When building software or even hardware of any kind for people, it is important to make sure you create something that is wanted, needed and have potential. Otherwise you just wasted your resources and made something, nobody will use. So how do you make sure you know what you should create?
As I started with UX I did not know how to proceed. It was all new to me. So I started by deciding how things should look. How they could be behaving and interacting with each other. I started designing interface, individual views in each tool and on each page. It never bothered me what tool it is, who will be the people using it.
Designing for no one and everyone
You should build your design based on the needs of your company, on the users who will use your tool or site, based on the context you want to put there and the message you want to get across. There is a lot to consider when designing. Yet it is possible to just hurl yourself into it without thinking about it much. And sometimes this is how it works in real world.
Imagine you are architect and you get a job: design a building. Ok. But what building? Is it a house, a flat, a factory, a shopping mall? What is this building they want? Where is it? Is it near water, is it near city center? There are lots of questions that need to be answered before you can even start drawing some basic concepts of the building. So how could you design anything else, whether it is part of software or hardware, without knowing additional information about it?
There is no ultimate web page design just as there is no ultimate building design. You might have some best practices that can help you, but those will never be the top alternative. And therefore before you can start designing, you need to know what you are designing, for who you are designing it, where it will be viewed and used, how it should feel and why are you doing it.
Research is the core of design
Without proper research before hand you have no idea what to create. This is what I learned the hard way. I was trying to improvise but it really didn't work and when problems started to surface, I couldn't handle the amount of mistakes made.
Luckily there is one project which I research from the very beginning. I ran interviews and discussions to determine the requirements of the customers, the needs of the users, the problems in the area. With this knowledge in my arsenal I created some basic sketches. I done some heuristic evaluation to fix the most ridiculous things in the design and then I started to run usability tests to determine whether this tool would be usable. And it was not.
So I tweaked it. Made small changes, huge changes, complete redesigns. I made multiple possible interfaces to compare. And even though looking back at it, I could have done more, it is still a shining beacon in the darkness of all the other projects I have started my UX carrier on.
After iteration of changes, testing and additional changes, I finally landed on solid design. To be absolutely sure I continued testing it with various people as the pool was almost infinite for me. The interface held up to my personal high standards. And thus I could sleep well knowing it is done.
It took extensive amount of time, but I can safely say it is one of my best designs so far and I am proud of it.
It is hard to damage control the projects already in development. I will do my best to see that they are successful. For the future though I learned my lesson. I cannot simply blindly start designing something. Not even when I am sure I know what I am doing.
You might think you know the field you are designing for, but there are things you might not realize. These can be quite crucial things and without proper research, you will never discover them in time. Assuming you discover them at all.
Difference between good app and great app is how useful it is. Notepad is good app. It lets you edit text files. Notepad++ is great app. It lets you do way more, yet it is as simple as Notepad if you want it to be.
It is not about features, it is about letting people be in control and giving them possibilities they need to truly appropriate the thing you designed. And that requires solid research before and during the design process.