“How can I get in contact with this company? How long have I been waiting for this page to load? How can I go back?” At one point or another, we all have been confronted with these types of situations: losing time on a website we don’t understand, or suffering through an update for our favorite application! So, how can you develop an easy-to-use, practical interface and improve your user experience?
The User eXperience term was coined by Donald Norman, professor of cognitive science at the University of California, back in the ‘90’s. It is defined as:
“all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products”
Many of our everyday interactions can thus be considered as end-user experiences: the restaurant you ate at last week, the bus you took this morning, or even the last purchase you made, all fall under the customer experience. And more and more, these user experiences are digital.
In order to create a website that is easy to use, ergonomic and intuitive, it is essential that you have a real understanding of your user needs.
Understanding user needs
To better understand the expectations of a user, it is important to deploy a design thinking methodology:
The first question to ask yourself when you create a web interface is “what would the user do in my place?”. The most common mistake is to develop your site in a completely subjective way. You should keep in mind that the entire product is designed for the user; and yet in most cases, you are not the end user of the solution you will create.
In order to define the user’s need, it is important to understand deep motivations. By empathizing with the user, you will be able to put yourself in the user’s position to understand his true needs. In other words, it is necessary to eliminate the “I listen, I answer” and turn it into a new learning method of, “I listen, I understand.” Everything is a question of posture; you must be compassionate. During this step, we identify the expectations of the user, the potential problems that he/she may encounter and the different journey he/she would make on our interface.
This framing step consists of identifying the problem. The goal is to answer a need and define with your team what is your problem, your context and your scope. You will therefore be led to study different axes and perspectives.
This is the time to think, create and design. Here, it is essential to let go of your prejudices and imagine how you can respond to your problem. The goal will be to generate as many ideas as possible and select the most engaging one.
Realizing sketches, screens, prototypes of the interface you want to develop will allow you to obtain a global vision of your solution and the customer journey. Prototyping is a good way to confirm your choices and find errors as early as possible. Of course, there are many applications and software existing to help you to realize these prototypes.
“5 users are enough to detect 80% of problems” Jacob Nielsen
It cannot be repeated enough: it is essential to test and verify the product before launching your interface on the market. When you are involved in designing a product, you can lose objectivity; that is why user tests allow us to check the perception, the use and the global experience of a user. This test phase is part of an iteration process of design and continuous improvement of the product. We can conduct user tests on wireframes, models, functional prototypes, or a product in production.
The interface must be a way to get a message across. If during the test phase, users did not find the information easily, it means that the customer journey is not fluid enough and can still be optimized. It is in presenting the prototype to its users that we can evolve towards a proactive approach: we note our errors, and then we start again, back to the prototype.Design thinking is a methodology, but there are a variety of others; or you can create your own. The important thing to remember is to confront your ideas with those of your end users at some point during your process.
Create a simple and refined design
Since Google launched its first web search site back in the 90’s, the trend has been for simple, refined, and minimalist styles. It is important to note that design is how a site works, not what it looks like. Thus, working on the UX design of an interface implies an upstream work on the content to focus on the form.
To avoid losing users on a site that have too many pages, content, images and artifices, focus on the central features of your interface. This will allow the prospect to understand what you expect from him, encourage him to act, and facilitate the conversion tunnel.
Dieter Rams, German industrial designer, has created 10 principles to respect when planning a good design. According to him, a good design is:
These fundamental principles are as much intended for experienced designers as they are for novice ones. They allow you to offer a nice website architecture and pleasant user experience to your visitors.
Use emotional design
On and offline we are all governed by our emotions; they are impacting the way we apprehend a product and make decisions. Interacting with a user when you have created an interface is therefore essential, but putting the human in the foreground is what will generate added value to your interface. The main difference between one interface and another is felt through the psychological emotion that it creates in the user. There are 3 levels of emotional reactions:
– The visceral level: the first impression, it promotes commitment
– The behavioral level: feeling and control. Offering empowerment to your users on an interface is a good emotional leverage (the way the user can take possession of the tool, customize the interface, etc.). In this way, the user will feel more involved and comfortable with the application.
– The level of reflection: the unconscious image that we project on others. It is important that the user enjoys using your product.
To go further in the emotional design, you can also integrate micro-interactions on your interface, including: events, animations or interactions that accompany the user or comfort him in his choices. The goal is to create a more user-friendly, welcoming and human experience on your interface. Micro-interactions also allow for added interactions in some situations that can annoy the user, such as the loading of a page, or the appearance of a 404 error page (example below created by Akhil Krishnan).
To conclude, you do not need to do tons to impress your users; simplicity added to an understanding of user needs and a touch of emotional design are the ingredients that will allow you to create a quality interface. The more structured, airy, and fluid your site is, the easier it will be for users to access the information, and the more they will be satisfied. And that is our ultimate goal, isn’t it?