What does it mean when we talk about UX & UI?
UX is short for user experience and is essentially about how a person feels when using a product or service. As well as the core usability of the product, we look for how easy it is to use the system, efficiency in performing a task, the general design and user accessibility. The UI, short for user interface, of a product plays a large part in the overall user experience. User interface design mainly focuses on the visual elements, presentation and interactivity of a product.
In an ideal project, subject to the available budgets and resources, there are a number of typical activities and outcomes a UX/UI designer would carry out before and during the development process. These include:
- User research
- User flows
- User journeys
- User testing
The benefits of these activities promote collaboration with stakeholders in the project and provide a clearer vision. It helps to visualise and find simple solutions to complex business challenges. The agile process in which these activities are conducted means that we can validate our design solutions much faster and in some cases, spot problems much earlier, which in turn will minimise risks for the whole project. The most important aspect is that by collaborating with our customers, we have a user-centred approach when designing our products.
Why is UX & UI important to Orchard?
We recognise that not only do our products need to look good, they also need to feel good. As with most procurement processes across various business environments, customers tend to look for something that not only appeals to them visually and is functionality-rich, but that is also simple and easy to use or navigate. So, essentially, UX and UI are important to us because they are important to our customers, and I’m sure the same can be said for most software providers, with UX and UI playing such a key role in the product development lifecycle. Orchard has taken a customer-focused approach in designing products that meet customers’ needs yet are flexible enough to adapt when those needs change.
My role at Orchard is to understand our users and their needs, making sure we build products for the right target audience; ensuring that our users have a positive engagement with our products at every touch point. Acting as the user’s voice during the product development process, I help to enforce the user-focused message across the whole team. A well-designed UX engages the user and encourages the user to keep coming back, and that’s what we strive to achieve.
The value for customers
A product with a good UX and UI may have more benefits than you might think. It can help to achieve an increase in productivity through efficiency, reduce training time and costs, reduce maintenance costs and improve staff retention through job satisfaction. In today’s climate, with the increasing workloads that many employees face, our focus is to make it easy for our customers to use our solutions and to alleviate some of the pressure that they often have to deal with, by providing them with these benefits.
Exciting times ahead
Over the coming year, I will be focusing on a couple of new projects as well as looking at continuous design improvements within our existing Orchard solutions. Here are a few areas that I will be working on:
- A consistent look and feel across all of Orchard’s products: consistency is key to users experiencing the same look and feel across any products that we provide.
- Improvements on microcopy: when clicking on a button or submitting a process in our applications, microcopy is where error messages, alerts and form labels come into play and the experience the user has with being presented with unhelpful text or messages.
- Consideration of the ‘unhappy paths’: putting ourselves in the shoes of our users is very important for us to understand how a user interacts with our products. We want to cover all bases of a product, so that even when something goes wrong in the system, users are signposted back to the ‘happy path’.
- Gather more user feedback: the agile development methodology extols the virtues of regular customer feedback, with an iterative process in feedback, design and development. We will be incorporating this philosophy more and more in how we address UX and UI in our core development teams.
Working on these principles, and knowing that our ProMaster asset management system is one of the most functionality-rich software solutions available to the social housing sector, we have brought new life into the product with an updated look and feel. Look out for further information on the release of our new ProMaster UI on Orchard’s website or through our social media accounts.
Cristina Dunn is a UI/UX designer at Orchard.