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5 Aug

UX Is About the User

We know a startup company that went full speed ahead with a product, designed with care down to the exact pixel positioning and colour of every element. Or rather, we knew this company. It''s not around any more. It didn''t look for user input and didn''t want to show the product to anybody till it was perfect.

The term UX stands for "user experience," and the emphasis is on the user. Doing it right means not going in with rigid assumptions about what the user will want, but finding out what actually works for them. Properly done UX design brings the user in as early as possible, rather than waiting till there''s a polished product to show.

It''s important to select the right users for this to work. Most people just want something that works and don''t want to see the product before it does. What''s needed is the kind of user who cares about how well it works and wants to provide feedback to make it as good as possible. They''ll participate in a feedback process that requires a lot of patience but rewards them with a chance to shape what the product will be.

The work begins in the research stage, finding out what users are likely to want and investigating how people have responded to comparable existing products. After research the developer should proceed to collaborative design work, continuing to obtain the input of stakeholders.

Initial development should aim at creating an early prototype, so that the participating users can get a sense of what the developers are aiming for and respond with what they like and what they don''t. The developers shouldn''t present the users with a frozen design, but rather need to be ready to change as much as is necessary to create a product that will produce a satisfactory UX. This implies an iterative design process, with changes based on user feedback at each step.

The benefit of an iterative, UX-centred design is that by the time the product is done, it has already met with user approval and stands a good chance of success in the market. It isn''t necessary to have a huge number of users in the iterative process; the response of a handful of representative users, provided they''re really involved, will give a good sense of how users in general will respond.

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