Creating great custom software requires both software development and user experience design experts. Understanding the relationship between them is important when you’re bringing in a partner to help you with a software project. You could create great software only to have customers fail to adopt it if it’s difficult to use or doesn’t solve your users’ problems.
Software Development, Defined
You could think of “software development” as an umbrella term for the entire process required to create and launch software applications, from programming and documenting to testing and bug fixing. Some define software development as covering “all that is involved between the conception of the desired software through to the final manifestation of the software, ideally in a planned and structured process.”
You could think of “software development” as an umbrella term for the entire process required to create and launch software applications, from conceiving the initial idea through programming and documenting, testing and bug fixing. With this line of thinking, software design – including user experience (UX) design – may be thought of as a subset of the larger software development process.
The UX and Delighting Customers
The termsuser experience (UX) design and user interface (UI) design are often confused and interchanged, but they are different things. When people think about software design they are usually thinking about the UI design. UI design focuses on what the interface looks like and the optimal arrangement of elements on the screen.
In contrast,UX design focuses on understanding and improving what it feels like to use the product.
The goal of UX design is to delight the user by combining efficient, fast functioning software with an intuitive, goal-centered UI design that considers user personas and the context in which they interact with the application. In order to achieve this, you must have a really good and thorough understanding of your users, and a UX designer that cares about how people feel when they interact with your software.
Delighting customers with your software requires very intentional actions within the development process. “Thinking like a designer can transform the way you build products,” says Tim Brown, CEO of IDEOand author of the book “Change By Design”.
Brown is a leading proponent of “design thinking,” which he describes as a “discipline that uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity.”
In the past, design work was usually left until later in the software development process, at which point the designer would attempt to make the software aesthetically appealing. But today, when your customers expect to be delighted by your software, UX is critical. Experience designers who use “design thinking” have the ability to “create ideas rather than to simply dress them up,” according to Brown.
Must-Haves For A Great UX
Beyond incorporating design thinking and talented UX specialists into your next software project, there are three additional elements of software development that are essential to a great UX:
Application Design - Backend architecture that attempts to consider future needs beyond the minimum viable product (MVP).
Application Development - An efficient code base that uses the proper software solution (language, host, etc.).
User Interface Design - Graphic style and prioritized placement of elements on the target screen or screens.
All three elements must work together to create a delightful user experience. These elements are also subject, of course, to the QA process and to user acceptance testing in a small-chunk agile software development cycle.
So, What Do You Really Need?
As we’ve discussed, you need both software development and user experience design to create great custom software, as bothplay important, interrelated roles. Even with a high-quality UI, a poor database design may frustrate users as they attempt to interact with data, resulting in a bad experience. A poorly-coded application may cause performance issues that contribute to a bad user experience. A poor UI design, likewise, makes even the best backend architecture difficult to use.
For a successful project, it’s crucial that the design and development solve a pressing problem: establishing a software solution that aligns with your users’ needs and preferences. An agile software development firm can help you achieve this alignment by affording you a mature process for understanding those problems, and then creating user personas, workflow diagrams, wireframes and mock-ups to design a solution that will delight your customers.
Richard is CEO of Small Footprint. He worked for several start-up companies before starting Small Footprint. He spent 15 years working and living in Eastern Europe, during which time he built and managed operations across 5 countries for start-up telecoms provider eTel Group (later purchased by Telecom Austria), and also served as an early Sr. Manager for Hungarian telco Novacom, forging strategic international partnerships and new product development. In 2003 he saw the opportunity to leverage the exceptional software engineering talent of the region to provide global IT services and established Small Footprint. Small Footprint is celebrating its 15 year anniversary this year, having established an exceptional company culture envied by many.
the culture behind the code
Founded in 2003, Small Footprint is a software innovation company. We offer ideation, design, development and managed services to organizations that rely on innovative software to differentiate themselves and improve their businesses. Small Footprint makes custom software easy to manage through client partnerships based on collaboration, transparency and business value generation. We build intuitive software products, integrated enterprise systems and compelling digital experiences. Each of our employees shares the goal of being a part of innovation that impacts people’s lives and invigorates companies.
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