In our ever-growing tech world, we need the design to scale as fast as other aspects of that world do. But design doesn’t scale easily since it’s a mixture of art and science, form and content. So how to achieve this?
Design Systems can be the answer.
Let’s dive deeper into this and see what they are and how they can help scale design.
Anyone who has ever played with Lego can understand what a design system is. It’s basically a Lego-like method+process that product teams need to make design and development more consistent. In fact, a lot of folks have already come to the idea that they need design systems. 69% of enterprise companies either use a design system or are currently working on one.
The core benefit of design systems is that they help establish consistency between the design and development processes and eliminate repetitive work. In a design system, everything starting with design patterns and ending with code references for each little bit of design are being documented. As a result, design and development go hand in hand.
If this still sounds unfamiliar to you and you still cannot grasp the idea of design systems, just take a look at Google, Spotify, Atlassian or any other big brand. They have got their very own design systems.
When Spotify’s Design Director Stanley Wood joined the design team in 2012, he was shocked at the lack of consistency between Spotify’s products and features from the design perspective. And since a redesign didn’t solve the problem, he decided to find a better solution. He knew that a team of distributed designers that is spread across different time zones should have a chance to work together to create a coherent experience.
So, in 2014 GLUE (a Global Language for a Unified Experience) came into life as Spotify’s Design Language System. It is available throughout the company and it has helped align design across all design teams within the company.
Google’s Material Design is another successful design system. Note that it evolved over the last few years to become what it is today. And it’s still evolving. Do you remember how in 2011, Gmail was redesigned with flatter buttons? Then in 2012, Google Now introduced layered “cards.” These elements are now all formalized under Material design but those design upgrades back then were a part of a larger, very purposeful and deliberate process.
What has been most impressive is Google’s ambition to unify the design across a set of varied products. Hence, Material Design can serve as proof that design is POSSIBLE to scale.
Well, there are a few steps you would want to take to be able to build a design system to scale. Here you go:
Check if you really need a design system
There is always the possibility that you might be carried away by the trends, the hype. A lot of us often start looking for solutions for non-existent problems. Yes, this does happen. But then, it turns out that we have not checked the problem yet. So, if a simple redesign will work for you, then there is most probably no need for coming up with a design system.
The idea is that you should really do your homework and see if your company needs it or not. Building a design system or outsourcing it to a design and development company will take time and money. Estimate your needs properly before allocating resources to building a design system.
Make sure your people know what to expect
Not everyone understands the value that design systems provide. So, your responsibility will be to teach your team what a design system is and how it can help make work easier. Be the influencer, the trend-maker in your company. Call it whatever you want.
If you have decided to build a design system, the company is going to pay for it. So you might want to make sure all the stakeholders are positive about the idea. With this in mind, maybe it’s worth involving someone from your team who has done this before or has helped someone earlier to build a design system? Think about it!
Develop a game plan
Remember the famous quote? “By failing to plan, you are planning to fail.” It seems obvious that you need a game plan but a lot of people don’t plan the work in advance and then they get into trouble due to unexpected circumstance or force majeure. Of course, you cannot foresee a force majeure but you can at least have plan B if it happens.
So, basically, the idea is that you need to define your mission or goal or a set of values and go for them. Each company has got its own industry-specific challenges, so take your time to evaluate the situation, explore the opportunities, the pain points for your team and customer in order to build the right system for your needs. And most importantly, focus on creating a design system that is consistent and scalable.
Review and adopt best practices
Don’t start from scratch, it might take too much time and resources. Review existing design systems and see which one is closer to your vision. Many companies have made their design systems publicly available. So, why not take a look at them?
Conduct a UX/UI audit
You are conducting a UX/UI audit to know what you are working with. This whole thing is pretty much about documenting what exists. This can be time-consuming, but the game is worth the candle since through a UX/UI audit you will discover:
Why conversions are low
How to improve onboarding
Why retention rates might be low
In other words, you will get a clearer understanding of who is using your product and what problems they are facing. After the audit, you will come up with improvement strategy based on the things you have learned.
Do it little by little
A design system is not a project, it’s more of a product. Hence, it needs to evolve and become more refined. It’s a living document. Make sure your design system has got a roadmap and all product-related stuff. Take it through a few iterations, talk to your team to clarify what’s coming next, and then set a new list of problems that you will be solving. Iterate as much as possible until you come up with something that makes sense.
Creative people love the chaos but it should not be the case here. Document everything! Sounds simple, right? But it’s sometimes really hard to do things the “neat and clean” way rather than the “quick and messy” way. Staying organized reduces clutter in email or Slack and helps keep the team sane and happy. Otherwise, you might end up where you started – chaotic styles everywhere!
Most importantly, know where you will be storing all your creations and how you are going to make them accessible to your team members.
As soon as you feel the need to have a design system for your company, you will want to jump into building one. If you are going to do that in-house, then make sure you communicate with your peer designers and take into account the above steps to build the best possible design product ever. And if you are thinking about delegating the work to another company, then make sure to choose a team that knows how to do it right.
When it comes to UX design, the looks are not the most important thing even though it may appear that way. There was a really annoying trend in the beginning of 2000s, when every website tried to look as extravagant as possible. Flash player was used as much as it could be. The result was that websites looked fantastic and had beautifully animated UI. Yet, it soon became apparent that people hated using such websites. Sure, they looked pretty, but they were horrible to use. Designers got smarter and instead started focusing on function.
The UX designers of today are very different than a decade or two ago. We were still in the nascent stages of UX back then. Now we know that UX can make or break an application or a website. Look at the uproar that is created if Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat make a change to their UX. There are cries about how the app is now ruined and people want the old thing back. That is why the experience is the number one thing that pro designers focus on. However, the true top level designers aren’t trying to just make things easy to do – they are trying to influence the actions of the user.
This is something which salespeople have been using for a long time and designers are finally getting comfortable with. It is called priming, and it will change the way you think about UX.
Understanding Priming and Its Power
Before we get into how you can use Priming to make people do what you want, let’s focus on what it is. Priming is a term you may be aware of – it means something that is used to make an action happen. Priming, in psychology, can be understood as the act of subconsciously making a person behave in a way you want.
Basically, in the context of UX, it means designing user experience in such a way that it helps the users to complete actions you wish them to take. Note that priming isn’t about telling people what to do. If you see a sign that says ‘Caution – Wet Floor’, you are being told what to do. Priming is subconscious, it means you guide people the right way by giving their minds little hints which they can subtly pick up.
If you have ever played video games you will know priming. Ever played Doom or the countless games inspired by it? Ammo and guns were hard to find. However sometimes you would enter an area full of guns, ammo, and health. You weren’t happy – because you knew that this meant you will have to fight a huge monster now. It worked so well that you would dread it every time the game gave you some ammo and health. They primed you into understanding when you need to put up a serious fight. There were no signs, no videos, no captions – just elements that spoke to your subconsciousness.
The real power of priming is seen when people go against priming – because then you can see why priming is important. Imagine a shop had an exit sign and an entry sign, like many shops do. Now, imagine if the exit sign was green and the entry sign was red. This would cause everyone to do a double-take. Even though it still says Exit and Entry it feels wrong without priming. Our brains are primed to ‘’red means stop’’ and ‘’green means go’’, and these colors are used in this manner everywhere.
Why Priming is Important for Companies
Priming is important because of the impact it makes. Priming is based on the science behind how our minds work. We like to think that we are rational beings that make decisions based on facts, but we all know that we are beings of perception. What matters to us isn’t what is in front of us but how we perceive it, and the perception is based on observation. We often do things because we have been primed to do so, without even realizing it.
Priming has been used in brick and mortar stores for a long time. You may have noticed that the things you need to buy the most in grocery stores – things such as bread, milk, eggs – are almost always places in the back of the store. You may be annoyed by it – why don’t they place the most bought items near the counter, decreasing the time you need to spend in the store? The answer is simple. They have intentionally placed the goods people want the most far away, so they have to walk past everything else in the process. Most of us end up picking something else along with the necessities, such as a juice or a snack.
Priming is also very commonly seen in museums. You may have seen the ‘’Exit through the gift shop’’ sign in many museums. Museums literally build gift shops that need to be crossed to go to the exit. Now, you don’t need to buy anything from the gift shop, and you will have probably not even checked out the gift shop. By making you go through it they increase the chances of you liking something and buying it.
Priming in UX
In the context of UX priming means designing an interface which guides the customer, subconsciously, towards a certain action. It means giving a person the signals that subtly influence them into making a purchase, signing up for a service, or any other action you may desire.
