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The basic principles of great UX design

“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” – Steve Jobs

“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” – Steve Jobs

As more people spend more of their precious time in the digital universe, their expectations of the digital user experience (UX) increase. Most people want websites, apps, software and other digital platforms to be user-friendly and a pleasure to use. This has put UX design high up the priority list of any business looking to engage its consumers digitally.

Essentially, UX design determines how your users will interact with your brand on your digital platforms – and involves everything from how the interface looks and how easy it is to find information, to the time each page takes to load and the level of service that users receive from your brand representatives in this digital space.

When executed well, UX design provides a clear, logical and easy-to-understand usability so that your customers can achieve what they intended to when they interact with your website, app or other digital product. When their goals are met quickly and effortlessly, users are more likely to have a satisfying user experience, which in turn leads to a positive brand experience and all the business benefits that go hand-in-hand with this.

On the other hand, if your UX design confuses the user, wastes his or her time, or fails to deliver the information or service that was expected, then this user is likely to feel frustrated. This could result in a lukewarm or even negative brand experience, which does not bode well for your bottom line.

Understanding the users’ perspective

From the get-go, a UX designer needs to anticipate what users may want when they engage with the platform. These insights will inform the UX design. It’s important to conduct sound research and not fall into the trap of making assumptions. Actions that are obvious to the UX design team or brand owner, who are already immersed in this digital project, may not be so clear to a person using the website or app for the first time.

The goal of user research is to find answers to the following questions:

  • Who are our users?
  • What are their motivations for using our brand platform?
  • How do they behave when interacting with our system?
  • Where do they hit obstacles?
  • How do they feel when they’re interacting with our digital platform?

Ultimately, good UX design means always thinking from the users’ point of view; and understanding this can only come from in-depth user research. This can be conducted through user interviews, focus groups, online surveys – or a combination of all these approaches.

Designing a customer journey

Once your research has established who your users are and what they expect from your platform, you can use these insights to map out a customer journey (or several customer journeys if you are engaging a range of different personas). This will help you to determine your functionality and information architecture.

Above all, be organised. The last thing you want is for your users to feel overwhelmed by too much information or feel unsure what steps to take when they are looking for a specific piece of information or a particular service on your platform. It’s therefore important to structure and label your content in a clear and consistent way throughout – so the “lay of the land” quickly becomes obvious to your users. Don’t make the user think too hard. Ultimately, you want your users to feel self-sufficient as they navigate the site or app. No-one has time to ask for help!

It’s also important to show your user where they are at all times in relation to the whole platform – in other words, they need to be contextually aware. This will enable them to get where they want to be more swiftly.

Take time to test

The time and cost of testing is well worth it. Testing the UX design concept before rolling it out is a great way to eliminate problems or user difficulties that may not have been identified during the research process. It is important to test with users who fall into your target demographic and are not just colleagues or friends.

Testing can be conducted in a variety of ways. You can opt for in-person usability testing, where users show how they would navigate through your website or app and the UX design team observes. By tracking the steps that each user takes and any obstacles that they run into, you’ll be able to iron out any unforeseen glitches and make the necessary changes to your UX design.

A/B testing (also known as split testing) is another way to identify iterations of your UX design that are most suited to your target market. This is done by comparing two versions of the same web page, form, system or other element, and gauging which one performs better.

Ultimately, it’s all about the user

While simplicity plays a key role in good UX design, getting it right is anything but simple. That said, if you take the time to understand your users and you value their input, then you’re definitely heading in the right direction.

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