UI (User Interface) and UX (User Experience) design are integral components within digital product design. As software development in Sri Lanka continues to enhance its offerings for world-class digital products, certain gaps in communication present the potential to cause loopholes. In the case of UI and UX, these two terms are conflated and misconceived to be the same thing – even among some tech-savvy individuals. As both terms are interchangeably used, this creates much confusion, especially where there’s a transfer of information involved. Client-developer partnerships are particularly susceptible to misunderstandings in such a context, if terminology is either misconstrued or used improperly.
At the end of the day, building a high-quality digital product is what is of essence to both parties. But the customer is the one who has the final power, period. Satisfying customers is of top priority, and the right UI/UX is what will enable that. This should go without saying, since the first look for any digital product is rolled out from the UI/UX team. But how do you get here? Before that, having comprehensive understanding of a few key requisites is crucial – and UI/UX is one of them.
UI (User Interface) design consists of all the visual elements that contribute to the look of your application. This includes colour schemes, logos, branding, buttons, icons, banners, cursors and pretty much anything else that adds to the aesthetics of your digital product.
UX (User Experience) design focuses on how users receive the product, and utilize it. In other words, it’s responsible for ensuring whether the journey a user takes across the application is one that’s easy to understand and navigate. UX also needs to make sure if the application is delivering what it was originally built for, and inversely, users are also able to access whatever it is that brought them here.
While UI focuses on form, UX focuses on function. The latter ensures that the former isn’t just visually appealing – it is also resourceful enough to deliver key business objectives.
Ironically, the answer to this question doesn’t directly lean towards trending technologies or software development. It’s worthwhile to take a step back and look at the larger picture that is painted by our current business landscape. As an AWS partner, our clients share differing visions when it comes to their digital requirements, but one component is always a constant – which is customer-centricity.
In this day and age as options are endless and consumers go digital, standing out from the competition has become a challenge. On top of that, sticking to a static plan isn’t going to suffice. It’s imperative to keep evolving your strategies so you can be in lockstep with your customers.
This high level of digital proliferation has also made life more fast-paced. As competition gets more aggressive, an on-demand culture has made the wait times for products and services to the point of near zero. On a side note, this has also diverted pressure to vendors who offer cloud support services, as their resources now need to be matched with escalating client demands.
So how do you stand out? Simply putting it, what you offer your customers needs a blend of timing and necessity. This isn’t breaking news; as a business owner, you may already be well aware of this. However, breaking this down on the context of UI and UX is essential to build a digital product that truly understands the needs of your consumers, and also evolves with them.
In reference to the on-demand culture, a number of customer trends have also been observed. These may prove to be a blessing or a curse, depending on how you perceive it. For one, customer abandonment has increased. In other words, your product has a chance of full abandonment if your digital product presents the slightest lag, and/or is complicated to use. Even established brands that have been renowned to offer top-class products have been victim to this, over the digital front. In turn, this has led to another revelation within the digital sales and marketing space – customer experience tops everything, including product quality.
In other words, even if you have an excellent product that has been well known and trusted for a long period of time, a lack of proper access to the same via digital means can greatly affect (and even sabotage) sales. As a result, brand loyalty is also starting to become less prevalent. Now that customers know that there are other options for every unpleasant digital offering, it’s as easy as skipping over to the next choice.
While newcomers to the digital scene need quite an overhaul in terms of perception when it comes to digital marketing, those who are relatively familiar with shifting design trends also need to stay vigilant. Changing social and economic climates are apt to create somersaults of change when it comes to product, service and even data consumption across the digital world. So having a birds-eye perspective on what’s ongoing can make all the difference to the branding and marketing operations pertaining to your business.
Having keen understanding of your product and how it has the potential to position itself across the digital landscape is of utmost importance, before you embark on building any kind of digital product. It is only after this that UI and UX (or any other application development component, rather) needs to be taken into consideration. Additionally, blending the possible outcomes for customer experience that’s good and bad alike can greatly help shape a user journey that will benefit your customer as well as your business goals.
When you venture out to build your business, you aim to build a product that will be of value to your target audience. Likewise, the same objective should also apply when you begin to penetrate your market over digital platforms. Whether it’s a website, mobile application, or anything in-between, it’s imperative to implement precisely what is useful to your customers. In order to do this successfully, there are two crucial things you need to keep in mind.
Again, this goes hand-in-hand with the point mentioned above. When businesses initiate a new idea, there are still many uncertainties involved. How will users receive the concept? What kind of users will form to be the eventual target market? Are there any other constraints, or unforeseen steps/costs? Questions like these are completely understandable, because you are still unsure about what your customer truly wants.
That is why an MVP, when released into the market with only the bare essentials can be the ideal foundation for understanding what your customers like and dislike – and then iterate from there. In other words, it isn’t about building a complex and sophisticated product. It’s about building something workable that helps achieve your business goals – and simplicity goes a long way, in this regard.
This doesn’t mean that you need to compromise on key components in your application, when you release its most basic version out to the market. Focus on all aspects, such as visual appeal and the path that a user has to take in order to purchase/access – but keep it minimal, as the term suggests. With repeated iterations, features can be added, removed or branched out from existing sets to create a product that may be more complex – but will now only contain what has been tried and tested.
As the business and product owner, you will be responsible for making sure the application you are developing ultimately achieves business objectives. As a result, you will be the lynchpin during the entire project as well as after it has been deployed, to maintain good performance of your digital product. At every phase, your feedback will be vital. So it is crucial to have a basic idea of what you can expect when embarking on any digital product development project – but most particularly, when it comes to the design phase.
Understandably, UI and UX design falls under the design phase of any software development project. While there is no fixed protocol as to how this should be done, here is a basic outline of what to expect. The below steps are common with software development projects of most shapes and sizes, thereby giving an idea as to what should be typically expected.
This is the phase where all information pertaining to prevailing business problems are discussed. Issues with existing applications are also brought to light, including feedback from users. Business expansion and related scalability requirements also need to be escalated here, as these will also have to be accommodated to the new design.
Once all the raw data has been collected, it’s time to make sense of it. Asking questions pertaining to any patterns that may be observed is key, as the answers will determine the calibre of design that will finally be created. Prototypes nowadays can be done in a variety of ways, from conventional wireframes to semi-dynamic visualization tools that are available online.
After prototypes are finalized, doing a handoff to the development team for building the product is the next step. Again, smaller iterations with subsequent feedback for improvement can greatly increase the odds of even an MVP to be as specific as possible.
Once your application has been released into the market, it’s essential to observe how the app is being received and used. Is there a feature that users dislike? You have the capability to change it (and fast) to maintain customer satisfaction. Doing this as an ongoing process will attract new customers and retain existing ones, while also staying at the very top of evolving business trends.
UI and UX are often used interchangeably, and their specific meanings are lost in due course of all the buzz. While UI (User Interface) focuses on the visual elements pertaining to a digital product, UX (User Experience) focuses on how those visual elements can be made meaningful by developing a functional journey for users. As users navigate through your application, it’s important that their journey is easy and seamless. Else, the slightest hiccup can cause abandonment – an unwanted ramification but very common nonetheless, in this highly competitive and on-demand consumer world.
In order to sensibly gauge what users really want, an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) is ideal. This is because it enables teams to start small, and gradually scale up after rounds of user-driven feedback.