The reason these 10 priming techniques should be taken seriously is simple – they come from cognitive psychology. These techniques are based on scientific findings of trailblazing scientists trying to get a better picture of how the mind works. Each priming technique has been tested and proven multiple times.
Before we begin – The Ethics of Priming
It is important to understand that priming is very different from manipulation. Manipulating a customer into doing something is definitely unethical but that is not what priming is about. Priming means helping the customer make the right choice without explicit instruction. When you use priming correctly you do not end up fooling people into buying your products. Priming is used to make the user experience intuitive so you do not have to give instructions, which leads to people falling in love with the experience on your website or application.
We all go through this problem. When you sign up for a new service there is confusion in the beginning. It is the first time you are using the website; it makes sense that you will not know what option is where. If you use priming correctly you can guide people to do the right thing without them even knowing it.
One of our favorite examples of priming in real life is by Apple. There were a lot of complaints about the way the wireless Mighty mouse is charged. The charging cable connects to a port on the bottom of the mouse, making the mouse unavailable for use when being charged:
Now, when you look at it you can see that it looks very stupid. You may be wondering how Apple could make a design decision this bad. Well, they didn’t. The Mighty Mouse 2 is intentionally designed this way to prevent people from leaving it wired. Apple knew that people would just attach the charging cable and leave it attached, then be annoyed by it, which will lead to a dissatisfying experience. The mouse can go up to a month without being charged. Charging it for 2 minutes gives you enough battery for 9 hours. Leaving it on charge is also bad for it, since the battery used deteriorates if the mouse is needlessly left connected to the charger.
Apple didn’t write a warning on the mouse to not use it while it is being charged. They didn’t write it in the instruction manual – there are no warnings. They just made the design decision to make it inconvenient to leave the mouse on charge. The result? Everyone only remembers the great wireless experience and is never annoyed by the wire.
There are no ethical considerations here because the customer isn’t being defrauded or manipulated in any way. Yet the perfect user experience is maintained without giving any instructions. That is the ultimate aim of priming.
Priming technique 1 – Availability heuristic
Availability heuristic refers to our brain’s tendency to weigh easily and recently available information, more than old information. The memory that is the most easily available will be the most affective. We assume that the thing we thought of first may be the most important. For example, if you see a news story about an accident you start driving a bit more carefully. The chances of you being in an accident haven’t actually increased, but the memory of the news story of the accident is easily accessible in your brain, and it thus becomes important information.
Remind a user of a problem they face, and they’ll consider it a problem worth solving. Try these two things to keep their problem easily available to their mind and thought process:
Designing a website make sure you will talk about the problems your product solves, not what it does. “Get wireframes build faster” is better than “Wireframes build online.”
Manage users expectations, giving them a feedback when they solve a problem, and remind them what it was. “Congrats— only two questions left” is better than just “Congrats!”
Priming technique 2 – Attentional bias
Our thoughts aren’t as free as they seem – they are controlled by the other things we may be thinking about at the time. Attentional bias means that the recurring thoughts in our brains change how we perceive reality. You may have noticed that usually the person who hates something is the first one to notice it. The person most bothered by cockroaches will be the first one to see one. This happens because they consider cockroaches a threat and thus their brain is on the lookout for such things.
You need to look at what makes people think of the wrong thing and remove any mentions of it. For instance, do not talk about how you will not send a customer spam when they sign up for an email. Now you’ve planted the idea of you sending spam in their mind, and they perceive it as a threat and will not sign up.
Priming technique 3 – Illusory truth effect
The illusory truth effect is, quite frankly, a bit too powerful. The illusory truth effect is that a statement is considered the truth if it is repeated often – regardless of whether it is actually true or not. For instance most people will say that their country is the best. This isn’t dependent of their country actually being the best – it is just what they have heard repeated around them, and they believe it simply because everyone says it.
Using this for your UX is dead simple. You need to repeat the good things said about your company. If you keep calling your product ‘’The city’s favorite product’’ enough times, people will eventually just accept that it is. Simply saying something again and again makes it true in the minds of people.
Look at how Microsoft is using this technique to make people shift from Chrome to Edge. If you use Windows 10 on a laptop you may have seen the following notification:
They keep repeating it and you know what happens? One day you wonder if it is really true and try it. You find it to be good enough – note that you don’t actually measure the battery usage yourself. Yet, since Microsoft knows Edge is a good enough product if people try it, just getting you to try it is a victory for them.
Priming technique 4 – Mere exposure effect
The mere exposure effect is very important for UX. The mere exposure effect is a cognitive bias where we favor things which are familiar, even over a better alternative. People like what they like not because they have assessed it in any way but simply because it is familiar. UX can employ this priming technique in great ways. You can make your UX similar to UX with which people are already familiar, and they will love using your UI.
This is already how we do it, subconsciously. Most websites use a similar pattern, with menus on top or left and content in the center. Here’s something to ponder: imagine that you can rework the whole philosophy of web design and come up with a new template. As far as you can see, the new template you have come up with makes actions faster because one has to jump through fewer hoops to accomplish them. You make people try this system out and they will hate it and will accomplish the task in a much longer time. Why? Because as long as the design is familiar, their brain already knows what to do and how to do it, even if this is their first visit. Without that mental key, things are not going to be easy for them.
Priming technique 5 – Context effect
Everything is relative to us. The human brain doesn’t keep things in isolation – all pieces of information are stored in relation to each other. This means that simply by changing the relation you can change the way a thing is perceived. For example, you can have a great romantic dinner date at a restaurant which provides the right context. The seats are comfortable, the aroma is great, the service is good, and the food tastes fantastic as well. This will make you like the person you are on a date with more, because you are meeting them in the right context.
You can go on a date with the same person but in a bad context. Maybe it was too hot and both of you are sweaty now. Maybe the restaurant isn’t that good. You are on a date with the same person, but because the context isn’t as good, you may not like that person as much. This is why some of our best memories of our loved ones are from holidays or adventures.
Context matters a lot when it comes to UX as well. Want people to feel happy about something? Put up graphics of balloons, confetti, and cakes and people will feel good about it. Want people to be afraid of something? Add a few pictures and warning signs. Note that you do not even need to relate the things directly to what you want them to dislike – simply placing it in the right context will do the job.
Here is a mistake people often make: they give negative feedback to the users. We have all experienced this when filling out forms on the internet. You are choosing a username and the box goes red because you used the wrong character, or the password box goes red because your password appears to be too simple. Do not make customers feel punished. If they keep getting similar feedback from your form it quickly becomes frustrating. Instead of a harsh red go with a soothing orange which turns to green when corrected. Make it feel like you are guiding people, not correcting their wrongs.
Priming technique 6 – Cue-dependent forgetting
We have talked about how our memory works – it is all relative. Memories aren’t stored as individual objects, but as connections and relationships. You may have a tough time remembering an outing. Your friends will be talking about when you went to a club, and you won’t be able to remember anything. Then someone says ‘’Remember, we also ran into Dan outside the club?’’ You remember meeting Dan and suddenly all the memories of the club, which you couldn’t access a minute ago, come rushing into your head.
You can make people remember the things you want them to remember by giving cues. Does your client sell anniversary gifts? Add a lot of wedding cues, make the users remember the day they get married and feel the same way again. You just have to provide a cue and memories start rushing in.
Look at how Facebook now reminds you of specific days and events – it gives you cues which take you back to when you were a more active user of Facebook.
If you use Google Photos you get the same option. Often you are told to ‘Revisit’ a day. You are shown all the pictures you took at an outing. It creates a very positive emotional experience which in turn makes people more ardent users of Google Photos.
Priming technique 7 – Mood-congruent memory bias
Your mood affects how you perceive and remember things, much more than you may think. Our brains can be primed into feeling a certain way depending on factors and memories we may not even be aware of. For example, if something bad happens to you on a holiday, then every time the holiday comes back you will remember the bad thing. Eventually, everything that reminds you of the holiday will result in a bad mood, simply because of the connection that has been built in your brain. When you are enamored with someone new, they look like the most beautiful person in the world. When you think of them the feelings you get are positive.
If you break up with the same person in a few months, your memories of them will be very different. The same memories which resulted in a good mood will now result in a bad mood. It works the other way around too. When we are in a good mood our memories seem better. The same memory can seem worse if our mood is worse.
Thus, UX designers need to set the right mood. You need to pick a mood that goes well with the website you are designing. If you are designing a sports website you need to make it look frenetic and active. If you are making a spa website, you need to make it look comfortable. Set the right mood and capture people’s minds.
