7/07/15

5 Critical Elements to Creating a Top-Notch User Experience

For website iconWe’ve all been to websites, apps, and kiosks with poor user interfaces. We approach the software with optimism, confident that we can easily complete the desired task. However, we quickly become confused about how to advance, enter data into fields correctly, or complete the job. As a result, we become frustrated and want to give up.

The reason we often give up is due to poorly designed software that doesn’t have the user’s experience in mind. When we encounter a lousy user experience, we begin to think negatively of the brand. On the other hand, when we encounter a well-designed user experience, the opposite happens and we begin to envision doing business with that company. You can see why organizations have a strong desire to create a positive user experience for their customers and prospects.

Creating a strong user experience

Creating a user experience that can seamlessly complete business online isn’t easy. There are many factors that undermine a positive experience including legacy systems, multiple hardware devices, and access to data or service procedures.

A strong user experience also needs to be deployed across all hardware devices, so users that access the system with a desktop, laptop, tablet, or phone have a consistent experience. This means that transactions started on a tablet can be completed on another device with all of the appropriate data saved and maintained throughout the process.

Creating a great experience can seem daunting, but approaching your project with a few key points in mind will help keep you on track. Consider the following principles to deploy a user experience that your customers will enjoy.

Create a smooth, integrated workflow across the entire process – It’s important to track user behaviors to understand their patterns. As you identify different types of users, you can create a more customized experience. For example, you can design screens for different user types, anticipate what they will want to do next, and simplify the processes. Users prefer an experience that creates a smooth and seamless transition from system to system. Requiring users to log into multiple systems, having different design characteristics, or having aspects of the process that are not automated isn’t optimal and will damage your brand perception. If you are known to be easy to do business with, or cutting edge, or appealing to the tech savvy user, or have any other unique business trait, then you must have user experiences that reflect that.

Adapt the experience to the device and connection speed – By tracking device preferences, you can adapt your interface to screen size, type of device, and connection speed. The entire experience should have a consistent look and feel, even if the experience extends across multiple systems, with a layout that is simple and easy for users to understand. It should contain the terminology that users are accustomed to and functionality organized consistently with the way users work. This will help maintain a positive user experience. We have all been there; nothing is more frustrating than not being able to use the device you want to complete a task.

Design with simple and intuitive principles to encourage way finding – The best user experience leverages process rather than simply presenting a series of tasks. A process centric design makes it clear to users what happens next and leads them through tasks to achieve the desired outcome. The software should be designed in a way that encourages curiosity, exploration, and way finding (leading users to the next step with ease) characteristics. Design experts should guide the user with cues such as color, size, icon design, and other visual and functional characteristics.

Monitor user behaviors, actual usage, and feedback – Throughout the process, designers should use data to provide insights about the user’s performance, support decisions, and communicate when action is needed. Both direct user feedback and activity tracking will help you understand how users are interacting with the software. Using this data will help you improve functionality and flow. Leveraging the actions of others can also be useful to lead users through the actions they should take. Your designers should look to Google, Netflix and other applications to see how crowd behavior data can enhance your particular software.

Leverage mobile device capabilities – Mobile devices increasingly have capabilities, such as GPS, camera, video recording, sound recording, and others. Strong user experiences will use these capabilities to enhance the experience and create new types of data for you to track and analyze. Create interactions for users to be able to share successes, interact with each other, and post best practices and other functionality borrowed from other social media applications.

It’s true that a top-notch user experience is a difficult list to execute, and it won’t be done at once. User experience designers should apply these principles to ongoing and new projects. This will keep your user experiences top notch in order to please your customers and positively impact your brand.