Irina Ivan - Digital Consultant

2iVisio Blog: insights on design, digital marketing, user experience

By: Irina Ivan | April 21, 2018

What is UX?

UX is a concept recently emerged, as a result of the wide digitalization and yet, I still see surprise popping up on people's face when the word is being pronounced. Bringing into discussion one of the standard definitions – e.g “The UX is an evaluation of how something is experienced.” - may not facilitate the understanding of what UX covers and how a UX specialist can help. That is why I wanted to write something plain and simple, as well as relevant about what UX is, how it can help businesses and what to focus on, if you want to see improvements in this area.


Paul Olyslager, a UX designer from Belgium, surveyed regular internet users visiting his blog about what UX means to them. The answers he received and shared are common-sense and more precise than any definition given by experts, books, gurus etc. Here are a few that draw my attention and that I found particularly relevant for the context of my article:


  • "How much fun vs. pain-in-the-arse it was to play with”

  • “Designing for the real world for real people.”

  • “Simplicity.”


And here is one that you may find hard to digest if you are a UX specialist. At first, at least.

“A buzzword depicting the omnipotence wet dreams of a designer unconscious of human diversity”

UX

Say what?!


An entire industry and thousands of careers were built based on UX. And someone reduces it to “a buzzword”. I tried to put this definition to rest in the tiniest, most hidden drawer of my mind, to no avail. Words I've heard about UX, things I've experienced, rolled over. To name just a few:


"No need to make usability tests on real users, since we know exactly what works best”.

“We need a UX specialist, with some solid Java knowledge”


I had to surrender and admit it: UX is a buzzword, not because it doesn't matter or makes no difference, but because we over-use it, without even trying to understand it completely. Each time we ignore the core of UX – users - we commit an abuse and we walk all over its benefits.

The 8 pillars of UX

So how do we explain to someone genuinely interested in improving how users experience their product where to start from. I tried to come up with a list of features I noticed in any business which takes UX seriously.

I called them the 8 pillars of UX as I think that these are the basic principles you should apply to make sure your users navigate through your app or websites with ease and constantly work towards their consolidation.


1. Intuitive and self-explanatory navigation

This means you can afford not to include a Help page (but you can do it as an add-on) and your users will still be able to use the basic features. That usually happens when your app or website's navigation respects current standards and trends. Because, you see, users' habits shape up in interaction with many other products and any element that goes against the stream may be disruptive.


2. Your interface and navigation are dynamic

Design trends, technology and, subsequently, the way features are implemented and navigation experienced change over time. Quickly enough to make it very easy for you to fall behind the trends. Just think about websites that still run on Flash today.


3. You are in contact with your real users.

As surprising as this may sound, there are businesses who never got the slightest feedback from someone using its product or services on a regular basis. One of the best practices I encourage as often as it's possible and I see clients open to embrace it is to recruit real users as beta-testers. Establish a relationship with them, involve them in early tests of your newest features. You don't need a large group of beta-testers, so no huge budgets should get in the way. In fact, if we listen to Jakob Nielsen's piece of advice, the best results come from testing with no more than 5 users.


4. Disclose what the user needs, when he needs it.

There is a strong reason behind the evolution from jam-packed to clean and airy interfaces: the more we dived into how human brain breaks down chunks of info, the more we realized that multi-tasking is a myth. After a series of trials meant to determine the ability of the human brain to multi-task, a team of psychologists from the Human Information Processing Laboratory at Vanderbilt University concluded that we are not wired to be multitaskers. When we attempt to deal with several tasks at the same time, a neural network from the frontal lobe turns into an information bottleneck and limits our capacity to complete them successfully.

That is why determining the perfect time to deliver a specific info to the users is one of the ingredients of a good navigation. Info displayed as you scroll down or options to expand more content/features are part of a set of standards that honors the users' right to single-tasking.


5. Be errorproof

As perfection is unattainable, don't expect navigation, nor users' actions to be flawless. Focus instead on building a system ready to accommodate errors coming from both development and the actions your users take. Having error pages redirecting users to the homepage, alerting the user about a wrong action or confirming that their steps are ok, are signs of a system geared up to deal with errors.


6. Security first

It should probably be the first thing on the apps and websites developers' mind. It is for many, it is not, for even more. However, we witness an increased interest in data security among Internet users since Cambridge Analytica case has been in the spotlight. The normal response to such concerns should be an increased sense of urgency to favor users data security over any other features meant to harness entertainment, learning or socialization.


7. Be non-invasive

In the era of Web 3.0, we still see sign-up forms that look and feel like applying for a visa. When all you really want is to buy the damn shoes. Fast .

A good friend is never intrusive with questions about you and your life. Why should an app or website that calls itself “user-friendly” should be intrusive? Ponder on what is the info about the users you can't go without to offer a good experience and stick to asking only for what is a must.


8. Personalize your users' experience

To custom user experience you will need to ask users about personal details, additional permissions, be invasive to a certain extent. Yes, but here is my point: businesses that value how easy it is for their users to navigate on their website or app will make full use of the info they store in their users' benefits. Do you store info about users in cookies? Great, use it to improve your service and know your audience better, but do something to facilitate navigation for your visitors, too: open your app in the language your users accessed at their last visit or suggest them new products based on the last visited pages. Spotify Running, an app for joggers, for instance, adjusts the music to the runner's pace. Now this may not be the main reason why users choose Spotify Running, but it sure adds value and helps create a bond between users and the product.

***

For all of those out there tossing their heads around UX concept, here is what Joel Marsh, author of “UX for Beginners: A Crash Course in 100 Short Lessons “ says: "Everything has a user experience. Your job is not to create the user experience. Your job is to make it good”.

Start your UX journey by checking out if you have all the pillars mentioned above shaped up. Based on them, you can build further and get to the point when you will never waste a second wondering about what UX is and does. Because you will watch it happen.

Category: UI UX 

Tags: UX, UX principles, UX specialist 

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