If you think good designs are expensive, you should look at what bad designs cost you.Dr. Ralf Speth
You must have wondered at some point about what you see on your digital screens. The design, the configuration, the accessibility or the overall outlook. How different does, doing the same thing from say two smart phones of two different companies feel.
All of this boils down to two things- User Interface and User Experience. This is exactly why all the companies which interact with you through a digital medium are spending a considerable amount of their earnings to develop these two.
I begin with the example of Zune- an MP3 player launched by Microsoft to compete with Apple’s IPod. While Microsoft spent a lot of time, energy and money in giving Zune more functionality it failed to tend to its User interface and experience as much as was required. As a result of this and Apple’s own policy of having a considerable expertise in packaging their products with a well-developed UI the Zune failed to conquer the market as per expectation and Microsoft suffered through a hefty loss from a product that had the potential to bring millions back to home.
So I think it is important for a producer, consumer or any enthusiast for that matter to understand the role that User Interface and User Experience play in their everyday lives.
Before we begin a deeper discussion of these tools I must ask you to not to scratch your head trying to differentiate between UX and UI because frankly, while a fundamental difference exists between the two, they are used quite interchangeably in common language. An analogy that has always helped in understanding the two is that if you go to a restaurant UI would be the plates and furniture and UX would be the taste of the food, the valet, the waiter and the overall ambience of the place.
So now I come back to my initial point- what are these and why are they so important. User Interfaces are the access points where users interact with designs. It consists of everything from your display to your scroll down menus to the layout present in your screen. User experience as the name suggests is about the user’s experience with the device. It circumscribes the aesthetics, the easy handling, the prompt suggestions, the priority presentation and of course the bridge between what the consumer thinks he wants and what he really wants.
Now that you understand what these two are, pause for a second to think about your experience in handling a digital device in the absence of well-developed UI and UX. Horrifying, isn’t it?
It is precisely this that companies are now pouring in millions of dollars to develop their UI and UX designs, and I must say that it is money well spent.
A better UI and UX are the most cost effective investment you can make and they almost always yield a great result. Think for yourself, while a layman may not be bothered about the core used in the software of his laptop or he may not care about the strength of its RAM but he will most certainly care about how easily accessible the device and its various components are to him once he starts using it. He will have to directly confront the UI and UX of the device every time he uses it. So if they have an inbuilt Aesthetic Usability effect- a term used to describe the phenomena where aesthetically pleasing devices seem easier to use then it is natural that customers will feel more than compensated for any other shortcoming in any other area of the device. The list does not stop here. Many experts who understand the psychology of consumers have been saying for a long time that if a consumer is comfortable with a device, in the sense that it pleases his auditory and visual senses, gives him a more protected and easy to access treatment, it will automatically inspire loyalty within him and they will in fact be willing to pay more to get the same experience. This directly means that the so called “brand value” of these devices are today hinging upon the User interface and experience provided by them to their customers.
This is precisely why the major competition in the mainstream companies is now channelized on these fields and you will notice for yourself how each of these companies have their own, independent layout and design when it comes to user interface and experience.
“Pandering to the user’s comfort” as I like to call any investment made in UI or UX is now the need of the hour, if you want a bigger bite of the revenue share in the market. With so much mind rattling variety in technology present, greater functionality is not enough to ensure dominance. The consumers’ may need a variety of functions at their disposal on a basic level and they may also need a few specific functions to be performed at an advanced level but what all of them definitely need is ease of operating while doing it. This is the glue that holds them together thus it is essential for companies to understand the evolving needs and digress from the conventional development strategies to tend to ones with greater practicality and definitely greater demand.