Posts Tagged ‘UX design’

Importance of User Research

Thursday, January 30th, 2020

User Research, the term brings to mind a complex looking image with stacks of paper, graphs and diagrams, computers, figures, and whatnot. If this is true for you too, then you are not wrong. It does in-fact consist of an infinitely straining series of events, each more complex than the other.

Then why do so many companies today invest so much in terms of money and manpower in setting up programs all based on one objective- user research?

The answer to this question is simple — it is impossible to launch a successful product or design without going through this tedious process, for it is nothing but this that gives the creators an idea of what the audience wants, how will it perceive whatever they have to offer and most importantly how much are they willing to pay in order to have it. It seems like a fair bargain, doesn’t it?

So let us begin by understanding what is this “user research”. If very loosely defined, it can be considered as observation techniques, task analyses and other methods of feedback aimed to procure an understanding of the user’s needs, problems, and behavior. It is carried out using various methodologies, both quantitative and qualitative and over the years has evolved into a near scientific method of analysis.

User research can be considered as an exploration mission sent right to the hearts of consumers. These become essential because every UX or UI designer needs the data provided by this to be empathetic towards the user’s needs. Many experts in the field unanimously stress on the need for empathy in design. They opine that without understanding the feelings, sight, and experience of others it is pointless to design anything. This makes perfect sense, after all, UX or user experience is all about satisfying the user, making him comfortable while using that given piece of technology and that can only happen once you know what makes that consumer happy, what makes him twitch, what annoys him and what relaxes him, User research gives you all of these things and more.

User research brings in data through ethnographic studies, usability tests, interviews, surveys, statistical analyses and serves it to the designer, it provides him a window to the user’s mind and finally gives him an inspiration so as to “what to create.” The first and foremost outcome is exactly that, it provides the designers with inspiration and paints them a clear picture of whether their idea is relevant or not. This goes a long way. The data and its analysis are used to demonstrate to the companies the importance of these designs and to attract investors, capital and everything else that the designer needs to carry on. It even guides these big companies in the direction they should invest more in R&D. A classic example of the fact is Samsung TV. Before their embankment in the journey of user research, the global TV market was dominated by ostentatious boasting of their screen’s resolution, sound quality, etc. But Samsung’s research sung a different tale, it indicated that the audience cared much more about the looks and overall design of their television as compared to the technical feats it offered. People thought of the TV more like a piece of furniture than anything else and wanted it to fit in inside their rooms along with other things and not glare around looking out of place. As a result, Samsung radically altered its designs and the televisions they produced were more sleek, better looking and capable of merging in with its surroundings. Samsung’s share of the global TV market nearly doubled because of this endeavor. This and many more examples including those of Microsoft, Sony, Lenovo all giants in their respective fields had an epiphany that changed their profit sacks allowing their advancements in the field of User Research.

Another bright spot that this field highlights along with return on investment, relevance, etc. is in the arena of sales and advertisement. Advertising a product without knowing the user is the same as shooting an arrow in the dark and hoping it hits the bull’s eye. User research describes the demographics of the consumer in a way that enables the sellers to isolate the needs, necessities, likes, dislikes of a large number of consumers and finally isolate their own target customer. The 21stCentury is scattered with examples of companies providing fewer benefits to the consumer as compared to a rival company and yet showing more in sales. All of this hinges upon one thing- understanding the user, and accomplishing that is next to impossible without a good quality, comprehensive user research.

Thus, on the importance of user research, we may simply conclude that, for a designer to get inspiration for a product he needs user research, for a company to understand the return on investment and the relevance of a product it needs user research and finally for a seller to fix the price and finally sell the product he needs user research. Every step of the journey a lot of things change, but what remains constant is the need for quality user research.

