What does a good user experience really mean?

If there’s one thing I’ve learned when trying out new systems, it’s that a good user experience can take the most mundane task and turn it into pure joy. Consider going to the DMV, not usually the most exciting chore. You arrive, take your ticket, wait a few hours, get to the counter and realize you are missing the fifth form of identification so you will need to come back and repeat the process all over. Then you cross your fingers and hope it actually works next time. Compare that with opening Facebook on your phone. The system remembers you, immediately you are connected to a world of information, your friend’s most recent posts pop up in chronological order, and chances are good you can navigate it without thought. The system is designed from the ground up based on iterative user testing. Literally every element of the process has been tested millions of times, creating a simple, enjoyable experience. But, it’s not always easy to spot truly great design. As Don Norman, Director of The Design Lab at University of California, San Diego says, “Good design is actually a lot harder to notice than poor design, in part because good designs fit our needs so well that the design is invisible.” A well-designed system intuits the needs of its users. It enables a user-friendly layout that walks you through its process. There is simplicity in the approach, information is staggered and useful to your experience, insight is clear and organized, but most importantly the system has you in mind. Even the DMV has caught onto this, allowing you to renew driver’s licenses online and perform other functions without the hassle of waiting in long lines. Here, I believe, is where the key lies. In the mobile-first world, whether it be the DMV, Facebook, Reddit, Google, or any other system else we utilize, staying simple is critical. The same applies to your job. Slogging through multiple, oftentimes outdated, portals, forcing you to learn different workflows to achieve simple tasks, can be cumbersome. It can eat up your valuable time. Time that you might otherwise have spent achieving more mission-critical projects. Put simply, user experience is how the system interacts with the user. A bad user experience drops you off in the desert and expects you to make it on your own to the oasis. Too often this occurs when the system tries to be functional without considering the way in which people actually accomplish their goals. Contrast this with a system that puts you first. It’s about its usefulness in delivering the product to the intended audience. The purpose of UI is to get the user to the product as efficiently and quickly as possible. So, next time you sit down to do your job, ask yourself if there is a better way. Ask yourself if there are systems you could use to make your role easier and empower you at the same time.