“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like.

Design is how it works.”

Steve Jobs

In this post, we hear from our creative crew members about their approach to User Experience. It’s still a relatively young discipline, with some rules and conventions that are steadfast, and others that are more fluid and open to interpretation. Whichever rules you deem important, everyone – across the creative industries – is in the process of figuring out what works for them, and what doesn’t.

As you’ll see below, our Dauntless crew has solid ideas on the subject. We gathered together this week to share our thinking – the main question we posed each other was simple: “How do you approach UX?”   

Read on for what each of us had to say:

Josh Chesney, Dauntless CEO and Creative Director

Great UX isn't just about simplifying the elements that make up your website or app, and decluttering as much as possible.

It starts with the purpose and the ethos of the company or brand in question: who they are, and what they stand for. To arrive at this understanding, there are two approaches. On the one hand, with businesses that are already established, I ask them about where they see themselves: if they’re winning in their vertical, and about their core values and vision.  

Being able to ask these questions means fully understanding their product or service, and marrying that insight with the audience our team expects to shoot for. So those are two sizable – but crucial – concepts I get my head around before claiming I can start on UX.

The other approach, pertaining to start-ups, is similar. The same empathy and understanding is required as before, but playing the additional role of a consultant is just as important. Understandably, many start-ups are ambitious. But if their ambitions exceed the scopes of what they can realistically achieve, then I do what I can to help them streamline their vision and make progress. Without doing so, the entire UX is at risk from the very start.

Then, you create the very best UX of all by inspiring a meaningful dialogue between your product and your audience. For all our clients, my aim is to build an experience where the user is enticed and drawn in and then, then when the time comes, is ushered back out in a natural way. So, they’re not being dropped in to something unfamiliar or jarring, nor are they abruptly bounced back out of an experience before they’re even ready to leave.

That’s how you make your UX really sing.

Take a great iOS app. It needs to present me with each step of the experience in a measured and rewarding, incremental way. In that instance, I engage with the experience and find myself effortlessly pulled through a great experience, instead of plodding cumbersomely through a poorly thought out front-end.  

"The behaviour you're seeing is the behaviour you've designed for." – Joshua Porter, Inspire UX

Matt Pavid, Head of Strategy

UX is about making it easy for people to find what they’re looking for, to aid them in understanding a concept, or to achieve something on your website or app.  

The first and most important thing I consider in-depth: who is the target audience? And to go one step further: what level of experience they possess regarding software and the modern web? What kind of technical ability or skillset will you need to accommodate in the experience that you’re about to build?

Next, I carefully consider the arrangement of a page. It has to be a logical composition. After all, when you design for the web, you’re standing on the shoulders of over 20 years of the Internet. Over that time, some conventions have become steadfast expectations people hold on to tightly But at the same time, you also want to push boundaries wherever you can.  

At the end of the day, my ultimate goal for UX is to not have to write a training manual for the experience I’ve built. I need to be able to sit someone down and have them be able to figure out what I’ve built without me needing to train them. That is User Experience design, and it’s not unattainable, by any means – it simply requires planning.

"User Experience is everything. It always has been, but it's undervalued and underinvested in. If you don't know user-centred design, study it. Hire people who know it."

Evan Williams – Co-Founder, Twitter

The Design Team (Emily and Shelley)

We’re trying to create the shortest journey from A to B. Most of UX Design is common sense; realising that is half the battle. In this context, we try to be ruthless – sometimes that means “taking this button away”, or even “removing that screen entirely”.

At the very beginning, we get together as a team and sketch out initial user journey out on a whiteboard, which is important as a collaborative step. From there, we mock these up in Photoshop.

It’s not until we take our work onto InVision, that we’re able to experience what we’ve built in a similar way to how the end-user will experience it. That’s what makes this platform so powerful for us. It enables us to follow the journey, identify any gaps, and make any necessary refinements. As an example stated earlier, this could mean functionally and visually combining two screens.

On-boarding, or sign-up, is a great example of such a refinement. It’s about being strategic and finding the delicate balance between a short journey, in as few screens as possible, and not putting users off with one especially overloaded, busy screen. An example of this would be asking for a full name, a birthdate, email, both postal and billing addresses, and more, all within one page: this is all too much.

That said, adding an element of gamification to the process of filling out a form is something we’ve noticed is becoming more and more prevalent. Here’s an example which demonstrates empathy and understanding on the part of Amazon.

They’re skipping out a chunk of the form-filling process entirely, by letting you photograph your credit card. This populates your card details into the checkout process for you – which, at the moment, is a welcome game changer. In doing so, they’re acknowledging that everyone would rather skip such a monotonous step; thanks to the smartphones everyone has nowadays, this isn’t a logistical problem.

"People ignore design that ignores people." – Frank Chimero, Multi-Disciplinary Designer

Matt Muirhead, Front-End Developer

Overall, thinking about the speed of an experience guides my approach to UX.

The role I play is more of a comprehensive, overarching effort: it takes place throughout the development of a client website. It’s one that works alongside and accommodates the other disciplines of our creative team.

Whatever the context, my main goal is to build an overall web experience that is as fast and efficient as possible, and one that scales across multiple devices. It’s also about balance: I need to achieve this, without jeopardising any of the design, or the quality of the build.  

Conventional Developer wisdom illustrates why loading speed is so important: if a page takes longer than six seconds to load, that’s basically three seconds too long. For Web Developers everywhere, this is common knowledge. As a means to eliminate slow loading pages, I always optimise all assets: that means that images are properly compressed, and style sheets and scripts are minified.  

Alongside this, I’m careful about extra flourishes that don’t really add much – read: anything! – to the UX overall. Admittedly, I do like to play around with hover effects, loading animations and page transitions – all those elements that help the website feel like a smooth, modern experience. But at the same time, I’m careful not to jam in unnecessary, overly-elaborate features that take up more of the user’s already precious time.

Out of these contributions, one thing is clear. The impact and efficacy of your UX design isn't dictated by how aesthetically-pleasing or decluttered your website or app is. The common sense and – above all – human empathy you bring to your UX thinking, right from the very beginning, are both what you really need to keep in mind.

Getting your head around User Experience Design? We hope this breakdown has been a helpful start.

Don't hesitate to get in touch and start your forward-thinking UX journey.

Call us today on 020 3371 0372, or email us at [email protected].