User Experience, not “user’s experience” (there is a difference), is a design process that requires time, research and understanding.
You can’t build effectively for people if you don’t understand them, so we do research to get to know our users. The next step involves developing ideas that will solve the user’s needs and what the product sets out to do. It’s important to give users the solution that lets them do what they want to do, within the framework of the website’s goals. The challenge is aligning their experience so that the business benefits when the user reaches their goal.
UX reaches these goals through:
Understanding the way the user thinks and feels can make or break results. This covers from the user’s motivation to visit the website in the first place, to what they expect to see or happen when they click on things, what they want to accomplish, and how is the website rewarding their behavior.
Make the experience as clear and simple as possible. Reduce friction (but don’t kill it completely). Ask yourself if the decisions you’re making are subconsciously expected. Ask yourself if the process you’re building has the appropriate number of steps. Nothing should be more than 3 clicks away. However, focus on the user and make sure they know where they are and where they can go at all times; if the navigation is easy and clear you can get away with any number of clicks.
UX designers have to know how to make the distinction between what’s beautiful and what’s useful. Usually the scale will tilt towards less artsy, more simplistic. If an element is adorning your site without any other purpose it probably doesn’t need to be there.
Don’t reinvent the wheel. If users are accustomed to linking a specific icon with a specific function, don’t overthink it- use that one. By all means make it your own and give it your style, but don’t go against an established canon if it works. We’re all about breaking things, but only when it makes sense to break them.
Design with no content results in design for its own sake. Design is visual communication, so how can you communicate when you have no message? Careful editing and word choice is very important when building products, establishing brand voice and asking your users to perform tasks. Design can begin without the final draft of content, but it should have something to go by. Designers sometimes become editors, choosing specific length of phrases to accompany certain images, or deciding on specific number of words for tasks, etc. Content and design go hand in hand. Creating something with no content is a step away from becoming a multi purpose empty template.
When you’re asking a user to perform a task, ask yourself if it motivates the user to complete their goal. Is it clear, direct, simple and functional? Keep instructions as clear and short as possible. Users want to be told what to do as it reduces anxiety, but remove any superfluous text to clean up the communication channel. This is why instead of finding “Please fill out the required fields below”, you’ll get the more functional “Fill in the form below”, which takes up less real estate and gets to the point in less time. Think about it in terms of a recipe, instructions. Be concise, and keep it simple!
We’ve discussed the importance of research. Getting to know the user is as vital as the final product itself. Research will let you know how people behave, think, and what motivates them. Are you building based on these learnings? Are you looking for subjective opinions or objective facts? Know your user, and build for them.
6. Information Architecture (IA)
IA is a term that describes “the structural design of shared information environments” which is a complicated way of saying “a way to organize information”. The structure of your website will be given by the goal it has to achieve. The first way to accomplish this is via a site map, or tree, which should be as clear and simple as possible. Sections, or categories, will answer to the type of content of the business.
User stories are also a very important part of IA, since they describe possible paths a user can take in your site. They describe flows, and we spend a very long time refining these before getting started on any project. It helps designers think of usability, edge cases, and rhythms, and developers to figure out how to build the site, what technologies to use.
UX is not something solely under a graphic designer’s umbrella: in many companies people are hired specifically to conduct research, to analyze data, or to lead usability tests and focus groups before embarking on a new product’s production. At Codelitt, we use the input of all of our collective fields to come to a great user experience.
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