User experience (or UX) has turned into a rather ubiquitous term in the realm of software design and engineering. However, the importance of this same concept in product design and engineering is often unfairly undermined. So what is UX in the context of product development?
We think in many ways this particular form of UX relates to the very definition of “product design”:
[Product] design includes actively imagining and anticipating the future. It can start with identifying customer needs or a market opportunity or it can start from new scientific or technological knowledge and an analysis of the opportunities such knowledge might be capable of creating. It involves a complex system of decisions often made by different individuals with different mind-sets depending on their specialist knowledge and skills and within which function they sit in the company. The process is neither smooth nor linear. It is dealing with the new in a dynamic market and technological environment. It continually has to adapt and accommodate new information along its way.
Another way to explain the workings of UX in product design and engineering is to look at its “hierarchy” which was aptly formulated by Stephen Anderson of BloomBoard:
Meaning (personal significance) *subjective
Pleasure (desire and delight) *subjective
Convenience (intuitive use) *subjective
Use (ergonomics) *objective
Reliability (availability and safety) *objective
Function (function and fit) *objective
Hence briefly, a UX designer applies the art and science of UX to a given product idea – by researching industry standards and studying users – and as a result experiments and continually optimises the product.
The typical steps followed by the UX designer are founded in "product thinking":
1. Problem (what)
2. Target audience (who)
3. Vision (why)
4. Strategy (how)
5. Goals (output)
6. Features (output)
And few parting thoughts to leave you with:
Being a UX professional has always been about designing ecosystems. Now with the emergency of new connected devices, ecosystems are becoming arbitrarily complex, so assuming a linear process dooms one to failure. You must design for complexity and potential errors to meet all user and technical needs. And since there are few truly full-stack ecosystem developers, you need to plan the entire experience before prototyping or development can occur on one or more platforms.