Why We Undervalue UX Design
Sometimes we don't understand a real value of a solution. We can use a simple application with an interface which consists of one input field and a button. When we press the button, we receive the result. Simple, right? But have you ever thought about what is actually happening with application while you are waiting for the result?
Present UI/UX design solutions much simpler, subtler, non-disturbing, sometimes hidden. But they can be difficult in development.
It's easy to create a difficult interface, but hard to create a simple solution that solves problems without any distractions. And in the same time oriented on its target audience.
Nowadays, the main task of UI/UX designers is to simplify mental models for people. Make interfaces more friendly and responsive. Thus, the main focus displaced from difficult design elements that looks like real objects to more subtle solutions. Where people just work on their tasks and they don't bother with design elements and overwhelming graphics.
What is under the hood of the modern UI/UX Design?
I would say that UX Design became more dominant than UI Design. It's more important for business to concentrate on the experience of their users. And only than on visual solutions. Especially in the era of startups, digital products that in rush to their launch date.
Of course, visual solutions are important as well. But now it's a secondary priority.
Nowadays, it's make sense to focus on user research, mental models, simplicity, tests.
We have left behind this era when interface solutions were created by developers. So, they were looking like overwhelming logical machines with different warnings, notifications, error dialogs.
We need developers to work on inner logic, designing databases, write and optimize code according to the goals of the project. However, they shouldn't project they work on user interface. In other words, they don't need to touch user interface design solutions.
More and more we start using voice controls and sensor displays. It means that we cut interface whenever it's possible. Thus, when you use your voice to control the system you don't need to interact with traditional input devices or touch something. You just use your natural tool for making commands.
This is a good example of mental model where we don't need developers to build interaction between system and users. But, they work hard on back end of this type of system to recognize the voice and sequences of words to form appropriate commands.
With sensor displays we have cut partly input devices. We no longer need a keyboard and mouse to check the email, write a note and even play in the game.
All what we need to do is to use our fingers to tap on the screen for making commands. Also, we use natural gestures that became clear from the previous life experience.
This and other types of design solutions becomes more simple from the first side. But it doesn't mean that it's easy to design them. Thus, often the design of mobile application costs more than design for web interface.
People don't understand why. Because, they see visual outcomes and try to compare it with each other. For instance, we have a nice interface in both cases. But, mobile screens are smaller than screens for websites.
The design costs should be lower? It's wrong logic and it's meaningless. Since, good designer immerses himself in the project and market to understand many things. Such as, user experience, interactions, mental models, etc. He need to have appropriate expertise to evaluate the complexity of the solution.
Evaluation of design solutions
We usually see only the top of the iceberg, but we don't see how much efforts was invested in an interface design. That's the problem number one in the evaluation of design work on the interface.
This is not about a nice look and better than on similar apps to compete with them. It's about the right solution of the problem that meeting business goals and user needs.
And It's not about an hourly rate of a designer and how much time he'll spend on work. Sometimes great design solutions can be created during a couple of hours. But it doesn't mean that this work costs 2 hours of designer according to his rate. Before these 2 hours he worked hard many years. He studied a lot and invested thousands of hours in the design industry. He built his own library of solutions and necessary tools. The designer can create a great solution in 2 hours, but he could think about it 24/7 during the week or so before the final outcome.
I want to share with you one old story that happened with Henry Ford.
Ford, whose electrical engineers couldn't solve some problems they were having with a gigantic generator, called Steinmetz in to the plant. Upon arriving, Steinmetz rejected all assistance and asked only for a notebook, pencil and cot. According to Scott, Steinmetz listened to the generator and scribbled computations on the notepad for two straight days and nights. On the second night, he asked for a ladder, climbed up the generator and made a chalk mark on its side. Then he told Ford's skeptical engineers to remove a plate at the mark and replace sixteen windings from the field coil. They did, and the generator performed to perfection.
Henry Ford was thrilled until he got an invoice from General Electric in the amount of $10,000. Ford acknowledged Steinmetz's success but balked at the figure. He asked for an itemized bill.
Steinmetz Scott wrote, responded personally to Ford's request with the following: making chalk mark on generator - $1, knowing where to make mark - $9,999, Ford paid the bill.
Since, it's hard to evaluate design solutions that we work on now I suggest to focus on their value. Why you need this application or website? What problem do you want to solve? Do you want simplify your business solution? Do you want to increase profit from your project? You just want to move your physical business at all or partly in the internet environment?
"If your business is not on the internet, then your business will be out of business" - Bill Gates, Founder of Microsoft.
Value is not always directly monetary:
- Increase revenue (more money);
- Lower expenses (less costs);
- Reduce risk (decreased chance of disaster);
- Boost brand perception (better recognition).
We can have an obvious question here. How designers can identify your value to set a right price? The answer is that designers should not determine the value, but the project owner does. However, designer can uncover the value after discussion the project and asking the right questions. So, we can have something like what Henry Ford received from Steinmetz. But, at the same time we understand the value of this work.