If you’re investigating a new app designer, the chances are you’ll have stumbled across the term UX design. What does UX mean? It’s simply short-hand for User Experience. So, a UX designer is responsible for ensuring that a website (or indeed, any software) is accessible, understandable and – in the end – a pleasure to use. Surely all designers do that? You’d be surprised! How many times have you logged onto a website – or loaded up an app – and been confronted with a garbled mess? Or even something that looks alright but is impossible to use without a manual (hello, Snapchat!).
The golden rule of UX design – if users need a manual, you’ve failed!
So how exactly does UX design work? This is our guide.
There are a lot of ways to create an app in 2017 – thousands of them, in fact. Completely custom, hybrid frameworks like Ionic, drag-and-drop, templates, and so forth.
So why take a UX-focused approach?
- It’ll save you money later. The modern approach of ‘launch now, fix after’ is far more expensive in the long run. Indeed, many experts estimate that every dollar invested in UX during development could save $100 down the road. After all, fixing breaks is far more time-consuming and complex than ensuring they don’t occur in the first place. What’s more, a vast majority of unprecedented fixes during development stem directly from the User Interface, indicating that most necessary repairs could simply be avoided.
- You’ll get it right first up. A key part of UX preparation is research. Even simply hosting customer interviews during the early days of a project can be the difference between releasing a product that’s already exactly what the market needs and introducing one that needs to be rebuilt just to avoid customers hating it.
- Your ROI will be better. The success of your product relies, in the end, on how much income it generates for your company. UX research is a goldmine in this sense. By allowing time for the interface to be tested by genuine users, any issues that would prevent conversion can be picked up BEFORE the project is released for real. You’ll be able to pin-point particular issues and fix them.
- Positive UX means better online marketing results. Digital marketing – or SEO – is an industry in which quality has a direct impact on the results you’re able to achieve. Every search engine – and especially Google – focuses heavily on the way in which visitors behave when using your technology. If they’re constantly arriving, feeling disappointed or confused at your product and leaving, your numbers will start to suffer. Again, this could cost you thousands of visitors – and ten times that in income – over the next few years.
- It’ll mean less tech calls. Though no technology will ever be perfect enough to completely avoid the need for customer service, making the effort to minimise it is still a sound investment. If you take an extra forty man-hours to improve your UX but it saves you twice that in customer service calls after launch, you’ve succeeded. (And it will likely save you far more than that).
- Happy customers. Last but definitely not least: UX is, in the end, about creating an app or website that customers LOVE to use. A great design will keep them coming back again and again, and as any business knows, it’s more expensive to find new customers than it is to keep existing ones.
UX design encompasses a LOT of different areas. And, of course, different businesses have their own individual rules. However, there are certain key factors that every company should focus on if they want to end up with returning customers and increased profit.
If your users have to expel a ton of mental energy working out what they’re looking at, then your interface isn’t doing its job. This applies to every part of the design: the fonts and copy, the menus, the colour scheme and the user interface. People have a limited amount of mental resources each day: your website shouldn’t be using them all up. Minimise how many decisions your users have to make.
What is your website or app designed for? What value does it offer? Too many websites don’t have purpose, or are unclear about the way they operate. Apps are the same. UX design is about honesty: explaining things exactly as they are. When offering services or products, you should present them in a way that would make you want to use them. The key is to be trustworthy.
We’re going to cover this in more depth during the next section, because trust is a vital part of UX design. Suffice to say, building up trust increases conversions.
UX design is an area in which re-inventing the wheel can often be as damaging as it can helpful. We’re not, of course, suggesting that you outright copy other designs. However, the use of familiar patterns, icons and presentational features can help make your app or site look more legitimate. For an example of this, you only have to look at the websites for Apple and Microsoft. Sure, the colour schemes might differ, but the structure of the pages is still similar – logo to the left, search bar to the right, slider images and so forth. These companies know the importance of familiarity in design. It all comes down, once again, to mental energy. We’re all so familiar with navigating the web that we just expect different features to be located – and to operate – in particular ways. If they don’t, working out why can be a drain.
(It’s worth noting that a tool like InVision can be invaluable in allowing you to test your design on different devices).
If you’ve got a great design, then you’re going to bring back repeat users. It’s here that your design’s efficiency comes into play. Once you’ve got people coming back, how easily can they repeat what they need to do? Can they log in, every day, and make a payment – or send a message – without being confronted by obstacles? Apps such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube make it impossibly easy to use their features from any device, anywhere. You should aim to do the same.
This is the end focus. It all comes down to a design that makes people happy. Bring a simple solution to a complex problem and you’ll never be short of users. Essentially, you should focus on creating a design that is so intuitive and simple that users forget it’s even there: all they see or feel is the value that it brings to their life.
So, we said earlier we were going to explore trust in more depth. Why trust? Because there are thousands of competing apps out there, and millions of websites. Users will avoid using any interface that seems dodgy. Even if you get some initial visitors, there’s no guarantee you’ll keep them. So, how can you build trust?
Keep your word
If your website or app promises something and then doesn’t deliver, trust is eroded. This can happen for a number of reasons: even something like a link that leads to a 404 page is a broken promise. The worst example of this is advertising: you can practically hear the groans whenever an ad interrupts a YouTube video.
Consistency is a key factor in both UX and UI design. Whenever a user logs onto your page, they’ll begin to recognise patterns in everything: the colour scheme, the way the interface works and so on. Breaking these patterns at any point is a key way to erode trust, and it’s for this reason that most decent-sized companies have their own in-house ‘style guide’.
