The best innovators are problem solvers. They solve everyday issues with elegant solutions. Creating an elegant solution is about more than simply solving the problem; the defining characteristic is a great user experience. From inception to launch, user experience must be core to every solution, whether it's as complex as a custom web application development effort or as simple as a drink container.
Take for example, the issue of unquenched thirst. The problem: our customer gets thirsty during the day and needs something that can hold liquid so they can drink it. At first glance, the solution is simple – they need a paper cup!
But wait, not so fast. It turns out the paper cup solves the problem, but not elegantly. In fact, they're not using the paper cups at all. Our customer is a construction worker. They're outside all day. Sometimes it's hot, sometimes it's cold and it's always a little dusty. The drink container they desire insulates against temperature changes, protects beverages from the dusty environment and is durable enough that it won't spill when bumped.
When you look a little closer, the paper cup is completely inadequate. It solves the underlying problem, but creates so many more that it isn't a practical solution. A thermos would be a far better drink vessel. So what changed? It wasn't the need itself. The construction workers still need, at the most basic level, something to hold their drinks. The difference is our knowledge of the problem. Initially, we didn't have a full understanding of what our customer needed and provided them with an inadequate solution.
This rush to provide an answer without defining the question is very common, especially when it comes to web application development. Have you ever built a large-scale web application to address specific user requests, only to find later those users didn’t use it, didn’t like it or said it simply wasn’t helpful?
This is a "technology first" approach and it's the way a lot of corporations handle their technology, from marketing websites to IT to large-scale applications. The biggest issue is that you lose the spirit of innovation. You're no longer solving human problems, you're launching applications. It's so easy to forget the original goal and lose sight of the problem you're trying to solve.
And that's what user experience is all about. It's solving problems with simplicity, elegance and delight. To do that, you must consider people, process and technology, and in precisely that order.
Knowing your user – what they want and what they need – can go a long way towards creating a successful product. When creating a custom web application, we start by gaining an understanding of our target users.
Who are they? What makes their job easier? And, what makes it more difficult?
There's no substitute for actually talking to your target market. It's important to move past your own bias and avoid making assumptions. You aren't your target users. Getting to know not only their immediate needs, but their journey and day-to-day needs, helps inform the features that should be included. Even the little details can make a difference: Yes, a paper cup is excellent for holding a drink, but not when you're wearing clumsy oversize work gloves.
Once you're familiar with your users, you can identify the processes that need to be completed to solve their problem. Keep things simple. The goal is to determine the features your users require in the ideal solution. What are the fewest number of steps necessary to give our users what they need in a way they are expecting? Lack of process consideration often creates fatally unusable applications.
When thinking about an elegant solution, it's quite often the simplest one. In fact, the greater the application complexity, the harder it is to use and more expensive it is to maintain and modify.
Finding the simple solution isn't easy. Keeping your users and the issue at hand front and center can help ensure that the process leads to the simple solution. The key question is this:
What will provide a seamless and elegant user experience? And, what is the smallest application of technology required to support those processes?
As innovators, the solutions we're creating are solving human problems. Whether your customer is looking for something to hold their drink or something to help make sense of complex data sets using predictive analytics, looking to your users and asking questions are the first steps to creating something useful.
Do you have an app your users don't seem to love? Our user experience experts can help. Contact us today!
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