The importance of UX

And why window dressing is something completely different

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Some research claims that people in the Western world spend more than 10 hours a day behind a screen. Much of that is simply consuming information, watching linear TV or something like Netflix. But in addition to that, several hours a day are spent at work behind a computer screen using some sort of application. As this time is increasing, with more and more processes being automated, the importance of a good user experience is becoming ever-more important.

All modern software has a strongly positive user experience. And if it doesn’t, it probably shouldn’t be called modern (yet). In an ideal world, users will simply go somewhere else when they see it’s cheaper and easier to do it differently. Therefore, the focus on UX has rightfully increased enormously over the last years. It simply is a cornerstone of all good software.

Unfortunately, with this important trend, there’s a tendency to “modernize” legacy systems by giving them a new interface: the common practice of window dressing. I should stress that proper UX design is not window dressing. However, as modern systems become more and more successful, those less modern systems are increasingly forced to make themselves look nicer. Rather than properly re-architecting them, a short-term solution is to put a nice layer on top, which makes them nicer to look at and hopefully also somewhat easier to use.

Well, users aren’t stupid. They immediately see that it’s still the old system, with illogical data entry, cumbersome performance, and too many steps that still follow the old application logic. Window dressing may work in a quick demo, but fails in real life. And the result will be dissatisfied users. User-centric design is not just for the presentation layer; the entire architecture may have to be considered.

I’m well aware I am stating the obvious, but sometimes it’s necessary to repeat the message.

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