Software system designers consider User Experience as integral at the start of every project, rather than an optional extra tacked on at the end.

User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) design are disciplines that Company-X clients have many questions about.

Company-X UX lead Cory McKenzie and UX/UI consultant Briana Christey have decades of experience and many answers.

McKenzie was recently named a finalist in the Te Hapori Matihiko Awards in the Whiua ki te Ao (Take it to the World) category for his contribution to global projects in digital and tech.

Company-X UX lead Cory McKenzie, left, was recently named a finalist in the Te Hapori Matihiko Awards for his contribution to global projects in digital and tech.

“UX encompasses all aspects of a person’s interaction with a company’s products or services,” said McKenzie. “UI involves the design of the visual interface.”

“The visual elements,” added Christey, “such as typography and icons.”

“UX design is about how people experience the digital application and understanding how real people will use the product to complete tasks in the context of their day.”

“UX and UI ensures the product is designed in the best way.”

There is contention in the software development industry around definitions of both. Different schools of thought.

McKenzie, who lives and breathes UX design on Company-X projects for US big tech company Cisco Systems Inc, believes the industry could avoid confusion by dropping the UI term all together.

“What I've come to realize is that you have this perfect scenario of UX,” McKenzie said.

“The more I work I do as a designer on Cisco projects, and the more that I listen to UX gurus from around the world, the more I realise you must pick and choose what aspects of the UX you are going to focus on. You never really get to do the whole thing.”

McKenzie has 20 years UX experience, working with clients such as Cisco Systems Inc, Hamilton City Council and Te Ringa Maimoa Transport Excellence Partnership.

When the New Zealand Government targeted Māori and Pacific Islanders with a letter drop encouraging them to get vaccinated against COVID-19 it focused on the UX.

“That campaign had no app or interface,” McKenzie said.

“It was all about the user experience of receiving a letter. The language had to resonate with the demographics and the graphic design align with them as well.”

Briana Christey has five years UX and UI experience.

Christey has five years UX and UI experience, working with clients such as business management software provider Magnetize.

Company-X led a full product development process resulting in the design and build of an entirely new, easy to use, version of Magnetize from the ground up.

“Beginning the Magnetize project with in-depth, qualitative research set us up for success,” Christey said.

”We talked with a dozen businesses in the trades and civil construction industries to understand the fine details of how they run their businesses. From this research, we were able to fully understand their needs, their pain-points and in turn, design software that delivered exactly what they needed: speed-to-work and full visibility of jobs.

“Company-X's Luke McGregor and I did the UX research work together, which then informed user personas, user flows, wireframes, roadmap priorities -- all the details how each feature should work.”

Christey’s research helped realise a shift from job management to job enablement.

“With a fresh approach, we were able to create some exciting features. Business owners can schedule a job in literally seconds using a simple drag and drop calendar, and staff can ditch the dreaded timesheets by using the simple, time logger spinner that pre-populates time for you,” Christey said.

“It's the most rewarding thing when people say they can literally feel the weight coming off their shoulders when they see how Magnetize does everything, they need it to do, and faster than any other tool they’ve used.”

Magnetize’s investment in UX research to inform a new UI paid off.

“There’s a growing awareness among businesses about User Interface Design and User Experience Design and how fundamental both are to creating a successful digital product,” Christey said.

“Many businesses have questions about what UX and UI design involves, and the differences between the two. People are interested to understand where to even start when designing a new software product.”

Christey reinforces McKenzie’s view that UX and UI go together in a software development project.

“We employ UX methods early on in the project to understand our users and the journey we want to create for them before designing the user interface,” Christey said.

“To give your product the best chance of success, it's important to not jump the gun by going straight to thinking about what the user interface could look like. This is where a lot of companies fall short; without understanding the full requirements, the solution cannot deliver.

“As a UX/UI Designer I hold myself accountable to trusting in the process and the methods. There’s been a couple of times in my career so far where I’ve been itching to get started on creating beautiful UI designs, but I’ve stopped myself.”

Christey said her internal monologue goes something like: “Hang on, let’s just have a chat with a few more users first, and finish the user journey mapping.”

User journey mapping includes drawing a flow chart of the user’s experience in completing a task.

“By doing those tasks, I’ll realise some vital considerations I needed to uncover and take into the UI design phase.

“There is a toolkit of UX methods we can employ within the Software Development process to give the product the best chance of success. Widely used UX methods include user interviews, affinity mapping, user personas, user journey mapping and wireframing.”