Category: UX Design
This category features quality articles on usability, information architecture, interaction design and other user experience (UX) related topics for digital (Web, mobile, applications, software) and physical products. Through these articles, experts and professionals share with you their valuable ideas, practical tips, useful guidelines, recommended best practices and great case studies. Curated by Chui Chui Tan. .
Popular tags in this category: Usability, Design, User Experience, UI, Psychology, Process, E-Commerce, Content.
A lot of designers seem to be talking about user experience (UX) these days. We’re supposed to delight our users, even provide them with magic, so that they love our websites, apps and start-ups. User experience is a very blurry concept. Consequently, many people use the term incorrectly. Furthermore, many designers seem to have a firm (and often unrealistic) belief in how they can craft the user experience of their product. However, UX depends not only on how something is designed, but also other aspects. In this article, I will try to clarify why UX cannot be designed.
I recently visited the elegant website of a design agency. The website looked great, and the agency has been showcased several times. I am sure it delivers high-quality products. But when it presents its UX work, the agency talks about UX as if it were equal to information architecture (IA): site maps, wireframes and all that. This may not be fundamentally wrong, but it narrows UX to something less than what it really is.
User experience design for the Web (and its siblings, interaction design, UI design, et al) has traditionally been a deliverables-based practice. Wireframes, site maps, flow diagrams, content inventories, taxonomies, mockups and the ever-sacred specifications document (aka “The Spec”) helped define the practice in its infancy. These deliverables crystallized the value that the UX discipline brought to an organization.
Over time, though, this deliverables-heavy process has put UX designers in the deliverables business — measured and compensated for the depth and breadth of their deliverables instead of the quality and success of the experiences they design. Designers have become documentation subject matter experts, known for the quality of the documents they create instead of the end-state experiences being designed and developed.
Start-up organizations provide an extraordinary example of chaos organized into manageable chunks. Perhaps more than anyone else, the individuals who comprise a start-up team are required to understand their team’s goals across a variety of disciplines — research, marketing, design, development, architecture, etc. — as well as their own responsibility to move the company’s overarching objective forward. Entrepreneurs must choose the direction, designers must think through the options, and developers must cull a functional product or service, all while giving feedback to and receiving it from their colleagues.
At least, that’s the idea. Most start-ups tend to take liberties somewhere along the way. Some start-ups begin with a novel business model, whereas others begin with a beautiful design. Still others try to test things out first with a functional prototype, even if it is a bit ugly. All of them — regardless of their initial approach — adapt their process over time in order to create a well-rounded product or service. And for this reason, most of today’s start-ups describe themselves as “agile.”
Where do good ideas come from? It’s a question that matters a great deal to designers, yet seems to be curiously discounted in the common perception of graphic design. Any time I talk with, say, an uncle at Thanksgiving about my work, I’m reminded that, in most people's minds, the job of being a designer is mainly a matter of learning a set of computer applications — programs which, when properly operated, presumably do the work of generating ideas on their own.
If pressed further, most people will offer up some version of the Genius Theory: the idea that certain individuals are simply blessed with a force called ‘creativity’ that (as the theory goes) allows them to summon remarkable visual solutions to problems where the rest of us see only a blank canvas.
In this article, we will look at four examples of successful visual solutions created by well-known designers, and examine the process by which each designer arrived at his final concept. In each case, we will see that the solution did not arrive as a sudden flash of inspiration from out of the blue; rather, a good idea emerged methodically out of a sensible analysis of readily-available ideas and impressions.
Here’s a question for you: would you agree that creating a great user experience should be the primary aim of any Web designer? I know what your answer is… and youʼre wrong! Okay, I admit that not all of you would have answered yes, but most probably did.
Somehow, the majority of Web designers have come to believe that creating a great user experience is an end in itself. I think we are deceiving ourselves and doing a disservice to our clients at the same time. The truth is that business objectives should trump users’ needs every time. Generating a return on investment is more important for a website than keeping users happy. Sounds horrendous, doesn’t it? Before you flame me in the comments, hear me out.
How do you make decisions? If you're like most people, you'll probably answer that you pride yourself on weighing the pros and cons of a situation carefully and then make a decision based on logic. You know that other people have weak personalities and are easily swayed by their emotions, but this rarely happens to you. You've just experienced the fundamental attribution error — the tendency to believe that other people's behaviour is due to their personality (“Josh is late because he's a disorganised person”) whereas our behaviour is due to external circumstances (“I'm late because the directions were useless”).
Cognitive biases like these play a significant role in the way we make decisions so it's not surprising that people are now examining these biases to see how to exploit them in the design of web sites. I'm going to use the term ‘persuasion architects' to describe designers who knowingly use these techniques to influence the behaviour of users. (Many skilled designers already use some of these psychological techniques intuitively — but they wouldn't be able to articulate why they have made a particular design choice. The difference between these designers and persuasion architects is that persuasion architects use these techniques intentionally).
"Form follows function" is a widely accepted — albeit controversial — principle that most designers in a variety of disciplines have adopted since its inception at the turn of the 20th century. On the web, we commonly refer to function as usability which is the ease of use and navigation of a website in order to achieve user's goals.
In this showcase we present websites that sacrifice usability for beauty and present issues related to clutter, loading, navigation, archiving or visibility. Unfortunately, although the sites featured in this showcase are visually appealing, they are quite difficult to use. By studying such examples, we can learn what mistakes we can avoid in our designs and how not to strive for strong aesthetic appearances on the account of usability.
We invest time, money and effort into understanding our audience, and the movement toward a more socially networked Web has made us realize the power that visitors have over how our designs are engineered; and we try to meet their ever-growing needs. Community is integral to the evolution and functioning of a website, and visitors and website owners have become dependent on each other. This reflects a change in the industry: the user has turned into an anonymous designer.
This article will explore the influential figure 'user' and uncover the power of your community. Whether you boast social applications, interactivity or a stream of regular visitors, your audience might be a powerful untapped resource at your fingertips. You, the website owner, have the power to make decisions and override them (for better or worse), but the user deserves to be recognized as more than a statistic.
As Web technology improves, users expect Web-based widgets to be useful, content to be relevant and interfaces to be snappy. They want to feel confident navigating a website and using its functionality. They crave being able to get things done with little friction and on demand. And demand they do.
People are picky. When a website gives them problems, they are less inclined to use it. From a design perspective, testing for a good user experience entails making improvements based as much on critical feedback as on design expertise. As long as your website is around, offering a good user experience is critical. And like the website itself, improving the user experience doesn’t end when the website launches.