How Struggle Sharpens Your Ability to Innovate

Friday, January 24th, 2020

It has always been a source of immense amazement to me how every successful person on this planet has had a story filled with struggle, perseverance, and failure. Not one tall tale of success, have I ever encountered that was all about things being served in a platter to the guy and then someone holding his hands and walking him to success. Even the richest of businessmen are making their heirs attend the toughest of schools, have a life based on work and not to be easy going. This has got to mean something. As cumbersome and inconvenient as it may sound to you, I have to tell you that it is in fact one of the fundamental truths of life that struggle sharpens your ability to innovate, grow and then ultimately become a success.

I don’t think philosophies are much cared for, by the millennium generation in general, but here’s the deal- when it comes to inspiration, I think the ancient thought if decoded from its erudite abode has a lot to offer, the experience drenched philosophies that the societies are etched with and that we so conveniently ignore all sing about how struggle helps us discover new things and innovate. Ancient thought has always tended to appreciate the struggle. We ourselves try to ignore it, or when undergoing this strenuous state of mind try to hide it, are ashamed of it or worse feel sorry about it. The reality should be the exact opposite. A number of philosophies dictate how the struggle is an opportunity to grow, how failure is an opportunity to learn and as the following discussion progresses I we will all start having a deeper understanding and appreciation of struggle and finally agree with the ancient thought and start embracing the struggle and not avoiding it.

Human history is filled with innovation and one of the major inspirations behind these innovations has always been- struggle. The struggle of a man trying to reach from one place to another led to the formation of the wheel, the struggle of men facing innumerable diseases led to the discovery of an entirely new branch of science- medicine. Similarly, the struggle of managing data, of getting work done quicker all these led to in the past and still lead to the innovations in computer technologies and software. The idea is to recognize that struggle and draw inspiration from it. Struggle provides us with empathy which in turn provides us incentive to work harder, think harder, reach our maximum potential in whatever we are doing. Millions of inventions have only sprung out of the minds like that of Edison and Tesla because they recognized theirs as well as the struggle of those around them.

Another gift this thorny package provides you is humility. The more intelligent you are, the more likely you are to be overconfident and then ultimately commit blunders. But if you are struggling to let’s say create a particular piece of software, you will first, of course, try and execute your idea in one go, it didn’t go as planned. You try again and again, first checking if the process, the system is properly aligned, it still does not work. Then you will start taking a closer look at your idea, at the various sets of codes you had written to execute it, you keep looking and looking and almost every single time you come across a point where you realize- you could have done better or that merely there was an easier way to get the same things done. You solve these snags and behold- you have your software, ready to use and better than ever. Now, let’s take a step back. Just think of the said software would have been a success in the first go, would you have any incentive to look closely at all its components yet again? I didn’t think so. It was the mere fact that you struggled to run the software that you gave value and thought to its each and every component and in turn, created a much better thing out of them. This inside innovation would never have been possible if you hadn’t struggled in the first place. Thus, struggle gives you a whole new experience, a new window to look at the same thing and I think that is all that an intelligent mind needs for inspiration to innovate.

Lastly, I think struggle also gives you much more knowledge and experience than anything ever could. Reading books or knowing about how things are done is one thing, but when you actually sit down and start working on those “things” yourself, you start appreciating its every aspect, you start realizing its flaws and shortcomings, something which you need to experience first-hand to fully understand and once you do that you finally have both the opportunity and the knowledge to solve these problems, to develop new solutions to finally innovate.

Thus, it is important for all of us, especially those who have set out on a journey to discover and create something new to understand that there is no avoiding struggle. Instead of taking shortcuts or being let down by the struggle we have to start looking at it as it is- a golden opportunity, a teacher that is there to teach you of millions of things that nobody else has ever even mentioned to you. So it is time now for us to start embracing this incredible opportunity sugar-coated inside with the word- struggle!

UI Android vs iOS UI

Friday, January 24th, 2020

User Interface (UI) as dynamic as it is, individually takes yet another turn in the diversity section when we come to comparing Android and IOS.

