User experience is, far and away, the most significant part of your software product. Whether it's a web site, a web app, or a mobile app, the importance cannot be overstated.
Often software products fail because of a lack of planning for the user experience. Clunky UI and poor UX cause a myriad of problems that only surface late into software development. Software engineers sometimes fail to think of the end users that will be using the product. That's what is so challenging about UX; it's not really tangible until your product is ready for launch.
Creating amazing user experiences, therefore, requires that you think about the end users at the very beginning of the design process. It's difficult to think about end users during the entire process especially when you're working out software issues such as paring down complex code. This is exactly what you need to do, however, in order to create good UX design.
What is UX design? A lot of the time people will think of the user interface that a program has, but this isn't the entire picture. This is just the visible layer of UX design. You can think of you UI as a decorative wrap. Beneath this decorative wrap is the user experience. User experience is carefully crafted to make the software product intuitive to use almost as if it is a physical product.
The user experience, ideally, is to have the user use absolutely no thought when I'm using a program. The software product is so natural to use and so intuitive that the user inherently understands how to employ the product to meet their needs. Obviously, this kind perfect kind of usability is rare. But, ultimately, it serves to underscore the goal of UX design, the goal to make software products that are usable, accessible, and pleasurable to use.
How do you create software products that are usable, accessible, and pleasurable to use? It's hard to pinpoint what makes UX design good or bad. It's a component of software that is simply felt and cannot be easily explained. It's in all the little details, the thousands of decisions that software engineers make during the development. It's more than just the visual design of the application. It's important to have buttons positioned in the correct place, it's important to have a flow of events that makes sense, it's important to have color combinations that are pleasing, but these decisions are only a portion of the entire experience with the product.
How do you acquire the magic of good UX design? There is no single answer to this question. It requires thoughtful study of software applications that have mastered user experience. You only have to look at the software products of Apple. Apple has received criticism from a great deal of companies and consumers and the tech industry because of its low-powered hardware and bloated software. But what does Apple have that many other tech companies do not? Apple has an unparalleled understanding of user experience. Apple understands that a software product should do what it claims to do with minimal explanation. Apple products are accessible and leave the user feeling pleased.
Creating great user experiences is something that requires a great deal of patience, hard work, and revision. It's not something that can be created in a day or by making minor modifications the shell of your software. You must be rigorous and your study and in your practice of creating good design. When you're creating a software product, you must keep the intention of the user experience in mind. Cut out all excess, cut out as much complexity as you can, and listen to users about what they want. Ultimately, it's all about what the users want and how you can best serve them. With the proper dedication, you could get close to uncovering the real magic of UX design. About the Author: Josh Althauser is an entrepreneur with a background in design and M&A. He's also a developer, open source advocate, and designer. You may connect with him on Twitter.