UX Beyond the UI


Teamwork makes the UX work

"Teamwork makes the dream work” is a phrase that gets used at Red Arrow quite a bit. Turns out that it makes for a pretty good theme for a UX talk too, even if I didn’t realize it at first.

I recently gave a presentation at That Conference, “UX Beyond the UI”. Coming to UX from a coding background, I was struck by how much of the software development process isn’t directly addressed by UX practices, which tend to be more UI focused. In analyzing the components of a software system and their effect on user experience, it became clear that not only does each component have an impact on UX but naturally the people who craft those parts do as well.

Owning the user experience

At Red Arrow, we are committed to creating transformative software that creates a more efficient, effective and easy to use health experience. Our agile dev team includes software engineers, analysts, designers, project managers, researchers and testers. While a designer may technically own the user experience, everyone has a hand in delivering on the UX promise. Here’s how it all shakes out, by functional area:

  • A big part of UX is ensuring that our solutions help users work efficiently. Business Analysts are essential in determining the right feature set, based on user and business needs. If you build an elegant, high-performing solution but it doesn’t help users reach their goals, you’ve missed the UX boat.
  • From a QA perspective, it’s common sense that bugs make for a bad user experience. We can minimize this risk by constructing and executing on solid test plans which will ensure a well-performing and accurate software system.
  • Because performance issues can happen anywhere in the software stack, developers need to understand how code performance impacts UX, regardless of where it runs. For example, poorly-performing server-side code will affect user experience even though there is no visual component involved.
  • Database performance and accuracy are also important. How well your database scales, responds to queries and correctly stores its data all influence the user experience.
  • It’s been said that “shipping is a feature”, so Project Managers are key to making sure we ship on time. If you have an app or a website that hasn’t been updated in some time, it seems stale and possibly untrustworthy. And if you have bugs, how fast are you resolving them? Keeping development on track can make or break how users feel about your product. And once users have a negative experience, it’s hard to regain their confidence.
  • It’s also impossible to have a good user experience if your site or app is unavailable. If you can’t get to a service, what’s the value? That’s why a DevOps team that can quickly and consistently deploy software, working alongside an IT infrastructure team focused on ensuring network stability is vital to supporting the user experience.

I’m by no means trying to talk myself and other UX designers out of a job! We’re still responsible for much of the UI and UXers can certainly add value by educating their software development teams on how their work contributes to the user experience. Plus, it’s our duty to keep the development effort focused on the user, whether that’s by user research at the start or user testing throughout development and delivery. For us, every health care solution we build centers on voice of the patient, pharmacist or healthcare provider.

When I started my research, I didn’t expect “UX is a team effort” to be the conclusion of my presentation but I quickly realized that it perfectly relates to how we collaborate at Red Arrow--working as one, with a commitment to provide a quality product to our users.