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November 19, 2015

UX and UI: Finding the ROI in software design

C-level briefing: UI Centric CEO Dan Ulzhoefer reveals the tricks to successful software roll-outs.

By Alexander Sword

We have all suffered unwanted update syndrome, when the menu on our smartphone suddenly changes from horizontal to vertical navigation or your favourite widgets are suddenly not where they used to be.

Protecting the world from this very modern problem are digital design agencies like UI Centric, which helps companies from a range of industries to cater software revamps and app updates to the user.

"It’s an assumption to say that clients or brands know their customers really well," says CEO Dan Ulzhoefer. "You’d like to think that they do, and many do, but customer expectations shift and demands shift, driven by a lot of different reasons.

"Some of these are seismic, like massive technology changes, and some are slow and progressive."

Jay Bennett, Windows Development Lead adds that while the companies understand their customers, this doesn’t necessarily translate to new technologies.

"Customers know their own client base; what they don’t necessarily know is how to communicate with them on these platforms," he says.

So when adapting to these new platforms, how do companies with a dedicated audience avoid alienating that audience?

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"We rely on our clients to be experts in their field of expertise, and they call us in to complement them by finding that great user experience," says Ulzhoefer.

"That means engaging with their customers, understanding what their needs and requirements are and then offering up solutions to meet those needs.

"It’s easier said than done. How do you go about in a cost-effective way interacting with your customers, getting very tangible feedback that you can then apply to start transforming a proposition."

Ulzhoefer adds that practical experience is the only way to understand what people need from a user experience.

"We all do things in our daily lives and jobs that we don’t even think about: it’s second nature. If you ask people what they do, they will tell you a certain version of the truth.

"We go out and we shadow, we watch, we observe, we interact; we start to construct the whole narrative of what those people need to do their job."

Bennett explains that there are many ways to ensure that there is an ROI from the new software.

"One of the things we find, when we’re designing an interface we will sit down and make sure we can demonstrate that there are noticeable gains. We will use our user testing lab and identify where we’ve improved discoverability or made the user more efficient.

"Actually, people eventually get bored of interfaces and find that no matter how pretty it was it gets stale. Microsoft have got the problem where they’re fighting between knowing on the one hand it’s stale and on the other people are relying on it. Android, people are becoming used to the fact it has to update all the time.

"Apple have got the same problem now that Microsoft had with Windows; they had an interface that got a bit stale so they refreshed it but haven’t changed the core interactions."

Bennett adds that well-targeted updates will please rather than alienate audiences.

"Actually, users really love a new coat of paint because it makes them feel that they’ve got something new and they’ve got it for free, so everybody’s happy.

"In terms of the value, we used to live in a world where you paid for each update and you used to dole out those updates slowly.

"It keeps users engaged, and ultimately that’s what any brand is looking for."

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