By Javier Madrazo, UX Lead, Baufest.
Nowadays, user experience design is present everywhere: in different digital services, in the car, etc. The digital and technological revolution which came about in recent times took us to interact more with different equipment and devices every day, such as smart TV and smart phones, among others. And the experience we have with those devices and technology is part of what we call user experience design.
All these changes generated a shift in priorities: in the past, the solution was thought of at first (digital applications or programs) on a technology level, then developed and then the user was observed using it (or not). In fact, before all these digital tools came with user manuals, because people had to be instructed on how to use them…Now, instead, what we do is try for the user not to have to learn anything – for technology to be completely intuitive and used with the shortest possible learning curve. And there is where the UX team comes in – which is formed today by a multidisciplinary group which includes researches who assess people behaviour – which are their “ailments” through a determined period of time while using the application, which are opportunities for improvement, etc. To that end, qualitative studies are carried out, but data analysis is used as well. Then user experience designers see the information architecture, that is to say, how it is distributed and structured. And later, the designer begins to outline these screens through sketches, it is iterated and prototypes are built. Today, we have programs that allow us to emulate all the behaviours we study; then, we will be able to iterate with the users and to arrive to the best possible solution for the software development team to build. In such a manner, the solution that is delivered and handed to production was already duly tested.
Within this context, design thinking is a framework or work methodology where we precisely apply all these iterations and stages: first investigation, ideation, creation, and then design and delivery of the development team (if there is one). Besides, within a design thinking frame there is a set of tools which allows us to move forward through the stages.
As we mentioned before, today designers work in multidisciplinary teams, where there are sociologists, anthropologists, industrial designers…the process arises from a determined need. It could be, for example, that a client needs a solution for something and had nothing developed. In such case, the task of the research team will be to examine the need they have, or what they would like to have solved. On the other hand, it could also happen that a client has a specific process in which their need is not resolved, or is not working properly.
Within our industry, the role of the functional analyst is very important, but it is more focused on the functional and technological part, on investigating user needs and then seeing with which technology one could work with. The research team, on the other hand, makes an investigation work that´s more focused on the person and the end user, with the purpose of knowing which are their purposes and needs and which would be their “happy road”. The idea is that the functional analyst and researcher get together for teamwork inside the multidisciplinary group, as they complement each other.
Iterating from the start
Our process iterates from the beginning. And one of the things we do as user experience designers is to procure that the latter – the client, the stakeholders – are present from the start. In fact, all the research work is done in a co-creative and co-collaborative way with them. In such a sense, we look for the business decision makers to be present.
The idea is that we have to make mistakes, and to make “cheap and quick” mistakes. In such sense, iterations allow for such mistake, if we make one, to be as small and economic to solve as possible; and that it happens as soon as possible.
Accessibility is a very important subject inside user experience design. In fact, web accessibility is every person´s right of using any digital tool beyond their context.
The Corona virus pandemic and remote work laid on the table the need to use all these digital tools. And we have to work more each day in order to enable the possibility that any person can use them, beyond any disability they might have.
Inside the practice, we keep the subject of accessibility in mind – mostly, the design. There are a number of points which were not taken into account before and now they are – as colours and contrast, typography sizes and graphic composition, among other details. Today, in fact, a design does not leave our practice unless all accessibility and inclusion related subjects are considered as far as visual design.
On the other hand, there is an ONTI (6/2019) regulation which dictates a series of guidelines for every entity which provides a Web Service to abide by such accessibility laws. These guidelines are based on the WCAG – which is a world standard where there are a number of levels of conformity. These levels are divided into A, AA and AAA -A are the easiest to implement, and AAA are the hardest ones and those which offer total accessibility to web solutions.
Based on these acceptance criteria, each country has their own regulation. I understand that during this year and the next one regulations will become tighter in Argentina. Even if as far as acceptance criteria goes many are still in level A, it is also true that, for example, the field “contrast” is already in AA. And criteria type AA will increase to make sure that every digital solution is as accessible as possible.