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Smashing Book 5 features smart responsive design techniques and patterns.
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. Subscribe to the RSS-Feed.
Metrics can be a touchy subject in design. When I say things like, “Designers should embrace A/B testing” or “Metrics can improve design,” I often hear concerns. Many designers tell me they feel that metrics displace creativity or create a paint-by-numbers scenario. They don’t want their training and intuition to be overruled by what a chart says a link color should be.
These are valid concerns, if your company thinks it can replace design with metrics. But if you use them correctly, metrics can vastly improve design and make you an even better designer. First, when I talk about metrics, I’m talking about making use of a couple of very specific tools, i.e. user analytics as well as A/B or multivariate testing.
Amazon turned sweet sixteen this year, and, by extension, so did online shopping as we know it. As online shopping has grown over the past 16 years, so have user needs and expectations related to the online shopping experience. Setting up shop online is easy, but creating an experience that satisfies target users is a different story altogether.
In the traditional journey of a purchase, commonly depicted as a funnel, a business loses potential customers as they move closer to the purchasing stage. While this is natural and expected, improving the user experience can reduce this loss by removing unnecessary barriers to shopping online.
I was a competitive road cyclist for four years. My bikes were good, but my race results were much less impressive. Instead of medals and trophies, all I had to show for it were shaved legs and a farmer’s tan. Regardless, on the road to becoming a competitive athlete, I followed a rigorous training plan with concrete goals. These goals were specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. With this training plan, I was able to quantitatively and qualitatively assess my progress and adjust my routine to match.
In the years since, I’ve hung up my racing jersey and replaced it with a designer’s hat. While wearing this hat, I (and many others) have been told to “create a good user experience.” We’ve heard this in creative briefs, project kick-off meetings and critiques. It may have been a bullet point in a PowerPoint presentation or uttered by someone trying to sell a client or company on the value of their services. But there’s a fundamental problem with stating that your goal is to “create a good user experience.”
Anyone designing Web-based properties today requires a basic understanding of interaction design principles. Even if your training is not formally in human-computer interaction, user experience design or human factors, knowing the fundamentals of these disciplines greatly enhances the chances of your design’s success. This is especially true for visual designers. Many visual designers are formally trained in art school and informally trained at interactive agencies.
While these institutions focus on designing communications, neither typically provides a strong interaction design foundation. Having a broader skill set not only makes your designs more successful but makes you more valuable and employable (i.e. you become the unicorn). While in no way exhaustive, to get you started, here are five key tactics to understand and implement in your next project.
In part one of this series, we looked at the consequences of designing and developing software in isolated environments. Some people work in lonely silos where no process exists, while others work in functional silos where too much (or the wrong) process makes innovation and progress difficult.
So, how do we break down the artificial walls that keep us from creating great things together? How can organizations foster environments that encourage natural, unforced collaboration? There are no quick fixes, but these are far from insurmountable problems.
The entire process of designing digital applications comes with many challenges and decisions. For the majority of projects, you will be designing in somewhat familiar territory. But what happens when you have to design something to be used by hundreds of children around the world? How do you accommodate your design for kids of different ages and backgrounds? What special challenges emerge, and how can they be overcome?
For a project of this scale, the design process we follow might require modifications. These modifications would be to accommodate the needs of younger age groups and would shape the entire length of the project, from user research, brainstorming, interface design and interaction design all the way to the final stages of usability testing and user support.
If you’ve ever worked at a company of any size, you’ve experienced it. Isolation. Some people love it: the determination that comes from being a lone ranger, boldly going where no one has gone before. Others hate it: the despair that comes from slaving over a design only to see it disappear down a black hole of development, whereupon it emerges onto a website months later, unrecognizable from the pixels you put on the page with such painful precision.
These are the perils of working in siloed environments, and it’s where many of us find ourselves today. We’re either terribly alone or terribly frustrated, depending on the particular variety of silo we find ourselves in. In this two-part series, I’ll explore the consequences of working in isolated environments, and how we can solve this problem by encouraging more collaborative cultures.
"What do you mean improve? I charged him correctly didn't I?". My manager looked at me disappointed. "Yes, Des, you charged him correctly. But a vending machine can do that too. They show up on time, they're more accurate, I don't pay them by the hour and they're never hungover. Your job is to do something that a vending machine can't do. Your job is to make our customers happy. Give them a good experience. Bring them back here again. Get it?"
MBAs call this "customer experience", though when it's spelled out it sounds more like common sense. And like most common sense it's rarely that common. Especially in the world of subscription software where we need customers to stick around. User experience designers are great at making software friendly and usable to new customers.
For many of us, logging into websites is a part of our daily routine. In fact, we probably do it so often that we’ve stopped having to think about how it’s done… that is, until something goes wrong: we forget our password, our user name, the email address we signed up with, how we signed up, or even if we ever signed up at all.
These experiences are not just frustrating for us, but are bad for businesses as well. How bad? User Interface Engineering’s analysis of a major online retailer found that 45% of all customers had multiple registrations in the system, 160,000 people requested their password every day, and 75% of these people never completed the purchase they started once they requested their password.
I read a lot of design articles about best practices for improving the flow of sign-up forms. Most of these articles offer great advice, such as minimizing the number of steps, asking for as little information up front as possible, and providing clear feedback on the status of the user’s data.
If you’re creating a sign-up form, you could do worse than to follow all of these guidelines. On the other hand, you could do a lot better. Design guidelines aren’t one size fits all. Sometimes you can improve a process by breaking a few rules. The trick is knowing which rules to break for a particular project.