Look at Amazon during the 2 weeks before Valentine’s Day. Instead of highlighting specific products, they are highlighting general items and situations related to Valentine’s Day. They are putting user into the right mood, they are connecting to your positive emotions. In this moment, instead of rationally thinking about your budget you are thinking about your loved one. This eliminates the discomfort you feel about going over your budget.
Priming technique 8 – Frequency illusion / Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon
Have you ever noticed that once you read a new word and learn its meaning you end up seeing it used everywhere? It may be a word you have never heard before but once you read about it you start hearing it again and again. This is called the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon, where something appears to be happening more frequently once you learn about it.
The reason this happens is very simple – our brain works at recognizing patterns. It picks up things it deems useful and ignores the rest. The word isn’t being used more often around you – it is being used as much as it was before. However, since you have learned about it only recently it remains a fresh mark on your brain. Thus every time your brain detects the pattern it highlights it to you.
You can use this to make people think the way you want. You can really get into the heads of users with this one. Introduce your product to them by highlighting the problem it solves. Every time they encounter the problem in real life, they will now think of your solution. It may be a problem they may have never even noticed, but you talked to them about it, and now they can’t help but notice it. In UX you can do great things by introducing new iconography or symbols and employing them in similar ways again and again.
This is especially important for SaaS providers. When you are a SaaS provider you cannot list your features – you need to convince people that your product is useful. Sure, you may have terabytes of storage and an unbelievable amount of computing power, but that doesn’t excite the user or tell them how you will be useful to them.
Priming technique 9 – Empathy gap
The empathy gap refers to our inability to understand how many factors affect our decision making. Sometimes when you are in a bad mood you do things which you regret once your mood is fine. You keep thinking ‘’Why did I do that?!’’, and there is no answer. This is because your brain in a good mood cannot empathize with your brain in a bad mood, and vice versa.
This is very important in priming. You can change the way people act by priming them with the right feeling. This is why politicians give such bombastic speeches. They get the people riled up and angry and then start talking about the opposition. In a similar vein, making a person feel better will make them more compliant. So, if your UX has elements that improve the mood of a person, it will result in them being more receptive to your marketing and content. You can use mood music, you can use pictures, or even soothing colors. You can also get people riled up when it comes to sports and other such events. You can make people feel the hype simply through visual cues.
Disneyland’s website is a masterclass in this. Now, their aim is to convince people to go to Disneyland. That is only happening if the customer is in the right frame of mind. That is why their website does everything to create the right mood. They did not build a functional website that easily lets you book a Disney vacation – if we were purely logical thinkers the functionality is rather poor. The functional parts of the website, which allow you to buy tickets and make reservations are all located in a small bar.
The rest of the page is designed to overload you with Disney magic. There is a video playing right on the main page which shows you the spectacle of Disneyland. Right below it is a picture of a father with his son on his shoulders, both happy. Each and every picture makes you feel the same way – my kids will love it when I take them here. Disney knows that Disneyland vacations are fueled by parents deriving happiness from giving the joy of Disneyland to their children. This is how you prime people. You don’t give them discounts, don’t write a 1000 word essay telling them you much fun they will have. You show it to them, you make them feel that way, and you make them imagine how much their kid will love going to Disneyland.
Priming technique 10 – Base rate fallacy
When given general information and specific information people tend to value specific information even more, even when it gives the wrong answer. Here is an easy way to think about this – there is a competition going on where you win prizes hidden inside chocolates. You know that 10% of all chocolates have prizes in them, this is the base rate. Your friend comes to you later in the day and tells you that he bought 10 chocolates and 5 out of them had prizes in them.
Now, how much of a chance do you think you have of winning a prize if you bought 10 chocolates? Even though you know the base rate, you will assume that you will get better odds like your friend did. Even in the presence of actual facts, an anecdote can change the way you think.
The base rate fallacy is a great way of dealing with any bad statistics or press. All you need to do is provide them with a slice of information which suggests otherwise. You can tell the story of a customer who had great luck with your products – better than average. You don’t mislead people at all; you tell them the actual odds, and then tell them of a customer that beat the odds. You are telling people how much a chance there is that the same will happen to them but they won’t care. They will consider the anecdote to be a better barometer of how things will turn out instead of the base rate.
Priming techniques are a good way of understanding the full breadth of your users. And while they’re not the only techniques a designer should use in his/her toolbox, priming is a meaningful way to drill down into the microlevel of what makes users tick in regards to visual communication and design.
When 2017 is almost over it’s time to look ahead and predict how the digital experience will evolve over the next 12 months.
In this article, I’ll overview the most significant changes in the digital world which we saw during 2017 and the trends we should be aware of to stay ahead of the curve in design and development in 2018.
1. Simpler Navigation
Navigation experience was a hot topic among many designers during 2017. Designers strive to create an effortless experience and navigation plays a key role in that.
In the attempt to simplify navigation experience many apps and website focus on creating linear (or step-by-step) navigation experience. Apps and services which utilize this type of navigation put users in linear user flow when each next step looks like a logical continuation of the previous one. This type of navigation is especially good for goal-driven apps (such as Uber) and e-commerce websites (e.g., Amazon, Best Buy) where users have a goal they want to accomplish.
Voice User Interfaces
Voice user interfaces (VUIs) become a good alternative to graphical users interfaces. Significant improvement of natural language process made it possible to use voice commands for different purposes.
In coming year voice interfaces will be used not only in mobile devices but as a way of interaction with IoT and Smart Home systems. Soon we’ll have even more advanced speech recognition patterns that will improve our interactions with systems.
2. Decluttering and Improving Comprehension
Removing visual clutter and improving comprehension is a popular goal among many UX designers today. Designers remove irrelevant information (noise) and prioritize relevant information (signal) by putting content first and elaborating clear visual language.
Content first design approach is directly related to minimalism in design. In the attempt to create more with fewer designers remove all unnecessary elements of the interface and focus on what’s really important — content and functionality. Interfaces have more whitespace between different elements and limited numbers of decorative items. The downside of this approach is that interfaces sometimes look too neutral.
Clear Visual Language
We all know that strong visual hierarchy makes it easier for users to interact with a product. In the context of websites and mobile apps, strong visual hierarchy means clear viewing order for the visual elements on a screen. Strong visual signifiers (such as contrasting colors for call-to-action buttons) combined with minimalist layouts can create a really easy-to-use experience.
Large headlines is a lot more whitespace and large typography for headers. Large headlines provide two major benefits for users: they make text both easier to notice and easier to read.
3. Using Animation For Different Purposes
Animation is quickly becoming a natural part of user interfaces. There are two particular types of animation that play a significant role in UX design — functional and delightful animations.
Functional animation is a type of animation that brings clarity to the user interface. This type of animation is used to simplify the process of interaction with products. With the release of iPhone X and it’s gesture-driven interactions animation will be used to describe complex transitions and spatial relationships.
In the attempt to create a more human experience, many app creators incorporated delightful details into user flow. Such elements don’t have any functional purpose; they are used to create an emotional connection with users.
4. The Dominance Of Videos
2017 saw a surge in the popularity of video as a content marketing format. According to Hubspot, 78% of people watch videos online every week, and 55% watch videos online every day.
Video Content For Short Attention Span
The average human attention span had fallen from 12 seconds in 2000, or around the time the mobile revolution began, to eight seconds. Marketers are adapting all content (including videos) for short attention span — formats like 360-degree videos and Facebook Live were created as a result of such adaptation.
Video As Welcome Message On Homepage
Video has an opportunity to engage users right from the start. That’s why so many websites using video as a welcome message. Companies like Tesla not just introduce the visitors to a product, they tell a story about the product with the use of video. This will help to create a more memorable experience.
5. Emotionally Intelligent Design
The human-machine relationship was always more emotional than rational. We are happy when technology helps us achieve our goal and quickly become angry with our computers when something goes wrong.
In 2017 we saw a turn towards emotionally intelligent design. Emotional design is focussed on cultivating positive emotion by understanding how users interact with technology and what feelings they have.
For a long time, designers create experience only for the ideal user journey. In 2017 many designers realized that creating an experience for the non-ideal user journey is equally important.
Failure mapping is about finding situations when users might interact with the product in a way that causes a negative outcome. Designers try to build a better understanding of situations where a user may try to use something ‘wrong.’ By building an understanding of scenarios that can cause failure, designers attempt to design for ‘graceful failure.’ This allows to deliver a humanized response to an otherwise awkward moment for any user.
