The Dark Side of User Experience Design


User Experience Design has become a huge trend in the Interactive Industry.

Working as a UX designer, UX manager and finally creating UXPin – I soaked up the design field. Even so, this UX revolution came to me as a surprise.

Time for UX Design

“Design and marketing aren’t just as important as engineering: they are way more important” says Dave McClure, founder of 500 Startups – one of the most important startup accelerators in the world. In recent years his words have been proven by well designed, successful products, co-founded by designers e.g. YouTube, Airbnb, Flipboard, Square, Pinterest, Etsy, Path, AboutMe and Slideshare.

User experience design just stopped to be a niche and became a standard. It’s easier now to find an internet company without the SEO guy (after Panda… I wonder why) than without a UX designer on board.

Full Infographic available here: The Age of User Experience Design

Seems like everyone wants to have at least one UX Designer in their team and luckily a lot of people want to become UX Designers.

And you know what? I’m not surprised that people want to be UX Designers. It’s a lot of fun! We make life a little bit easier for millions of people. Isn’t that satisfying?

UX is meaningful, no questions here, but I’m afraid it’s not only joy, relax, cute animals and rainbows. There’s a dark side of UX – every day work focused on constant optimization.

The Dark Side of UX

Let me tell you couple of words about my pre-startup, full time UX Manager job: My user experience design team was constantly occupied with lots of tiny tasks focused on the optimization of the User Interface. Believe me it was not something you could brag about during a family dinner (hardly noticeable things aren’t particularly admired). We were performance-obsessed. We measured thoroughly what and how our users do and we tried to make every small fragment of the UI optimized.

It required a lot of scientific-like approach – very methodological and precise. And yes! There’s more math and analytical thinking than visually appealing stuff. That’s the reality. The Dark Side. That’s the real User Experience Design.

User Experience Design lies at the crossroads of art and science. It’s a magical mixture of visual art, hard-boiled psychology and numbers. Non of these nobel ingredients can be omitted, as it may put your whole design endeavor at risk.

UX Design is a Magical Mixture. Photo by Everyone’s Idle

I’m afraid UX is a much harder work than it looks on the outside and you must be ready for that, no matter if you want to become UX Designer, you run your own company and care for UX, you work with UX Designers, or you’re just generally interested in the field.

Dozens of tests checking the influence of every tiny fragment of the design – this is the road you will take if you want to sky-rocket your conversion and reach the ultimate goal: design of well-performing product.

There are no shortcuts. I spent four years constantly fighting for the conversion rate of one web service and right now we’re spending every living moment at optimizing UXPin for our UX users. It might not sound like fun, but it works so well.

Step into the Dark Side of UX and create products that really work.

Conversion Rate?

Oh yes, some of you may wonder what a conversion is and what a conversion rate is. Though these terms have made an amazing career in recent years, I that it’s really easy to grasp their meanings. Let see…

  • Conversion is an act in which users change a casual visit to a website/mobile app, etc. into the achievement of a desired action (business goal).
  • Filling in a form might be considered a conversion, so could buying a product, sharing a message with friends, etc. It depends on our business goals.
  • Conversion Rate – is the ratio of users who change their casual visit into a desired action (business goal).

Therefore, optimizing conversion means taking certain actions with a plan to increase the conversion rate. Users are part of the conversion rate equation so you really need to get to know them. How can you do that? Test, test, test, test – by testing your designs you’re gathering knowledge which will help you make the right design decisions.

In reality you’ll be forced to get to know the tiniest emanations of your users’ behavior. Only hundreds of tests, psychological tricks and hard work on the interface architecture may lead you to double digit growths in the conversion rate. I’ve been there and I’ve tried to make it easier, only to learn that there’s no “easier”.

All my experience taught me that conversion optimization is not a weekend-long job – it’s a way of developing your service.

That’s the tiresome reality. The true Dark Side.

Photo by CJ Isherwood

Summing Up The Dark Side

So in my salvational monologue about the Dark Side, I’ve tried to express that you need to test, test, test and… test, even if it doesn’t sound very sexy.

Most probably it’s in your power to double your current conversion rate, but, as Spiderman once said, ‘with great power comes great responsibility’. Your responsibility is to test your design conceptions and choose the best one.

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