You must have heard sagas of the differences between the android and iOS users each pleading a case of how their operating system is better than the other. But what you may not know is that this isn’t new, it has been the case for ages now. And, on no account can you term it as superficial. Android users do have a very tough time adjusting to iOS and vice versa. The “why” to this problem has a lot of little aspects and one major aspect. The major one is the differences in the UI of the two. Think about it, for instance, a layman while comparing two devices with these two operating systems may ignore for once, the differences in the complex configurations behind the processors in the two, but what he will always keep in mind is “how does is screen look?” “which icon goes where?” “how do you navigate through different pages?” and all of these have only one thing in common- UI.

Thus, it becomes essential for us to understand the differences between the UI in the two operating systems so that if need be we can make an informed choice and in a more competent fashion.

Now that we have started, we need to know where all will we be able to spot these differences. The best answer to this is — “If you scrutinize the subtle, then everywhere.” These differences are present everywhere — in the navigation bars, toolbars, types of control, buttons, and whatnot.

Out of these hundreds our focus first, obviously goes to navigation. Android is based on the material design guidelines, which is something widely accepted and followed globally even google uses them while developing its own applications. iOS, on the other hand, is based on the human interface design. One of the most noticeable differences in navigation is how android uses a “universal navigation bar” present at the bottom of the screen but iOS uses a combination of gestures and the home button. It also presents itself with an inbuilt “back button” in almost every one of its apps to help with the simple retracing of steps. Now you may be able to see how even a simple action as “going back” becomes so different with a change of UI.

Similar to navigation is another aspect — Menu. In Android, they generally have it in the form of a sidebar where you just tap and pull and voilà — you will have five to six apps ready to access. iOS, on the contrary, prefers a tab bar, which is placed at the bottom of the screen. These tab bars though according to various consumer analysis reports are easier to use, provide a lesser array of apps to be at the user’s disposal at one point of time.

The search field too is not left behind in this gabble of differences. In fact, the amount of comfort drawn from a device has a huge dependence on the accessibility of the search field and its placing and presentation in the two operating systems play a pivotal role in materializing the differences between the two. One of the most distinguishing in this arena is the placement. iOS demonstrates a certain amount of rigidity as the full search bar is placed at the top of the screen. Whereas Android provides its users with a little bit of flexibility on the matter. It gives the users an option to place the search bar on the top, which is majorly different from what was provided by iOS because this one only expands into a full search bar upon tapping the search icon. The second option enables the search bar to gain much-deserved mobility as Android presents the users with an option to access the search field in the form of a widget that can be placed according to the user’s whim.

Pages on the second or lower level of hierarchy use segmented control in iOS and a tab on the Android. Furthermore, all text tabs in Android are present in uppercase and in iOS as a title case. This coupled with a fact that Android UI comes with a “text-only” policy for these tabs, which allows no icons and texts to be present simultaneously on the tabs and that iOS has no such policy, gives another important point of distinction to the two operating systems.

Another fundamental difference between the UI of the two can be observed in the color and size of the apps provided, Android usually has a more multi-color approach, with icons which are big in size and have reasonable spacing in between, on the other hand, iOS prefers a black and white pallet with a more compressed outlook.

A large difference further exists in the form of buttons, dialogues, alerts, etc. But as we explore these and many more, we must also understand the fact that these are all very temporary. The general trend today shows enough cases that indicate that we are moving towards a more converging user interface present in Android and iOS. The addition of the “switch” option to Android from the exclusive domain of iOS being one of the many examples of the same.

So, after understanding the differences in the two UIs and analysing the various trends associated to it, one may also draw a parallel conclusion that with the passage of time as the consumer becomes more knowledgeable and demands for more and more freedom in mobility, structure and outlook, the products will begin to have more and more fluid user interfaces and thus skipping the boundaries drawn by the differences in the operating systems and ultimately being a junction of the two categories we see today!

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