Christian Crumlish, Erin Malone | Stop Putting the Front-end Last

A lot of R&D still puts the front-end last. But considering the user experience throughout product development pays handsomely, say Christian Crumlish and Erin Malone. One study shows design-led businesses outpacing the FTSE 100 by 100 pct. Crumlish and Malone provide cases for Twitter, Dropbox, Hipmunk, and Etsy, outlining how good UX pays, at the 2011 Web 2.0 Conference.

UX—User Experience is part user interface engineering, graphic design, usability testing, HCI (human-computer interaction), cognitive psychology, and content strategy. It’s best if it’s baked in to the mix, rather than added as frosting on the cake.

So many of the recent offerings that have succeeded in sparking the public’s interest and curiosity are especially uncomplicated and easy to use. Both imaginative rethinking and pragmatic testing are required, but the result can be a product that holds up against price wars for the value of the experience.

Malone presents a case from Twitter, in which they found that new users abandoned their accounts soon after signing on. How could they avoid having new users feel like they had showed up for a party but found, at first, an empty room? The answer was in managing experience flow. Making it easy for users is the clever and quick work of ideation, sketching, rapid iteration, and problem-solving, all design mainstays.

UX design and testing pays. Good design gets free public relations, as users describe the products as "beautiful" or feel the makers especially understand their needs. Simple A/B testing has netted millions of dollars in profits as one graphic or phrase appeals to consumers over another. Malone urges startups to find UX expert help early, where a few well-chosen design considerations can go a long way.

Christian Crumlish is a writer, information architect, and digital designer. He is a consumer experience evangelist at AOL, an advisor to and director emeritus of the Information Architecture Institute, and co-chair of the monthly BayCHI program. He was the curator of the Yahoo! Design Pattern Library for several years. He is the author of the bestselling The Internet for Busy People, and The Power of Many, and co-author of Designing Social Interfaces with Erin Malone. He has spoken about social patterns at BarCamp Block, BayCHI, SXSW, the IA Summit, Ignite, Web 2.0 Expo, PLoP, IDEA, Web Directions, the Web App Masters Tour, and WebVisions.

Erin Malone, Principal with Tangible UX, has led design teams and developing social experiences for web and software for over 20 years. Prior to Tangible UX, she spent 4 years at Yahoo! leading the Platform User Experience Design team on Community products and platforms, helping develop the Yahoo! Open Strategy, building the Yahoo! Design Pattern Library and providing design expertise to YUI (Yahoo! User Interface Library). She led the redesign of the Yahoo! Developer Network, among other Yahoo initiatives.

Before Yahoo!, Malone was a Design Director at AOL responsible for community applications, Creative Director at AltaVista and chief Information Architect for Zip2. She was the founding editor-in-chief of Boxes and Arrows and author of several articles on interaction design history and design. She is co-author of the book Designing Social Interfaces with Christian Crumlish for O’Reilly Media.