One of the words I’m trying to banish from my vocabulary is “easy.” Easy means something different to everyone. What’s easy to you could be difficult to me and vice versa. Easy implies “no-brainer” and that’s not always the case. Especially when it comes to describing technology.
That’s why – when it comes to technology – I like to think of things as being intuitive (versus easy). Intuitive means having the ability to understand or know something without the use of reason. Making technology intuitive isn’t easy. It’s actually very complex.
At Ultimate Software’s Connections Conference a couple of years ago, I had the chance to hear about what is involved in the development of the user experience. I’ve always known user experience was important – it’s something we use every day in software, apps, games, etc. but I had no idea what went into creating it. So I reached out to Martin Hartshorne, senior vice president of products at Ultimate Software, to see if he would share his expertise. Thank goodness he said yes.
Martin, can you briefly describe what user experience (UX) involves?
[Martin] User experience, or UX, is about designing experiences for the user. By bringing contemporary design principles and state-of-the-art usability engineering techniques into the design process, you can deliver experiences that are simple, effective and enjoyable. A great UX enables people to perform the task at hand successfully, while also providing an overall compelling UX.
How does UX compare to user interface (UI)?
[Martin] User experience, or UX, is often confused with user interface, or UI. The UI refers to the visual appeal of the solution. UX is about much more than just aesthetics, it’s about how well a solution works. Rooted in design engineering disciplines, UX is a careful mixture of art and science that focuses on using objective metrics from real end-users to help drive design decisions.
I certainly don’t want to add any confusion but I recently read an article on CX (customer experience). Is that the same thing as UX? Why or why not?
[Martin] User experience and customer experience are not the same thing, but they are related. User experience is a part of the customer experience, which encompasses all touch points a business has with a customer. A good user experience can positively impact the customer experience the same way a bad user experience can negatively impact the customer experience.
Is UX subjective? Are there parts of UX that can be measured?
[Martin] UX is focused on using objective metrics including both qualitative and quantitative evaluation methods. Usability testing is a good example of UX research activities that involves measuring how easily people complete certain tasks and identifying where the designs can be improved.
There’s also eye tracking studies that track people’s eyeball movements as they interact with different designs, card sorting exercises that determine how users conceptually group information together, cognitive walkthroughs which measure how people complete a task from start to finish, and repertory grid studies that measure people’s preferences for one particular UI over another. Ethnography is probably one of the most important UX research activities as it serves as the foundation for initiating nearly every key design engineering effort. It involves observing how end users complete tasks and really tries to understand how people work in certain environments.
Why should human resources understand UX?
[Martin] Usability is a major driver of employee engagement and adoption. The easier the technology is, the more it will be used, and the less time is wasted by employees—resulting in a much higher ROI for organizations in terms of performance levels and investment. By understanding how employees are using different solutions, HR is better equipped to tailor them to their specific needs.
As a part of the human resources team, you should care about your employees being happy and engaged because engagement leads to increased loyalty, quality, retention and overall business performance. Designing experiences that help simplify people’s work lives will help renew and increase engagement levels at work.
Employees’ interactions with businesses are not only face to face, but face to interface in many cases. What people want at the end of the day is not just a great looking screen, but something that makes them productive, something that lets them get their jobs done easier, faster, smarter. If you care about productivity, you should care about user experience.
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Last question, what do you see as the top trends impacting UX?
[Martin] A great user experience comes from a convergence of engineering factors intended to mix equal parts form, function, and aesthetic into a cohesive design that end-users don’t even notice–it just works. Some of the biggest trends influencing UX design and engineering include:
Service/Experience Design. UX design is becoming more of an integral part of the overall customer experience. HR leaders are putting more emphasis on the experience HR technology delivers to each and every employee as part of the selection process.
Data Visualization. The explosion of Big Data demands better ways to make sense of it all. Embedded data visualizations will improve how HR and business leaders process and analyze their people data.
Object Oriented UX. User interface design is moving beyond responsive design of individual screens and moving toward building blocks that are repeated across a site or application. The use of familiar objects across an HR solution will result in increased ease of use and faster delivery of new product enhancements.
My thanks to Martin for sharing his knowledge with us. As human resources professionals, we’re all too familiar with terms like candidate experience and customer experience. With technology playing a greater role in our organizations, we need to understand the importance of user experience. Because the best way to get employees to use the systems being implemented is by using technology that’s intuitive for the user. That not only makes employees more productive, but it creates engagement, retention and improves the bottom-line.
Image courtesy of Sharlyn Lauby