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Oct 17, 2017

Inside Akeneo | UX Design Part 1: UX Philosophy

When using a software product or website, many people don’t consider everything that has gone into creating their experience. Users have expectations ...

When using a software product or website, many people don’t consider everything that has gone into creating their experience. Users have expectations of how things should work and organizations must make sure they meet these expectations. Users expect to be able to click on menus, fill out forms, or perform other actions and simply have certain functionalities work. In reality, every part of the user experience (UX) is, or at least should be, thoroughly thought out and designed.

Picture Stéphane Giraud, Lead UX Designer and Nolwenn Poirier, Product Owner

User Experience (UX) is the heart of Akeneo PIM

Akeneo PIM is UX driven. Our ultimate goal is to create an easy-to-use product information management (PIM) system with all the functionalities and features to serve a wide range of end users. We talked with Stéphane Giraud, Lead UX Designer, and Nolwenn Poirier, Product Owner, to discuss the origins of UX design and how that influences our philosophy at Akeneo.

The History of UX Design

UX Design is a buzzword in many software companies. It has been focused on and celebrated by the major tech organizations of the world – Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft (GAFAM). Prompted by GAFAM, the “Mobile First” and “Ease of Use” philosophies emerged around 2010 and remain major components for UX design strategies today.

While UX design has been increasingly trendy since 2010, its roots actually began for over 40 years. Today, UX design is considered a science. One of the largest proponents is the Nielsen Norman Group, created by Donald Norman and Jakob Nielsen in 1998. The group has published numerous studies on a variety of UX topics including managing forms for usability, navigation menus, eye tracking, and more. Today their philosophies are still taught in school and incorporated into UX designs.

What makes a good user experience?

Do not Market Your Design

For any software company, it is important to get end users interested in your solution early on at the pre-sales stage. These individuals will ultimately be the people who interact with your solution on a regular basis and are some of the key players in the decision-making process. Fortunately, or unfortunately, their impressions sometimes rely on non-objective criteria, like their personal feelings towards pre-determined workflows or other features.

Software companies often feel a strong temptation to deliver what the end users think they want. Although understanding and considering what your users want is important, we believe it is the job of the UX designer to figure out what types of changes and features the users actually need.

It’s the job of the UX Designer to understand the customer needs that may be hidden in the shadows.

Pay Attention to Trends

Web technologies are moving at lightning-fast speeds and GAFAM regularly proposes (or rather imposes) their own rules which can dictate what defines the “best” user experience. They want to set these user experience standards because:

  • A consumer who adopts your codes and conventions can remain captive in keeping and maintaining your technology for years.
  • It’s another way to stay ahead of the competition: if these organizations rewrite the rules they can set the pace, thereby forcing other organizations to either copy them or step up their game.

Think about many recent UX/UI design trends: Skeuomorphic, Flat, Metro, Fluent… these were all introduced, discarded, and/or forced onto consumers by GAFAM.

It can be hard to escape. When managing a website or eCommerce platform, there is often a strong desire to innovate with great design, style, or unique content in an effort to attract new customers. In fact, it’s common for eCommerce companies to drastically refresh their website design every 3-5 years to look “current” and implement the latest SEO techniques and mobile requirements. However, that innovation is limited on practical level by UX conventions that consumers can understand.

For a software company like Akeneo, it can be challenging to integrate an easy-to-use interface with the required business logic components. Unlike an eCommerce website, many of the concepts we need users to understand at glance have not been established by GAFAM… or anyone else.

So what are the secret ingredients to creating a great user experience?

In the past, KPIs for UX were limited. Some organizations tried to equate clicks or time spent on a page with good or bad design. Today, user interface (UI) technologies, primarily performance and fluidity, have significantly improved. KPIs can be measured more confidently  and rely on cloud technologies that can more accurately measure meaningful performance and interaction metrics.

But even with advanced technology, you can’t reduce UX to just clicks.

At Akeneo we have an established UX philosophy. We believe that the user experience must:

  • be simple
  • save users time when enriching product data
  • have features and wording that is obvious and relevant
  • be friendly

We believe that simplicity is a strong driving factor in the adoption of new technologies and can help you quickly shape your skills while:

  • Reducing overhead
  • Boosting performance and productivity
  • Accelerating participation across functional teams to improve product information
  • Allowing you to focus on your core business and increase sales

Because Akeneo PIM is one unique application, the relationship between UX design and business logic is simpler and more consistent.

Interested in seeing a great UX?

The only way to determine what makes one UX better than another, is to dive in yourself and understand how the underlying functionality and UX interact.

That’s why we offer our community edition for free.

It doesn’t make sense for us to try to convince you how great our UX is if you can’t even explore it on your own.

You can’t assess a UX based on facts and figures or by just looking at pretty screenshots. You have to USE it.

To truly evaluate the UX of Akeneo PIM compared to other solutions we suggest that you:

  • Create  two or three business use cases
  • Identify and profile the key users within your organization that will use Akeneo PIM on a daily basis
  • Build an assessment grid for those users to grade each product
  • Unleash the users to test product options
  • Compare notes and assessments

Ready to give it a try?

Access our Community Edition Online Demo or for a more customized test experience, contact us for a consultation.

Interested in learning more about UX Design? Read the next portion of this blog series.

Inside Akeneo: UX Design Part #2 – The Design. >>>

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