User experience: why you should value it
User experiences play a significant role in our everyday lives. Consider this: you’re at a subway station. You climb a long flight of stairs to the platform and see the train approaching. Next, you look to validate your transit ticket, only to realize that you passed the validation terminal below! You miss the train and now face a round trip down and back up those stairs (not to mention you’re now running late). This is a real-world scenario of a less-than-desirable user experience.
Now consider that user experience (UX) designers and user interface (UI) designers help alleviate similar problems in the virtual word. If you’re an individual or organization looking to justify the cost of this digital execution aspect, it’s important to understand the value it brings to the table.
What can UX/UI designers do for me?
UX and UI designers often work together to produce websites, apps and digital experiences (e.g. physical kiosks). Sometimes these roles are combined into one. For any particular execution, however, there are multiple user experience aspects that inform interface design decisions.
To start, a rough guide for the layout is completed through wireframing. This is a way of mapping out a website or an app prototype, giving a high-level overview of the entry points (or gateways) for accessing content. Having an actual audience interact with your product through the development phase can help you identify pitfalls and frustrations, and this is where user testing becomes valuable. Grounded research informs the design and actual execution of the project, ultimately providing a refined user experience.
The UI designer is able to take this research and begin the design process, keeping the user-testing feedback and information-rich personas in mind. A crucial aspect of this phase is thinking through the various ways in which the user may interact with the elements being designed. These interactions can include triggered animations, hover events, click events or touch gestures on mobile devices, etc.
Delighted users = better conversion rates
Finding restraint in defining interaction design as a UI designer can often make or break good user experiences. If the interactions are too overpowering, they take attention away from the content and put the focus on the interactions themselves. Good user experience design provides information, guidance and visual hints that are important in keeping the user engaged with the content. Leaving the user to figure out new ways of interaction is not the best approach and results in the user feeling frustrated and confused. This confusion, in part, leads to a break in user flows that can affect sales conversion, time spent engaged with digital content and the amount of returned engagements. Time and resources spent towards user experience design produces well-informed digital executions while avoiding having to re-approach this aspect in the future based on negative user feedback.
Good and bad user experiences
Let’s take a look at a couple of examples that will illustrate what good and bad user experiences look like.
1. Apple: The good.
If you’ve ever interacted with Apple’s website, you might have experienced large aesthetically pleasing product visuals, minimal/direct typography and simple product navigation, all of which are essential in providing a good user experience.
This is an example that focuses on one small aspect of Apple’s website dealing with product specification selection. Hitting “Buy Now” for any given product brings up a specification selection screen that guides the user to choose everything from finish to device storage, model, etc. This process allows the user to select specifications one at a time while giving them an idea of price points along the way. By simply scrolling down, the user finds out what they need to know about the purchase, and scrolling down further provides a list of frequently asked questions.
Apple leaves out nothing, providing vital information clearly with no clutter whatsoever at this stage of online product purchasing, helping the user get through this process as intuitively as possible. At the end of this selection process, clicking “Add to Bag” sets the user up for checkout. Bravo!
2. Reddit: The bad
On average, Reddit receives 1.5 million daily unique visits yet its current user experience is considered quite poor by some. Visually, an information overload clutters the space, categories are hard to locate along with the search option, and it’s not clear how to use the platform either.
Why fix something that’s not broken? That’s a good argument, but consider that integrating a good user experience can drastically increase user engagement with the platform. It’s either that, or another platform can just as easily step in to emulate what Reddit does, provide a better user experience and steal the show. Is it any wonder Reddit currently has a survey up, asking users how dissatisfied they are with its ease of use? How about the fact that there are many redesign attempts of Reddit on Reddit? These are signs that Reddit needs to spend the appropriate resources to provide its existing and prospective users with a better web user experience.
Like the real-world example mentioned earlier, poor UX design in the online world results in frustrated users and can stand in the way of furthering your relationship with the consumer. The more satisfied your users are when experiencing your product or service, the more willing they will be to deepen that relationship.