(See end of this article for the 3.8 sneak peek expression of interest.)
Recently, I introduced the concepts of User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) design and explained the difference between these closely related disciplines. Today, I’ll share more about the process we follow when designing systems which are intuitive and enjoyable to use. And of course, at Soft Tech, that system is primarily V6, which you use to accelerate the design, estimation and manufacture of doors and windows; it’s our commitment and my work to make this experience not only pleasant, but rewarding, too.
First, the basic underlying principle of UX and UI is to enhance your satisfaction with our product. Good UX and UI contributes to improved usability, accessibility and ease when interacting with our software. Note that even when you have very well engineered software, that doesn’t necessarily translate into very good software from a user’s perspective.
This is an essential challenge for UX/UI designers, particularly when working with software (like our V6 software) which performs highly intricate and complex functions. In fact, the more versatile and capable a software package is, the more challenging it is to expose that functionality to the user in a way which simultaneously makes the user experience satisfying.
So, how do you eat an elephant? You start with a single bite. It’s much the same with UX and UI design, where we start and follow a 4-stage cycle UCD (User Centered Design) approach by putting the user at the center. The four stages, then, are Research, Conceptualize, Design and Test.
At the start of the cycle, the UX designer must understand the problems and pains of the user. That’s where research focuses, and as implied, the views of actual users are sought during this phase.
Moving on to the conceptualization phase, we’ll sketch out user stories or journeys in a ‘low fidelity’ exercise. This is more about generating and validating ideas by taking a 10,000-mile view, before later refinement where we’ll apply the higher-quality design which goes into customer-facing products. Note, I don’t say ‘finished’ product, because with software, a product is never complete.
As you would expect, the next phase of design starts taking content into account in finer detail. We’ll produce wireframes which start coalescing ideas and concepts into physical manifestations so that ideas – often great in theory – start getting a practical evaluation.
Testing is where the rubber hits the road in a more physical sense, and users get involved a little more intimately. At this phase, we definitely want your input to be sure that our design and any changes or updates closely match expectations, rather than delivering ‘improvements’ which turn out to be impediments! If improvements are the result, then our work goes into production versions of the software.
Importantly, UX and UI design is a continuous process where something of a ‘kaizen’ approach is taken. As mentioned above, the task is never complete, and the design process repeats itself to introduce constant refinements.
As a UX/UI designer, I ensure product identity and visual consistency (associated with Visual Design Language), by making use of a set of reusable design patterns, icons, typography etc. All these elements must be brought together consistently and coherently; any changes we make tend to be subtle and on a continuum, as we don’t want to alienate users or leave anyone behind.
Along with design and positioning, these are the elements which are brought together to give our software product a distinct visual identity which shapes your experience.
Given that we have thousands of users, there is also a strong requirement for balance, as with complex software, the way you use V6 is quite different to how another person does. This fact means UX and UI is as much an art as it is a science – and it’s not just visual art, but the art of compromise!
The greatest satisfaction all of us get at Soft Tech is when our software, recognized as technically capable and versatile, goes beyond being ‘liked’ and is loved and appreciated by our users. That’s what absolutely what drives us.
NEW V6 UI – due out late 2020
Would you like to be part of the group of customers to preview and offer your feedback on the new V6 UI?
We’re almost at the stage of launching the new V6 UI we’ve been working on the past several months. If you would like to be part of the first group of customers to view and offer feedback on this new V6 UI, please fill in the form below to be added to our exclusive invite list. You’ll receive your invite by email in coming weeks.