Keeping up with the current trends is important for any area, not to mention the UX design which directly influences the way your digital product is positioned and perceived by the users. In this article, we’ll take a brief look at what happened with 2018 UX trends and try to anticipate the emerging tendencies that have potential to become real big things in the coming year.
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.
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)
- Connected cars
- 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.
Tis the season to bring forth Holiday cheer, and your business may be sending some of that cheer to you through an email. Now, I can certainly attest that I thoroughly enjoy sparkle and magical joy of the Holidays but I can easily be turned off by poor user experience or an over sales-y approach. I can also understand that you may want to share all of your successes of 2012 in some sort of long format video but people can we please keep it to 90 seconds. You can certainly increase conversion with having your email wrapped up nicely with a bow, figuratively speaking of course.
Here’s a diagram that can help you get the best out your email marketing efforts and keep the joy coming through 2013!