One of the most popular emerging fields today in app development is user experience (UX); basically, the study of how a user actually “feels” when using a system, app, or software. There are several factors that go into determining user experience, including ergonomics, system performance, utility, human emotions, design, and marketing. UX professionals study and evaluate how users feel about a system or an app by looking at a variety of different factors: ease of use, perception of the value of the system, utility, and how it performs certain tasks. They also look at sub-systems that function within a greater whole; for instance, how to fill out a form within an app (and how easy it is to fill out that form).
The Ultrabook™ is a perfect example of user experience meets design/form factor, and developers who create apps to take advantage of this are able to meet users where they are. The concept of user experience fits in well with Intel’s idea of transparent computing, which is basically designing with the user in mind rather than a pre-arranged set of ideas. It’s all about what the user is looking for as far as accessibility and usability:
“Consumers, for the most part, don’t really care much about the hardware that they’re holding, the specs that hardware offers, or the process by which that particular piece of hardware came to be available. What they are really interested in what they can do with that hardware; i.e., what kind of programs they can run on it and what tasks they can accomplish.”
In this article, we’re going to take a look at what user experience is all about, especially in regards to Ultrabook devices and Ultrabook app development. We’re also going to figure out how usability fits in with user experience, and how UX can impact app development (for better or for worse).
How UX got started
The concept of user experience design hasn’t been around all that long. It was germinated by a man named Dr. Donald Norman, who postulated that user-centered design should be a system based on the wants and needs of users who are actually using it, and not the developers/designers behind the system, app, or software. The more complex a system or app is, the more it will benefit from good user experience design, which seems to fit in with what UX experts in the field say as well:
“Instead of squeezing every last drop out of the existing business (milking the cash cow), these companies are constantly searching for better ways to delight their customers, even if it cannibalizes their existing businesses. Consider that Apple’s greatest competitor for the iPod was not a product from another company, but their own next product, the iPhone.” – www.52weeksofux.com
Small changes, big differences
UX design is not something that can be qualitatively measured; after all, what is perfect for one person might not be all it’s cracked up to be for another. Developers have to design and create for specific user experiences, like using a touch design interface, and figure out the best way to provide optimum usability and user-friendliness. Deceptively simple improvements in design, of which one example is the $300 million button, can make drastic differences in how users perceive what an app can actually deliver:
“The designers fixed the problem simply. They took away the Register button. In its place, they put a Continue button with a simple message: "You do not need to create an account to make purchases on our site. Simply click Continue to proceed to checkout. To make your future purchases even faster, you can create an account during checkout."
The results: The number of customers purchasing went up by 45%. The extra purchases resulted in an extra $15 million the first month. For the first year, the site saw an additional $300,000,000.” – The $300 Million Button
Users expect discrete feedback from the apps and systems that they are using in order to know with certainty that everything is working as it should. For example, perhaps you’ve got a form within your app that user need to fill out in order to register. A message that pops up telling the user where they missed something (and exactly what they need to do in order to fix it) is extraordinarily helpful. In order to come up with an app that is easy to use and keeps the user’s attention, developers need to consult with potential users (and not other developers) throughout the process to see how it pans out.
Because UX deals primarily with the perceived experience of the user, and that includes emotion, it has to be tested indirectly. This is done by studying and interacting with those who are actually using the system. One of the more innovative studies to come along at Intel in regards to user experience and the Ultrabook was Daria Loi’s global survey of touch interface usage, as seen in the video below:
This study is a great example of how deeply good design and thoughtful form factor can influence how users perceive an overall computing experience. The uniqueness of the user experience cannot be underestimated or overlooked when designing an app, a system, or a new platform:
“What’s clear from the research that Daria and her team undertook is that the user experience can be improved-dramatically-by involving touch. It turns a work device into a play device, and in a commercial setting, that’s not a bad thing. Instead of thinking about it being play, think about it as being the software getting out of the way and allowing the user’s creativity to come to the fore.” – The Human Touch: Building Ultrabook Applications in a Post-PC Age
Global user experience design
User experience isn’t something to be considered at the end of the app development cycle. Rather, it should be something that drives the entire app development process:
“User experience design isn’t a checkbox,” says Liz Danzico, an independent user experience consultant and chairperson of the new MFA in Interaction Design program at the School of Visual Arts. “You don’t do it and then move on. It needs to be integrated into everything you do.” - Source
Developers aren’t just developing an app anymore; they are designing all aspects of a product and how it is potentially going to be perceived by the people using it. From discovery to download to upgrades, UX is a deciding factor in whether or not an app is successful.
UX and the Ultrabook
Users called for greater performance in their netbooks, especially in regards to graphics and media, and the Ultrabook delivers that. The pesky problem of responsiveness was answered in Smart Response Technology, Smart Connect Technology, and Rapid Start Technology. Security holes are addressed with Intel’s Identity Protection and anti-theft technology. The ever-present issue of more battery life is answered with a much more robust Ultrabook power display that gives users more time actually computing and less time trying to locate a power outlet. All of these things put together point not only to an enhanced form factor design, which is certainly important, but an increased desire to put the user experience first.
Developers who design apps for the Ultrabook’s unique form factor already have some of this difficult work completed for them. The Ultrabook was developed with user experience at the forefront, responding to calls for performance, responsiveness, greater security, and longer battery life. Therefore, app developers who design apps that are created to take advantage of next generation touch and sensors will be dialing into a system that is already tailor-made for an optimum user experience. A form factor that is responsive to user needs, paired with an app that piggybacks on that responsiveness and drives the ideal of user experience even further, is a good match for developers.
For further reading on how user experience impacts app development, I invite you to read the following resources:
- Using Sensors and Location Data for Cutting-Edge User Experiences in Mobile Applications
- UX Magazine
- UX Booth
- Stack Exchange – User Experience
- Stack Overflow - Usability
- Stack Overflow - UX
- User Interface Engineering
- Innovating for User Experience on the Intel Ultrabook
What is your response to user experience design, and the rapidly developing field that is developing in response to this concept? Do you agree with the points brought forth in this article? Why or why not? Let’s hear from you in the comments section below.