Ooyala is now part of Dalet, the global leader in media workflows!
With the advent of omnipresent technologies (think smartphones) in our daily lives, free/try apps have transformed the way we make products and the way consumers expect to be served up products that are intuitive and enjoyable.
Just like consumers flocking from one social app to the other, a new generation of creative media professionals have adopted, from their personal digital lives, a “try and keep/throw” approach to media tools. i.e., "if I don't like it or can't get my work done, I'll look for another one."
As software vendors, we must embrace this change to enrich our user community's experience in their daily work, with minimal distractions from the application, i.e., focus on the craft, not the tools.
We have also seen a shift towards putting the emphasis on product design from users' feedback versus historically "Technical experts/Engineer," where the focus was on the technical capabilities of the solution with less importance on usability, complexity, intuitiveness for the persons actually doing the work.
Back in the day, you had to be an engineer to operate sophisticated technical software. Today you can cut a movie on your iPhone. Not that you would want to, but the fact that the tools are there for the masses has created a baseline from a user perspective, on expectations as to what they want and expect from a product.
Today, our media professionals need to work with software tools to tell their story. A UX (user experience)-centric approach in software design focuses on abstracting the complexity to surface and empower creatives. User Experience is at the center of a successful product and a primary axis to our commitment to user/market-driven approach to producing value for our client community.
This need for transformation in how software vendors interact with an organization, and users, means putting transformative approaches and processes to dynamically engage with the user community much earlier in the product development stage, from ideation to release, and onwards.
The value in implementing a user-driven feedback loop model is a tenfold accelerator to market, with well-received releases that provide incremental value. Ideas are great, but unless tested against the intended audience, the product output generates frustration and dissatisfaction, further introducing new cycles of product iteration.
Great designs can have a positive effect on the quality, accuracy, and user satisfaction/adoption of a product. This is what User Experience design practice enables.
It is essential to differentiate UX (user experience) from UI (user interface), however.
While UX focuses on "how to do something and how something should work" in the most intuitive, precise, and efficient way, UI focuses on the presentation layer and visual appeal of the product.
A simple example: a button. UX design is focused on the position, discovery, feedback, and interaction with careful attention in taking into account both previous and following functions. Whereas UI design will focus on how to make the button visible, accounting for the shape, color, and typography to make the user want to press it.
Courtesy of the author
A great consumer-goods example that emphasizes this is ketchup bottles. When looking at the glass bottle, anyone can attest that it conveys elements of quality and aesthetics; however, the user experience is disappointing to everyone, including my grandmother, having users come up with workarounds for the poor usability. On the other hand, the plastic squeeze bottle, while looking cheap, is immediately intuitive in its use, and the fact that it stands on its cap, further adds a value of being ready to be dispensed by a simple squeeze.
Credit: Nima Torabi
The above example highlights the iteration of design of a user problem statement: "I want a mode of transportation that gets me from point A to point B safely, comfortably and expeditiously".
While the top approach addressed the components of the product, each iteration was rendered useless on its own and not adopted (i.e., failed) as it didn't address the user's need.
What is vital here are tangible, usable deliverables, or MVPs (Minimum Viable Product).
“User experience encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.”
Don Norman, Nielsen Norman Group
(Credited with inventing the term UX)
Back to the ketchup bottle, we can see that the first bottle was usable and formed the basis, by allowing feedback, which led to further iterations, each providing more intuitive designs. Note the middle image, where the bottle is now squeezable, would have never been initially designed without this user feedback.
User research is at the center of our approach at Dalet, both for outbound activities (on-site interviews, regular visits to see the product in use, etc.) and inbound (through conducting surveys, facilitating user community forums, etc.). This is the approach we took when we set out to re-design the user experience for our OoyalaMAM, the main user interface for the Ooyala Flex Media Platform: usability and speed were our top goals – but that’s a story for our next blog post.
The recently refreshed OoyalaMAM user interface
We want to enable our user community to converse and contribute while gaining knowledge and identifying trends that would need to be slated in the roadmap.
As part of this user research, we are putting in place forums for the community to contribute, collaborate, and drive innovative ideas at the forefront of our practice.
We'd love to have you aboard!