“20g UX” can quench your product’s hunger!

Read about a funny anecdote pointing to the need for flexible UX approaches in building better products. A 3 min read.

Speaking to a colleague sometime back, I hit on a funny conversation. He was the project manager and I was supposed to be the UX guy in that project team. One fine day, we met, and after showing me a UI mockup of a product section which had some graphs and data — he said, very frankly and in a rather inquisitivemanner, “Can you add some UX in this part?” — circling a particular graph. Silence. More Silence.

Well, basically in that minute’s silence, though I pretended that I was analysing the UI screen — internally, I was baffled at the question asked. “Add some UX?” As if UX was some Indian spice, few grams of which would bring the much needed aroma and taste! Huh. As per me, the guy should have been put in jail right away- but I thought (in the same minute), was I over-reacting? Probably yes.

Cut to how organisations see UX today. I have noticed and experienced that most organisations, although having claimed to embrace UX — have a hard time figuring out how best to use it. Most think —  “Lets take our quick/most selling legacy products and retro-fit them with a good design blanket. Let’s ask the UX experts to make it look beautiful.” Trust me, that’s what is the case with most medium/big organisations today.

So back to our project manager friend, who was waiting for the UX-spice to add zing to his product-dish. The minute was over, and I spoke. As if, in this minute I had analysed the entire gamut of possibilities and the best recipe is about to be blurted! Ok, so I said — “Yes, we could do that, but allow me some time till EOD to suggest possibilities”. Why did I do that, rather than correcting and explaining him what UX really is? Read on.

Let’s understand what happened. That guy had a well designed UI screen, that looked beautiful. So, someone according to him had already done the UX part! Now the client’s feedback still suggested that they were not able to understand the graph section properly. So, the issue was — it looked beautiful, with a fancy super cool 3d graph there — but it was not working. So our project manager friend wanted some more UX (!) to spice it up. Hope you got the whole context. Let’s move on.

Cut to how UX is wrongly visualised and how this trend could be used intelligently to explain the value of UX. As I said earlier about how organisations are retro-fitting design — this is leading to confused clients and users. They are seeing a beautiful interfaces, but when they try using it, everything seems even more frustrating. It does not work — and rightly so, as there is no thought given to ‘how/why/where/for whom’ of things. UX folks can come here, gauge this moment of truth and explain to the leadership why this happened and how correct understanding of UX design could help in the long run.

Ok, so I made a revised option for our EOD meeting, and directly presented it to client for a early feedback. It worked like magic and my project manager friend was super happy! I explained him what happened and what I did.

I said — “ I did not add 20gm UX in this screen, but rather applied some basic UX design principles to improve the usability and usefulness of the feature/section. I also cut down some visual overload that was acting as a hindrance to quick information consumption”.

The next time we met, he asked me — “Could you add some UX design ideas to this interface?” See, we were getting better! 🙂

In essence, its about more about being practical and dynamic rather than sticking to UX process and theory to build better products. You just cannot always suggest — ”this is trash, lets build the product from scratch with proper UX.” That’s not going to work (at least initially). Needed is an intelligent and demonstrative education to product owners of how UX brings in value and how it is more of an intrinsic product fabric that weaves in its design intelligence/research to help build better usable, functional and delightful products.

On that note — Let me catch some food — all that 20g Indian spice talk is making me hungry 🙂

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