Assumptions are the designers worst enemies because they make us arrogant. Shouldn't a design know what controls that works for all users, shouldn't a designer know the meaning of symbols, shouldn't a designer know what possible user contexts exists? The answer is simple: NO! There are no quick answers to good design because users are diffrent to each other, technology is constantly changing and expectations are hard to predict. But the formula to happy users is simple, make research, prototype and test the design until all details fall into place.
Designing user interfaces is not only about structure, content and behavior - in the end it's all about meaning. How does the receiver interpret the information? Communicating by design in a multi device landscape is a challenge when both users and contexts are unknown. Here is an article with a few simple principles of writing for successful user experiences.
When people ask me what I do for a living I usually say something like: "I adapt technology to humans in order to set the stage for satisfying experiences... or in other words I design things that are easy and fun to use". Sounds simple, but humans are unpredictable, more unpredictable than computers, so I must always make sure my designs emerge from existing needs and desires, and the only way to do this is by understanding the psychology behind the user experience.
Above all, designing for experiences is about understanding the situation of use, We must consider technology, economy, psychology and context among other aspects,. No doubt we are doing a great job defining usable design patterns for varying environments and multiple devices. But the mobile medium is still immature and best practices still need improvements. So lets straight out some question marks about how people actually prefer to use mobile devices and debunk some myths.
When I read this article about gradients in mobile apps I started to think about how much mobile user interface design have evolved. For a long time the web mainly consisted of hyperlinked pages which had to be rendered and displayed when user navigated in the user interface. Lately I've noticed an emerging trend, especially in mobile design. Instead of organizing content in traditional tree-structures there are a flood of new "modern" navigation patterns out there. We can find content off-canvas, pulled in and out from a hierarchy of transperent layers, hidden behind filters or vertically folded beneath list items. I think this kind of "information surface" feels intuitive and the content is always close, like a well organized office where everything can be found in the right box, drawer. shelf or folder. But a mobil UI has limited capacity just like an office, so it crucial from usability point of view to leave some space for the users to walk around.
At the moment we have several options to interact with technology in tactile ways, where we slide, zoom and fade content in, out and around on the screen. The main advantage of such navigation patterns is that users will not be sent from one position to another and then look for bread crumbs or other clues in order to orient themselves, instead they will actually see and remember how they accessed the content. A subtle animation can definitely enhance the users ability to perceive important feedback. Hence, I think transitions are great UI effects in order to support intuitive experiences in a time when human-computer interaction is getting more physical.
Our online presence is monitored, analyzed and interpreted in order to gain deeper understanding about how we use technology. Many popular web services store data about their visitors and their behavior today, which has become a digital currency containing valuable insights that could lead to increased profits... at least in the right hands. As a UX:er the challenge is to transform data into successful actions, because if it doesn't lead to the right change it's worthless. Here is a useful article explaining the basics of data driven design.
Not long ago I watched the movie Now you see me, which was entertaining enough to keep me awake after a long day at work. One sentence got stuck after I turned off the screen: "The closer you look, the less you see". It applies very well to a creative process in my opinion, diving into details before understanding the big picture will often result in fragments of good design instead of complete coherent experiences. The larger a project is, the more important it is to put a little extra effort into the synthesis so ALL research data will be interpreted and analyzed before parceling the insights in order to communicate a comprehensive picture. In other words: don't miss the elephant in the room.
Good design is based on psychology and behavioral science in order to anticipate and set the stage for desired user experiences. As a result, good designers will also posses the power to make people march to their beat by implementing persuasive design principles. So I think UX:ers have a responsibility, I call it honest design, to design things that people truly want to use, not tempt people to use things they actually don't want.
Should I design flat or should I not, that's a difficult question I have to ask myself when I'm working on new interfaces. It's trendy with flat design but it lacks personality. It's easy to read flat design but it looks over sized on large screens. It's touchscreen friendly to use flat design but it's difficult to know where to touch. The pros and cons are many, here is an article trying to make it easier to comprehend so we can make the right decision.
Finally the math courses included in my engineering education are going to pay for the effort :) Many digital applications are depending on large flows of data that must be visualized in one way or another, and more data leads to more advanced algorithms in order to do it. No matter how much calculus I have studied, most of the raw data circulating the web will be impossible to interpret without being tranformed into a more user friendly format. Consequently designers must accept the challenge to reduce complexity and make the enormous amount of information cosumable for human beings, so why not tell it like stories, becuase that's something we are all familiar with.
