In an earlier blog on accessibility, I touched on the concept of design. Specifically, I defined several approaches to design, such as accessible design and universal design. There’s also a concept called usable design. This kind of design focuses on user experience. Nowadays, there’s an entire field known as User Experience (UX) that employs designers, researchers, and writers, to name just a few. UX is growing, so you should know about it. Here’s an overview of the field’s history and basic principles.
The Emergence of UX
The history of UX begins in the 1990s, as outlined in this timeline. Don Norman, featured in this short video, coined a new term: user experience. He wanted this term to refer to all the ways that consumers experience products. He probably never imagined that UX would soon be applied to websites and software as much as to physical products.
Norman joined forces with another pioneer in the UX field named Jakob Nielsen in 1998 when they founded the Nielsen Norman group. In the 1990s and 2000s, both men advanced the field tremendously. They published books like Usability Engineering, Designing Web Usability, and The Design of Everyday Things. They also launched the User Experience World Tour in 2000. This event transitioned over time into Usability Week, and now the UX Conference. The next year, they created the first Intranet Design Annual awards. For this article, instead of trying to cover all these accomplishments, I’ll primarily focus on one other creation. In 1994, Nielsen published the 10 Usability Heuristics, which remain relevant today.
What the User Sees
Some of these heuristics guide designers in understanding what users should see when they interact with a product. For instance, you want users to experience a match between the product, website, or app and the real world they know. As this video explains, it’s best to stick to realistic language and recognizable layouts. For instance, up and down buttons should be on a vertical access, not a horizontal one.
In addition, it’s important to maintain consistency and standards. This video explains that this makes products easier for users to learn. For example, errors are often marked in red on various websites. For that reason, it’s best to use red to make errors on any new web product you’re creating. On the other hand, if your software has been using a particular font for titles, stick with it. Make sure users have a consistent experience the whole time they’re interacting with your product.
Finally, go for an aesthetic and minimalist design, as explained here. Consider that some elements of a product are useful to a user, and others are just there. Aim to increase your “signal-to-noise ratio.” In other words, focus on communication, not decoration, in your design. Use images to illustrate a point. Include content that’s relevant. Don’t just throw something in to get rid of white space.
How It Works
Of course, there’s always more to any product than meets the eye. Products work best when they follow certain additional guidelines. For instance, system status should always be visible. This video explains why this concept matters. For example, consider what it would be like to have a phone without a battery indicator. How frustrating would it be if you selected a button on your tablet, and it didn’t change at all? Usable design lets users know what’s happening in the system in response to any of the users’ actions.
In addition, products with good UX promote user control and freedom. This video explains what that looks like. Basically, you never want users to be locked in. Think of how often you use your browser’s back button! Letting users change their minds and navigate back and forth is crucial. (Interestingly enough, though, ‘Cancel’ buttons are not the answer, as explained here.)
When it comes to commands, it’s best for a user to recognize what they want to do. If that sounds abstract, watch this video. It breaks down this concept simply. For example, when you want to copy some text, you might right click on it. The pop-up doesn’t say, “What do you want to do now?” Instead, it offers options like ‘Copy’ or ‘Paste.’ It’s easier for users to click ‘Copy’ than remember if they were supposed to call that function ‘copy’ or ‘duplicate.’
Last but not least in this category, flexibility and efficiency of use matters. Users want the opportunity to use accelerators (like Command+C to copy) and other shortcuts. Consider options that let you save your password, too. These are all examples, like those described here, of design focused on efficiency of use.
Users Make Mistakes
As anyone who has designed a product knows, it might look and work great at first. But then the user does something they shouldn’t, and all of a sudden, the product is freaking out. Good UX design is made to anticipate and resolve mistakes.
Error prevention means that products have built in features to stop users from making mistakes in the first place. This video provides a real world example of that. Think of times you’ve made a click, and the website or app you’re using asked you to confirm you’re decision. The text might have read, “Are you sure you want to…?” This was trying to stop you from making an important decision with an accidental tap or click.
Good UX should also help users identify, diagnose, and fix errors. This video explains how that works. Let’s say you’re trying to submit an online form. If you haven’t filled in a required field, the website should let you know. What’s better than just highlighting the field in red? What if the website automatically scrolled to the empty field? Then, it’s easy for the user to correct their mistake and move on right away.
The tenth and final heuristic is all about help. As this video explains, products keep getting more complex. We need to help users answer all the questions that might arise as they interact with a product. That’s where something like an online help desk would come in handy.
How Pyrus Supports UX For U
Fortunately, as I described in this blog post about help desks, Pyrus has a unique Help Desk Solution. With tons of useful and easy-to-use features, this help desk will take your product’s UX to the next level. Want to elevate your users’ experience right away? Get Pyrus’s Help Desk Solution today.