Developing software in many ways resembles constructing a vehicle. Programming provides the frame, the engine and the drivetrain. However two cars with the same internals can be very different. One might prove uncomfortable, rough and unintuitive, while the other may look – and feel – like a luxury dream car. This is the power of a good UI and UX design.
In our car metaphor, User Interface / User Experience means all the small, seemingly non-important decisions. The dashboard layout. The way all controls operate. The way the seat feels. The tension of the pedals. When all of those details come together, they create something far larger than just a sum of the parts.
In many software projects, user experience makes or breaks the product. There are very few unique services and platforms out there. Whatever you do, you are likely to have direct competitors (or you will have them shortly). That’s why a gracious user experience is as important as ever.
Developing the process of software development
At PGS Software we always want to help our clients succeed. That’s why our history is not only the history of growth. It is also a history of expanding our vision of what it takes to create the best software. We started as a development group. Then we’ve added first dedicated testers, to keep the quality high and to always have a set of fresh eyes on the code. Soon after we’ve acquired one of the best testing companies in the region and merged it with our team.
It wasn’t that different with graphic designers. We started with one. Soon, we discovered how many of our clients need dependable, experienced designers. We expanded in this direction. Then came accolades and happy clients. Our work was featured on popular sites about graphic design. Today we have a full team of in-house designers supplemented by dedicated marketing and copywriting specialists.
Now is the time for another jump. We see our clients asking more and more about experienced UI and UX analysts. To fill this need, we are near the end of the process of assembling the entire UI / UX team.
The state of the game
The UI/UX designers are in significant demand, and the fact that very few Polish technical universities offer courses related to this aspect of software development makes it especially hard to find experienced and proven specialists.
In fact, the first UI / UX practitioner employed by PGS Software started her career as a… sociologist.
Kasia came to us from the company that pioneered User Experience research in Poland. Her great analysis skills and excellent grasp of practical and experimental data immediately made her popular among project managers and clients.
We asked her to answer some questions.
Interview with Kasia, our Interface and User Experience specialist
The road from a sociology major to an interface specialist might be surprising to some. Kasia, what made you choose this career path?
Is it really surprising? Many great UI/UX gurus have a background in psychology, social or cognitive sciences. The entire field of Human-Computer Interactions lies on an intersection between IT and behavioural research. People coming from all of those backgrounds can be just as effective, as long as they have the talent and passion.
So did your prior academic experience help you?
Yes. The main objective of a UI / UX specialist requires him or her to detach from the technical side of the project. It’s all about identifying the needs or motivations of real human users and responding to them. About deciding what is statistically most efficient, considering what we know today.
Thinking about technical details of the implementation can be harmful. You’re an advocate of the end-user, not the programmer. Social sciences put you in the right frame of mind for this sort of work.
For many developers UI is an afterthought. As long as it works reasonably well, everything’s fine. What would you say to convince them otherwise?
I always say that naturally you CAN finish a software project without ever using an UI expert. But you will never get optimal results without one. All the popular software products and operating systems invest heavily in designing the best possible user experience. Both Apple and Google employ large user experience teams. Popular Web apps put science behind even smallest interface tweaks. The reason? Even a small UI change may impact metrics like ROI or User Attachment Rate in a pretty significant way.
Any practical data to support this?
Oh, there are many great case studies. You can find some citations here. I think this one is especially important: “The rule of thumb in many usability-aware organizations is that the cost-benefit ratio for usability is $1: $10-$100. Once a system is in development, correcting a problem costs 10 times as much as fixing the same problem in design. If the system has been released, it costs 100 times as much relative to fixing in design.”
And also: “The average UI has some 40 flaws. Correcting the easiest 20 of these yields an average improvement in usability of 50%.”
Do you think that virtually any project can benefit from an UX expert?
Creating software without one is ok, as long as you don’t aim at the professional level of quality. I wouldn’t advise it for anything but the smallest projects with small projected user bases.
You see, even for startup-grade projects there’s something called “Lean UX”. A method that lets you quickly improve the UI of prototypes and MVP’s. In a crowded startup field, where one decision by a single Venture Investor can be crucial, this is a big advantage.
Thanks for the interview, and good luck with your new work!
As you can see, UI / UX design is growing to be a very important part of modern IT. That’s why we encourage you to speak to one of our project managers about how to make your platform or product a better experience for your users.