The ways we have been communicating by typography have adapted to the development of new media. We painted in sand, carved in stones, wrote in ink, typed on typewriters, printed book, wrote digital texts, published them on Internet, and now we must make our words embrace the multi screen landscape. When the mobile revolution started both formats and rendering of web pages was a complete UX disaster. Seriously, who could read the cluttered, 5 column Internet version of the favorite news magazine on a 2" screen. Luckily the medium matured since then and we have plenty of opportunities to present web pages beautifully on mobile devices, large HD displays, better Internet access, responsive web technology and increased knowledge. Consequently the web is now full of big typography with high contrast, a lot of space and easy to read fonts in crystal clear resolutions.
In order to make the most of analytics data, UX design must integrate this data where it can add value. Understanding how users are actually using a website is the first step on the road to improvement.
The average visitor spends only a few seconds on the landing page before taking the decision to stay or not. Consequently it's important to make a good impression and attract users at first glance. But getting peoples' attention is not enough in order to reach a conversion, thereafter the challenge is to 1 present a value proposition, 2 use clear call-to-actions, 3 remove all traction and 4 gain trust.
According to studies in psychology humans have two cognitive systems, a more intuitive one that is good at recognizing patterns and a slower one that is more engaging and requires more mental effort. Usually people are trying to find enough clues to make decisions as fast as possible with the least mental effort. By dealing with digital interfaces users continuously evolves patterns in order to interact more efficiently. We look for likes to validate YouTube clips, we look at numbers of reviews before buying products online and we filter all fake download buttons when we try to download files in order to recognize the real one. This interesting article describes how fast and slow thinking can be considered in web design in order to help user navigate through the seemingly endless amount of noise out there.
The web is a place overcrowded by content and different patterns to navigate. At the same time we use smaller screens more often. Consequently, I think it's essential to make the users feel in control. But how? Transitions are important components of good interaction design since every change of state might have an impact on the user experience.. Implementing transitions wisely will not only give users valuable feedback about the consequences of their actions, it will also stimulate the procedual memory and improve the learnability. Here is a useful article with examples of best practice.
Genuine design experiences are based on something more than functionality, something more than reliability and something more than usability. People actually expect to feel something when they interact with technology, they want satisfaction. So how do we know what design decisions that will trigger desired emotions?
Touchscreen technology and gesture based user interfaces definitely changed the way we interact with digital content. Today we can experience the web as a partly tangible medium.with less abstraction and more intuition. And I like it! Humans have developed motor skills to deal with the physical world, we move, we swipe and we tap to modify our environment. So of course we should adapt UI designs to the mental models mother nature implemented in us and deliver truly intuitive experiences as a result.
As a UX:er I try to motivate important design decisions based on user opinions. I do user research, design prototypes and perform test sessions to unveil critical insights. Initially the problem is to plan the design process so it allows the required level of user involvment, then the real challenge is to parcel and communicate all the valuable insights and truly impact the final implementation.
This article delivers some very useful points to consider during every design project. I agree with the author, design is more than what you see at first glance, design satisfies user needs, design supports functional specifications, design builds a strucure that is easy to navigate, design makes information flow smoothly and design evokes emotions. It's all about maintaining the perspective and understanding why the problems need to be solved from the beginning - because someone actually needs it. So don't forget who someone is and what someone wants.
A successful user interface should always support the capabilities first. Start with the users in mind, identify their needs, define the requirements and design a UI that makes it as easy as possible for the user to achieve their goals. So before building the bridge, figure out where it should take you and then make sure to give people a helping hand when they want to cross it.
Designing for people should always involve research with real users in realistic situations. It's comfortable to slide down in the office chair, analyze remotely produced user data, simulate context of use and apply best practice, but it will probably not unveil a complete image of the user needs. A lab can never simulate how people actually live their lives. Instead I think observing people in their common environments is the first step to design usable products, because if we don't understand the problem how can we solve it? Ultimately, as a user experience designer, my problems are the problems the users have.
Defining UX is a challenge even for a UX designer because there are no golden rules regarding responsibilities, deliverables or alignments with other departments. UXers are like chameleons trying to blend in with marketers as well as developers while speaking all languages in a company. UX is the last piece of the puzzle that completes the overall picture, and therefore my belief is that adaptation is more essential than standards. A successful UX team will become a complete animal with well defined and measurable outcomes that are aligned with the other departments if it just has enough time and space to evolve.
Ethnographic research is an essential phase in the creative process since this is the moment when user needs and wants will set the foundation for crucial design decisions. On the other hand, theory is not always working in practice, so in my opinion the best way to make the most out of ethnography is to make broad studies with many participants and loose requirements as outcome. Because, hopefully this will lead designers in the right direction, but leave space for evolutionary development in an iterative testing phase where actual users have the opportunity to contribute with important input to the decision makers.
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