Companies globally are increasingly spending on user experience (UX) research and design in recent years. According to a study by Forrester, a global consultancy and research firm, on average every US dollar spent on UX brings 100 times return.
Touhid Kamal interviewed Ataur Rahman Chowdhury, UX Research Team Lead, based at a FinTech company in the Netherlands to learn about the UX research and design for businesses. Ataur obtained a professional doctorate in Human Computer Interaction from Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands.
Question (Q): How would you describe the concept of user experience (UX)?
Answer (A): Since the 1990s, software businesses realised that it is becoming increasingly difficult to reach mass market without training people or handing them a manual. Discovering a gap, people from other disciplines, e.g. psychology, anthropology and human factors started contributing to computer sciences. As they possess in-depth knowledge about how humans interact with their surroundings, a new discipline emerged that contributes to designing technical applications which are more intuitive and easier to learn.
At present, we are not just interacting with personal computers, it has transcended into smartphones, tablets, to even vending machines and cloud systems. In industry, we call the interaction as user experience (UX).
Q: How does UX research and design help a business?
A: UX helps businesses to validate their ideas fast and in a cost-effective way. A user experience or human computer interaction (HCI) professional can test a product to a level that can validate the actual customer or the end users often without having to write a single line of code, saving a huge amount of time and money. Second, UX professionals can also test an early validation of a product, which can avoid costly surprises after release. In 2009, more than six trillion dollars worth of software were scraped after their release, only 32 per cent of software projects were "successfully completed". Third, these practices reduce ambiguity and discussion time. In a business meeting, people come up with their assumptions, and anybody can argue with another person based on their own experiences, because there is no fact. But UX professionals take care of this problem by observing the actual user, collecting data, and understanding their needs.
Q: What is the foundational skill set for a UX researcher and designer?
A: A UX researcher possesses the skills related to qualitative research. They know how to create and conduct an experiment. UX researchers know how to talk to people, ask critical questions and test out hypotheses. They also need to interpret quantitative data in a way so that we can understand the users and their behaviour. Some general methods would be to learn how to do a usability test, interview people, design a survey, do a contextual inquiry as well as map a customer journey, and create personas. A UX designer is expected to know about competitive analysis, UX audit, creating mood boards, wireframes, paper prototyping as well as low, mid and high-fidelity prototyping. They should also be aware about creating a pixel perfect design, knowledge on colour theory and UX laws. Knowledge about design systems to test with end users is important.
Q: How do you typically measure your results/successes?
A: If a product is still in the design phase and not at the market, then I can measure my success doing a usability test. Often testing with five to ten people is enough to find an insightful feedback, but the process needs to be iterated. We need to understand the users about what they feel about the product, what works and what does not work and what can be improved. This is in the design phase, when we haven't built a product.
When the product has launched, we have tools like Net Promoter Score, 360 degree feedback, system usability scale score to determine how successful the product is. We try to determine whether customers are adopting the new features or not. We also look at the additional revenue, and other additional metrics, such as the average time spent in our product. A good UX will reduce the number of calls, increase revenue, save time, and create loyalty from the customers.
Q: What is the scope for UX research and design in the coming digital economy of Bangladesh?
A: Bangladesh's software market is valued around US$ 800 million, and it is expected to grow into a US$ 5 billion market by 2023. There are some successful startups that are getting international exposure and access to funding which is a great thing. There are UX professionals in Bangladesh, but if you look at the validation work, people are not focusing on usability tests. They don't have a formal process of talking to their customers directly more often, and validate their ideas. This is imperative and an industry cannot grow without focusing on UX. Companies should start redefining their organisation into a more human centred design one as well as create a culture of learning from more prominent and mature industries.
Q: Which platforms would you suggest to learn more about UX/HCI?
A: You can contact Association for Computer Machinery's Special Interest Group on Computer Human Interaction (ACM SIGCHI) chapter in Bangladesh. One can also learn more from lynda.com, udemy.com, as well as edx.org. I love discussing about topics related to UX/HCI. If anyone wants to learn more about it, they can find me on LinkedIn, and I will get back to them with directions or messages.
The interviewer is a business anthropologist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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