How Important is User Experience Design?

User Experience design is the art of getting inside your users head. You want to figure out how they'll use your website, and then make sure that they're not going about the entire thing backwards.

The city of New York recently redesigned their famously complicated (and confusing) parking signs. However, it turns out that the result still wasn’t good enough for interaction designer and New York resident Nikki Sylianteng.

Frustrated with the still “too-wordy” signs and complicated signs, Nikki took it upon herself to take another crack at a redesign. When she was finished, she displayed her proposed signs around her neighbourhood right next to the actual parking signs to receive feedback from her neighbours (User testing!). Unsurprisingly, the feedback she received was overwhelmingly positive. You can see her proposed parking sign redesign in the image above and you can also learn more about it  on her website.

It doesn’t take a genius to see that what she’s done was a stroke of genius and should become the new normal for parking signs around the world.

The difference between the existing parking signs and the signs designed by Nikki was the result of a subtle shift in thinking and perspective.

The existing signs were the result of a city needing to find a way to tell drivers when and where they can park. Sounds simple enough. Thus, they achieved their objective simply by printing the parking by-law information to signs (in some cases multiple signs) and letting drivers figure out the nuances and exceptions themselves.

Nikki looked at the problem slightly differently. She saw the signs from the users perspective of needing to understand the information (vs the cities perspective of needing to provide the information).

A driver (user) only wants to know two things when they see a parking sign:

1. Can I park here now?
2. Until what time?

Her design flipped the focus of the signs from a list of rules and steps which must be followed, to a simple chart that can be read by a child.

Once you recognize the benefits of how interaction design like this can help solve a problem like parking in New York City, you start to understand the value that user experience design can have when it comes to having users deal with your website or interacting with your online marketing campaigns.

If you’re unfamiliar with the term…

User experience design (UXD or UED) is the process of enhancing customer satisfaction and loyalty by improving the usability, ease of use, and pleasure provided in the interaction between the customer and the product.

Often we tend to look at our websites and our business processes and see very clearly laid out processes and objectives. We expect that our clients, users, and prospects will follow the proper steps in-order for them to achieve their (and ultimately our) objectives. However, it’s very easy for us to fall victim to the same trap that New York City fell for; namely, thinking that by simply providing the correct information that we’re doing enough and won’t confuse our users.

Every website and every business process can benefit from some amount of user experience design. UXD will help you ask questions from a users perspective and lead you down the path of viewing your digital presence from the other side of the glass. It helps you to see what the user sees and understand it as they do. Ultimately good user experience design will help you better present your information in a way the your clients and prospects will find more useful and will help them achieve their goals more easily.

User experience design is an excellent investment and should be an important part of any website design, redesign or iterative development process. If you’re interested in a UXD consultation for your website or digital marketing strategy, contact us today.

If you’d like to follow along as Nikki continue to iterate her parking sign designs, you can stay in touch with her on Twitter @toparknottopark or on her blog.

You can also check out these links to get more acquainted with User Experience Design, Interaction Design, and User Interface Design.