Putting The User Back Into User Experience

Putting the “User” Back in “User Experience”

“We’re struggling with UX.”

It’s a statement our team hears constantly from businesses of all sizes and industries. What they usually mean is something like:

  • “Our customers are having a hard time using our product.”
  • “It takes our employees too much time and too many steps to use our internal system.”
  • “We’ve added all these cool features, but the results aren’t what we thought they would be.”

These problems usually stem from a design process that’s engineering- or development-driven, instead of user-driven. Like a sports star that’s an individual winner but whose teammates feel left behind, products often have tons of features that functionally work, but their users still feel lost and aren’t able to accomplish their tasks.

When companies realize there’s an issue, the solution is often to add more features. Without a Product Owner who can prioritize them, all of the features end up being added, which leads to experience rot. Even with a Product Owner or executive decision maker driving the process, self-design and lack of internal alignment wreak havoc, with stakeholders designing the product the way they use it and departments butting heads over competing visions and priorities.

Regardless of why teams are struggling with UX, the impact on the business is often the same: More confusion. Higher abandonment rates. More calls to customer support. Lower satisfaction. Lost revenue. The list goes on.

So, what’s the solution to these UX struggles? It’s not more technology. It’s not a fancy new website. It’s not a slick app.

It’s putting users first.

Start by collaborating with your team to answer some basic questions, empathize with your users, and define their needs. (Better yet, invite your users in to talk with them and observe them.)

  • Who are our users?
  • How many different types of users do we have?
  • What goals or tasks or workflows are they trying to complete?
  • Why do the tasks exist in the first place?
  • Are these the right tasks?

Then, work through the design thinking process one step at a time. Within the bounds of user goals, explore ways you could meet their needs, prototype a few of the options that seem the most promising and then test them with real users to see how they actually work.

Going through this process and fixing the problem may not be easy or cheap. But it’s worth it. Take professional athletes, for example. Michael Jordan is one of the best basketball players of all time, but he wasn’t that way on day one. It took years of understanding the intricacies of the sport (empathizing and defining), practicing different drills to improve his skills (ideating and prototyping) and trying moves during real games (testing). Only then could he make the right plays, the right way, at the right moments, and deliver a sports experience that made him a legend. The same goes for design.

If you want to be the Michael Jordan of your industry, stop following competitors or the latest shiny trends, and try following your users instead. You’ll be surprised how putting the “user” back into “user experience” turns struggles into successes.

How Being Dissatisfied Fuels New Ideas

Some of the world’s greatest achievements have come from dissatisfaction.

The desire to have things better than they are.

  • Where are you dissatisfied?
  • Why is it unsatisfactory?
  • How will you resolve it?

When the passion and drive is built up enough, things change.

Where is your dissatisfaction and inner drive to change things the strongest? Wherever that it is, that’s your new obsession, new passion, new company and new product.

At Drawbackwards, our product development process for Forward Framework and WordPress Starter Theme came out of this dissatisfaction. We were starting our WordPress sites from a less-than-optimal place every time. Being a team that loves the details, we carefully crafted a custom starting point on each project that lines up our code and workflow for success.

Now, with our framework and theme, we can start from a better place. You can too. And we can all be a little less dissatisfied.

Time and Space

Leveraging the Power of Time in UX Design

One of the best ways to improve and innovate a product or service experience is to observe time’s impact upon it. Crafting the presentation of time is one of the least discussed and most important UX design principles to leverage.

Create with Time in Mind

Designers and developers should craft products with reverence to the creative power of time. The best product designers understand how time affects the end experience. Use materials that weather time well. Architects use metal walls that rust over time to the desired color and texture. Packaging designers create boxes that allow for products to be slowly revealed and revered through the time it takes to open them (think Apple’s iPhone box).


Consider how In-N-Out Burger extends employees out of the building and down a drive-thru line as the line gets long. This transforms the customer experience in key ways:

  1. A friendly In-N-Out employee greets a hungry customer sooner.
  2. There’s more time to help customers decide, thus speeding up the order process and ensuring they get what they really want.
  3. The more time there is between when customers order and when they arrive at the register, the more time the kitchen has to prepare their orders.

Bonus: If customers know In-N-Out’s secret menu items, they get access to a different experience with faster ordering and unique food options by saying a secret word or two.

Observe Time’s Power and Impact

In designing UX for apps and websites, think beyond the single interface screen and into the context of how a user arrived there and where the user wants to go. Think in terms of the user’s journey, timeline and overall story.

Start looking at everything in every day life and you’ll see time drives it. Human growth and development rides on time. Music rides on time. Movies ride on time. Games depend on time. Our lives don’t move forward or change without time. Our universe doesn’t grow, expand and create without time.

Without time, you wouldn’t have experience. We would all be stuck in static moments. These moments would be disconnected and not even have meaning.

As we start observing the element of time as a key aspect in user experience design we will be much more likely to achieve an improved experience by providing context, relevance and meaning to the product or service. By focusing on how time can be altered and leveraged in a product or service, we will become more innovative in delivering that end experience.

Something New To Share

Our previous iteration of Design.org was a collection of visual design execution from elsewhere, and often we focused on the surface and not the ideas and process and outcomes surrounding them.
As we’ve considered our purpose, values and mission at Drawbackwards, it’s become clear that a reboot of Design.org around sharing our ideas, tools, artwork, assets, code and process with you is in order.
We can’t wait to see what you create with us. Our first release under the new Design.org platform is our WordPress Starter Theme. Check it out and let us know what you think.