Simple, Clean and Accessible – Third Light’s New Starters Explain The Importance of Good UX
Once upon a time it would have been technical specifications taking the lead on a business software purchase, but as we head towards 2020, there’s no doubt that user experience has taken centre stage and is one the most important factors when it comes to winning the deal. And as SaaS businesses proliferate, so the competition grows in our increasingly tech-savvy society - as consumers, we search for, download and use a diverse range of apps on a daily basis, so our expectations around simple, clean and accessible software keep on rising.
This summer at Third Light, we’ve welcomed four new members to the team; James Dawson - Senior Front-End Developer, Anna Stakhova - Senior Front-End Developer, Teea Alarto - Senior Back-End Developer and Tom Flux, who we were delighted to have had on work experience before he heads to Leicester University this month, to start a degree in Computer Science. We took the opportunity to ask them about their priorities as software developers, and how they’re going to ensure user needs are met in the development roadmap.
Anna has a degree in Computer Science and has worked as a graphic designer as well as a web developer. This dual perspective gives her the insight and experience to able to develop software that can look good and work well at the same time. Anna tells us:
"As a software developer, my priority for Chorus, Third Light’s media library, is to ensure we continue to deliver a simple, user-friendly interface. Software is becoming easier and easier to use, so it’s essential that we keep pace and actively listen to what our customers say and need. Chorus is incredibly powerful - the interface has been designed with and for the people that will use it, and I can see the team here really cares about UX.”
Teea tells us that her priorities as a software engineer are to write functional and clean code. Functional, so it meets with and exceeds expectations and also effectively handles different error situations and their reporting. Clean, so when someone else picks up from where he’s left off it’s easy for them to understand what’s going on. Teea says:
"I work towards the ‘user-first’ mentality - making the users’ experience as pleasing as possible, with fast code that means wait times are kept to a minimum. I also think it’s important that the users’ experience is as seamless as possible, so they don’t have to spend too much time contacting support about cryptic error messages. With software, it’s really important to ask not just what needs to be done, but also why it needs to be done, so that you can understand and develop the best solution for each and every scenario.”
It’s also important to remember that not everyone has the best devices, screen resolutions or internet speeds and so the software needs to be developed with those users in mind too.
"When we focus on the users that have less than optimal circumstances when they use our software, we actually improve the experience for everyone. It’s a bit like building ramps to grocery stores for people in wheelchairs - it also provides improved accessibility for couriers with heavy packages, people with pushchairs or just people that would rather use a ramp instead of stairs. The focus is a small group of users but there’s a positive effect for everyone.”
Tom, who enjoyed his work experience at Third Light adds:
"Being in a working environment is so completely different to being at school or college and I love it so far! I’ve found Chorus to be very intuitive, and even though I’ve never used software like this before I only had to refer to the Quick Start Guide once on how file sharing worked. I think the media library’s main strength was that everything seemed to ‘just work’ and you didn't have to have a Computer Science degree to understand how!”
The team all agree that communication is paramount to being successful software engineers and developing an excellent user experience. Understanding and articulating complex tasks to both technical and non-technical colleagues is essential. Being able to deliver constructive criticism is also an important part of product development, and one that requires expert communication. James adds:
"As well as communication, creativity is key. From user interface design, to database design. From whole systems, to a single function. Creativity and imagination play a vital role in creating solutions that are truly exceptional. A company that can give their engineers the freedom to tackle problems in this creative way can expect wondrous results to happen and Third Light do this very well.”
There’s no doubt that software development’s primary focus is now the user, so it’s all about identifying customers, understanding their personalities and recognising what makes each of them happy, right down to the finest detail. James concludes: