to show relevant information as soon as possible. I noticed that the startup page would wait for all data from API requests to load before rendering. Then lead me to change the startup page so that it renders as soon a possible, then I made the API requests load in the background. This improved the user experience by allowing users to see a majority of necessary information quickly without having to wait for all the data to come in.
Our quality assurance analyst also helps to make UX intentional in our team. She now has a tag for “UX improvements/UI enhancements.” So any improvements we need are currently logged in the QA records. Observing our users, she noticed that being able to tab through the application is essential. So tabbing is now a user test case for regression test. So, we know now that if we break the tabbing, we aren’t passing QA!
Maurice Hayward@maurice_haywardI'm super proud of myself! I just started deep diving into UX (user experience) about 2 weeks and I already found ways to apply it as a developer. I was in a team meeting and we were talking about how to display status codes to the users (sys admins) in our internal app.21:36 PM - 31 May 2018
In my team, we made UX more intentional by being more empathetic towards our users. This helped us make thoughtful UI improvements.
In actuality, UX is more just than making UI improvements. It's about considering the needs and feedback of users during every part of the design process. It's an objective process where users are researched and interviewed, then products are tested and adjusted based on those learnings and feedback.
My goal is to develop a UX strategy where we make use of the complete UX process. This UX strategy would be beneficial as the dynamics and projects of the team changes.