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As IoT emerges, UX takes on greater urgency within enterprises

User experience isn't just a luxury -- emerging Internet of Things, wearable, mobile, and virtual reality-based computing make it essential.

Perhaps the renowned techno-futurist Mark Pesce said it best in a recent tweet: "I'd like to point out that [virtual reality] is the only display layer with profound UX implications. Fundamental ones. Ponder that,"

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Photo: Joe McKendrick

Pesce is spot on, of course, but we need to take his argument for heightened, immersive and interactive user experience a step further -- not only is VR bringing it to the fore, but there is also the intense emphasis on connecting things -- including wearables and mobile devices -- into the emerging Internet of Things, as well as the ongoing challenges of the consumerization of IT, to make enterprise computing as intuitive and satisfying as consumer-based computing.

A recent survey of 7,725 executives and professionals shows that interest in UX -- and UX testing -- is on the rise. As summarized by Dennis McCafferty in CIO Insight, "respondents say that multi-device interaction--a.k.a., machine-to-machine tech--will greatly influence UX over the next five years. Which means CIOs and their tech teams should expect to devote more attention to UX for the indefinite future."

With all this great new stuff swirling around us, there are four fundamental aspects of UX to which every IT designer and professional needs to pay even closer attention. In a recent article at Fast Co.Design, Jerry Cao, Kamil Zieba and Matt Ellis spell these out, noting that the creed needs to be "build the right thing, then build the thing right:"

Great UX is learnable. Pave a path for users to discover the features they need, as they need them. "Focus on the 20% of the features that users will need 80% of the time," Cao, Zieba and Ellis state. They urge a practice of "progressive disclosure," to "reveal information gradually instead of all at once, even giving users control so they can choose their pace. Progressive disclosure covers features such as content toggle (hiding/revealing more information), 'more' or 'expand' links, and instructional overlays.

Great UX is efficient. "An efficient UX has two important components: one, you're streamlining how users reach their goal, and two, you're making the system feel efficient to the user."

Great UX is forgiving. For a great UX, the user interface itself "must be forgiving of user errors," the authors relate.

Great UX is satisfying. Once all the functional aspects are met, attention should be turned to user enjoyment. This can be enhanced through microinteractions to "make the interface smooth and enjoyable," meaningful gamification and even projecting a friendly "personality" through the app.

There is also another key component to delivering great UX, as discussed by Adam Silver in a recent presentation. That is, great UX is simple. Simple to use, of course, but also building simplicity into the development process. Don't sweat trying to create the next Amazon interface, but let it organically evolve through a constant feedback loop. Such an open, interactive process is a must for cutting through the complexity of the mobile-IoT-VR swirl. Here are some of Silver's recommendations:

Do: "Release early to learn. Then go back to improve."

Don't: Assume everything has to be perfect in the first iteration. (It will only be delivered late as a result.)

Don't: Take an entire day to make one screen, fretting about pixels. You will get stuck.

Do: Spend an hour making five screens, and open them up for feedback from users.

Don't: Strive for absolute perfection.

Do: Understand that there is no "perfect."

Don't: Overthink.

Do: Think differently.

Don't: Try to boil the ocean, thinking about the unnecessary.

Do: Focus like a laser beam on the necessary.

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