Practical User Experience

As UX and UI designers, we love things that work great, and also look great. However let’s not forget that there are timelines and budgets, so keeping it practical is key.

Should I pursue a more “practical” degree? – Colorado State University  Online
Practicality is a basic, yet essential tool for creativity. Keep your users’ needs in your crosshairs, and you will develop a successful product

Practicality is a really valuable skill to have, yet is very much overlooked in many business scenarios: whether it is building a new product, or constructing a new house. It never hurts to be practical, as long as it does not over-simplify or takeover the aims and meaning of the project or product at hand.

In UX we need to be more practical than ever: launching MVPs (Minimum Viable Products) and further polishing and building onto them new user stories with prioritised functionality via sprints has become the dominant methodology in the product development process. And that is good news: waterfall methods have proven to be sluggish and cumbersome, taking up a huge chunk of time and resources to perfect a product which is already half-outdated by its launch date.

Practical Agility

The agile process highlights not just the need of practicality, but also of prioritisation and consistency. The needs of the targeted users who are going to use the product always take first priority; and by adopting them as your primary aim (or as your personal UX anthem if you will), the other priorities will follow as per circumstance, subject to practicality. Consider this scenario:

You are building a food ordering app with a tight deadline for MVP release.

The target user’s needs – outlined in a very simplified manner – are: finding the food that they want to eat at that time within their budget, select it, pay for it, get an order and time confirmation, eat it.

Therefore, in order to make it on time, the MVP’s functionalities should not surpass the above basic epics. Yes, it is nice to have a comment section with ratings, with some fancy transitions and micro animations, and maybe even add a coupons, discount and gift voucher system. However, how realistic are those functions given the circumstances? And more importantly – they are way above minimum viability for said imaginary product. That is why practicality is key: by looking at it as added value, you will stay true to MVP requirements, while fulfilling users’ needs, on time.

Keep in mind that it is better to have a smaller number of functions all of which work great (you will still need to keep updating those, mind you), rather than having a sluggish, over-the-top, half-finished product which takes forever to load and makes the users want to scream. This shows that practicality is not just a bonus when it comes to work processes, but also – on the same level of importance – gets reflected as great UX and UI on the product itself. Adopting a healthy practical mentality will positively affect all aspects of your life, from problem solving to daily house chores.

Yeah – we need to develop that…

Another crucial fact is that this product needs to be developed; the UX and UI is truly challenging, however a big bulk of the work and head scratching falls on the developers who are a vital part of this, and who also have their deadlines to meet, most probably with limited human resources too. So while – thankfully – UX apps have made our lives easier to prototype and animate components on the fly, it is quite a different story when it comes to development, especially for MVP, where there is still groundwork to be laid. Practicality in development does not just rely on the developers, but it is also our responsibility as UX and UI designers. Wireframe your designs, test them (many times), iterate, create miniature design systems… whatever streamlines the workflow of the whole team will positively affect your process for this product and other projects to come.

Are teams enough?

Teams only become more and more efficient and practical with each sprint when working together, driven by the users’ needs and with practicality as one of the most promoted values not just among them, but also among management and business partners.