Working backwards, and other rules for enhancing UX

User experience (UX) is considered the top priority among developers this year. Here are three basic rules to help deliver top-flight UX.

As found in a recent Progress Telerik survey of 3,000 developers and managers, many look at user experience (UX) as the most important element to consider when developing mobile apps of any type--whether they are external-facing or used for business-critical functions. Forty-four percent of those surveyed indicated UX as the most important part of the apps they build, topping other considerations such as ease of maintenance, performance and security.

Photo: HubSpot

In this age of empowered and fickle users, UX needs to be front and center of all design and development activities -- not just in building applications, services and software, but any type of product or service. Jakob Nielsen and Don Norman define UX as encompassing "all aspects of the end-user's interaction with the company, its services, and its products." In the software world, that doesn't just mean the user interface (UI), but also achieving a nice flow, as well as overall elegance that users will appreciate.

A new book, The Guide to UX Design Process & Documentation, written by Chris Bank and Jerry Cao, explores the fundamental steps to take to achieve elegant UX. Borrowing from the points presented in the book, here are three essential guidelines application, service or software designers need to follow to deliver a super-charged UX:

First ask: Why do this app/service/software? "Why should stakeholders, the company, and the users care about moving forward with your idea?" Bank and Cao recommend engaging with users with one-on-one or group interviews, requirements workshops, and "talk and test with tons of users so you have real field data for research and analysis." The authors even mention Amazon's idea of "working backwards," starting with a sample press release for the finished product. "This approach helps to work backwards from the customer, rather than trying to bolt customers to an idea."

Start off simple, in a "low-fidelity" kind of way. We hear a lot about Agile and the importance of designing and developing software in constant iterations, versus overwhelming users with big changes at the very end. This is an especially critical element of UX. Bank and Cao advise starting off with lightweight prototypes and pilots that users can view and test. "You can start with concept maps or sketches, then iterate to low-fidelity wireframes, and finally create a high-fidelity prototype," they state. The design and development teams also need to keep versions maintained at different stages. "The product team should research two iterations ahead, design one iteration ahead, and review the previous iteration."

Build and launch, then measure: As the new app/service/software is rolled out, measurement is everything. "Write down the launch goals (e.g. 30,000 downloads in 30 days) and verify that you have the right tools to document progress," Bank and Cao advise. "Using metrics tools and bug reporting software, you can set up recurring reports to keep tabs during the first few weeks of launch and beyond. On the customer side, you can also segment users and send them custom surveys to gauge where you may want to iterate."