One great example of failure mapping can be found in Slack. If you’ve half-written a message in a channel and leave, you’ll get a little pencil icon telling you that you’re not quite finished.
More Microinteractions In Mobile Apps
Microinteractions on mobile devices are quickly becoming a lot more device-specific. They are used to increase simplicity in digital experiences. Paired with simple gestures and subtle, visual feedback they become part of the natural way we interact with our products and services.
Chatbots and conversational user interfaces (CUI) became trendy in 2016. The rise of chatbots and smart assistants will continue to grow. One important difference between CUI and traditional GUIs is the way users feel about interacting with product — conversational interfaces make interaction feel more human. That’s why conversational bots such as Zo and Xiaoice are so popular among users.
6. Content Is Even More Important Than Ever
Content is king. Content is the reason why people use our apps and visit our sites. During 2017 we saw two major trends that are directly related to the way we interact with content.
Facebook Become a Destination For Content
In 2017, Facebook became one of the most important services for the consumption of content. It’s no longer just a jump-off point; it’s a powerful hub for the news and information.
Big Companies Will Help Us With Content Credibility
Content credibility is a serious problem today. Millions of pieces of content are created every minute and it usually hard to tell the difference between facts and fiction. According to a study by Stanford University, a high percentage of users cannot distinguish truth from lie on their newsfeeds. The problem of content credibility was especially noticeable during the 2016 presidential election campaign in the US, which proved that lies spread faster than the truth.
Fortunately, big companies like Google and Facebook realize this problem and have already begun testing fact-checking features that help users discern fact from fiction.
7. Wearables As Replacement For Mobile Phones
With the release of Apple Watch Series 3 with Cellular, a lot of people see the beginning of the new era for connected devices. Finally, it’s possible to use smartwatch as a replacement for a mobile phone. Why would you need to carry a heavy brick in your pocket if you can have a powerful computer on your wrist? It’s clear that we see a new segment of devices that after a while will have its own target audience.
8. Simpler Authentication
The combination of login and password (also known as “credentials”) is de-facto standard information required by apps and devices for a sign-in procedure. We all know how outdated it is. Hopefully, we see significant progress in this field during previous years. In the coming year, we’ll have a few notable changes.
Using Smart Ways Of Authentication
When people forget passwords in most cases, they try to reset them. While reset option is a mandatory requirement for good sign in form, it still has one significant problem — users will need to do a lot of extra actions in order to log in into account (e.g. click “Reset password” link, check inbox for a message with reset link, click the link and create a new password). In the attempt to simplify the process, many apps and websites incorporated creative ways of login — such as temporary passwords ( the one-time password that will be sent to you):
Or even replace the login/password combination altogether:
A lot of devices today use different ways of biometric authentication as a replacement for passwords. In 2018 we’ll see a more exciting way of login to our devices and apps. We’ll use one most the most protected and at the same time easy to use object — our faces. Face ID which became available for iPhone X users has the opportunity to become the most natural way of authentication in the coming year.
The rise of cyber attacks that are focussed on collecting user data force companies to think about security in their apps. 2-factor authentication (or 2FA) is quickly becoming the default way authentication for many services. It adds an extra layer of protection that can significantly reduce the probability of the data theft from user devices.
9. More Personalization
More and more companies incorporate techniques and technologies that allow them to deliver personalized content for their uses. According to Gartner, smart personalization engines used to recognize customer intent will enable digital businesses to increase their profits by up to 15%.
Significant progress in the field of machine learning made it possible for many companies to utilize the algorithms in their apps and services to deliver content tailored to the needs and wants of their users. The best examples of personalization can be found on Amazon, Spotify and Netflix services.
Since mobile devices are travel with users, the apps installed on the devices can use location data to provide a content which is relevant to user’s location. This make services more responsive to the environments around them. Some apps like Uber have already utilized this property to reduce the number of actions required from the user’s side. In 2018 we’ll see more apps use those capabilities to make the experience better.
10. The Rise Of Cashless Payments
Cashless payments become a trend, and the number of people who use this method of payment almost doubled in 2017. According to a report by Juniper Research, the number of Apple Pay and Android Pay users will be 86 and 24 million by the end of the year, respectively.
In comparison with credit cards, both Android Pay and Apple Pay are the much safer payment option for payment proceeding. No wonder why people prefer to use them.
What does it mean for designers and developers? This means that in 2018 we’ll have to provide Apple Pay/Android Pay as a default option for our products (both offline and online).
11. Augmented Reality Is a New Big Thing
2018 will be a year of augmented reality. A lot of people will use their mobile phone or tablet as a lens into a virtual world.
Google Lens is an AR app that available in Google Assistant on both Pixel and Pixel 2 phones which allows users to point a camera at the world and get answers. The good news is that you no longer have to fire up Google Photos if you want to use Lens to glean information from the world around you. You can tap a camera button while using the AI helper and it’ll perform a search when you take a photo.
More AR Apps Which Solves Real-Life Problems
Unlike VR which still is a prerogative of enthusiast and early adopters, AR is fastly becoming a technology that delivers real value for people who use it. This year we saw a few great apps such as Ikea AR app that helps you redesign your living room:
Or AR Measure which makes it possible to measure the real-world objects without a traditional physical measurement tape:
Create Apps Will Be Easier With AR Kits from Apple and Google
2017 was a Both Apple and Google released their mobile AR platforms – AR Kit and AR Core. These platforms are high-level APIs which provide a simple interface to a robust set of features. And the great thing is that platforms are supported by millions of existing devices.
12. VR Is Still a Fad
A lot of people say that VR is going to be the next big thing. Unfortunately, 2018 won’t be a year when we’ll have VR in every house. The platform should fight a lot of challenges before it is widely available for people. Despite that, in 2018 we’ll see a few significant change that will bring VR a bit closer.
VR Devices Will Be More Affordable
Making the VR devices more affordable for people is the #1 goal for many hardware developers. Just a few months ago, both Oculus Rift and HTC Vive significantly reduced the price of VR devices. The rise of low-budget devices such as Google Daydream will introduce the technology for a mass segment of users.
VR and Unity 3D
In coming year VR is still will be used primarily for entertainment. This means that creators will utilize the Unity’s 3D game development platform when crafting stimulating experience for intense gamers. We can expect the significant progress of this platform for VR developers – we can expect more tools like Unity’s VR Editor in 2018.
VR in a Browser
Bonus: Changes In The Way We Design Products In 2018
Today designers and developers use modern methodologies such as Agile and Lean UX design which allow them to iterate fast and create products that satisfy the needs and wants of their users. In 2018 we’ll see a few significant changes in product design.
From MVP to MLP
Today a lot of companies are focussed on creating MVP (or Minimum Viable Product) to prove the concept they work on. It’s clear that MVP won’t be enough for 2018. Tomorrow’s designs will embrace an MLP — Minimum Loveable Product — experience the combines both great usability and perfect user experience needed to convert visitors into customers. MLP allows much easier to convey stakeholders and first-time users to accept the product.
Merging of UX and service design
There’s a huge probability that UX Design and Service Design will finally come together in 2018. Since more and more services are delivered digitally, these two fields will start to merge.
As with any trends, some trends mentioned above will go, while some will stay. But to create the great user experience, it’s important to remember the global goal of designer — make people’s lives better.
This article is an entry level of UX design, written for UX designers.
UX design is about developing products that are both usable and user-centric. The “design” aspect focuses on how the ease of use and efficiency for a user’s interaction with a product can be improved. The question you probably often ask yourself, though, is how it all works in practice? What do real-life UX design processes actually look like?
In this article, I want to show you how to start a UX design project. The article will give you a taste of the techniques used by UX designers when working on designing or redesigning a product, as well as show you the order in which specific UX steps should be taken. We’ll touch on subjects such as User Research, Design, and Testing.
Before Project Starts
To craft good user experience both the business context and project objectives must be clearly understood. Before starting any design project it’s important to create a strategy. A strategy will shape the goals of the project—what the business is hoping to achieve with the project and how its success should be measured.
Value proposition is a process of mapping out the key aspects of the product: what it is, who it is for and when/where it will be used. Value proposition helps the team narrow down and create consensus around what the product will be.
UX designers create a document to communicate a value proposition which contains the following information:
Key business objectives
UX attributes that will influence the success (both directly and indirectly) of the key objectives and desired outcomes
Desired state of these UX attributes
A list of activities and design work that can be done to improve the state of the UX
Key Performance Indicators (KPI)
KPIs help inform design decisions along the way and measure results of the UX efforts.
Usually, UX designers conduct a series of interviews with stakeholders to define KPIs.
