What is the Value of UX in a Software Development Project?

Ines Carriquiry has been working with UX/UI design for more than 15 years, so she has been able to continuously validate the benefits of focusing on user experience in digital products. At all stages of the product creation process, having this end-user-centric look helps teams set goals and measure them, as well as make more informed decisions. In this interview, Ines, a Design Lead, tells us more about how the focus on user experience impacts the final outcome of software projects. 

Tell us a little more about yourself, Ines.

I graduated with a degree in graphic design and worked 15 years in other technology companies and as a freelancer before joining Octobot in August 2021. Last year I completed a master’s degree in “Research for Design and Innovation” in Barcelona, a great experience. I’ve always been dedicated to digital design; I was a UI designer for a long time and, little by little, I ended up getting into UX. I also co-organize communities like +Women in UX UY and IxDA Montevideo.

How do you explain User Experience in a nutshell?

User experience is a modern approach applied in product and service development in which users’ feedback is incorporated throughout the whole development cycle. 

By focusing on the people who are going to use the product, we see that costs are reduced, processes’ productivity increases, and ultimately we manage to create something that solves real problems for real people. In other words, the product becomes more interactive and user-friendly, and the user feels listened to, comfortable, and eager to use it again.

Can you give us practical examples of how to apply this UX focus in a software development project?

Sure. One of the practices we carry out at Octobot, with the aim of focusing as much as possible on the user, is to start each project with a Discovery step. In this process, the development team, and especially the designers, are dedicated to understanding the idea behind the product and researching its users, competitors, etc. Based on this research and conversations with the client, we define which path to take to start working on a prototype.

Once the app prototype reaches the developers, it has already been tested and evaluated by the users and other stakeholders involved. This avoids surprises, working for months and then changing everything, going backwards, etc. Testing at such an early stage, even before facing the final development of the product, prevents errors and allows us to focus on what customers really want. It also reduces app maintenance costs since it is easier and more practical to change what is needed. In other words, iterating a prototype in Figma is less complex than doing it once it is already developed. 

It also reduces costs at the level of training and support that may exist in a company because to work on a new software, training must be done. On the other hand, if you do not know how to use the software properly, errors end up translating into support costs. When the user is taken into account from minute one and we build a tool based on their interests, the learning process and/or training ends up being more friendly and happens more naturally. 

Bringing in UX also increases customer satisfaction because it adapts to what they want, therefore increasing revenue and sales for the company behind it. We see this mainly with products that are then going to be sold or marketed.

The key point in all these examples, and many more we can think of, is to have people at the center. Research is done to determine what tools the users need, as well as their context, tasks, and any problems that may need to be solved. The solution adapts much more to what they need when you have someone watching over the UX.

What happens when the user lives a bad experience?

When the user has a bad experience, they feel frustrated for not being able to use the tool and usually stop using it or switch to a competitor’s. Sometimes there is no other tool that provides the solution we need, or sometimes we have to use it on a daily basis with no other option. The forced use of something that does not solve our problems can even influence the mood of the person and the predisposition to develop certain tasks or actions in their daily life.

Designers must have empathy, a sense of responsibility, and think of the person on the other side. It is also good to work with the team of developers from the first stages because they are involved with  the project in a different way; they go to interviews with the clients, and they more fully understand  the reason for certain decisions made by the designers. 

The designers have a responsibility to see not only the “happy path” in the design process but also to see who is being harmed or left out by making certain decisions. An application that is truly accessible must be achieved, and these are some details that must be taken into account.

In your opinion, what is a product that provides an excellent UX?

A good experience is one that really lets us do what we want to do without friction, that works well, that solves things for you. Personally (as I work with this on a daily basis) I got attached to Figma, because it has great functionalities adapted to what we need. I feel that it is a product that knows me, that understands my needs. Every day we discover new features that help us a lot and that’s fantastic.

Before using Figma a few years ago, we had to use Photoshop and a lot of other tools, which made our work much more complex. Fortunately, everything advanced, and tools like Figma appeared.  

Why are there still people who don’t understand the value of investing in UX?

It’s hard to change, and when bringing in the UX conversation, it seems we are adding complexity because of the research stage at the beginning, or because we need to add more people to the team. It is an unknown terrain because it has never been done before and it is hard to jump into something new. 

It is also difficult to leave certain patterns behind and take technology out of the center, but once UX is used, there is no turning back because everyone can appreciate its advantages. Before, people had to adapt to the software, but now everything has changed and the tables have turned: technology must adapt to the person and to the users, not the other way around.

How to continue bringing in UX to my project?

If you have already started, congratulations! You are on the right track. It is good to acquire that mindset, that approach we talked about, to really want to incorporate the user experience. I would say that to continue developing this mindset it is fundamental to hire like-minded people who are committed to the UX process. 

There are many resources to continue learning about the topic. It is imperative to understand that if you don’t onboard users, there is no UX. If you have to take one thing away from this whole conversation, I think that would be it.


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