Guest contributor, Bola Rotibi from analyst firm Creative Intellect Consulting and Adrian Bridgewater
Programming with an appreciation for visceral and emotional human reactions to an application along with the context of usage and interaction is the only way to address practical UX goals competently
Beyond the GUI
User eXperience levels are not wholly dependent upon the user interface, although it is of course hugely important. Software architects and designers must think beyond graphics and forms-based functions and address considerations such as application “learnability” and productivity in their builds. Programming with an appreciation for visceral and emotional human reactions to an application along with the context of usage is the only way to address practical UX goals competently.
UX is a holistic application consideration that embodies form, function, look, feel and perhaps above all, effectiveness. Software application development teams, who want to address UX imperatives, must appreciate and understand users’ primary goals for using the application in the first place. They must then think about how the software they are building can help achieve those goals and objectives.
Going forward, with UX considerations as part of the development team blueprint, we see demands on usability now sitting beside obligations relating to interactivity, accessibility (for the disabled and the able bodied alike), visual appeal and a need for functional accuracy throughout the total breadth of an application.
Getting the average software team to wake up to these demands does not require a back to basics re-architecting of their total mindset, but it does require an opening of perception. Still-nascent touch-based technologies and a rapidly shifting set of mobile device form factors and programming platforms will not make this any easier. But at least we can define the challenge ahead and, if we wish to, embrace it.
Back to the future: from RIA to UX
Of course a focus on experience and engagement is nothing new. The underlying premise of Rich Internet Application (RIA) an umbrella term for the mix of technologies and approaches that focused on combining the reach of web based application with the richness of stand along desktop applications included UX.
Therefore the focus for RIA and UX are very much aligned. Both look to address accessibility, contextual interaction, ease of use and deployment, productivity, lower cost of ownership, common standards and rich processing capability, particularly on the client side. Application and usage evolution is the innovation that comes through RIA and UX with the opportunity for greater returns.
Their value proposition lies in their ability to combine the strengths and advantages of browser and desktop applications while lessening their respective weaknesses. In reality they represent the convergences that have occurred as a result of:
- An application that runs within the desktop as well as in a browser and on mobile platforms
- Combined needs of business and consumer user experiences where business functionality is supported by the rich graphics and usability demands of consumer applications
- A single application containing multiple types of content without having to open multiple smaller applications or force the content into a specific file type.
- Analytics that can determine what content to serve up dependent on the vast array of data and data sources now available and which can both predict and promote a particular outcome.
- The ability of tools able to interchangeably develop for UX, RIA and other application architectures, programming models and deployment platforms through standards based interfaces and protocols.
It no longer matters how the user is connected – mobile, dial-up, broadband, LAN – both UX and RIA must address how applications can be delivered across all connections with limited impact on usage.