Reducing Engineering Costs Through UX Design

Eric Magnuson

Eric Magnuson is a Qt Software Consultant at ICS. He has conducted numerous on-site corporate Qt and QML training courses and has developed applications in the medical, biotech and security industries. Eric graduated from Worcester Polytechnic Institute with a degree in Computer Science.

By Eric Magnuson | Monday, July 29, 2013

Imagine for a moment that you are working on a project that has a virtually unlimited budget, like the iPhone or Android OS projects. You have the luxury of running 10 design teams simultaneously, seeing what brilliant new ideas they can come up with. You also can run 10 development teams with loose direction, just to see what amazing feats of engineering they can produce that could be worked back into some future version of your project. Sounds pretty good, right?

Now lets step back into the more typical situation. You’re working on a project that has a tight schedule and an even tighter budget. You can’t afford to have your developers wasting hours of time on code that will never see the light of day. Even worse, having an impressive but complicated piece of engineering that needs to be reworked because the developer was given loose direction and the end result just didn’t fit with the rest of the project. These types of situations can have a costly impact on the bottom line.

This is where a strong UX design team steps in to save the project both engineering effort and money. Designers and developers think differently. They approach problems from different angles and that typically means they arrive at different conclusions.

A developer’s primary goal is to make something functional and as efficient as possible.  Their mental efforts are spent, as they should be, on figuring out problems related to making the software work. UX Design work takes a necessary back seat, since most engineers have neither the training nor the time to properly address it. The result is decisions that make perfect sense from an engineering perspective, but might not really fit what the end user is trying to accomplish. Even worse, that same component that the end user didn’t want might have been woven into the fabric of the application, or taken a lot of time and effort to address a potential edge case or functionality that proper design would have eliminated.

 A UX designer on the other hand has the primary goal of providing the end user with an application that will make a positive impact on them. Designers also have the luxury of being able to prototype using rapid and low cost techniques. It is much less effort and cost to rework a prototype early on than it is to re-engineer the software. In the end, the UX team will provide a well-defined specification of the software and all of its components.

By introducing a UX team into the mix and giving them enough lead-time to prepare materials, it helps make the engineering efforts leaner and more efficient. Rather than implementing a vague component and re-engineering it as it becomes more defined, the software engineers can focus their energy on strengthening the product that will actually ship. The UX team can also collaborate with the engineering team and the business team to ensure that goals are met and provide creative solutions to make the engineering effort more feasible. The end result is that the engineering effort costs less and the end user has a better experience using the software.

Have a question or add to the conversation: Log in Register