Same as for value proposition, the key is to connect your KPIs to your business objectives. A few common examples of KPIs:
Conversion (sales / visits)
Bounce rate (e.g. basket abandonment for e-commerce site)
Average order value
Total number of sales
UX Design Process Explained
Once UX designer has a clear idea of a product definition and how it might fit into the current market, s/he moves into user-centric modelling. Although there are no hard and fast rules to this process, UX design generally occurs in the following five stages:
Step 1: User Research
Dieter Rams once said, “You cannot understand good design if you do not understand people; design is made for people”. A great product experience starts with a good understanding of your users. That’s why user research is every UX designer’s starting point for a UX design project. User research has to come first in the UX design process because without it, designer’s work can only be based on their own experiences and assumptions.
“Good user research is key to designing a great user experience. Designing without good user research is like building a house without solid foundations – your design will soon start to crumble and will eventually fall apart.” – Neil Turner (Uxforthemasses)
Research phase is probably the most variable between projects. What is involved In user research:
Interview is an in-depth one-on-one discussion between an interviewer and a user from the target audience. Interview should be designed to discover the underlying needs and requirements of the user when using your product. This technique is especially useful when the target audience is new or unknown to the team.
An online survey is a questionnaire consisting of a set of very precise questions sent to a sample of your target audience over the internet. The length and format of an online survey can vary from project to project.
Interviews and online survey can work together. Before you start writing questions for your online survey, take the time to conduct a few interviews to fully understand the user’s problem space. This will help inform your survey questions.
There are many tools available for running surveys, ranging from lightweight and inexpensive tools right through to specialist market research tools. For most UX applications simple surveys tools such as Google Forms, SurveyMonkey or Wufoo should offer adequate functionality to create surveys.
Evaluating the competition is one way to determine where a designed product stands, and what potential markets it can break into. When conducting a competitive analysis, UX designer evaluates a competing product’s usability, interaction design, and unique features, to see how their own product stacks up. Competitive analysis is especially important when designers are building an entirely new product that hasn’t entered the market yet. A competitive analysis gives insight into what competitors are doing right, and what difficulties they face, leaving opportunities available.
Step 2: Analyze & Define
The aim of the Analyze & Define phase is to draw insights from data collected during the User Research phase. This step is clearly the ideation part of the process.
When a designer has finished a user research and know what users need and what they expect, s/he can summarize those findings into user personas. Personas are fictional characters which are used as a representation of a real audience and their behaviours. The purpose of personas is to create reliable representations of target audience segments for reference (UX designers build a product based on personas). Personas make it easier for designers to create empathy with users throughout the design process.
Once UX designer has a clear idea of who might use a product, it’s time to map out how they might use it. Every user has a goal to achieve, UX designer needs to define each step that the user will go through to get to the final goal. These steps will shape a user story. Good user story must clarify the specific type of user, describe the task with comparable detail, and clarify on the context in which work must be done.
Step 3: Design
The premise of the Design is to create a product which will be tested with real users. This product may be represented by paper or interactive prototypes, interactive wireframes, or semi-functioning prototypes. The Design phase of a UX project should be collaborative (involving input and ideas from all team members) and iterative.
Navigation is a make or break aspect of the user experience of a site/app. Each person who’ll get lost navigating through a site is going to have a bad experience of that product. To avoid these scenarios, UX designers perform a process called Information Architecture (IA). The purpose of IA is to organize the content on a site so that users can find exactly what they need to perform the task they want and to reach their goal.
The outcome of IA process varies based on the type of a project. If UX designer is creating a website, s/he’ll create a sitemap during this step. Sitemap is one of the most iconic IA deliverables, consists of a diagram of the website’s pages organized hierarchically.
Card sorting is one of the most popular UX techniques used for creating IA. During card sorting session, users organize topics from content within an app/website into groups that make sense to them.
Brainstorming and sketching
Brainstorming is the most frequently practiced form of ideation. Brainstorming helps to generate constraint-free ideas that respond to a given creative brief. The intention of brainstorming is to leverage the collective thinking of the group, by engaging with each other, listening, and building on other ideas.
Brainstorming work in tandem with sketching. Sketching is the easiest way of visualizing ideas.All you need is just pen and paper. Sketching allows designers to visualize a broad range of design solutions before deciding which one to stick with. I haven’t met a single designer who doesn’t use quick sketching or some other paper prototyping form at the early stage of a design process.
Wireframes are the “blueprint for design.” A wireframe represents the page structure, as well as its hierarchy and key elements. Wireframes tie together the underlying conceptual structure (information architecture) with the visible part of design (visual design). The process of wireframing helps designers uncover different methods for representing content and information as well as prioritizing that content in according to the user’s goals.
Wireframes aren’t supposed to represent the visual design or contact graphic elements. They should be quick, cheap, and simple to create.
User Flow is the path a user follows through an application. The flow doesn’t have to be linear, it can branch out in a non-linear path. User flows are helpful in hashing out complex flows before prototyping a product. Creating users flows will help the designer think about what happens to the user before & after they visit a particular page.
37 Signals created a helpful shorthand for User Flows which you might consider during crafting your own flow.
A prototype is a simulation of the final product. Basically, it’s a version of a product that takes designer as close as possible to a good representation of an app/website and its user interface before any coding has begun. Prototype makes it possible to test the product — see how the overall design works and fix any inconsistencies.
Prototypes can be either low-fidelity or high-fidelity. Lo-fi prototypes help you focus on creating the smoothest flows for users to accomplish their goals.
While high-fidelity prototype can be a fully-interactive version of a product.
An interactive prototype has functional animations and microinteractions which are used to build meaning behind about the spatial relationships, functionality, and intention of the system.
Animation can contribute heavily to the user experience if used correctly. Both functional and delightful animations can be used to deliver a feedback:
Step 4: Testing
The premise of the Testing phase is to put ideas in front of users, get their feedback, and refine the design. It’s important to understand that the earlier you test, the easier it is to make changes and thus the greater impact the testing has on the eventual quality of the product.
Usability testing is usually a one-to-one, moderated in-person usability session. The purpose of in-person usability testing is to identify problems or issues the user has while interacting with a product. Test participant performs tasks using a product while the UX designer observes and taking notes. When conducting usability testing it’s crucial you observe the actions the user takes without intruding on their actions or decisions.
Testing doesn’t need not be either time consuming or expensive. Jakob Nielsen’s research has found that testing with 5 users generally unveils 85% of usability problems.
A/B Testing (also known as split testing) is a form of quantitative analysis comparing two different versions of a product (e.g. two different types of landing pages). A/B testing makes it easier for UX designer to test hypotheses about design. A/B testing helps if you already have a product/service and need to improve it.
Accessibility enables people with disabilities to perceive and interact with a product. A well-designed product is accessible to users of all abilities, including those with low vision, blindness, hearing impairments or motor impairments.
Accessibility analysis checks that a product can be used by everyone, including users with special needs. W3C guidelines define a basic set of accessibility rules. By following these rules UX design increases changes that all users are satisfied. It’s possible to use an automated tool to regularly test your service’s accessibility. One of the popular automated tools is WAVE (Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool)
Step 5: Measuring
Unlike any other discipline, UX designer’s work doesn’t stop with releasing a product. UX is an ongoing process that continues for as long as a product will be used by people. UX designers should continually measure product performance to see if it meets user satisfaction and if any improvements can be made.
Numbers provided by an analytics tool tell designers about how the user interacts with a product: clicks, session time, search queries etc. Metrics analysis and usability testing work great together because metrics can “uncover the unexpected”, surfacing behaviours that are not explicit in user tests.
Metrics analysis helps UX designer to understand what is happening on a site/in an app. But when it comes to uncovering why, the true value lies in collecting qualitative data.
User feedback allows UX designer to discover the reasons behind the actions that analytics tools show. With an option to leave feedback, users can effortlessly report anything that’s causing the friction. This feedback item can then be labelled and filtered directly to UX designer’s mailbox.
While we’ve described the most common UX design methods and deliverables that can help the design process, it’s important to understand that each project is different and it’s often important to adapt the techniques to your own needs (in other words, you don’t need to follow them like textbook examples).
Voice interaction is the ability to speak to your devices, have them proceed your request and act upon whatever you’re asking them. Today voice user interfaces are everywhere: we can them in smartphones, TVs, smart homes and a range of other products. The rapid development of voice interaction capabilities in our daily lives makes it clear that this technology will soon become an expected offering as either an alternative or even a full replacement to, traditional graphical user interfaces.
