Ultimate Guide to Better User Experience
2016 is a turning point for both businesses and software vendors. With 6.4 billion connected devices worldwide, they’re bound to revise the existing UX standards and make sure their apps and websites look (and feel!) perfect on any device. Why is UX so important? 50% of designers & developers admit their apps were at least once rejected by publishers and customers due to UX issues. How to create a good UX and keep up with the times?
Why follow UX design trends?
Although UX design mostly deals with user emotions, creating a positive user experience involves a great share of technicality and planning. Major brands (including Samsung, Microsoft and Apple) develop new products with UX in mind. The latter is particularly known for being a control freak.
Why is UX important?
It takes 25-50% more effort to make changes to UX architecture once an application/website was launched, and here’s where prolonged deadlines and failure to stick to the budget come from.
Technically, there are universally approved user experience standards like iOS Human Interface Guidelines that help you build an application for a particular operating system.
However, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. UX and UI design trends come and go. In 2014 everyone went nuts about narrow fonts (that were almost impossible to read even on a PC), and now larger fonts are coming into fashion. Flat design is still super-popular, but most developers use shadows or gradients to emphasize the difference between buttons and textboxes.
In case you want to launch a successful product, be it a mobile game or desktop enterprise application, you need to build an MVP, do some testing and gather feedback to understand how your potential customers really feel about it.
Here’s what they hate for sure.
User experience guidelines: don’ts of mobile and web UX design
Mobile apps and websites
- Sliders that do not work on mobile. If you have a website, make sure to optimize it for mobile. According to the 2012 survey conducted by Google, 74% of smartphone users were more likely to return to a website provided it was mobile-friendly;
- Tiny links. If a link is too small to be seen on a smartphone screen, users can’t click on it properly. Considering the fact that you’ve got only 1(!) second to win user attention (before they leave for another website), you can’t ignore usability;
- Extremely long forms. Back in October the 4th Gen Apple TV was heavily criticized for the complicated data input via the Siri remote. Although it’s way more convenient to type on a smartphone, making users fill in long forms and start all over again once they miss something is an easy way to lose customers;
- Obligatory Google/Apple sign in. You’d better stop asking users to sign in to Google/Apple/social media accounts to access and use an application. Look at Pictochart, for example. It’s a fab tool for bringing your creative concepts to life, but it gets a little creepy once you start receiving their promotional emails you’ve never asked for;
- Strange controls. Creativity is a plus, but nobody wants to read a manual to learn how to interact with an application. Review your information architecture and put it to test to make sure navigation is experience-driven;
- Failure – and reluctance – to use as-you-type suggestion feature. Word suggestion tools improve search, spelling and data input process – and that’s what UX is all about. The function has been implemented by Microsoft, Apple and eBay – why don’t you follow their example?
Websites and desktop applications
- Gated content. As long as you share email newsletters, webinars and e-books for free, you will get 20-50% more downloads. You can always build a solid email list later on by asking users to provide their corporate emails in exchange for higher-level content;
- Long and complicated passwords. Latest password-cracking programs try billions of letter/number combinations within seconds, so it won’t take long to hack an account if a pro is up to it. However, users are still concerned about data security. 52% of smartphone owners, for example, delete an application once they doubt their personal data is safe. Ask customers to generate passphrases instead (they are supported by most operating systems & are way easier to remember);
- Deceiving images. If you run a beauty salon, do not use pictures of an uninhabited island on your landing page; after all, people process visuals 60 thousand (!) times faster than text; so website images should complement or emphasize content. Look what Airbnb did: their interactive map illustrates user activity across the globe and makes customers feel they belong to a virtual community (that’s exactly what we love about social networks);
- Complex interfaces. You should strip away your interface to enable users interact with the content – and we’re not even talking about conversion rates right now. A couple of years ago a US patient who was treated against cancer died of dehydration simply because three experienced nurses couldn’t figure out how to operate a desktop medication reminder app. You still think a good UX is simply a “nice-to-have”?
- Multiple calls to action. Stop writing “Email to us” above the “Email” button and placing all of this in a sidebar that contains contact information (you’re just being pushy and alienate customers).
