The World is always changing, new vogues coming and going over the years, although possibly it all happens a lot faster on the web , this due in part to the speed which people can (and do) react to the things that happen.
It is this interaction that is the key to the latest wave (that is still building) of change, it being all to so with improving ‘User Experience’. There are three main drivers here, one is that Google is said to be checking and giving ‘points’ to sites that provide a good user experience. Another is that every site is having to ‘fight’ more and more sites for attention on the web today (whilst at the same time the attention span of users is diminishing, so they ‘demand’ to be engaged at ever faster rates). The last one is the old chestnut of increasing conversions, this being a very important issue for just about every site.
In our last post we discussed the fact that ‘one thing per page can increase conversions’ , this being for the very simple reason that the user is less likely to be confused if they only have to deal with one question (or set of data) on a page. This has been proven to work and is a great example of User Interface Design (and hence User Experience) in action.
So what is ‘User Interface Design’?
The Wikipedia definition is:-
“User interface design (UI) or user interface engineering is the design of user interfaces for machines and software, such as computers, home appliances, mobile devices, and other electronic devices, with the focus on maximizing usability and the user experience. The goal of user interface design is to make the user’s interaction as simple and efficient as possible, in terms of accomplishing user goals”
But what about the principles behind the process?
Before going into area in detail, what is driving force behind good design? Perhaps the best definition was written by Paul Rand:-
“To design is much more than simply to assemble, to order, or even to edit; it is to add value and meaning, to illuminate, to simplify, to clarify, to modify, to dignify, to dramatize, to persuade, and perhaps even to amuse.”
- Make sure the Interface is Easy to Understand
There is no doubt that the most important job of any interface is to be clear and easy to use. People must be able to recognise what the interface is all about, and that to a degree means not going off the beaten path. If this is done properly, users will “care about why they would use it”, whilst at the same time understanding that the interface is helping them and that they will be able to predict what will happen when they use it. In short ‘clarity inspires confidence’.
- Remember the Purpose of the Interface
Interfaces on the Internet are there to enable interaction between users and computer systems (websites). They can really help clarify and enable, but they can also confuse and thus disillusion. We should also bear in mind that the act of designing interfaces is not art and that the interfaces created area are not monuments. They HAVE to do the job they were built to do and they have to do it well.
- Keep The Users Attention at All Times
The world we live in is a very hectic place (well for most of us) and there are many demands on our time, this in turn making every moment a precious one. One effect of this is to increase our dislike for anything that wastes time. Anyone who has used a bad interface will appreciate this and KNOW just how annoying it is to have to use one. With this in mind remember not to distract the users attention with non essential material, instead keep their attention firmly on the job in hand, that is completing that form, order or simply ingesting the information on the page.
- Make sure the User Feels in Control
Humans are most comfortable when they feel in control, so make sure that you keep the users of any interface aware of what is happening, what will happen and what they need to do next. As mentioned above, one way of giving people is to keep the information on the screen to the minimum, hence the success of ‘one thing per page’.
- Show what the next step is
Using an interface is a lot like being in conversation with someone, and just as with a ‘good’ conversation, anticipating the next step and proving support for it will ensure that the users of the interface are kept happy, and ‘know where they are and where they are going’.
- Keep to the established paths
Web users get used to the way things are done, if a button looks like a button, it SHOULD be a button. It is thus important to keep to established principles so that when a user looks at an interface they get a very good idea of how it will work. Don’t get overly creative, it can really make using an interface difficult and that is quite the opposite of what you need to do.
Every page is in effect an ‘Interface’ one that must be easily understandable, it’s message having to be clear and concise. It is vital not to confuse users and to provide them with an easy path through the site to their goal.
When it comes to forms, remember that the one thing (action) per page has been proven to increase conversions
Lastly, ensure that you understand what your users like and be sure to provide it. So, if the best ‘interface’ is a video showing them how to do something, use a video. Remember it’s all about creating the best User Experience you can by presenting the information using the best User Interface you can create.