UX is a fast growing field that is talked about by almost everybody. The phrase however is thrown around a lot without a clear understanding of what it actually means. Many people seem confused or unclear of what it actually entails. In reality, it doesn’t need to be scary or complicated.
Anybody can work on creating a positive user experience with the right understanding and knowledge. The Neilsen Norman Group’s definition of UX as “covering all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company and its products” is a great place to start. It’s all about making any time the user and company interacts a positive experience.
With this simple definition in mind, here are my top tips and examples on how anybody can create an awesome user experience. Note: I will continue to add to these tips as I get more time!
1 — Organise pages and information in a logical order
Referred to as “information architecture”, this concept essentially focuses on placing and categorising information in such a way that makes clear sense to users. The goal here is to ensure that users don’t have to exhaust too much thought about what they’re trying to do or find.
Consider an email application. You would expect your primary home view to contains emails you’ve received from others. A default view that contains emails received from others and emails you’ve sent may not be the information that most users expect to find on such a page.
2 — Provide consistent design/navigation elements for users
Consistent navigation helps increase a user’s familiarity with your product and reduce the chances of them “getting lost”. For example, moving the Back button constantly may encourage users to simply close their session if they need to return and can’t find how to do so easily.
Consider what a user would expect. It is common that clicking the logo on a website would take one to the homepage and that there would be some way to tell what page they are on (i.e. the item in the navbar is highlighted).
3 — Provide feedback and interactions that help users understand
We can all relate to the pain when waiting 10 seconds after pressing “Submit” on a form only to wonder if it has submitted or not. Interactions and feedback help avoid situations like this. You don’t have to use fancy or long-winded animations. Simply consider what you can do to show users when they have selected something, need to wait, have forgotten something and so on.
Consider a sign-up form. If you have 5 fields on your form, and a user incorrectly fills in one field, show the exact field which is incorrect and why. Don’t just say the entire form can’t be submitted. Tell users what and why!
4 — Consider the device your product is primarily used on
Users expect different experiences across different devices. A mobile experience requires a different pattern of thought in comparison to a desktop-based experience. Considerations for mobile can include whether your app is used mainly in portrait or landscape mode, the degree of permissions it requires from a user’s device, navigation style and, for iOS, 3D Touch. You should also consider the design guidelines that can make your app feel native to each OS when followed well (iOS and Android).
Consider a mobile game. The game is designed only to be played in landscape, however by default users use portrait. A friendly pop-up helps minimise confusion and point users towards the ideal landscape experience.
5 — Constantly look at how much information you really need from users
Nobody likes to be asked for too much information, or information that feels beyond necessary. Asking too much of users, or for information that is too personal, can lead to users bouncing or not using your service. Plus, you need to look after that information! This applies for sign-up information, device permissions, user profiles and more. Consider really how much you need.
Consider a mobile video chat app. You may require permissions for a user’s camera, contacts and location. Some may question why you need their contacts if you don’t provide any context. A simple pop-up message briefly explaining that it allows you to ring your contacts with one touch can help.
6 — Refine your form design
Let’s be honest, generally speaking forms suck. They can get really long, complicated, demanding, poorly thought out and have terrible error messages. You as a user know this already. It might be boring to do, but spend the time designing and crafting you forms. Consider telling users errors as they type them (inline validation), minimising the number of required fields and placing the easiest fields at the top.
Consider a mobile app. When you are filling in a form, the ideal experience is that the keyboard changes to suit the field you are filling out. The email field should have an “@” and “.” in the keyboard, whereas a number-only field should have only numbers available to choose from.
7 — Test areas that need improvement
There is not always a “go-to” fix for various user experience problems. Sometimes you won’t know why something performs poorly. Running tests allows you to test your assumptions or ideas as to what is causing the problem. There are many great split-test products that allow you to do this, or you can even make changes yourself and measure the results over a period of time if you are on a budget. Changing text, button colours, navigation and images can be a good place to start.
Consider a website’s poorly performing landing page. You could begin by changing the hero text on the page and measuring the impact. After that, you could consider changing background images or colours. If still unsuccessful, you could re-arrange or remove links in the nav that seem irrelevant.
8 — Don’t forget the words!
Words carry a strong and clear meaning to people. It is clear that one should begin moving when they see the word “Go”. In terms of a product, words provide navigational cues as well as instructions, information and ideas. They also help define the style that users should expect within your product. Find words that are not too vague or open to interpretation to ensure you minimise confusion.
Consider LinkedIn. They use the words “Share an article, photo, video or idea”. The word article appears first likely due to the professional market that exists on LinkedIn — many people share professional articles that fit LinkedIn well. The same goes for ideas — LinkedIn has a business focus, and perhaps people want to share their ideas.