June 5, 2019

What is UX Design Really?

UX Digital Banking design

When people learn about user experience (UX) designers, they typically respond, “Oh, you make pretty pictures.” Well, not exactly (and it’s not UI either). When you work in UX design, your job is to solve problems digitally or physically.

Now more than ever, it’s important that banks and credit unions understand what UX is in order to improve digital banking experiences for users.

Pretty UX Design Isn’t Everything

UX does not have to be beautiful. Three years ago, Forrester reported effective (not beautiful!) UX design had the potential to increase customer conversion rates up to 400%.

Now, effective UX is becoming table stakes – 53% of users say they abandon mobile sites if a page’s load time takes longer than three seconds. 90% of users report they stop using poorly performing apps altogether.

These sites and apps could look amazing, but if they don’t meet user needs, users leave. If it’s not good looks that make users happy, then what’s the approach to keep digital banking users engaged?

UX could look like improving navigation on a site, simplifying interaction patterns, or addressing accessibility issues. Making things pretty is more of a luxury.

Just look at Craigslist.

It’s utilitarian, definitely not pretty, but it works. It’s very simple and intuitive. Once your experience is simple, then you can make things beautiful. Or, like Craigslist, don’t worry about it.

UX Done Right

The market has mostly caught up to what was once considered groundbreaking UX because best UX practices have taken hold. Still, it’s not uncommon to engage with a digital experience that feels disjointed or more flashy and fluffy than useful.

You may also encounter an update that turns good UX bad by forcing users to relearn an action. Any iPhone users remember having to recently relearn how to add photos to messages on the iPhone?

Since design makes up about 94% of a user’s first impression, more organizations are focused on design trends. Check out design sites like Behance, Dribbble, and Medium for good examples of and primers on UX.

Beware, however, as following design trends without solving a problem doesn’t do the user any good. Trying to be cool is different than letting the user do cool things.

So, keep the Double Diamond design process, a UX design standard, in mind while thinking about solving user problems. This will help you improve design and usability.

These are the four D’s of the Double Diamond:

1) Discover insight into the problem
2) Define the area to focus upon
3) Develop potential solutions
4) Deliver solutions that work

In other words, learn the prime problem by studying and interviewing users and narrow the details you’ve gathered to answer that problem. Create different prototypes and test them to further narrow choices.

Then, give the best solution to the people. Your solution should be based on real customers, their problems, and their needs. If you’re not doing that, then you’re just making art.

Put the User before Design

Before you saddle up for your new UX adventure, you should know there’s strategy that comes before that Double Diamond design process. This can make or break your whole process, so don’t rush through this part.

It’s pretty simple:

1) Start with the problem
2) Understand who you’re building for
3) Listen to what the market says about this problem
4) Know your constraints

When you discover there’s room for improvement with something or discover people are making their own workarounds to a present issue, get in someone else’s shoes and try to understand their perspective.

What friction do they face? How are they reacting to it?

When solving a digital product problem specifically, just try and use it yourself. Use the product like different users might. This practice builds empathy for people who use the product, no matter what that product may be.

Just define your users, listen to them, and define what they need. After employing the design process reviewed earlier, you’ll create an artifact with the solved problem.

This is How We Do It

In certain cases we’ve been presented with a problem based on user feedback or input. We examined the issue through qualitative and quantitative research methods. From that we were able to iterate on design solutions and then test these new solutions with our clients and their customers.

There’s a lot of legwork and research that’s done before we engage with end users. This process isn’t something we engage in with all clients for every launch, but we’ve got plenty of case studies to prove success with this process in the past.

Recently, we launched our brand new design system called alkami.design. There, you can learn our thoughts on typography, color, arrangement and more. Now, if you need to talk design, you can reference the design site and we can get on the same page faster. If you would like to engage with our design team, feel free to reach out.

Okay, now you’ve got a more nuanced view of UX. How are you going to improve your UX or begin approaching your work with design thinking?

You can build your design thinking skills by training yourself to develop a keen eye for where problems exist. As you walk through life, notice physical things that aren’t built well.

Notice how consistent the layout of elevator panels is (FYI, they’re not very consistent). Study door handles or observe life hacks that exist because a problem wasn’t solved well before a product reached users. Once you recognize a problem, you have begun your UX design process.

There’s even more to UX than all this, and we’ll be getting into more in future posts. Subscribe below for more.