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UX ≠ Wireframes: It’s Not Just About the Interface

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UX (user experience) has been around pharma marketing, as in other industries, for quite some time now. Lately, however, the UX designer role has become trendy and companies are increasingly demanding UX to be incorporated into their strategies.

In fact, “…the design universe — everything from fashion designers to industrial designers — holds 472,000 designer jobs (as of 2016) and has grown 15% since the recession, adding 62,000 jobs from 2010 to 2016.”  Data Spotlight: Fierce Demand for UI/UX Designers

Even with the rise in supply and demand for designers to focus on providing excellent user experiences, there continues to be some uncertainty about what UX is exactly.

The renowned UX authority Nielsen Norman Group defines UX in this way— “User experience encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products”.

Unfortunately, the term UX has ridiculously evolved into a verb. Clients and stakeholders often use phrases such as “How long will it take to UX it?” or “This looks great! Let’s add some UX to make it more user friendly”. That’s not exactly how it works. UX is not an action item.

Some believe that most people are simply not grasping the right mindset around UX. Generally, clients and stakeholders tend to pigeonhole UX designers’ skills and responsibilities into the following:

  1. Design a functional interface
  2. Make it easy to use
  3. Make it look amazing

While UX designers do deliver on these expectations, they are not the core objectives. In actuality, the thoughts that are going through UX designers’ heads are typically:

  1. Does the solution achieve user goals?
  2. Does it align with business strategy?
  3. Will people actually use it?

Obviously, there is a misinterpretation here. Interestingly, all three of these objectives have one thing in common — they all relate to the user interface. Or at least, the answers to these questions are born out of users engaging with the interface. People generally gravitate towards the interface because as users of digital products and services themselves, this tangible interactive touchpoint is the means to success or failure without much thought or need to dive into the root causes — the underlying user needs being met or the business objectives satisfied that demonstrate success.

The following are the top three common misconceptions about UX designers that have influenced a naturally misguided mindset.

1. UX is not the Same as UI

The most common confusion people have surrounds the difference between a User Experience Designer and a User Interface Designer. Both roles weigh in on design decisions that impact the user interface — so it would seem they are technically doing the same job, right? The assumption here again is that the end product is the user interface. This may be the case for a UI designer as their main focus is to make the interface as simple and efficient to use as possible by establishing an appealing mental model through the application of aesthetics and visual elements.

Image Credit: www.patrickhansen.com

UX, on the other hand, is all about understanding the overall experience of users and that extends beyond the surface. It’s not necessarily about positioning buttons or optimizing layout options. It’s not necessarily about the experience users are having with the interface itself but appreciating the underlying reasons surrounding why they are pursuing an action in the first place; what are the users’ intentions, goals, and overall purpose? Only by understanding these drivers will you be in a position to establish a solution that helps users easily accomplish their tasks, determines which features or functions are most important to support those tasks, and ultimately provides utility through an interactive experience that users are drawn to and will enjoy using.

 

Image Credit: https://strategyanddesign.co

UI definitely complements UX, but it doesn’t matter how amazing the interface looks or how easy it is to use if it doesn’t satisfy user needs and is proven unusable.

2. UX Design is Not a Creative Discipline

To clarify, the term creative relates to “artistic work.” If you have a creative skill set then you can definitely use it to your advantage to help communicate your work, but it is not a requirement to be an effective UX designer. If you can sketch to the fidelity demonstrated in the below image, present it, and walk your stakeholders through the experience, you’ll be just fine.

The misconception that UX is a creative role emerged because wireframes are such a common deliverable expected from UX designers. However, as mentioned previously, UX is not just about creating user interface layouts. The discipline is actually more of an analytical and technical role. All decisions and recommendations that are presented require rational, strategic, and tactical thinking. In order to produce the best products or services, we need to lean on the UX process: research, solutioning and testing. Below are examples of some UX deliverables, excluding wireframes, to help demonstrate the scope of work involved in delivering great experiences:

This list is by no means exhaustive and the inclusion of all deliverables is not required within every project. The deliverables produced vary according to the challenge at hand but all help to support decisions that ultimately impact the final product by providing structure and intent to help users achieve their goals.

3. You Can’t Just “Slap On UX”

UX designers are getting increasingly more attention these days and our opinions are starting to be considered more often — however to get the most out of UX, it’s important to bring your UX team into the loop sooner rather than later is key. Being pulled last minute into a meeting to answer the question “Does this button work if we put it here?” is far from ideal. You can’t just slap on UX after some design work has already been delivered. Sure, an experienced UX designer who has worked within your industry may be able to comment based on best practices, but without real context, you are unlikely to get the biggest payback from UX without truly understanding user behavior through research and validation. It’s like baking someone a chocolate cake, and halfway through finding out he/she would rather have strawberry.

UX design is a continuous process that involves learning about users and their ever-changing needs and adjusting accordingly to evolve the solution given contexts of use. As with any strategic discipline, planning is imperative, therefore UX should be brought into the process as soon as possible to support tactical alignment.

On the Klick UX team, we believe it is important to help educate pharma partners about UX and appropriately shift mindsets to start asking the right questions right away. If UX is truly baked into your business strategies from the get-go, then everyone wins — your customers, the brands you work on and the work itself.

More About the Author

Ken Ngan

Ken is a member of the User Experience team at Klick. After a decade of assuming various roles focusing on streamlining workflows, optimizing processes and ensuring end-user satisfaction, his passion for technology and solving business problems has naturally led him to designing customer-centric experiences.

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