What could UX do to establish a democratized use of products/services? Does it really have a role to play?
Yes, UX is the prerequisite for any service that works out a balance between technological advancement and a user. UX creates the environment for relationships that shed reservation and promotes a value-added system.
Whether a technology geek or not, one can easily observe that with each passing day, we are growing a higher affinity toward technology. It has become an inevitable part of human advancement. The progressive evolution of technology has driven businesses to expand their toolboxes.
Though the user was always at the prime focus of any service, the effort to understand their real-world requirement was very superficial. Today, however, the picture has changed. The voice of users is louder than ever before and organizations are taking conscious efforts to keep their user base loyal. So what is the key element that drives this change? User Experience?
The primary requirement of a ‘user-friendly’ product is to master its complexity. User interactions should be natural, while the cross-disciplinary communication among all the digital assets should be in harmony. It is quite understood that the huge number of passive and active contributors in the product subsystem shape an entire product or service. This transformation toward human-centric services starts with the UX design of the system. Identifying underlying problems with products and services and using empathy maps, user journeys, service blueprints, and mapping the cross-disciplinary relationships in the context, mark the initiation toward concrete and well-designed service system. Therefore, UX works as the foundation on which a well-calculated and systematic service system can be built and delivered.
The principle of ‘Triangulation’ by Nielsen Norman Group suggests the use of expert opinions along with user feedback, in early and late design phases, to avoid assumption-based decisions. An assumption-based design often leads to products that fail to impress their target audience or to achieve their strategic goal. One such product is Google+. From a technology giant like Google, with such strong technological, marketing and sales prowess, it is unimaginable to have a failed product. The biggest drawback of Google+ was that it had a more Google-centered design, rather than a User-centered design. Instead of understanding the needs of their users, they created a platform based on their expert assumptions and faced a huge setback. Google+ was discontinued in April 2019.
The idea of democratization of services thus calls for user participation. Anyone interested in the service gets a chance to be practically involved in the process and create an impact. The role could be passive, but participation is inevitable. Through feedback systems, it becomes quite convenient to gather inputs from the users, but that is the easy task. The real challenge lies in bringing out a single solution from those inputs. User forums, rating and review systems, user surveys, in-app feedback, in-app voting all work systematically to generate feedback. The challenge lies in using these insights in creating a positive impact on the products and services as they carry less authoritative weightage. Also if these pain points are not addressed there is the risk of user disengagement as well.
So surely the feedback system has its limitations and risks. But empathizing with the users and understanding their pain points help create the core values to develop the framework of a well-researched service. UX design methodologies derive value out of these feedbacks, which can help bridge the gap between providers and users.
With all its limitations, the idea of democratization of services can exist only if user inputs are reciprocated with equal accountability and maturity. UX experts focus on empathizing with the user, mapping new concepts, and measuring post-launch value through human-centered design.
UX plays a crucial role not only at the initiation of an idea but at every stage of the product life cycle. UX insight determines the impact of a service on end-users and their level of satisfaction with the solution. It empowers people through user-centric tools. Formulating UX research activities to discover insights and converting them to actionable assets may lead to operational problems and so it becomes difficult to materialize every user insight into a practical solution. But such feedback does help identify vital factors that often force niche users to reject a product/service. When Microsoft launched ‘Zune’ as a competitor to iPod, the idea of a portable music player was already well established by Apple. Instead of focussing on the setbacks of iPod, Microsoft ended up creating a product that could not compel the users to switch, and thus it was taken out of the market with the same rigor it was launched. In other words, these impractical feedbacks also help identify and neutralize the requirements of a large group of users and thus help the product stand out in a competitive market.
Now we know that UX is the key to ensuring that users get their share of participation in any service. The empathetic and human-centric perspective of a UX designer helps maintain a consistent direction toward providing a service that can empower users through technology. Users need to be in control and not controlled. UX gives users that control.
Lidia is a Senior UI Designer at Ionixx Technologies. A graduate in Visual Communication, her work experience spans print, visual, and user interface design.