User Experience in the World of Software

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User Experience, more commonly known as UX, in the world of software is essentially the experience the user has while using the system or service you are offering to them. What a lot of people don’t realise is that UX reaches beyond the direct interaction with the system; to the physical realm from the hardware they use to, in my opinion, the people they interact with.

First of all I think I should just differentiate between User Experience and Usability as in my experience they are often thought to be one and the same or very similar, which is a bit of a misconception.

Usability is defined as a quality attribute of the User Interface or UI, basically how easy is the UI to navigate, how quickly can users accomplish a task, will users easily remember how to work the interface etc. So while being important, usability is only a part of a much larger view that is UX.

Peter Morville describes 7 points, which he calls the User Experience Honeycomb, which help to create a great UX.

User Experience in the world of Software
User Experience in the world of Software

Some of the points he suggests are:

  • Is the solution we give our users useful? Does it fulfil the need of the user? If not we need to go back to the drawing board as if a solution does not fulfil the need, what is its purpose?
  • As stated before this comes down to the ease of use of the interface presented to the user.
  • Is the system desirable? This comes down to the graphical design of things such as imaging, branding and other design elements. Often the emotion created from a beautiful looking interface is a strong motivator to use the system, even if there are other downfalls to the system.
  • How easy is it to find what you are looking for? How easy is it to get help for the system?
  • How broad of an audience does the system reach? Does it cater for different languages?  Do we cater for people with disabilities? This area is not as well catered for in software currently but it is a growing area and should definitely not be ignored.
  • Can users trust the system? Does the system follow best practices?  We want to build trust in the system and the processes the system follows. If the system is prone to bugs or the process the system follows is flawed then users will lose trust in the system. In the Service Management world the processes that are put in place play a big part that’s why it is good to follow a tried and tested framework such as ITIL when building processes for the system. An example would be HEAT, as HEAT systems are built with the ITIL framework in mind which adds credibility to the system.

While the points Morville make are very good I would like to add another point to the list that I think should also play a part in the providing the best UX to the user; which is Support.

With every system and especially in the world of Service Management support plays a large part on how well the system is adopted and accepted. Having a good support structure in place will aid towards the user having a good experience using the system even if issues do occur.

UX is a relatively new field in IT but is expanding at an alarming rate and it is about time that companies really start investing more time and effort in UX as if UX is ignored; it makes it very difficult for the system to be adopted and accepted.

With the above mentioned points really taken into account when building and maintaining systems you will be one step closer to a system that is truly great and widely adopted by the users of the system.


William Morey
Professional Services Consultant
Think Tank Software Solutions

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