According to Gartner, by 2018, 30 percent of our interactions with technology will happen through conversations with voice-based systems.
Voice interaction is the next great leap forward in UX design.
In this post, we’re going to explain why voice interfaces will be the next big thing and what does this trend actually mean for designers of the user experience.
What Are Driving Forces Behind Voice Interaction
Before we dive into the specific implications of voice interaction systems or design aspects for them, it’s important to understand what’s lead to rapid adoption of this new interaction medium:
Technology is Ready
It’s clear that improvements in natural language processing have set the stage for a revolution. In 2016 we saw a significant breakthrough in natural language processing, and we’ve reached a point where advances in computer processing power can make speech recognition and interaction a viable alternative to visual interfaces. Another important thing is a number of devices that support voice interaction – today almost a 1/3 of the global population is carrying powerful computers that can be used for voice interaction in their pocket, and it’s easy to predict that a majority of them are ready to adopt voice interfaces as their input method of choice.
Natural Means Of Interaction
People associate voice with communication with other people rather than with technology. This means that voice interaction systems can be a more natural way of interaction for the majority of users.
People Want a Frictionless Experience
To interact with a voice interaction system all users need to do is to simply speak to the devices and be understood. In comparison with graphic user interfaces (GUI) where users have to learn how to interact with a system, voice interaction systems can significantly reduce the learning curve.
Opportunities For Business
Adding Personality To Branded Content
Companies can leverage the medium of voice interaction as an extension of their personalities. Gender, tone, accent and pace of speech can be used by experience designers to craft a particular customer experience with their brand. For example, kids may finally get to talk directly to their favourite cartoon characters.
Make Experience More Personalization
Using voice-based system it’s possible to create a deeper personal connection to the system. Even today if you look at the online reviews for Amazon’s Echo speaker, it’s clear that some people establish a close bond with their device in a way that more resembles a pet than a product.
Voice Interfaces Aren’t a New Direction, They Just a New Step In UX Design
If you are new to designing voice user interfaces, you may quickly find yourself unsure of how to create great user experiences because voice interaction represents the biggest UX challenge since the birth of the iPhone. They are very different from graphical user interfaces and designers cannot apply the same design guidelines and paradigms. But while designing for voice differs from traditional UX, classic usability principles are still critical to the quality of the user experience.
Understand The Basics Of Human Communication
To design great voice user interfaces, you must handle the expectations users have from their experience with everyday conversations. And for that, we must understand the principles that govern human communication: how people naturally communicate with their voices.
Understand User’s Intent
Voice-based interactions between a user and a machine can lead (potentially) to infinite possibilities of commands from a user. While designers may not be able to predict every possible user command, they need to at least design an infrastructure that is contextually driven. For that, it’s important to start with a use case (a reason for interacting in the first place) and try to anticipate users intent at each point in the conversation (to shape the appropriate response).
Provide Users With Information About What They Can Do
While on a graphical user interface, a designer can clearly show users what options they can choose from, it’s impossible to do this on a voice interface. In voice user interfaces, it’s almost impossible to create visual affordances. Consequently, looking at a device that supports voice interaction, users will have no clear indications of what the interface can do or what their options are. Therefore, it’s still possible to provide the user with the options for interaction. For example, if you design a weather app you can make it say: “You can ask for today’s weather or a forecast on this weekend.”
Limit the Amount Of Information
While with graphic user interfaces you can present a lot of different options, with verbal content, you need to keep the information brief so that the user does not become confused or overwhelmed. It’s recommended that you don’t list more than 3 different options for an interaction.
Craft Meaningful Error Messaging
Error handling is an essential component of designing thoughtful voice interactions. The wide variation in potential responses places much more emphasis on the importance of crafting meaningful error messaging that can steer the conversation with the user back on track if something goes wrong.
Use Visual Feedback
It’s recommended to use some form of visual feedback to let the user know that the system is ready and listening. Amazon’s Echo is a good example of this: on hearing a user say ‘Alexa’, the bluish light swirls around the top rim of the device, signalling that Alexa’s ‘all ears.’
Voice is the next big platform – it represents the new pinnacle of intuitive interfaces that make the use of technology more natural for people. Properly designed voice interfaces lead users to accomplish tasks with as little confusion and barriers as possible. And the good news is that UX designers already possess the skills they need to design effectively for voice.
Having a professional business presence online isn’t optional anymore for most businesses, even if they rely heavily on referrals. A consistent, strong digital brand that clearly gets your purpose across while also presenting the business in the best way possible will help grow your sales and influence, no matter the industry.
Below are 10 areas to focus on to build up your digital branding landscape and make sure it’s useful and professional.
Fix The Easy Stuff
If your brand already has a digital presence, it is easy to overlook what has already been done, thinking that it doesn’t need to monitored. However, changes over the years to logos, phone numbers, addresses, and even team members need to be updated online as soon as they happen. Your first priority should always be the goal of customers getting ahold of your company easily, so set reminders to check all profile information, contact forms, and lead generation sequences. Many times, updates in third-party tools (especially if they are using APIs) can lead to something breaking, and if those little things aren’t checked regularly, no one knows they happened.
Even if your customers aren’t on social media in a business sense, they are likely using at least Facebook in a personal sense. According to Pew Research Center, 79 percent of all adults in the United States use Facebook. If you think your business won’t cater to social media, think of it as a yellow page listing that people may end up looking for online.
Post at least once a month (ideally, you’d want to post every day) so your last update isn’t something from years ago. For many users, even subconsciously, that is a sign that the business doesn’t care about their online presence. This could be a reflection of how they care about their customers.
In addition, there are targeted ad campaigns for Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin that allow you to target audiences by age, interests, and location. Think past where your audience is at during business hours and look to where they may be spending their free time online.
Use Consistent Branding
Good branding is more important than ever for a digital presence, because that’s all your customers have to go by. A terrible, outdated logo could reflect negatively on a business, even if it’s not a true indication of quality. Look for graphic designers through networking groups or ask your colleagues or friends for referrals.
Many graphic designers charge $800-$3000 for a branding page with logo, color scheme, and a few other materials (like letterhead and business cards). This may be a significant investment for a business, but it is always well worth it when you find the right designer. Shop around until you find a designer that could work with you on updated branding that reflects your business well.
Go Beyond Blog Posts
Think regular blog posts are enough for your brand? For many industries, content marketing has gotten so competitive that regular 600-800 word blog posts just isn’t enough. Come up with a content strategy that offers a buzz piece, like a free ebook or online course, that you can build additional content around. Getting users to download your buzz piece can help you grow your email list, which in turn can produce more revenue. After all, according to eMarketer, email beats almost every other marketing tactic when it comes to return on investment (ROI).
Think of The Target Audience
Working inside a company may give you an unfair view into what you think customers actually want. Something that your team finds interesting may not be of interest at all to the actual target customer. Create personas that you can build content for, with their needs and interests in mind.
Link to Your Other Content
Many marketers are great about developing content, but when it comes to cross-promoting it with other things they have created, it falls flat. Make sure you are always linking to applicable related blog posts in content and always end your content with a call-to-action when it makes sense. After all, content should be created to turn traffic into revenue, and without enough knowledge or a push to engage, customers will simply leave a page without making any kind of purchase on your website.
Look to Where You Can Expand
Most brands feel safe using Facebook, Twitter, and even LinkedIn, but if you find yourself stagnating on these platforms, consider where you could expand. This could mean trying new features of the platforms you already have a good following on, such as Facebook live video or Twitter polls. Or, it could mean checking out new platforms to grow your online community. Many brands still haven’t used Reddit or Snapchat to do campaigns or engage with customers. If your target demographic uses these platforms, consider trying them as well.
Have a Unique Voice
Online users of all ages and demographics are online enough to know when a brand is trying too hard. It can come off as callous, disingenuous, or just out of touch. This can often backfire tremendously. The meme How do you do, fellow kids? is now used by users as a way to call out brands that are trying to seem cool but don’t really belong.
Before engaging with your online community, make sure you know each specific platform’s slang, features, and use and you respect users’ time. Logging on to Reddit and recommending your line of bras for every woman with a bra question isn’t going to win you any new customers. Demonstrate value in a unique voice that acknowledges you are a brand without trying too hard.
Use Media Purposely
Just like with blog posts mentioned above, it used to be enough to use basic stock photography for images in content and calling it good. While this is still better than content with no images, using bad stock photos that are cheesy or don’t make sense for the actual content (e.g. they are vague or misleading), can turn users off. Try to create custom graphics for content using tools like Pablo by Buffer, Canva, PicMonkey, or Piktochart. Even just adding your logo and content title to images goes a long way (and is better for social media).
