User eXperience: designing for and with the user

September 15, 2023, by Virginia Capoluongo




The design of the user experience

User Interface and User experience share an important commonality: the user is indeed at the heart of design, and the user-centered approach is essential in creating truly useful products.

Whatever your role in design you must remember that you are not the user. Designing involves trying to understand and empathize with the people involved, the actual users of the specific product or service you are envisioning.

Designing a good user experience for a digital product, both in terms of functionally and aesthetics, must consider several important aspects, such as:

  • the identification of user needs, through a series of surveys that we will discuss shortly;
  • usability, which measures the degree of ease and satisfaction with which users relate to the interface of a site or app interface;
  • accessibility, meaning the capability of a product, service or environment to be easily usable by any user who happens to use it, or at least by the majority of them;
  • information architecture, which involves the semantic and logical organization of information environments, both physical and digital, aiming to make everything easier to find, understand and use.

Let's take a closer look at them.

User needs guide us towards solutions

Let's imagine we have to design a house and consider what would be the things to take into account.

First, we should understand who the people living there are and what their habits are, and ask ourselves questions like:

  • Are they at home every day?
  • Do they only come home in the evening?
  • Is it a holiday home?
  • How do they move around the house?
  • Do they cook a lot?
  • Do they often have guests?

Similarly, to develop a product we need to understand who the users are and grasp their needs, wants and problems before we start designing the user interface.

This is done through User Research with interviews, questionnaires, tests. Only then can we think about style, colors, details.

Usability: measures how user-friendly a product is

Just as an apartment must be easy to live in and use, a user interface must be user-friendly.

Usability refers to the ability of users to easily reach their end goal: if the oven did not have icons and directions, I would not know how to use it and would have to go by trial and error, which would cause me frustration.

To evaluate the interaction between user and product, and thus verify the actual usability of a system, one of the must-have tools is the heuristic evaluation, which allows us to make a validation in a short time, using a check-list of already known problems.

A heuristic, in computer science, is a technique that allows us to solve a problem very quickly, more than it would take using classical methods, as well as prevent it. In our case, and in human-computer interaction in general, the interface plays a key role: it is therefore tested and evaluated according to Nielsen's famous Heuristics, 10 rules established from the factorial analysis of 249 usability problems, which every good designer should comply with.


Any examples?

  • Any system should always keep users informed of the status of their actions through feedback.
  • It is always good to know and use the 'language' of the end users, i.e. those who will use the software product.
  • Displaying consistent graphical elements on every web page confirms to the user that they are navigating within the same site.
  • Error messages should precisely indicate the problem and suggest a constructive solution.

Following these heuristics makes for an easier and more pleasant user experience.

But what if we wanted to measure how easy a product is to use?

This is where user tests help us, the most widely used being the Usability test, where we ask users to show us how they would use the product, inviting them to perform tasks.

By observing the users' behaviour, we can understand if there are any issues and try to correct them, adapting our solution to real use. Usability is measured through various metrics, such as time to complete a task, error rate, user satisfaction. Other tests and tools such as focus groups or questionnaires are also used to collect these data.

Accessibility to information for all

Let us return to our house example.

A product, just like a house, should be usable by everyone, regardless of their physical or cognitive abilities, and similarly a user interface must be designed to be usable by a wide range of users.

For example, an accessible product must be usable by blind or visually impaired users, it must be understandable by users with reading difficulties or language comprehension difficulties, as well as other disabilities.


We can achieve this by following official guidelines, which include many precautions, such as paying attention to aspects such as:

  • color contrasts to make all content readable
  • text size
  • insertion of subtitles to videos
  • through knowledge of assistive technologies.

Information architecture to make order

Our house must also have a logical arrangement of spaces and furniture, so that it is easy to move around, just like navigating an interface.


We need to organize items within the right furniture: clothes in the closets, dishes in the kitchen units, creating a hierarchy where it’s easier to access the things we use most often.

Information architecture deals precisely with organizing the content of a product, making it easy and quick for the user to find, making navigation intuitive.

Data collected from research always helps us organize content into maps and flows.

All the work related to User Experience involves the end user: through listening, testing, collecting feedback and continuous improvement. The goal, after all, is to make the product closer and closer to the needs and desires of the user.

🟢 We've been working on extensive user research for the Django Software Foundation. We're now improving the user experience on the community website.

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