Without a doubt, the Magnolia 5 UX is different from all previous Magnolia user experiences. We have explored CMS UX problems and solutions, M5 novelties as well as features such as the action bar, Apps and Pulse. But what about the UX design principles behind these innovations?
UX design encompasses a lot of different disciplines. Covering all aspects of the subject in one blog post would be an impossible endeavour. Instead, Magnolia’s UX designer Andreas Weder tackles one question at a time. This post focuses on one one big issue: Can a user experience be designed?
|An early mockup of the Magnolia 5 shell. You'll notice that the current design looks a little different!|
Andreas, you've been working in UX design for many years. In order to answer our main question, we’ll first have to talk about the fields that a UX designer is active in. What are those?
This article by Steve Psomas posits Information Architecture, Interaction Design, Usability Engineering, Visual Design and Prototype Engineering as the five core competencies of a UX designer. Every designer will have their individual strengths and weaknesses, but essentially, these are the areas I work in. Of course, you can't exclusively be a Usability Engineer, for example. Even being proficient in all of the above areas won’t result in a consistent UX - you have to be able to integrate them with each other.
This integrative and eclectic aspect seems paramount to me: as a UX designer, you above all have to be able to oversee a design process and coordinate different activities. I like to think of my profession as being similar to an architect: He might not be proficient in all aspects of building a house, but he will still have to be involved in all of them. He may be a great artist or have profound knowledge in civil engineering, but as an architect, he also has to oversee the whole process and orchestrate builders and owners as well as take care of general business aspects.
Can you design a user experience when so many aspects have to be considered?
Well, I agree with this article. Helge Friedheim claims that you cannot design a UX because you only have a limited amount of control over predicting the user or his context. Instead, Friedheim suggests to design for UX: we do have measures and tools that allow us to influence how a user perceives and reacts to an interface and the service that surrounds it. But his or her experience remains something very personal that I can neither fully anticipate nor shape.
|A Messages mock-up that illustrates what happens from one screen to the other.|
What are these ways and methods that you use to influence a user’s experience, on a more concrete level?
I design a visually appealing interface and give it a certain quality - I for example make it look “light” or “strong”. I try to structure it clearly and make it easy to navigate. I will use conventions and metaphors that the user has encountered before, to make sense in the context of their way of working or their professional background. This will ease his or her way into using the product. I will get rid of existing usability problems and test the experience until it works the way it should, and I’ll keep on improving it. I embed it all in the design maxims that define Magnolia - it should be a joy to use, simple, fast, intuitive. And finally, I align this with our strategic business goals. I do all of this from a user’s perspective, even when negotiating with people from the business side, or with developers. This is important, since there are obviously a lot of parties involved in the whole process.
Why is that? Wouldn’t it be enough to have a dedicated UX designer that just does his thing?
I think this is where we can talk about a misconception about my profession. I don’t just work on a project and then move away to the next one. If you start working on your product’s UX, you have to be aware that this is a strategic decision, and one that you’ll have to occupy yourself with forever, essentially. The user and his expectations and problems have to be at the core of your decisions and not be an afterthought to the rest. This requires the adaptation of a different point of view on the project by everyone involved, not just the person carrying the job title. For us, this means that we won’t be done with UX design as soon as Magnolia 5 is released. UX will be decisive for every release.
An often-used term for a lot of what you’ve described is “holistic design”. What’s your take on this phrase?
To me, the term “holistic” is often redundant. A user experience that I strive to create will always be holistic, that’s just implied in the term UX, to me. A good user experience designer simply has to think holistically. What the term “holistic design” is helpful for, however, is to describe where we eventually want to be: at a point where your product, the services surrounding it and the general customer experience with your company are carefully and deliberately shaped, monitored and improved.
|A mockup of a dialog and an action pop-up.|
If there are other questions related to UX design in general or UX aspects of Magnolia 5 that you would like to be featured on this blog, leave a comment to this post - we'll do our best to answer them in a future post!