A typical user experience design focuses on many factors that you might not initially consider. Interacting with a website or mobile app is a two-fold process – the user performs some action like a click or swipe, and the interface responds accordingly. This is the general nature of user experience design. The question is how to follow UX design principles to craft simple and usable interactions?
In this post I hope to outline a number of tips to help build lean usable interfaces. Starting from a user experience perspective allows better ideas to come out of the creative process. This should be your first priority before even designing or coding any part of the interface. By following these tips you can put together some high-quality products with a bit of conceptualizing and improvisation.
Another way of being “goal-driven” is to ensure that you’re solving the right problem. Designing for the user could mean designing a simple layout, or a responsive layout, or a well-designed layout, or a content-filled layout. Instead focus on what the user wants to do and not specifically how they want to do it.
This way you’re open to more ideas yet still solving the same problem. If users on a medical clinic’s website need to find operating hours you should be aiming to make that process quick and effortless. You could list operating hours in the footer, or on a contact/details page. Specifically use the phrase “hours” in a link somewhere to make it obvious. Also using that keyword in the page title would improve Google rankings.
Keep in mind that goals are not always geared towards finding content. Sometimes the goal is to increase user signups or increase retention rate on blog posts. UX design is a creative field used to solve problems related to user interfaces. Stay focused on the end result instead of just one process and you’ll open yourself up to deeper solutions.
Write Plenty of Ideas
Although this suggestion might be geared towards brainstorming it still fits nicely into UX design. Lean experiences are created by reducing the number of steps from one objective to the next. How this should be accomplished is always open to debate with other designers or within the labyrinth of your own mind.
Question your own ideas frequently. Try to build on top of the best ideas by asking “how can this be simpler?”. There’s a difference between overthinking and critical thinking. That little editor in your head can be great once you have something to edit. But glaring at a blank page with feelings of anxiety and desperation is a one-way trip to Procrastinationville. I hear it’s a nice place for vacation but not much gets accomplished.
More reading material: 28 Articles on Usability
Instead of constantly striking down every idea simply write them down. In the beginning it’s important to just get some ideas even if they’re bad. A list of 10-15 ideas only needs 1 working concept to spur greater detail.
Designers who prefer to draw instead of write ideas should get into the habit of sketching concepts. Some people work better through visualization and quick sketches are easy make. The point is getting down some ideas into the physical world – either on paper or digitally on the computer. After a little while take a break and reread each idea. The bad ones will be glaringly evident but the decent ones will stand out and get you on the right train of thought.
Jotting down 10 ideas that all sound terrible is a much better choice than overthinking and never writing down anything. During the early stages of a project aim for quantity, then get lean and trim the fat to aim for quality.
Every design should flow naturally and this includes print design work. For interface design the flow is not just about symmetry or whitespace, but also about the flow between pages of content. An ideal user experience feels much like swimming in water – there is space to move but it’s also confined. The movements should feel natural and somewhat predictable.
It may help to draw a flow chart between pages. Wireframing is the process of sketching each individual page view to show how elements on the page relate to each other. Storyboarding is the process of linking these wireframes together so you can visualize the process of clicking a link. The most important thing to remember is that everything should make sense.
Even folks who are not familiar with technology should be able to navigate your website or mobile app. Links should be easy to read and the text should clearly denote where the link goes. I’ve seen too many websites using well-designed navigation elements that still leave me searching for a particular webpage. Clarity includes both context and content.
Use Whatever Works
Why reinvent the wheel? Obviously to innovate, but unless you’re truly innovating by improving what already exists then it will be an uphill battle. New ideas are not always the best ideas. Take concepts that already exist and see how they can fit into new project work.
Lean UX design should elicit the simplest methods to create a relatable experience. When it comes to interface design there are only so many techniques that can be relatable to a majority of users. These are relatable because they’ve been seen before. Why? Because they work!
Proverbs continue to ring true for this very reason. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, and for goodness sake don’t break it! Spend time searching online to organize a series of apps or websites that are close to the current project. Put together a small list of what you like and why you like it.
Review each concept and visualize how that could work in your current project. Interface design is a visual medium which makes textual note-taking a little strange. But if your notes represent something visual then you’ll be able to recall those ideas visually in your mind. As you practice the art of designing lean user experiences the process will gradually become more comfortable.
Remember to keep these tips in mind at all times during the creative process. The initial brainstorming step is when ideas are most fluid. Beyond that point there is often more structure but still plenty of room to get messy. Lean UX design is about focusing on the end result and making the acquisition process as simple as possible.
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