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5 Tips for Improving Your User Experience Design

UX Design sketches of wireframes for a website's information architecture

The bulk of the world’s population spends quite a lot of time online each day. We use apps and websites. We watch videos and listen to podcasts. We read stories and news. Sometimes (more often than not) we use smartphones to get our fix. Other times, the Mac or PC at home.

There are tons of great apps, games, and websites out there that put a lot of effort into their user experience design – which can range from the definition of their brand or visual design of their website, to the way their app works, or even the specific experience someone has interacting with something (submitting a support request, for example).

The problem is, for every well-designed app or game, there are many more that don’t take user experience into consideration during the creation stage. As someone who’s worked in the tech industry for most of my adult life, and just as long in a professional services capacity, I can say that for us, the most important “voice” is the one that belongs to your customers – in other words, the users who are directly experiencing the result of your work.

Did you know: There are over 1.5 billion websites on the public internet. There are more than 2.2 million apps in the iOS app store, and another 2.7 million in the Google Play store.

With that in mind, here are 5 tips for improving the quality and depth of your next UX design.

  1. Focus on the experience Creating a memorable digital experience for your users can be challenging. Your audience will use your product, and have an actual experience (their immediate and real reaction). After, once the experience has faded a bit from their mind, they’ll be left with a remembered experience. The remembered experience may have less detail (they might not remember any specific step or result along the way) but will gauge their reaction to the overall experience.

    Creating something memorable is about more than the content, or the visual design, or the structure and depth. It’s about understanding how your users want to talk to you, and then trying to represent that journey throughout your app or website. If you need some help understanding your users, check out this post on creating user personas.
  2. Avoid walls of text It’s been said that people (especially our younger generations that grew up with technology) consume information best in small chunks. That said, no-one wants a wall of text (a page full of content, with a LOT of text and very little in the way of visual excitement). Find ways to break your content up, and convey it to your users in an interesting way. Short value statements (“99.9% uptime!”) paired with the use of images or icons is a common approach. Incorporating links for interested users to dive into any given section is a great way to keep the experience easy and intuitive.
  3. Easy, easy, and easier We want to make things as easy for our users as possible. Why make them click twice to do something when there’s a better way that only requires clicking once? Why not give them access to the menu at all times, rather than making them scroll back up to access it?

    When someone visits your website or downloads your app, they’ll make an almost instantaneous decision about their interest level in it, based on the experience they have. If your sign-up process is unnecessarily complex, is multiple steps and takes two minutes to complete, then you anticipate the possibility that you may have a higher-than-normal level of abandonment from your users.

    One of the ways we can make things more easy for the user is to visually distinguish the primary call to action. If you were operating an eCommerce site, for example, this might mean making your “Add to Cart” buttons more prominent or colorful, to attract your user’s attention.

    Another example might be as simple as a user menu. I’ve seen apps and sites that hide the “logout” link behind another menu, so logging out becomes a three-step process (access navigation, open menu, click logout). Why bury something so common behind so much work? It might be a good idea to expose that directly to the user so they can access it more easily!
  4. Don’t reinvent the wheel Every designer is guilty of this from time to time. The desire to invent a new UI element – a new way to do something. And sometimes, that’s totally fine! But most of the time, someone else has already solved this problem, and most of the time, you can benefit from their work. Ever heard of a design pattern?

    Design patterns are simple solutions to commonly reoccurring problems. In this context, a design pattern can be applied to almost any feature or workflow in your product. I use UI Patterns on a regular basis. When you’re thinking about wireframing pages or screens, looking at common UI Patterns for the things you’re working on can really help keep the process flowing.

    Here’s an example of a UI Pattern for a website feature called a “paywall“. These are commonly employed by magazine and news sites – it’s a common tactic for letting someone use their site to view one or two free articles, then gating the user’s access until they pay.
  5. Know your users / audience Think about a conversation you had with one of your friends. Now pretend that you’d had the same conversation with another friend, which started exactly the same way, with exactly the same language and inflection. Do you think both conversations would take the same path? Would each of your friends have the same response each time they spoke? Or would each conversation deviate and become unique almost instantly?

    Now, think of your “friends” in this example as the types of users that might buy your product, or download your app. Understanding how they think, what their interests, motivations, pain-points, and other tendencies are (social media platform preference, etc) can create a clearer picture that will help you understand how to communicate with them effectively with the experience you craft for them.

I recently wrote a few other posts on how to create user personas, and how to leverage those personas to create meaningful customer journeys. They take some effort when done properly, but they’ll definitely help you understand how much you know – or don’t know – about your users.

Chris Toler