User experience design (UX, UXD, UED or XD) is the process of enhancing user satisfaction with a product by improving the usability, accessibility, and pleasure provided in the interaction with the product. User experience design encompasses traditional human–computer interaction (HCI) design, and extends it by addressing all aspects of a product or service as perceived by users. User interface design (UI) or user interface engineering is the design of user-interface for machines and software, such as computers, home appliances, mobile devices, and other electronic devices, with the focus on maximising usability and the user experience. The goal of user interface design is to make the user’s interaction as simple and efficient as possible, in terms of accomplishing user goals (user-centred design).
Good user interface design facilitates finishing the task at hand without drawing unnecessary attention to itself. Graphic design and typography are utilised to support its usability, influencing how the user performs certain interactions and improving the aesthetic appeal of the design; design aesthetics may enhance or detract from the ability of users to use the functions of the interface.The design process must balance technical functionality and visual elements (e.g., mental model) to create a system that is not only operational but also usable and adaptable to changing user needs.
Interface design is involved in a wide range of projects from computer systems, to cars, to commercial planes; all of these projects involve much of the same basic human interactions yet also require some unique skills and knowledge. As a result, designers tend to specialise in certain types of projects and have skills centred on their expertise, whether that be software design, user research, web design, or industrial design.
User interface design requires a good understanding of user needs. There are several phases and processes in the user interface design, some of which are more demanded upon than others, depending on the project.
- Functionality requirements gathering – assembling a list of the functionality required by the system to accomplish the goals of the project and the potential needs of the users.
- User and task analysis – a form of field research, it’s the analysis of the potential users of the system by studying how they perform the tasks that the design must support, and conducting interviews to elucidate their goals.Typical questions involve:
- What would the user want the system to do?
- How would the system fit in with the user’s normal workflow or daily activities?
- How technically savvy is the user and what similar systems does the user already use?
- What interface look & feel styles appeal to the user?
- Information architecture – development of the process and/or information flow of the system (i.e. for phone tree systems, this would be an option tree flowchart and for web sites this would be a site flow that shows the hierarchy of the pages).
- Prototyping – development of wire-frames, either in the form of paper prototypes or simple interactive screens. These prototypes are stripped of all look & feel elements and most content in order to concentrate on the interface.
- Usability inspection – letting an evaluator inspect a user interface. This is generally considered to be cheaper to implement than usability testing (see step below), and can be used early on in the development process since it can be used to evaluate prototypes or specifications for the system, which usually can’t be tested on users. Some common usability inspection methods include cognitive walkthrough, which focuses the simplicity to accomplish tasks with the system for new users, heuristic evaluation, in which a set of heuristics are used to identify usability problems in the UI design, and pluralistic walkthrough, in which a selected group of people step through a task scenario and discuss usability issues.
- Usability testing – testing of the prototypes on an actual user—often using a technique called think aloud protocol where you ask the user to talk about their thoughts during the experience. User interface design testing allows the designer to understand the reception of the design from the viewer’s standpoint, and thus facilitates creating successful applications.
- Graphical user interface design – actual look and feel design of the final graphical user interface (GUI). It may be based on the findings developed during the user research, and refined to fix any usability problems found through the results of testing.Depending on the type of interface being created, this process typically involves some computer programming in order to validate forms, establish links or perform a desired action.
- Software Maintenance – After the deployment of a new interface, occasional maintenance may be required to fix software bugs, change features, or completely upgrade the system. Once a decision is made to upgrade the interface, the legacy systems will undergo another version of the design process, and will begin to repeat the stages of the interface life cycle.
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