What the heck is the nature of UI design?

In this article I will offer an answer and then I will take a look at authority, power and weight of UXP on multimedia projects relating on the teams and how it could or should refer to for guidance in their work. I hope my answers to these questions will be helpful as well as provocative enough to drive some reactions and feedbacks from readers.
Is it just science, art or a business approach or is it a mixture / combination?
Is the major focus on science? Many developers adopt a scientific approach or perspective; they base their work and decisions from sciences such as cognitive knowledge, psychology and social sciences. Science allows making dependable conclusion and hypothesis. Out of my experience I have to say that such a lot of my decisions don’t found on traditional science a lot of them were based on "conventional wisdom" again and again. Science and knowledge of well-known and usual user behavior can tell designer quite a about UI design. But it can’t tell enough about design, character and appearance of the UI and the whole application to the strategists, planners and designers. Does this mean that science is just good for the “backbone” of a product but not so good for practical work? Not quite, in my opinion. I nonetheless firmly believe that also visual designers and every developer must have basic knowledge of how humans process, structure, and behavior.

Some designers, mainly web designers, believe and or consider design as an art. These designers consider themselves to be artists who perform great “wonders” and “miracles”, they don't ask users how they should design, arrange or organize. As a substitute, they follow their own inspiration and muse. Unfortunately, the consequences and outcomes are not always appreciated by users and customers or either in worse case by clients and business. This non-empirical approach has even been the source of many controversies between designers and usability people and other team members in the past. On the contrary to the more "structured and ordered" approach of IAs, UEs and never the less XPs, the "art" approach is somewhat "spontaneous and impetuous" and personal – which is its strength and its weakness at the same time. For myself, I have great sympathy for the scientific approach and for the "art" as well. Because I doubt that terrific designs can be the product of democratic approximation. Nevertheless, with the exception of some creative web pages, business services and applications are far from being works of art. Like any other product they are designed to be used and to fulfill particular aims and goals. Ease of use, efficiency, and more or less often fun of use are the focus, and these are quite different goals. And these goals aren’t the same goal for the same client and product because there are diverse customers and users.

And what about the focus on business? Consumers are looking beyond branding messages for experiences that live up to the hype. A design approach depending on user experience makes sure that user needs are clearly represented in a project. This guiding force increases team efficiency and reduces risk.

I want to outline four key elements to support business in the design process.
Element 1 - Increased profits - The better the user experience offered by a product, the more users will choose to use it, and buy it, over the competition.
Element 2 - Better user and customer trust and fidelity - With the correct and approved user experience, customers become loyal - they stick with the brand and they tell their friends. This reduces customer acquisition costs dramatically.
Element 3 - Reduced customer service costs - If the product is easy to use, less people will skip the communication channel or need to call you about how to use something. Customer service and support calls are expensive to deal with, and the decrease of calls can be a big cost saver. Migrating customer service from call centre to web is another key cost-cutting strategy for many businesses. But customers will only move online if they find the service easy and convenient. The utility and the usability have to meet the user experience and expectations.
Element 4 - Decreased project costs and timescales - Costumer and User focused design involves iterative development, user research and usability testing - all of which take time and money. So how can adding these to a project save you money? Well on the short term we have to have more work to do – very soon you all will recognize the overall reduce of costs and efforts for the whole project and long term.
  • It builds pleasure, clarity and consensus within stakeholder groups. By bringing in facts about user behaviors and needs, you can focus stakeholders on an objective goal: joy of use of the individual customer and their satisfaction. This means less confusion, misunderstandings, fewer tacking and jibing during the surfing through the site, stronger management support and less time wasted.
  • It decreases expensive change requests.

Conclusion
Understanding the needs of users and integration of this knowledge is one of the most important success aspects for any multimedia project. Often but not always personas are good tool to get and keep a common understanding in the project in the whole team through the whole project flow. Personas allow identifying and communicating the goals, aims, needs, expectation, experience and the understanding of different users and groups efficiently and effectively. Personas are a useful tool to use throughout the project, from decision-making upon the functionality, content and context trough the evaluating during the project to testing the end product. In combination with other design tools and techniques, such as task analysis and usability testing, personas will put us in good state to deliver a functional product.
To sum up, I have much sympathy for the science and art approaches; I believe that both are useful suppliers to our work. But our daily work has much more to do with the work of engineers – don’t get me wrong – just because why I’m an engineer in architecture and town planning. Actually, I'm always trying to get this fact straight in my mind so that my feet remain firmly on the ground and I don't start acting like an artist.
A year ago I raised this topic with a different perspective: http://boxesandarrows.com/view/ux-design-planning

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