Think Digital First
Whenever you are building a new campaign or introducing a new product or service, think of your digital strategy first, because it has the largest potential to spread. Deciding budget for paid campaigns, graphics for the promotion, and messaging can help ensure the new offering has a consistent message. This is important because online is likely where customers of most businesses are going to find out about it.
When it comes to a better digital branding landscape, make sure all your company’s presence online is consistent, engaging, informative, and easy-to-navigate. Focus on what you’re best at but try new things to be innovative in your industry, when it makes sense. Being proactive about a better online presence will lead to more engagement and traffic from your target audience.
The “Internet of Things” (IoT) is the addition of internet connectivity and other sensors to physical objects. Broadband Internet becomes more widely available, the cost of connecting is decreasing, and more devices are being created with built-in network adapters. This movement creates a “perfect storm” for the IoT. That’s why IoT begins to move from ‘next big thing’ to something more and more of us are living with and it’s going to grow even more in coming years and eventually, most of us will use IoT technologies.
Gartner forecasts 21 billion connected things by 2020. That’s approximately four devices for every human being on the planet.
By 2020, more than half of major new business processes and systems will incorporate some element of the IoT. And we, as designers, should be ready for this moment. In this article, you’ll find everything you need to know about the increasingly connected world.
Where Can We Find IoT?
IoT isn’t just one group of devices, the term is used for a big range of connected tools, devices, and services. Technologies are infiltrating the everyday life and things around us are becoming smarter. Common categories of IoT today include:
Connected home technology (these are products and services that make home life easier or more pleasant, such as smart thermostats, lighting, and energy monitoring)
Wearables (such as activity/fitness trackers and smartwatches)
Urban systems (such as city rental bikes and parking meters/sensors)
On a broader scale, the IoT can be used to create “smart cities” which can help us reduce waste and improve efficiency for our environments (e.g. energy use). Take a look at the visual below to see what something like that can look like.
5 Principles To Remember When Designing for IoT
Design is the critical component that bridges IoT technology’s potential with meeting real human needs. And it’s not surprise that IoT is a hot topic for designers today – it opens the door to a lot of opportunities but also to many challenges. While there are a huge array of things to consider while developing a IoT product, you’ll be more likely to gain traction if you keep following 5 principles in mind:
1. Design IoT Only If It Enhance User Experience
Just because something can be connected to the internet doesn’t mean it should be. IoT design requires a sharp focus on user needs because IOT products succeed only when they solve real problems and make users’ lives easier. Thus, if you want to connect something to the internet, you should have a clear answer on the question “Why do I want to do it?” User research should be a critical early step in any solid IoT UX project. Using insights gained from your research can help you explore the interaction contexts well before your team is burning hours designing or developing.
Making the ‘thing’ an IoT make sense only if it solves a real problem for the user. If connecting a product to the internet doesn’t enhance the experience, then don’t do it.
2. Create Good Onboarding
In the world of IoT getting your users up and running isn’t as simple as in a world of web or mobile apps. In addition to account creation, IoT devices usually require a proper configuration. Without a good onboarding experience, the setup phase might be really hard for the first-time users and there is a great possibility of user frustration or failure. That’s successful IoT product (like Nest) have set a relatively high bar for onboarding.
3. Prevent Glitching
Everyone experience occasional glitches in digital products. One common example is slow loading time on websites. Of course, it’s definitely frustrating when loading takes ages, but we are used to this. By contrast, we won’t expect real-world objects respond to us with glitches. When we turn off the lights in our room, we expect an immediate response. However, when we interact with a physical device over the internet (e.g. smart lighting system), that interaction might have the same latency issues as the website. So there’s the potential for delays in response. This could make the real world start to feel broken. Just imagine if you turned your lights off and they took two minutes to respond or failed to come on at all. As a designer, you should prevent all possible situations that can lead to glitch.
4. Make Sure It Works Locally
When designing for IoT, don’t assume always-on internet connectivity. In real life, IoT devices are often intermittently connected. Thus, it’s good to design for no internet connectivity at first, and see how much functionality can be done locally. Also, UX designers have to ensure that important functions (e.g. home security alarms for IoT Smart home system) continue to work properly when some devices go offline.
5. Design For Security and Data Privacy From the Outset
Security is a big issue. Recent high-profile hacks have raised the spectre of IoT-related security risks. More and more users are examining IoT devices for information about security. These consumers may be increasingly cautious about exposing personal information, especially when it is connected to physical spaces (such a local Wifi network) in their homes. Users might have questions like “Will someone be able to hack into my fridge and thereby get access to my entire network?” It’s your job, as a designer, to alleviate such fears. Always help users understand the security of your service by providing this information upfront.
A new generation of IoT is going to enhance our lives dramatically. We will spend less time on monotonous, boring tasks and will have more time to do what’s really important – like spending more time with our family or friends. I really hope the principles mentioned above help get your IoT effort aimed in the right direction.
In the last few years, we’ve witnessed an explosion in virtual reality (VR) devices and apps for them. VR is emerging as a new medium with the potential of having as strong an impact as radio or television did in the past century. According to the Heather Bellini of Goldman Sachs: “We expect virtual and augmented reality to become an $80 billion market by 2025, roughly the size of the desktop PC market today”
With the increasing popularity of VR, a design is evolving to incorporate its requirements and new capabilities.
Where Can We Use VR
VR is giving birth to an entirely new arena for entertainment, education, collaboration, communication and marketing. The following are some general categories that will merge with VR:
All types of entertainment activities can be amplified with the integration of VR. VR makes it possible to put your users into a 100% designed space with predetermined tasks while giving the user total control of moving, exploring and learning within this space.
VR can have tremendous implications for education — education can be both more engaging and effective. VR can be used for educational classes, labs and demonstrations. To make education experience truly immersive, designers should consider how users may interact with objects.
Using VR, training simulations for professionals like drivers, pilots, doctors and police officers can become more accurate, complex and cost-effective.
Big companies like Toyota see the educational potential of VR. The latest training simulator from Toyota – TeenDrive365 system – is focussed on teaching new drivers about the risks associated with distracted driving.
VR can greatly enhance prototyping and testing phases for engineers, with all types of projects from a handstick design to new car designs.
Communicating will drastically change with the help of VR. VR makes it possible to create a brand new experience for video conferencing services, such as Skype.
VR makes it possible to blend the online and offline shopping together. Instead of looking at a 2D image of an object online, shoppers in VR will have the ability to pick up an object and look at it in detail. Alibaba Group, Asia’s biggest e-commerce company, divided into virtual reality later last year.
Creating VR Experience
Creating a VR experience is much more complex than traditional 2D experiences, which presents designers with a whole new set of challenges. There are currently 4 core considerations for the design of virtual reality experiences:
1. Make Sure Users Don’t Get Motion Sickness
The most important quality to creating any successful UX design is ensuring that users are comfortable throughout the experience. This is especially true in the context of VR experience. Motion sickness (when physical and visual motion cues give a user adverse information) is one of the most common problems of VR experiences. Humans evolved to be very sensitive to vestibular ocular disparities (disparity between the movement and what we’re seeing). So reducing motion sickness is very important for VR systems. The keys to preventing users from getting motion sick while using VR are
Always maintain head tracking. VR software should constantly track the user’s head and eye movements, allowing the images to change with every new perspective.
Prevent performance degradation. If the system freezes even for a split second that’s going to trigger a lot of motion sickness.
2. Develop Easy-To-Use Controls And Menus
Same as for traditional UI interfaces navigational menus and other controls should be easily accessible and user-friendly. Unfortunately, there’s no universally accepted way to designing menus for VR interfaces. This is a challenge that designers are still working on. However, this doesn’t mean that we can’t transfer existing (2D) practices to 3D. It’s absolutely possible to place the menus on the user’s VR hands. One of such menu interfaces is Hovercast. All menu actions – including navigation between levels – are controlled by simple hand movements and reliable gestures.
3. Ensure Text Is Readable
All text elements should be clear and easily legible, preventing eye strain. The resolution of the VR headset is pretty bad. Because of the display’s resolution, all UI elements in VR will look pixelated. This means that text will be difficult to read. But you can avoid this by using big text blocks.
4. Use Sound To Create Immersive Experience
As designers, we often don’t think about sound and audio. When we do that we miss an opportunity to communicate more information through a different set of senses. When we have audio sources attached to the objects we create much more realistic environment — if you’re telling a brain that it can see the object and it can hear the object then the object must be real. Try to build a mental image of the environment via sound:
Introducing the user to the environment via soundscapes. The audio can be used to give the user the illusion of being in the middle of a particular environment.
