In the middle of 2017, Ballistiq added some key experience to our design team to enhance our user experience (UX) and design services. This has expanded our front end service offerings to include user experience research and design, a broader skillset for brand and identity consulting, and strong visual designs for bespoke products and projects we deliver through our Professional Services division.
What is User Experience?
Imagine you can look back out through your user’s monitor. What do you see? What is your user seeing hearing and interacting with? How are they feeling? What do they think about your service? How do they feel about your brand and your company? From the moment a user learns about your business each encounter and relationship you build with your user is in a broad sense User Experience. For many businesses today most interactions with customers happen through web-based products and experiences.
Human-computer interaction (the interface between a human using a computer) is a critical part of successful web-based products and experiences. Elements of human-computer interaction that are relevant in Ballistiq’s work include: - type of device a user accesses the product or website on (e.g. mobile phone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer); - the interface the user interacts with while using the product or website (most commonly a graphical user interface (GUI) but could also be a voice user interface (VUI) and in the near future augmented reality); - and, the way in which the user operates intended functionality (e.g. gestures, mouse clicks, eye movements, voice commands etc).
A successful user experience is rooted in a well designed human-computer interaction at the very basic level.
Beyond the basics, good user experience design must consider the user’s preferences, emotions and beliefs, perceptions, physical and psychological responses and abilities, behaviors and accomplishments throughout their interaction with your product.
How do we design good user experiences?
In 1986, Donald A. Norman at the University of California, San Diego published a book titled User-Centered System Design: New Perspectives on Human-Computer Interaction. Many of the concepts first introduced in this book still resonate today including: - simplified experiences aiming to be intuitive to users; - understanding the actions and feedback within a system; - correctly mapping required actions and intended results; - and embracing and exploiting system constraints. The Ballistiq team favors user-centric design because it allows us to build products with high usability which create positive relationships with users - the key ingredient for successful and sustainable web products.
A good user experience design has the following ingredients:
Know Your User
To build a good user experience, our team needs to get to know your user(s). This means, either you need to have done some initial work to understand who your users will be and what things are most important to them or we can help you to do this in the Discovery Phase of your project. This doesn’t mean asking your friends about your idea. This means really going out to a good number of your intended customers to ask them what’s important to them about your idea and what things will make them excited about your idea. We need to know why they are interested in your product, where, when and how they will want to interact with your product, what things are most important to them about your idea, and what things will make them hate your idea and never use it.
User research can be done through a variety of methods including surveys; 1:1 interviews with key users; focus groups or A/B testing (if you have an existing product you are modifying).
Once we’ve got some user research data in hand, we like to construct a user persona. User personas help us to understand the potential emotions a user might experience and behaviors a user might undertake when interacting with your product. Good user experience design is rooted in empathy for the user. User personas help us empathize with your users and look at our design from their perspective. Ultimately it is the key to making the right decisions when designing, prioritizing features, and building your product or service.
User journeys help us to outline and agree upon the steps a user will take, or the steps we want a user to take, to carry out specific actions within your product. When we examine a user journey we look at creating an intuitive experience and we try to build the simplest pathway possible to carry out the desired function in your product. Once we have outlined the necessary user journeys, we might assemble these into a user flow which is an overview of the manner in which a user moves through your product overall. Both of these steps are important because they help us to understand the places where users might get frustrated or confused and to remove these blockers to produce an optimal user experience overall.
Wireframes and Mockups
The last thing we typically do in user experience design is to work through wireframes and mockups. Our goal is to build products and web experiences that will bring successful outcomes to your business. Testing early and iterating on ideas allows us to discover problems quickly and come up with the right solutions, ultimately saving time and budget. A wireframe is typically a clickable prototype of your website without any visual characteristics; it helps us to analyze the user journeys and user flow within the application ensuring we have successfully executed everything we planned in our earlier steps. Once wireframes are approved, we create high-fidelity mockups using a tool such as Invision which allows you to interact with a clickable prototype of your website. This is the last step before our team starts building the code that will bring your idea to life.
What is Art Direction?
Ballistiq specializes in creating visually stunning experiences. To do this, our UX Art Director will work with you to identify, create, and refine the visual aspects of your product. Top quality user experiences are characterized by cohesive visual communication which includes the moods, contrasts, visual cues, and imagery that are included in your product. When you work with our team on the Art Direction aspects of your product you can expect to see assets such as moodboards, style guides, and/or custom graphics that will guide the final design of your experience. With some clients, we work with styles you already are using. With other clients we provide the service of designing brand new experiences or refreshing your existing styles. If you’ve been thinking about your brand identity and looking for a partner to examine its impact on your user experience, connect with us today!
Why UX at Ballistiq?
Ballistiq’s Professional Services team strives to produce web experiences that are visually stunning, that keep users returning to your product, and that make sense and make money. Having user experience design integrated into our team allows our team to engineer the best possible experiences end to end with all of the necessary elements considered. If you’ve got a new project in mind, come chat with us!
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