Last time you used an app or a website you probably don’t remember the experience of using it all that much. You likely remember the content or the functionality pretty well but the actual experience of using didn’t strike you all that much. And it shouldn’t.
If you do remember, it is probably because you had a bad user experience. Well designed user experience should blend seamlessly into the background. The only time is should stand out is if it is so well designed you consciously think, “Wow this is a joy to use!”
Technology makes thousands of tasks vastly simpler, without which some tasks would not be possible at all. But when it comes to creating apps, competition is fierce. Ten apps may do the same task well but the one with the best user experience will always be the most successful.
User Experience (UX) is all about how easily an app allows a user do what they want to do and enjoy doing it. To create a great User Experience, UX designers have to take a lot of different factors into account:
When a customer opens up an app, the length of time it takes for them to start using it proficiently is directly related to the effectiveness of the user experience design. If they can start using an app quickly, without a lot of guidance or needing to read instructions then the UX has done its job.
Part of a user’s intuitive use of an app will develop from how they interact with similar tools in the physical world. Swiping the screen to turn the page and pressing a 2D box made to look like a 3D button are common examples of using real world conventions to make virtual interaction more intuitive.
Some of this intuition can also be developed through previous experience with other apps and users’ expectations of similar experiences.
Established conventions of User Experience Design can arise through a process of natural selection where successful designs continue to be replicated and unsuccessful ones do not. They can also be informed by platform manufacturing guidelines. These are sometimes referred to as Human Interface Design (HID) guidelines.
The importance of design conventions lies again in user expectations. A particular design element may seem more effective or efficient but if it goes against conventions a user may quickly become frustrated because they expect a button to be in a place it is not or they expect a screen swipe to present a different page than it does.
The particular platform you are designing for can have an important effect on UX as methods of interface differ in small and large ways. The difference between two models of a smartphone may be relatively small but the difference between smartphone and tablet interface may differ substantially.
Guidelines for HID, in particular, can vary significantly from one platform to the next and particularly between brands. Some brands firmly establish very clear and rigid guidelines that app developers are expected to adhere to. Others have more free form guidelines that allow for new, more efficient designs to come about without undermining continuity of design.
We can see that UX design is a subtle science with many factors contributing to it. But getting it right is critical to the success of an app. Outside of some very specialist apps, the underlying coding is likely to be consistent across the competition.
For most users, how well that code translates into an enjoyable and frustration-free user experience is the deciding factor for which app they ultimately choose to use.
At Digital Skills Academy UX is paramount. Participants on our Honours Degree Programme undertake a UX module so they can understand the techniques needed to design market-leading digital products. Interested in finding our more about UX design? Come along to our next webinar and meet our UX lecturers.