User experience design is about the user, as the name might indicate. But figuring out how to create an interface that users will love is far harder to do than to say: After all, most users can't even articulate what makes them pick one app over another. The combination of art and science needed for a functional tool can seem like an impossible potion.
Enter Fuzzy Math, a Chicago-based UX design firm focused on enabling the voice of users, synthesizing behaviors and research-based traits into actionable content enhancements. I spoke with the agency’s co-founders, Mark Baldino and Ben Ihnchak, in order to pull back the curtains on the psychology underlying design. Here are the four tips they offered me.
Know the Audience
As with any business, success starts with knowing everything about the demographic you're providing a service to.
“Whether designing an interface for children, the elderly, persons with disabilities, or for tech-savvy (or not so tech-savvy) users, the number one consideration to keep in mind is knowing your audience. The point of user experience design is creating for the user, so every campaign should be treated to a unique, customized approach. No user is the same, thus designers need to consider different traits of the audience to help them make decisions, leading to the creation of the best user experience possible,” Mark and Ben explained.
Be Fluent in Technology
In UX design, what's under the hood matters just as much as what's outside.
“Designing an interface isn’t just about creating something that’s pretty or pixel-perfect – the approach involves wireframing, prototyping, testing, and refining to produce useful, modernized interactions. Designers oftentimes come fully-equipped with an artistic mindset, however UX specialists must have the ability and knowledge to weave their understanding of technology and creativity prowess into one useful package,” they said.
You should always keep the context of your product top of mind. Having a perfect app is useless if it doesn't fit neatly into the wider context of its existence.
“Knowing the audience and the context in which they’re using your tool is crucial in UX design, as the end goal is to create something that solves a problem. Does the user operate through apps? Does the user need quick-paced interactions? Does the user know how to use modern tools, like swiping? Is the user usually busy or on-the-go? UX design tackles the complex questions of interface, and knowing what the user needs from the interaction, and the context in which they’re using it, brings the project to life,” they added.
Balance Creativity With Functionality
One balancing act can sum up most of the theory behind UX design.
“‘Design' is a part of UX design, but it’s not like fine arts or graphic arts where you’re creating a physical piece of artwork,” Ben and Mark said.
“UX design mandates a tactical, analytical approach, and designers need to understand that this industry requires a balance of having artistic ability and the expertise to execute functional products. Creating brochures, websites, and other tools requires not only the mind of an artist who understands how to create something visually stunning, but also the mind of someone who is conscious of how the product is going to be used in the end. Designers must leverage their creativity in a way that enables users with the final product.”
At Fuzzy Math, the two cofounders told me, they aim to hire those who not only demonstrate a desire to be artistically fulfilled, but who also “want to bolster their expertise in both tech and creativity to better any digital experience.” That drive to focus on improving tech and art together is what creates great UX design.