Converting Ideas into Apps
Turning ideas into functional applications always involves a few in-between stages, and the usual list of steps can be seen in the picture:
Each stage focuses on different aspects of the project. Let`s have a closer look at the Design stage, which in fact rarely presupposes the interface design – mostly it deals with the specification requirements and system architecture.
The user interaction with the program is usually designed by the project designer, or by the frontend developer – if there is no designer on the project. In the majority of cases this is either a solution, where the main emphasis is put on functionality (number of features), or a set of decisions based on visual preferences. The real needs of the end users are often left unattended.
The process of requirements specification is as follows: the business analysts and user experience designer work together to create a clear vision of the product, detailing main workflows for every functional area. The final changes are introduced by the stakeholders, and often those who have more experience in the domain or based on their position get the informal right to the last vote in approving or rejecting suggested behavior of the application.
Decisions are based on previous experience, stereotypes about user needs, personal preferences, and so on. But what do users expect from the software? For the existing solution there could be a support portal where users express their ideas about software features. Although it may contain useful ideas, a list of user needs is then determined by the way current software solves certain problems, thus addressing software`s weak points, rather than what users need to complete their task.
As you can see the process of decision making is creative instead of analytical. Decisions are made using a trial and error approach accepting different concepts of user interaction with the program, and the main criteria are “like it – do not like it” instead of “solves the user needs – does not solve user needs”. The focus is put on the graphic design element, rather than the interaction and usability. Arguments in support of understanding the user needs aren’t elaborated well enough; and each party sees the full picture in their own way as user needs are not clearly defined.
To summarize the problem, there is often a situation where the decision about the product depends on the following:
- Random stereotypes about the user;
- Personal preferences regarding appearance, visual themes each party is used to;
- Wishes of the end users who do not know about the rest of the opportunities that new software will offer;
- Collective decision making and the lack of clear arguments often result in the last word belonging to someone who is higher in status and has their own motives (e.g. sell more new features, use the usual proven behavior, etc.).
As a result, some aspects are left out of focus, such as:
- User goals
- Convenience and efficiency
- Intuitiveness and ease of use