4 Reasons You Don’t Spend Enough Time on User Experience Design

When it comes to software development, an exceptional user experience design can mean spectacular success and product popularity. Applications that offer a poor user experience (UX), however, are likely to have less traction in the marketplace and often require much more effort to support.

For this reason, approximately 40 to 50 percent of your project’s resources should be devoted to developing an ideal user interface for your purpose, according to a programmer we spoke to who has 15 years of application design and development experience.

Unfortunately, there are several reasons why this is rarely the case. Here are our top four reasons user experience design sometimes gets short shrift in software development, as well as some tips for working around the problems.

1. Unfamiliar Territory

If you’re a dab hand at programming who cut your teeth on .NET, C++ or Java, you may be wondering when design became so all-important. Whether you pin it on the popularization of mobile devices or a generation raised on video games, the public now expects more of technology than simple functionality. Developers must understand the importance of user experience design to help create a successful product. Your user interface must be simple, engaging and, if possible, a thing of beauty. Don’t believe me? Ask Apple’s head designer, Jony Ive.

2. Budget Constraints

Software development projects are often underfunded, and an elegant user interface (UI) can be time-consuming and costly to design, program and test, due to the need for a dedicated UX specialist. While the current emphasis on user experience design is great career news for UX designers, companies with limited funds may be more likely to hire only front-end developers who have some UX experience. If you’ve got a firm grip on the programming side of things but don’t know much about design, it’s time to brush up.

3. Time Pressure

When deadlines loom (as they always do), shortcuts are the lifeblood of developers. The intricacies of programming are worthy of a George R.R. Martin novel, and developers therefore rely on fast and clever hacks to get things done quickly. Sadly, the programming equivalent of skipping to the end of the story often results in user confusion and frustration. Follow Martin’s example: Take your time and don’t rush the end product. Your users will love you for it.

4. Consider User Needs

Developers are called upon to create software that meets the needs of users. If you’ve designed an app for a local pizza place, for example, you may need it to send orders to the restaurant, process payments and collect data on the busiest delivery times. The customer, meanwhile, wants it to be easy to order a pizza.

Analytical thinkers are likely to concern themselves with how to make the app perform without worrying about whether or not the user (either the business owner or the consumer) has to navigate additional screens or hit a button multiple times to achieve the desired result. Making an app run well is not the same thing as making it easy to use, so it makes sense that it can be difficult for programmers to think in terms of user experience design. If your team doesn’t include a UX professional, at least take time to consider how you would want the app to work if you were using it.

The next time you have a software project to tackle, don’t forget the user experience design. If you start coding with the end user in mind, you’re more likely to create a functional and desirable product — one that even you would like to use.

As a developer, how do you approach user experience design? Tell us in the comments section.