Have a clear design
Are you beginning to notice a pattern yet? That’s right: a lot of the ways to build up trust are heavily linked to the UX principles we mentioned at the outset. That’s how important trust is. In this sense, ‘clarity’ simply means how readable and easy to read a website or app is. It’s for this reason that contrasts are so popular: contrasting colours allow each other to stand out in stark opposition. Though, of course, discretion is needed: if you use contrasts for the sake of it, you may end up with some very garish designs: ones that’re more likely to cause a headache than bring users back. It’s important to be judicious.
If users are taking the time to interact with your site or app, they’ll want acknowledgement. How? Simple. Visually demonstrate their interactions. This can be done in a range of ways:
- Having buttons that change colour when pressed.
- Have a search bar that pre-empts potential results. (Google’s auto-complete is a good example).
- Provide videos that visibly load when the user presses play.
The key is to avoid the user wondering whether their click has made any difference. (How many times have you pressed on something in a website and found yourself asking ‘did it click?!’).
As we’ve already briefly mentioned, you should make your design as intuitive as possible to use. However, there IS a line that shouldn’t be crossed: it should be obvious how the user can go about their goals. But it shouldn’t ever feel like they’re being dictated to: always ensure the reader feels in control.
A good modern example of this would be an e-commerce website where – on the final payment screen – the user is confronted with three pre-ticked boxes dictating that they’d love to hear from the site’s partners in future. Should the user have the option? Absolutely. But be sure to avoid seeming pushy.
Have a firm voice
This is less of a design feature and more of a branding factor, but it’s still important: your website should have a voice of its own. There is something inherently suspicious about a company speaking in a formal, non-human way. What’s more, there’s something even worse about a company that plainly copies their rivals. Your company’s voice needs to be your own. In 2017, there are few more effective ways of building trust than having a real, human voice in your communication.
So, we’ve looked at the key factors in how you can go about building trust. But where do companies go wrong? What are the pitfalls you should look out for when focusing on a new project?
Focusing on UX before the product is done
We mentioned earlier that UX design is a medium and long-term investment, and so it is. BUT: That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t focus on the specifics of your product first. Even a flawless user interface matched with a stunning website won’t help a poor product, or a good product aimed at the wrong market.
Doing your research too late
This is the other side of the coin. A good product or service should come first, but AS SOON as you’ve got one and are ready to market, you should begin your research. The earlier on in the process the better, as it’ll help you make key design and presentation decisions. What’s more, it’ll allow you to test your user interface multiple times, ensuring that – by the time you make it to launch – you’ll have a design that your customers love.
Not focusing enough on giving value
People don’t care about a business: they care about the value a business brings to them. They care how much of a positive impact a business will have on their lives. Yet so FEW businesses actually focus on this straight away. When you’re working on your design, you should be focused on how you’re going to emphasise to the user the benefits of what you’re offering them. (Good copywriting can make a huge difference here. Check out this mega-guide to an under-rated skill).
Not being focused
If you’re going to create an intuitive, simple design then you need to be focused. One of the biggest errors designers make is trying to squeeze everything into their work. As well as diluting your message, an overabundance of features can actively put users off. For a killer demonstration, check out Dropbox’s now-legendary landing page, which is a master class in promoting a product that does ONE thing well.
Not doing enough testing
Testing comes up again and again in UX design, and for good reason. There’s simply no substitute for one-on-one observation testing: real customers getting in front of your product or service and using it, all the while giving you direct, honest feedback.
A great example of this came from one big online retailer who changed their sales button to say ‘Continue’ rather than ‘Login’. After research, they found that the latter term put buyers off by suggesting the necessity of creating an account. The improvement as a result of this ‘minor’ change? A $300m jump in annual turnover – a 45 % increase.
At Iconic Solutions, we’re well-versed in UX design. We specialise in ensuring our clients get what matters: results. Why, though, should you work with an external firm? Hiring someone in-house is, of course, an option.
You’ll be ahead of your competitors
We’ve already mentioned the benefits of testing. So what? So this: Working with an external UX design company means that not only will you benefit from the testing of your project: you’ll also benefit from our years of experience in testing others. You’ll have a head start on the companies who are starting their own testing from scratch: This can save you both time and money.
You’ll make more money
Whenever you debate whether or not a project is worth the cost, you should consider this: What’s the alternative? See, we’re assuming that – if you’re reading this – UX design probably isn’t your speciality. This means that you’d need to hire someone to manage the project in-house. Will all the costs that come with a full-time employee – pensions, equipment, benefits, training, etc – end up cheaper than an external firm who’ll also be able to work quicker? It’s unlikely. And then, of course, you’ve got the issue of what happens after the project is completed. Not only will a professional firm bring you their expertise: they’ll also give you the opportunity to end the relationship once it’s not needed anymore!
You’ll be able to spend less time on the project
UX design projects aren’t something that can be half-baked. We’re all operating in a world where the top companies spend tens of thousands a day on testing. You simply can’t compete with that by ‘dedicating a bit of extra time’ to it. UX offers a great return on investment, but it needs commitment. So why handle it yourself? You are, after all, running a business: a business that takes enough of your energy and time as it is. Outsourcing is a great way of knowing that your design will get the time and effort it requires without your main company being affected.
Give us a call today
Give Iconic Solutions a call today. UX design is just one of the ways in which we can help your company increase its profits.