The first generation of digital natives are a merciless, brutal bunch when it comes to critiquing change or unnecessary complication of an app or website's usability. Any veteran of Facebook will know all too-well the torrent of Millennial outrage each time Zuckerberg & Co. make even the tiniest of tweaks.
However, unlike the vast majority of businesses, the Facebooks of the world at least hold the kind of cachet to be able to make a user experience (UX) change and ride out the potential wave of grumbling user discontent. If the pitchforks remain clenched and the torches hot and fiery, the worst-case scenario is that any controversial changes are quickly rolled-back by their massive development teams and simply swept under the rug. Revolution quelled. Users happy!
No such luck for a fledgling app or a new website. Just one major misstep with 'reimagining' a typical key user journey and you can start losing your audience frighteningly fast without enough time to right the wrong. All it takes is a second-too-long spent by your user in trying to decipher which cryptic icon they are supposed to be tapping next and bam... they’re gone. Quite possibly forever.
This is exactly why a UX designer is an essential part of any digital project, ensuring that even the most seemingly small choice about usability doesn't trigger a mass exodus of users. Your project needs to delicately balance your organisation's wants and needs with that of the user. A digital agency - like us! - who knows their UX will weigh-in with a wealth of expertise and act as mediators between what's good for your business as well as what will be good for your users. A UX expert brings so much know-how to a project that you can't even tell when they're working their magic. Here are a few of the most basic (yet somehow still so often overlooked) UX principles of website and app design:
Users want to give you the finger
The fear of scroll is long dead. Users aren't browsing your site with their hands tied behind their back - most will have fingers and be expecting to use them to scroll or swipe. Scroll is still something we still hear a lot of nervous hesitation about, yet it's a fear from many online moons ago which no longer really holds weight. Us modern folk might have increasingly shorter attention spans, but once we find something engaging we’re hooked. Compelling content and deep detail on your business, service, product or industry will keep your users engaged.
Users aren't Egyptologists
There are symbols and icons modern users universally and instinctively understand. The hamburger icon indicating a menu on mobile. The star for favouriting or wishlisting, depending on context. Don't try to be too cute or revolutionary in reinventing the wheel when it comes to iconography or swapping fundamental menu items like 'Contact Us' for 'Yell Out!'. It will only try your audience’s patience and have them in a game of trial and error - when all they (and you) really want is for them to hit their goal and convert, or at least be closer to it.
Twitter copped a beating recently when they swapped their star for a heart icon. The star had previously been a multi-use symbol for liking, acknowledging, bookmarking and so on - whether or not you agreed with or even liked the tweet or tweeter. The change to a heart symbol brought a more singularly 'approving/happy' emotional context to the previously somewhat neutral function.
Users shouldn't need their passport (or a full-body cavity search)
A common phrase you’ll hear us digital types bandy about is ‘user journey’. Maybe the journey part of the term is a bit of an arduous-sounding misnomer - for the user: the quicker and easier, the better. Organisations can go through lots of hand-wringing about the way their information is being structured - too-often overwhelming the user with dozens of possible destinations and almost as many clicks to get there. UX experts will advise on the best information architecture for your site.
Forms are another area where all too frequently the questions asked are unnecessarily exhaustive, mandatory or invasive - quickly tanking chances for a higher rate of conversions. A UX strategist will work with you to determine what you truly need to know from your users and what they will likely be willing to give you - and for what reward.
- by Paul Martusewicz