So-2015: UX design best practices that have to go
- Carousels and automatic image sliders. Motion distracts attention and activates the “reptile” part of our brain which is responsible for survival. As a result, users barely notice the catchy titles and well-written descriptions you’ve placed on the images. Instead, you could pull a Kissmetrics and use a full-width background hero image with some legible text on top of it;
- Hamburger menus. A hamburger menu is surely an established design pattern, but it doesn’t mean users really like it. In fact, only 6% of iOS and 25% of Android smartphone holders ever click on the sandwich-looking icon. What’s out of sight is out of mind, so any navigation element you hide behind the striped icon will be lost & forgotten;
- Animation (for its own sake). If done right (iOS Calendar and Facebook apps enhanced with zoom-in options), animation can surely draw user attention to important content and provide them with valuable feedback. However, heavy visual elements consume a lion’s share of the memory resources you possess (limited as they are) and impact software performance.
3 steps to creating better (and best!) user experience
- Don’t confuse UX with usability. Unlike usability, UX design is all about positive emotions. If you compare UX and usability to roads, the former will be a highway, while the latter will be a mountain road. The highway is meant to take us from one city to another in the shortest time possible. Driving in the mountains, a traveler will see a lot of beautiful places, make new acquaintances and – most likely! – enjoy his ride. And that’s when microinteractions (those special moments that revolve around a single use case of a product) come in handy. Thanks to microinteractions, users can accomplish a certain task, adjust settings, connect multiple gadgets together, interact with content or control an ongoing process. If done right, microinteractions become signature moments that help companies increase a product adoption rates and win customer loyalty. Great examples of microinteractions include the new Facebook emoji, social media sharing, Google’s “Translate this page” option and the swiping feature successfully implemented by Tinder;
- Be personal. Almost 50% of ecommerce app/website users admit they’d like to have a personal assistant to guide them through an online transaction, and that’s why live chats and bots are trending. The major goal of a good UX designer is to establish an emotional connection between a brand and its customers. For this purpose Feather (popular Twitter agent) designed a cute bird mascot that is displayed every time you write a tweet and slowly turns green as you approach the 140 character limit. CBS promotes the Muppet Show with the help of Miss Piggy – an intelligent bot that chats with fans via Facebook Messenger. 25% of Chinese smartphone users spend hours talking to the Xiaoice chatbot and…fall in love with it. Could you think of a feature that would make customers feel attached to your product?
- Don’t stick to “design standards”. With the help of the App Store/Google Play interface guidelines you can surely understand the logic of an operating system and build a product that will meet a publisher’s requirements. However, those standards do not appeal to a particular target audience, and sometimes UX designers have to make non-trivial decisions to achieve the desired result (boost downloads, app usage or sales). The official US Airway iOS application, for example, doesn’t use the company’s logo in the upper left or right corner of the screen although it is required by the App Store; it turned out their logo resembles a hamburger menu too much! Same with flat design. Windows 8 was critically acclaimed for its clean layouts and good use of color. However, the operating system turned out to be a major usability disappointment – particularly because of the flat design buttons (most users didn’t realize they were clickable). A UX designer should be able to identify the thin line between what’s good for a publisher and what’s good for your target audience.
The inevitable Internet of Things
By 2020, there will be over 20 billion connected gadgets worldwide. In 2016 50% of US employees are expected to use several devices (including PCs, smartphones, tablets and wearables) in the workplace. What does it mean for software vendors and smart gadget manufacturers?
The finest UX design standards and best practices we’ve been working on for years may all of a sudden become irrelevant.
How on earth are we going to orchestrate the growing army of smart home appliances, self-driving cars, personal fitness trackers and Apple TVs? Obviously, you cannot apply the same logic to building an interface for a smartwatch and interactive TV set. Instead, we should abstract from single UIs, treat functionality as a service and distribute it across multiple devices with different capabilities.
Although few papers on cross-platform design have been published so far, many tech experts (including Adi Mazor Kario, a UX/UI architect with 18+ years experience), think the era of apps and screens is pretty much over. With the rise of Artificial Intelligence, Natural User Interfaces based on gestures and voice control will soon come into prominence. We shall witness a transparent flow of user experience between multiple gadgets, software and the real world – and we can’t be more excited about it!
Website and web/mobile application development requires more than experience in coding. That’s why you should trust your project to a reliable vendor who follows user experience trends, employs high-profile specialists and has modern R & D facilities to conduct testing & make sure your product is a UX perfection.