Out of the many in-between processes of designing a software application, UX designing is often the most neglected step. New programmers often underestimate the power of user-experience but in reality user experience has been and will remain one of the major reasons behind the success of a software application. Yahoo and early versions of Linux operating system found that out the hard way, and Apple owes its huge success to its innovative user-centered designs. And the easy part is that creating user centered design in not a piece of knowledge that you may have to memorize or a skill that you may have to develop, it just a way of looking at things from a different perspective; from the perspective of the user instead of the programmer.
UX designing in its essence has 4 major components:-
1. Requirement and User analysis
2. Application task flow designing
Analyzing Users and their Requirements
The first step of every designing process is to figure out why you are making the application and for whom. If the reason for making an application is clear, necessary features automatically starts coming to mind. But the most important job is to analyze the end user of the application. For example if you are making a transaction application for general audience you need to put lots of confirmation messages and pages, however if you are making the same for bank systems, these types of messages will become a hindrance in the process.
In this process the main questions that should be answered include
- Why I am making the application?
- For whom am I making this application?
- When, where, and why the user would be using the application?
- What are the special design requirements, if any?
This exercise is extremely useful for further steps and gives you insights into technology and device requirements as well.
Designing the application task flow
The next step is to decide how your application is going to flow. In other words this is the step in which you create flow graphs of your application and analyze how a user is going to progress from one feature to another. The user analysis comes into play here. You minimize the number of tasks a user needs to perform to get a desired result, or if necessary you can also increase the steps. After this step you should have a clear application flow graph. In addition, even though the design is not finalized after this step you would have the basic understanding of how tour application would look like, minus the graphic elements of course.
Wireframe and UX Prototype
Now that you have the basic understanding of how your application would flow and what major features it should have, it’s time to put that all down into something concrete. It’s time to create the first wireframe of the application. If the above two steps are performed well, then this step would not be very difficult task. The aim is not to create a high level functional wireframe, therefore you can create using Paint, Photoshop, or even pen and paper.
Prototype creation however, requires specialized tools. A Prototype is a functional representation of your application and it’s important that it contains clickable features. You can create clickable PDFs or you can use HTML/CSS frameworks to create a browser version of your app, or you can even use Flash. The objective of Prototyping is to provide users and programmers a basic working version of the application that gives basic idea of how your application would flow from one feature to another.
The final and the most important process is user testing. There are many methods to test the UX of your application but each one involves the final user. The main idea is to get user feedback before you finalize all the design elements and go into development. Only end users can tell you about minute features that you can add to make the application more convenient or tell you about features that are more complicated for daily use. User feedback would guide you in your main designing, or redesigning, phase and help you straighten out the kinks in the application from the perspective of UX.
Now even after all these steps UX is by no means finished. You will still have to test the final designs and then test the finally developed application to get the user feedback. There is no hard-and-fast rule of UX. It’s mainly an instinctive work. The main backbone of excellent UX is user feedback and thus to make an effective UX you may have to go back to the drawing board many times. The steps above will only get you started.