HumanXperience is Cambria’s branded approach to our User Experience (UX) practice and Human-Centered Design (HCD). It is a flexible framework that easily adapts to any process (from waterfall to Agile) and to any project context (product, service, or process). HumanXperience is about creating a great experience for users and paving the way for a successful solution.
This is the first part in a series of articles about Cambria HumanXperience.
The 100,000 ft view point
User Experience is the success and satisfaction a user gets from using an application, User Interface (UI) design is how the elements on an application work together to ease users’ interaction, Information Architecture is how the application is structured to ease finding information, and Interaction Design is the behavior between a product and its users when they interact.
If this sounds confusing – well, it is, a bit! It’s not easy to clearly draw the line between the different design terms since their approaches are similar to each other and, in some instances, overlapping. There are a lot of different terms often used in relation to the general idea of “Design”. These include User Experience, Human Centered Design, Interaction Design, User Interface Design, Visual Design, Information Architecture, Service Design and Research.
Let’s define some terminology that are valuable in explaining our HumanXperience approach to a project and available HumanXperience resources.
User Experience (UX)
User Experience Design is an umbrella term used to describe a bucket of varying approaches, skills and techniques to solving problems. I like to over simplify it as, “Identifying the right problems to solve in a successful way.”
A user’s experience can be engaged across digital technology, physical environments, or even a blend of both. The secret to good UX is to allow users to not have to think about what they’re doing. It should come intuitively in finding what they’re looking for while interacting with your solution design. Good UX should remove pain points that users of the product, service, or process have.
Important note, UX is often confused as just user interface or visual design. It is much more than that. The full breadth of UX actually covers topics of information architecture, technology capabilities, interaction design, visual design, accessibility, readability, pattern libraries, process flows and more.
Human Centered Design (HCD)
HCD is about the identification and focus of your UX solution from actual human users point of view. HCD is defined by the Usability Professionals Association (UPA) as a design approach whose process is directed by information about the people who will use the product. It is a design philosophy that aims to create products, services, and processes that meet the specific needs of its end users, achieving the highest satisfaction and best possible user experience.
User Interface Design (UI) & Visual Design
User interface gives meaning to the communication, both physical and emotional, that users have with machines.
The UI and Visual Design focus on how software and machines, such as electronic devices, mobile phones, computers, and home appliances, are engineered towards enhancing user experience and maximizing usability.
UI Design might places things in a particular order or layout, while Visual Design focuses on the color, typography, and creative visual skin of the user interface layout. Visual Design enhances and defines the visual system utilized in the UI. It plays a big role in the overall Design process as the visuals must support the research in the UX process. The visual design can often influence the emotional state of the user, or how a user would interact with the interface.
Visual Design also bridges the gap of the digital realm and the physical world, from pixel perfect digital design for mobile, web, and tablet, to creative print design mediums.
Interaction Design (IxD)
IxD is the design of the interaction between users and products. More often than not, when people talk about interaction design, the products tend to be software products like apps or websites. The goal of interaction design is to create products that enable the user to achieve their objective(s) in the best way possible. When a user is interacting with a computer, it is often referred to as Human Computer Interaction Design (HCI).
Understanding interaction is important in utilizing different approaches to design solutions like touch screen vs mouse driven behaviors, or even physical design elements such as the size of tactile buttons on a physical product. Now a days, we are even getting into newer interactions such as conversational audio interaction and gestural movement interaction.
Information Architecture (IA)
Information Architecture is the arrangement and organization of content to enable users to conveniently find the information required for completing tasks.
Information Architecture provides users with a navigation tool to help discover and obtain information easily. IA also helps to prioritize content in a way that is useful in the design layouts for users. By determining content priority, it becomes easier to make decisions on what content is useful, how much, and when it is valuable for a user.
For example, IA involves sketching top-level menus and separating content into categories often discovered and validated with user research.
Most organizations are centered around products and delivery channels. Many of the organizations’ resources (time, budget, and logistics) are spent on customer-facing outputs, and the internal processes (including the experience of the organization’s employees) are overlooked; service design focuses on these internal processes.
Service design is the activity of planning and organizing an organization’s resources (people, props, and processes) in order to (1) directly improve the employee’s experience, and (2) indirectly, the customer’s experience.
As you can probably see, Service Design directly correlates to what we try to do with government. Government projects are a blend of employees that use products to assist in processes, that do something for or with the public.
UX Research is the scientific collection and analysis of users and their requirements, in order to add context and insight into the process of designing the user experience. UX research employs a variety of techniques, tools, and methodologies to reach conclusions, determine the facts, and uncover problems, which reveal valuable information that can be fed into the design process.
Research aims to gather information from users through the use of a variety of qualitative and quantitative methods, including interviews, contextual inquiries, personas, card sorting, usability testing, and more. The focus is on the systematic approach to gathering and interpreting collected data. Due to this, UX research demands the structured and methodical selection and application of the most appropriate tools for information gathering. This is art and science blended together. An important thing about Research, is the analysis of the data collected gets you actionable outcomes, things that you can DO. Activities can take place at the ideation and validation stages of a design and development process. UX research helps a design team inform the design of products, services and processes, validate its assumptions, and—ultimately—reduce the cost of delivering a successful product.
Seem complicated? Don’t worry, I would like to point out that these approaches have far more in common than they are different, and suggest that names matter far less than the principles that these approaches all share. You don’t have to intimately know the granular details and differences of these approaches, that’s why we have a dedicated practice, Cambria HumanXperience. Cambria HX has the resources, roles, and tools to help champion success. Learn more about the Cambria HX Roles and Tools in the next article.