Supercrunch Blog

Lina Ukis December 11, 2017 Data Design Thinking, User Experience

Focusing on the customer

Understanding the role of UX and UI Design in data analytics solutions

There are many components to successful Data Analytics products: data science, business analytics, software development, product management, design and marketing. They all come together with a goal of creating a product that meets customer’s requirements and allows for a pleasant experience while using it. But perhaps it is the role of a designer that takes centre stage in shaping customer experience. After all, at the core of the UX (User Experience) und UI (User Interface) Design, which are two main design disciplines employed in data analytics solutions, lies the User. In this blog post we’ll focus on understanding exactly what these two disciplines, UX and UI Design do, how they differ and sometimes overlap, and how quintessential they are to outstanding data analytics products.

User Experience Design

UX Design is a discipline that covers the overarching experience a user has with a given product. Its main focus is to help the user navigate through the product effortlessly, intuitively and efficiently. Whereas this is quite a broad focus, below are a few of the common UX practices that make up for that role:

  • Create personas – together with the product team define the main profiles of the potential/existing customers to optimize the product for these particular groups
  • Conduct user research – an array of practices, such as heuristic evaluation or focus groups, among many others, aimed at pinpointing customer needs, pains and wishes
  • Produce wireframes – based on the gathered information and established use cases, propose a well-thought-out blueprint of the customer’s journey throughout the product. The wireframes are most likely devoid of any visual design, as their sole purpose is to establish information architecture to such degree of accuracy that initial customer feedback can already be gathered based on them.
  • Conduct user testing – last but not least, user testing collects feedback from the user based on the proposed wireframes or clickable prototypes, allowing the customer to always stay in the spotlight. Based on the user feedback, the wireframes are then adjusted and refined.

User Interface Design

You can think of UI as the continuation or elaboration of the product design skeleton laid out by the UX. Whereas UX focuses on Information Architecture and Usability, UI shifts gears towards the visual aesthetics of the product. The UI discipline breathes life, so to speak, into usually plain UX wireframes. Let’s take a look at some of the areas of the UI:

  • Create high fidelity mock-ups – define colours, fonts, icons, elements placement and sizing, as well as imagery for the product. Depending on the context, accounting for multiple grids (responsive design) also fits into UI’s realm. The look and feel can either be created from scratch, or if there is an established brand already, UI Designer makes sure the proposed design stays true to the brand, to optimize for consistency and strong visual voice across multiple products.
  • Establish interaction patterns – particularly relevant to data analytics solutions, packed with complicated data visualisation and analysis, interaction patterns account for the easy and self-explanatory navigation through the product. It allows the user to quickly discover the necessary clicks for task completion.
  • Create prototypes – this is where the efforts of UX and UI are being married into a clickable version of the product, pretty much mimicking what the solution will look like, both structurally and visually. On the other hand, depending on what works best for a particular case, a prototype can also be a clickable bland wireframe with no UI applied to it yet.

Regardless, prototypes are crucial for early user feedback validation, to make sure the proposed solution is synced up to user’s expectations and is easy to work with.

The list could go on about different roles and responsibilities of UX and UI, which often overlap. But if there is one thing I would like you to take away from this post, it is that UX and UI Design work in unison with each other to ensure for the optimal user experience. Together and in collaboration with the rest of the team they provide shape and form to the product, defining its aesthetic qualities and interactive habits. If done successfully, complex information flow becomes effortless, intuitive and perhaps even fun to use. In a nicely designed software a user feels cared for – almost as if the product says “look, I know it’s a lot of information to grasp, so allow me to take care of you and present it to you in such a way that you feel smart, empowered and respected.” In the end, a satisfied user turns into a customer, and if the experience continuously delights, into a loyal customer.

It’s no secret that top brands with a loyal customer base place the highest value on UX, UI and branding. What are some of your favourite digital products and what role do you think design plays in them?