Good design, when it’s done well, becomes invisible. It’s only when it’s done poorly that we notice it.
It’s more than true for UX, too. And not only is it true, it is necessary. If you want to have a great user experience, it will be nearly invisible.
Remember the last time you’ve thought about something UX-related. Probably it was a situation, when you where using a system or website and there was something not quite good. And that’s quite normal: We tend to notice and remember faults, mistakes or confusing things more than the “well-working” usability or UX-parts. Not even that, parts that are implemented very well are often recognized only by UX Professionals. Of course every user can be comfortable using a system or has fun using a website, but who of them can say, why it is fun? (And are they even interested in that?) But everyone of them can tell if there are any problems.
This issue is well known among UX Pros, and most of us have accepted it. But to be honest, as soon as we have to talk about our work or -even worse- have to explain to a (potential) customer what we do, it gets difficult. Quite understandable. How do you measure good User Experience besides side effects like the lack of complaints (or do they simply don’t see the feedback button?), increasing customers satisfaction according to surveys (but are they satisfied with the product or with the UX of the web-shop?) or maybe increasing conversions (with many other factors that come in here?)?
UX can never be looked at as stand-alone, it always works in combination with all other factors like the product itself, the quality of information, technical issues, marketing, and so on. In projects I am satisfied when the team starts to discuss content and leaves the functionality be, because it usually means that all works fine and the usability / UX is at a level, where the basic requirements are fullfilled. From then on I can start to give it a final touch.
Usability itself can each 3 steps: effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction. Imagine these steps with an example: The task is to open a bottle of beer (and the user is not a German, because they can open a beer with everything!).
- Step 1: You can’t open a beer with a cotton-bud, it’s simply not effective.
- Step 2: Maybe after an instruction you can open the beer with a lighter: it’s effective, but it maybe takes time and needs a few trys, so it’s not very efficient.
- Step 3: Mostly everyone can open a beer with a bottle opener. It’s effective. It’s fast and easy: it’s efficient. And the shape of the bottle opener invites you to open a bottle, it’s intuitive. So, it is satisfying and in best case it helps you to a good cold beer.
But did you think about the bottle opener? Usually not. You are thinking about the beer. And that’s the thing. It takes so much time and brainpower (and sometimes luck) for making the perfect tool for opening a bottle, but in the end it works that good and so smooth, that users end up using it like it’s the most normal thing in the world, like there was never anything different. And they don’t think about the bottle opener and what awesome tool it is. It’s just there.
Maybe as an UX Pro you have to be that kind of person that doesn’t need the big WOAH! from a customer. Maybe we are like set designers on a stage play, we take care that everything runs smooth and make sure the actors have everything they need to do a great performance and get their applause in the end.