One of the more recent trends in software user design is the pronounced division between developers tasked with ensuring the usability of software, and those responsible for creating the visual design that users see when they launch the program.
The increased sophistication of modern software, combined with greater and greater demand from everyday consumers, has forced software designers to look at aesthetic design and functional design as two separate, and equally important, categories of development work.
Some of the leaders in the movement are the nearshore software development firms that have taken on so much of the outsourced workload from American tech companies.
User Experience (UX) design refers to the way in which a piece of software functions for the end user. While most people think of aesthetic features when they hear the word design, UX design refers exclusively to functionality.
Apple, one of the most well-regarded and recognised tech companies in the world, is known for the visual beauty of their hardware and software, but they achieved their status by creating easy-to-use software that was simple for beginner use right out of the box.
Steve Jobs, although popularly known as a UI design fanatic, claimed that it was actually UX design that sets a product apart. He said, “Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it’s really how it works.”
While UX design is a relatively new concept in the software development world, nearshore software development companies have helped to make this approach, which relentlessly focuses on making the user experience seamless, widespread. UX designers must not only be excellent software engineers, but they must also be able to conduct competitor analyses and be able to integrate customer feedback and needs into the product itself.
In addition, UX developers must be involved in every step of the software development process, from the initial development phases--where their initial research is done and strategy formed--all the way to the testing and maintenance phases--where they continually ensure that the customer’s voice is heard and their ideas carefully integrated into the software.
Lastly, they must be capable of collaborating with the UI team, as well as other developers, stakeholders, and managers.
User interface (UI) design, on the other hand, represents what the consumer sees as soon as they launch a program. It’s all about creating intuitive software.
This type of work is incredibly challenging because it forces the developer to look at software through the eyes of a consumer, a difficult task for someone who has been steeped in the development world for their entire career. Despite the difficulty involved with this challenge, UI designers are becoming more popular and can often be sourced from the top nearshore development services.
Medium.com’s recent website rebrand and mobile application is a great example of a product with both great UX and UI design. The company came out with a new logo and website redesign in 2017, released in conjunction with its new subscription model.
Their clean mobile layout, clear and prominent font choices, and intuitive navigation has made the application a hit among UI experts. The design-centric website uxplanet.org noted that Medium’s use of negative space is one of the main reasons behind the application’s success with consumers.
The primary goal of a UI designer is to make the user interface invisible--that the design and the experience are so smooth that the user doesn’t even have to think about it. UI designers accomplish this incredible task by conducting customer analysis and design research, and by focusing on branding and the graphic development of the software.
In addition, a prototype should be created early on and customer feedback solicited throughout the duration of the design process.
Nearshore software development and UI/UX design
The long-term trend is undeniable: the demand for high-end software from businesses and consumers alike will only continue to rise and the technology industry must adapt and grow in order to succeed.
This increased demand is made all the more challenging because of the high expectations of modern consumers: they expect to download software that is well-designed and intuitive right out of the box--and they have little patience for underwhelming products. This places the onus on executives to build out experienced software development teams with a UI and UX focus, all while maintaining a lean permanent staff for the future.
These conflicting goals make finding and hiring experienced programming talent one of the biggest challenges that technology managers face today. The U.S. economy as a whole is expected to add a quarter million software development jobs over the next eight years , but the supply is still failing to keep up with demand.
American colleges do not produce enough graduates to keep up with the tech industry’s needs, and non-traditional applicants (who are often self-taught or coding boot camp graduates) often fail to meet the quality standards necessary to secure a job as a software engineer.
Nearshore outsourcing services are helping firms fill their tech vacancies and keep up with market demands by finding high-quality software engineers outside of the United States. Many American firms have begun outsourcing software development to Latin America because of the region’s excess of talented developers, high education levels, high proportion of English speakers, and the convenience of working with contractors located in the same time zone.
Personalised user experience
Understanding consumer behaviour principles
While software engineers focus overwhelmingly on the technical aspects of software design, UX designers are asked to do so much more. One of the most difficult requirements is understanding the psychology of how consumers browse websites and what dictates whether a purchase is made. Over the last decade, a great deal of research has been performed to help UX designers create software and websites that convert customers quickly and at high rates.
One of the most important principles for UX designers and nearshore development firms is Fitts’s Law, which states “the time to acquire a target is a function of the distance to and size of the target.” In layman’s terms, this means that the size of a call to action (or purchase button), combined with its distance from the main text, determines how often visitors will click the button.
This is why a company like Amazon has invested so much money into its website and mobile application UX. Their carefully designed product pages encourage customers to quickly hit the purchase and confirm buttons without a second thought. Technology managers in all industries should take notice of this approach.
Another consumer behaviour principle with applications in the software design world is the rule of thirds. The rule of thirds has its origins in the world of photography and art. It “suggests dividing [any] image into thirds and placing the subject on one of those sides, instead of the centre.”
This principle results in an image that is visually striking and that draws the viewer’s gaze to a specific point. Toyota.com’s homepage is an excellent example of a company that uses a visually striking image and clear call to action button that is slightly offset from the centre to focus their visitor’s attention.
Maintaining simplicity and expanding features
The single-most difficult UI design challenge facing developers today is maintaining simplicity and ease-of-use in software and mobile applications during a time when the number of features on any given application is exploding.
Take an application like Facebook, for example. The company does a remarkably good job of increasing the features found in the app (they recently added the Facebook Marketplace, Facebook 360, Facebook Live, and group video chat to their software), while also maintaining a simple and intuitive interface. This isn’t an easy accomplishment by any means.
One of the ways that businesses have responded to this challenge is by finding nearshore outsourcing partners that can provide experienced, ultra-specialised UI designers who can create a feature-rich software without ruining the user experience or presenting the consumer with an overly-cluttered home screen. Software engineers are addressing this problem in several ways:
- Many of the most sought-after and advanced features are standard out-of-the-gate
- The home screen features a small number of buttons that lead users to more extensive menus
- By creating intuitive, easy-to-search settings menus that make customising software a painless experience
The future promises to hold many more challenges for the UI/EX and nearshore outsourcing community. Expect to see an increased focus on creating more accessible and understandable chatbots, which will reduce costs and increase consumer happiness. In addition, retail companies will put more and more resources into product showcasing, using standard software or virtual reality hardware to help customers visualise a product on their body or in their home.
Lastly, businesses must begin to learn and apply psychological principles to all of their design and marketing elements. Outside consultants and nearshore outsourcing services are likely to take a leadership role in this process by combining the formerly unrelated fields of consumer psychology and user design into a single, cohesive vision.
Paul Azorín, Founder and Chief Technology Officer, BairesDev