User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) is not a new topic. I remember two decades ago it was called MMI (machine man interface) and was given other assorted names over the years. However, in more recent years it has become increasingly more important as we see new applications and technologies like Google/Gmail, iPhone , Facebook, Twitter and others educating users to a certain experience when interacting with software.
I work at an IT management software company whose core product was developed 10 years ago. We had a major face-lifting six years ago that reached the end of life, and now we have been working for the past 12 months to create a new innovated user interface that will give the best experience to people using our software.
The work included a lot of research. The research was fascinating. We examined the most used pages, the most common flows, mouse movements and more. We did this by physically watching users (who volunteered) while they worked in the current version of the software.
We know there are different roles that use the software, hence we worked on a solution that fit most use cases.
During the process we had several options for almost every element. And I can tell you up front that with the professional team I worked with, there were very few definitive rights and wrongs. Instead, for every dilemma, we uncovered the pros and cons. Then, gathering together all the knowledge we accumulated—we took decisions.
Planning a project of this scale for existing software was very challenging due to the simple fact that the software already exists. It is not new software we are planning, and with every new element we introduce, we need to be sure that we take into consideration all the functionality and usage of the existing elements. We not only need to make sure we don't break any existing functionality, we want to improve the experience and add functionality where possible.
So we created prototypes, shared them with study groups, and had votes in various junctions to back up our decisions. After we finalized the content for the upcoming version, we sat with R&D and explained our requirements. R&D translated our requirements to the required infrastructure they need to build including new UI engine changes in existing code and much more. They dedicated a team and launched the process, of course in an agile method.
When the first deliveries started being available, we were like children playing with a new toy, seeing our vision starting to come to life. It was an amazing process—the R&D engineers reacted very quickly to our comments, and fine tuning the issues that did come up were solved within the same day or later that week!
Recently we launched an internal Alpha release with a few dozen users, and we stared getting genuine feedbacks. We are thrilled that so much of the inputs were positive, and the points raised were very valuable and carefully reviewed and passed to R&D. A lot of the issues raised were related to various options we considered during the research process, which were shared with the users, and they agreed that it is not a question of right or wrong—it's all about pros and cons, and as long as the balance is in favor of pros, we are on the right road!
I am excited about the upcoming release where within weeks, thousands of users will encounter the new UI and find a new, innovated and exciting upgraded experience that helps them perform their day- to-day tasks more efficiently—and with a smile :).