Our path to UX has been was influenced by many factors. Why we care about it so deeply has been influenced by my life inside and outside of tech. Empathy, specifically a lacking that we witness daily, is the main factor outside of tech that drew me to UX. But there were many experiences inside of tech that drew us to UX, as well. When we reflect upon my past twenty years in tech, we can see that there were many factors that were leading us to UX without me even knowing it.
The term “UX” reportedly entered our vocabulary around the invention of the Internet (and the job title soon after) but the term wasn’t common when I started in tech.
In lieu of UX, we used write out pages of documentation — typically a couple hundred pages of documentation. We did this using the Waterfall method and the documentation included requirements. There were many parts in the documentation, however, that were focused on how we would accomplish tasks for the user so we would consider these finer distinctions to be UX. We do not advocate hundreds of pages of documentation, nor the waterfall method. We are certainly not advocating the “development first” perspective that we used while compiling these documents, however, the basis for UX was there.
Our team has undertaken a user interface course before they were popular as part of my computer science undergrad curriculum. There we looked in even greater detail about how the elements on a screen would impact the performance of the system through user interactions. All this to say that while our little development hearts were in the right place, the execution was off. Enter my love of UX. Supporting development decisions through the lens of user research and empathy and conveying that information through pictures like a wireframes is a far superior process to the hundreds of pages of documentation. I love thinking through use cases, testing them out and then communicating a user’s journey through a product. We love building out wireframes that paint a far more tangible picture than words, iterating through wireframes because we can see so much clearer when we are looking at a picture, so we know the right questions to ask.
When we are looking at a specific point in time of the user’s experience, we can more clearly articulate their needs. Not only does the reality of the user’s experience become more visceral, but the integration into development is much clearer and more direct. Wireframes lend themselves to a straighter path to both front-end and back-end development by providing the screen elements for frontend and the functionality required for backend. There are additional details that are required through story details, however, the communication tools to get us to a more seamless development process are there in UX design. The misconception that wireframes are the entirety of UX is a real and significant challenge, so it important to note that many more elements go into UX design than simply wireframes. The importance of user research, for example, cannot be overstated. Yet wireframes remain an important tool that promote a focus on users while supporting development work. I’ll take wireframes to hundreds of pages of documentation any day!
Lead us to lead users to a much more happy state…