Understanding User Experience is implicit in the design field. If you haven’t been thinking about how the user sees your designs then we got bigger fish to fry. Everything from accessibility, to visual hierarchy, falls under this umbrella of UX (User Experience). Usability test are the norm in UX, and all other facets of business could stand to learn a thing or two.
I was designing a paper program for a formal event that had important information like run-of-show times, a menu, and sponsor logos. This was a suit and tie shindig – low lit, fancy setting. I thought about the user, dressed to the nines. Carrying around a cumbersome piece of paper wouldn’t fit the mood. So how could I give them a hand out that didn’t quickly become trash can fodder?
My fix was to create a smaller-then-average trifold that would fit into the breast pocket of a blazer or a clutch. I ran the program through usability testing, making sure it fit in any breast pocket size, had other employees bring in their smallest purses to make sure it didn’t take up too much space. With that problem solved, I had to handle the dim lighting. I bumped up the contrast so that the evening’s important details could be read in low light. To test this I had users read it with the lights dimmed to the minimum setting.
Usability testing is the ultimate blind spot finder, you can’t find what you don’t know what you are looking for. While testing my brochure prototype, I found that the accordion fold was overly complicated and people would end up folding it up like a brochure once they had it in their hands. Users also searched for the menu first, and the run-of-show last, so I had some rearranging to do. After applying those fixes, I was ready to take my design out for a night on the town.
The event was an organizational success. After the event was wrapped, we got feedback from the catering employees that people were using the programs and not abandoning them at the tables like they usually do. Another win for user-centered design!
UX touches everything that touches customers. The same rigors put into a company’s digital products can, and should, be applied to the rest of the design language that a company uses.