NOTE: The following is a re-post from the Maven Wave Fusion blog

As the enterprise is digitally transforming, exceptional UX design is crucial to staying competitive. The essence of good UX is dependent on how the user interacts with the design—usability is vital. We dug deeper into the field of UX with Peter Bartsch, one of our UX Architects, who gave us insight into emerging trends and the value UX delivers to any project.

What is the role of a UX Architect on a project team?

Bartsch: The UX Architect plays an integral role in the lifecycle of any project. Before development starts, the UX team helps understand use cases and user contexts; exactly what is the user trying to accomplish with your product. If you understand this reality very well, then you can deliver a high level of utility. And if you can offer utility that also delights, you have a real barrier to competitive entry. So, the UX team works in sync with all teams as the development progresses, while working out the next steps with the product owners at the same time. Finally, it’s all for naught if you don’t close the loop and analyze the user’s experience in production to better inform and prioritize efforts as continuous delivery, well… continues.

What is the value that UX brings to client projects?

Bartsch: We are entering a golden age of UX with an emergence of new UX tools as well as an emphasis on design thinking. Traditionally, user research and wireframes bring demonstrable value with better planning, resource allocation, and increased developer productivity. And, traditionally, it was often hard to buy in and budget for solid user testing after a launch. However, today, in the age of continual delivery, analytical tools and robust prototypes for user testing directly impact the value of UX within a project and beyond.

How does that role fit into the workplace during the age of digital transformation?

Bartsch: UX is a conversation. It is the UX Architect’s role to foster conversations with the myriad stakeholders; all on the behalf of the one stakeholder not present—the user. The UX Architect’s position is a change agent driving enterprises to embrace digital transformation. By fostering objective, data-driven, design choices when enterprises ask how to develop their products and services, the UX Architect can help remove personal, and even organizational biases. It’s essential to focus efforts on what the users wants and delivering on those needs. You don’t only need to succeed in the marketplace, but you need to succeed in transforming your organization.

How does mobile affect UX design today?

Bartsch: Over 33% of Google searches are now from mobile devices in the US and that number is well over 50% in other regions. It’s imperative to refrain from jumping to conclusions about mobile device usage—there is a lot to learn from the user.

At this point, we are capable of adjusting design and capabilities to fit phones, tablets, and computers; but we are only scratching the surface of what we could be doing. This is an exciting time for UX because it suggests there are magnitudes of utility to be provided to users if we can better grok the usage and context of mobile devices.

What are common mistakes made in UX design?

Bartsch: A common mistake is the failure of the UX team to remove themselves and their organization’s inherent bias toward product design decisions. The users know what they need—that’s why we build personas. It’s vital to keep our user in mind when we are solving their problems and creating tools they will want to utilize.

Another common mistake, and it is often overlooked, happens after it’s released to the wild. Easily half the value of any solid UX practice is lost if you don’t observe the actual user, in their natural habitat, using your product. If you don’t follow up and see if any of your assumptions were true, you are flying blind.

How does the user experience online affect a business’s success?

Bartsch: Where once good design was seen as a cost and effort only worthy of a higher margin, aspirational, or for luxury products, it is now seen more and more as a de facto competitive requirement. User expectations have risen tremendously in the last decade, as they just expect things to work simply, just like many of their mobile apps do. And in an attention economy, no one wants to waste time, (and therefore money) on a badly designed product. Especially when your competitor offers a better experience just a tap away.

Further, with the rise of better UX and analytics tools, we are now readily able to objectively prove the ROI of design thinking and user testing-led development. UX has swiftly moved from being an advantage to being a necessity to survive within the enterprise. Because with user-tested, design-led development, you don’t just get a better product, you get more productive.

Describes how tools are evolving to match the multidisciplinary approach required of a 21-century organization.

Bartsch: The state of the art UX tools for wireframes and prototypes are coming into their own now. Two key features of these tools are portability and fidelity. More and more, information, and research findings are easier to ingest into these tools. At the same time, it is easier to export meaningful data; like the exact values involved in a UI feature or micro-interaction. This portability fosters collaboration and breaks down organizational silos.

The other key feature, fidelity, is almost a problem now—it is too close to the real thing! As these tools allow for better integration in the entire product development workflow, we are able to prototype with a near-final look and feel. And that’s great—it increases the accuracy of the tests. But, it can also cause confusion when people mistake the prototype for the finished product.

What is the end result?

Bartsch: There is a usual order and progression of building upon what you learn in the production of UX artifacts. Typically, you would expect to see the following produced, and in the following order:

  1. User Interviews
  2. Heuristics
  3. Personas
  4. User Flows
  5. User Journeys
  6. Wireframes
  7. Prototypes
  8. User Testing

That’s not to say that different approaches are wrong, every project is unique with different levels of resources available, budget, and start/end points. Like any digital practitioner, half of the expertise in a good UX Architect is maximizing outcomes with the resources and time that are available to you.

What are the upcoming trends in UX design?

Bartsch: One of the macro trends in UX is the emergence of better tools. It’s increasingly easier and cheaper to create robust, high fidelity prototypes (even using actual API’s), to do deep user testing, and gather better intelligence from analytics. All these things continue the trend of the UX Architect becoming more and more cross-functional and capable of delivering real value. As that progresses, the actual deliverables from UX efforts become easier to leverage too. Some of these new prototyping tools are now much better incorporated into actual development workflows. The high fidelity prototype doesn’t just allow for better testing, it can inform developers with useful CSS metrics, and exactly how the button will dance when they tap on it.

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