Designed by design

Mike Buckle

Imagine the scene: two people are seated at a table in the conference room of a council office or hospital. One wears a microphone and faces a camera.

The camera records everything that is said or done as a script leads the way through an app on a tablet.

You are not on the set of Mission Impossible.

You are a user experience (UX) designer at OCC, exploring how users interact with a prototype application or their existing system.

The UX design team at OCC engages with clients and users at the start of and throughout the design and development process, establishing the project vision and requirements and exploring and testing the design ideas that the developers will build into the final application. This is evidence-based design, borrowing ideas from anthropology and cognitive psychology to put the user at the heart of design.

In the past, the main focus of development was often on delivering functionality, with the user interface shaped by the demands of software engineering rather than how users interacted with it. While the completed application would achieve the project’s functional goals, users wouldn’t always find the results very friendly or intuitive.

In software development today, engineers build applications in parallel with designers. The UX team works with the clients and users to understand the goals of the project and explore how the software is used in the workplace. The designers may film users, run workshops and interviews or sketch prototypes to gather priorities and workflow, converting these findings into a form the engineers can use as they build the app.

Combining UX design with an Agile development environment, where design and development takes place in short sprints, gives continual feedback and focuses the development process on user needs, so avoiding costly and time-consuming late changes.