Guiding the user with sound. By applying positional audio and 3D audio effects to VR, the user will know the direction in which certain sounds originated in relation to where they are.
The possibilities for VR are endless. Soon, all types of companies will be seeking to extend their brand presences into this space. I hope I’ve made the VR space a bit less scary with this article and inspired you to start designing for VR your project.
Augmented Reality (AR) is changing how we interact with the world around us. Over the past several years, AR technology established a strong foundation in media, marketing, education, games and many other industries. This happened because computing hardware has finally advanced to the point where it’s become capable for AR platform. Today, AR prompting many brands to explore this strange new world for the first time.
What is AR?
AR technology incorporates real-time inputs from the existing world to create an output that combines both real-world data and some computer-generated elements which are based on those real-world inputs.
The concept of AR is not a new one. The term was first introduced in 1992 by researcher Tom Caudell to describe a digital display used by aircraft electricians that blended virtual graphics onto a physical reality. And AR isn’t rare. A frequently overlooked, yet widespread example of AR is the automobile parking assistance system.
However, only after popular apps PokemonGO and SnapChat were released and adopted by users the term “augmented reality” got into the spotlight.
How AR Will Change Brand Experiences
There is a distinct advantage for AR to be accepted sooner and on a wider basis than VR, particularly in the commercial sector. While Virtual Reality (VR) gets a lot of talk because of how cool this technology for entertainment, AR is going to truly impact the way we work and live. AR forecasted to be a $150 billion dollar industry by 2020.
[Tweet “AR creates an opportunity for brands to build new digital pathways to tell stories and engage with users”] in a way that’s never before been possible. Here are 3 ways that businesses will be able exploit AR and its associated technologies in the near future.
Even the most capable professional can run into situations where they need a helping hand from someone, and it’s here that AR technology could come in handy. For example, AR app makes it possible for doctors to navigate the innards of the patient to effectively and efficiently complete the surgery.
In terms of design visualisation, AR is creating some breathtaking possibilities. It merges the virtual and the real world — adding virtual overlays directly into the view of headset-wearers, or inserting these digital add-ons into video captured on a phone screen. As AR technologies become more refined, users will be able to preview their designs and experiences in real-world spaces. One such example is this spatial AR setup used by Volkswagen, in which virtual layouts of a car interior are projected onto a full-size model of a car dashboard.
Training and Education
When it comes to training and education, AR has a lot of promise. Unlike a real-world training scenario, a trainee can play through an AR situation as many times as they need to understand a concept or a procedure. This will create deeper learning opportunities where students are in the flow of learning.
How to Design For AR?
Since there are no established UX best practices for AR yet, I’d like to share my own personal approach to UX in AR apps.
1. AR use-case needs to be evaluated
The concept of “measure twice, cut once” is especially important in building AR apps. Before diving in, it’s important to ask yourself why you want to pursue this type of medium and what outcome would you like to have. Keep in mind following moments:
AR experiences are powerful, but they should tie back to clear business objectives. AR shouldn’t be added on top of a planned app just because it’s trendy technology — that’s almost a sure way to create a poor UX. Rather, the desired functionality needs to be evaluated to fit with the experience that the AR display medium can offer.
If you’re going to design an AR experience, you should invest heavily in user research. Spend some time really getting your target audience and not just how that you would perform a specific task using a software, get to know how they’ll do something in real-world without any kind of devices.
2. Consider the environment in which the product will be used
Since AR apps are grounded in reality, the environment affects AR design significantly. For example, in private environment (home, work) you can count on long user sessions and complex interaction model – the whole body can be involved in the interaction, as well as specific devices (such as head mounted display) can be used for manipulation (see Microsoft Hololens example below).
But in public environments (e.g. outdoors), it’s important to focus on short user sessions. Because regardless of how much people might enjoy AR experience, they won’t want to walk around with their hands up, holding a device for an extended period of time.
Thus, when designing augmented reality apps, you first need to research environmental conditions in which the service will be used and how it effects on the user:
Identify interaction scenarios upfront even before specifying technical requirements for the project.
Collect all the details of the physical environment to be augmented.The more environmental conditions you’ll test before building a product, the better.
3. Make the interaction with AR app simple
In order for AR to be usable, it must be quick and simple. AR is really about designing layers of added value that reduce the time to complete simple tasks. Keep in mind that people are seeking out experiences, not technologies and they’ll technology that isn’t friendly to use. No one will use AR apps or tools if they take just as long or longer than the conventional way of doing something. Thus, when design your AR solution I recommend the following approach:
Go to the context of the area that you’re going to be performing the task (e.g. a specific room, a real-world device, etc)
Think through the each step that you use to accomplish the task.
Record each of those steps down
This information will help you conduct a task analysis. This analysis will help you make things more natural for the users.
AR has seen massive success in recent years and as more technologies take advantage of this growing trend, AR will grow to encompass much more than it does now. The most important things to consider when designing AR experience is users’ goals and contexts of use. AR apps should be easy to use and shouldn’t hinder users.
You may have heard that “conversational interfaces” (interfaces that mimics chatting with a real human) are the new hot trend in digital product design. Several factors are contributing to this phenomenon:
Artificial intelligence and natural language processing technology are progressing rapidly. Major technology players including Apple, Google, Microsoft and Amazon placed huge bets on this type of interfaces, leveraging big data and machine learning to get as close to human intelligence as possible.
This represents an interesting shift in how we think about user experiences and interactions, more as a text/voice based ‘conversation’ that helps us to achieve our goals. In this article, we’ll examine all major aspects of conversational interfaces in the context of chatbots.
5 Basic Principles of Conversational Interfaces
1. Be specific about chatbot purpose
Unless you develop a bot like Facebook M, it’s always better to deploy a specialized, purpose-driven bot to engage your target audience. Don’t try to design your chatbot to do everything all at once. Instead, identify the core use cases for your chatbot based on user’s goals and focus on achieving domain mastery.
2. Mimic natural conversation
Keep in mind that when the conversation is the interface, experience design is all about crafting the right words: bots must use and understand natural language. A vocabulary that’s limited to only a handful of generic answers will immediately destroy an illusion of real conversation and leave users feeling frustrated. Nobody want to participate in chats muffed by pre-determined answers.
An early version of the weather chatbot Hi Poncho struggled to provide any meaningful information due to a limited understanding of natural language. Image credit: Gizmodo
3. Make it clear what options are available for user
In traditional GUIs, what you see is what you get. However, with conversational interfaces, the paths that the user can take are virtually infinite. For conversational interfaces, users should know what paths are available for them. If you app is complex and has a few main routes, you can use an onboarding process to show the users what’s available.
Kia Niro using the carousel to explain how to use a chatbot. Image credit: Sabre Labs
4. Avoid lengthy messages
Lengthy messages look like text paragraphs. People don’t speak in paragraphs, we speak using single sentences. You should plan for no more than 90 characters per message (around three lines on mobile). Anything more than three lines of text seemed to activate the tl;dr (too long; didn’t read) response in users.
Kayak chatbot hits the users with 4 opening messages, totaling nearly 750 characters. Most users glazed right over when they saw the wall of opening messages.
5. Animating the conversation
Animation can take the chatbot user experience to the next level, making the interactions more natural and pleasurable for user. Simple typing indicators can be used as an equivalent to phatic expression in speaking, making the conversation flow smooth.
Typing animation via Buzzfeed
Best of the Best
Conversational interfaces open lots of new possibilities how you can interact with users. Below are two popular apps that successfully embraced the new paradigm of conversational UX:
Domino’s pizza allows “conversational ordering” via Facebook Messenger. Customers add Domino’s pizza as a friend via Facebook, set up the basics of their account, and can then “reorder their favorites” or ask for the latest deals.
Domino’s Pizza via Techcrunch
Duolingo is a language learning platform which uses gamification and personalization to make learning a new language effective. Last year Duolingo introduced Bots. This feature allows users to practice language skills by texting with a ‘Bot,’ which takes on different topics as a way to explore a range of conversations, such as going to a restaurant, going through border checks, or ordering a taxi.
Whether you love them or hate them, conversational interfaces have started making a significant impact in communication. Of course, most of them today have certain limitations and they don’t have human-like conversations perfectly that’s why it’s so important to follow basic principles of conversational interfaces mentioned above. But in the near future, continuous advancement in machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies will fill this gap and we will see AI-powered chatbots which will have human-like conversation.