The Do’s and Don’ts of UX Design
When it comes to mobile application design, there are a lot of things to consider. You want to create something useful, intuitive and that, ultimately, adds value to its users. However, to achieve that you need to think about all the elements of design that could work to improve the user experience. While there isn’t one simple answer, there are lots of little things you can do that can make a big difference and, of course, some things to avoid too.
What is UX Design?
Mobile applications have become more and more complex as technologies and methodologies have advanced. They offer rich and interactive experiences, incorporating everything from video to augmented reality. But, however advanced the technology behind the app, its success still hinges on one thing: how users perceive it. Applications need to add value and be simple and pleasurable to use. And, this is where user experience (UX) design comes into play.
User experience is determined by how well they relate to an application. More than the elements of the user interface (UI) alone, it is how easy it is for users to interact with them. So, UX design is concerned with how the user interface operates. It covers the structure, functionality and how each element combines to make the whole. When thinking about UX design, you should ask yourself if the experience feels smooth, intuitive and logical and whether users sense that they’re achieving what they set out to do.
What Can You Do to Improve UX Design?
We can all improve our designs by taking a step back and looking at weak points that may be causing unnecessary frustration. To help users find or achieve exactly what they need, you’ll want to consider:
- Researching – if you don’t fully understand your users, then you are going to struggle to create an app that meets their needs. Research should be the first step when it comes to UX design, enabling you to create something that truly resonates and makes a difference to people’s lives.
- Prioritising – it can be tempting to overfill applications with fancy features and functionally, howeve,r this rarely results in improved user experience. To create a successful app, you want it to be highly focused on the core user problem that it is being designed to solve. Refine the user experience around your key objectives, and your app will be far better for it.
- Decluttering – if your user interface has too much content, too many buttons and an overload of information, users can easily become confused. And that is even more relevant to mobile applications where screen space is at a premium. Make sure that everything counts and strive for a minimalist approach.
- Simplifying – navigation is a vital part of any mobile app if users are going to find the content and features you’ve created. Try to make sure navigation is as simple, familiar and consistent as possible, so it doesn’t require explanation.
- Clarifying – make everything within your application as clear as possible. That means using finger-friendly tap targets to make controls work smoothly and ensuring all text is legible. Consider whether your typeface will work in multiple sizes and whether there is sufficient contrast between the text and background colour.
- Acknowledging – every app is fundamentally about interactions between the computer and the user. To make sure that those interactions work, you need to communicate them. If a user clicks a link or taps a button, you want to acknowledge what they’ve done with visual feedback.
- Automating – typing on a mobile device isn’t easy, so the requirement for it should be kept to a minimum. By only asking for absolutely necessary information, you can reduce the length and complexity of forms. You can also take advantage of predefined options and autofill to help automate the process.
- Synchronising – apps very rarely work in isolation to other devices and systems. To create a seamless experience, you’ll want to ensure that your app not only works across all devices but that it integrates, where relevant, with other commonly used applications.
- Iterating – when it comes to app design, it’s almost impossible to get it right the first time. That’s where user testing comes into play. It’s vital to make sure that real users have tested the design and given feedback and, most importantly, that feedback is acted upon. Try to see app design as a constantly evolving, iterative process.
What Should You Avoid Doing?
Now that you know what you should be doing, it’s time to also consider mistakes to avoid. When designing mobile applications, try to avoid:
- Perfection – now, don’t get the wrong end of the stick here, you should, of course, strive for perfection. However, you need to accept that you’re not going to achieve it straight away. While your app may meet an initial set of requirements, user testing may bring forward new ones. This is why prototyping and testing are so important.
- Isolation – while you may think you’ve got a great idea for an app, if you work in isolation, you’re likely going to miss the bigger picture. It’s no good building the app you think your customers want without getting their input. The user should be at the heart of everything you do and needs to be involved right from the beginning.
- Permissions – the chances are that you’ll need to ask for permissions on your app, to allow the app to use your users’ location or access photos, for example. However, you’ll want to avoid doing it straight away. When users are asked for permission straight away, it’s hard for them to understand the context.
- Delays – there is nothing more frustrating than having to wait for an app to load or hitting confusing error messages. Make sure that your app is error-free and that pages load quickly. You can consider using skeleton pages as a temporary holder while pages load, at least the user can see progress instead of a blank screen.
- Jargon – users are going to feel much more comfortable and familiar with your app if you talk to them in their own language. Make sure that the words and phrases you use will appeal to all of your users and that you don’t baffle them with acronyms, colloquialisms or technical terminology.
- Dead ends – just like a slow-loading page, a dead end is going to seriously block the flow of your app. Nothing should lead your users down a rabbit hole. Even search functionality should aim to deliver suggestions instead of no results.
- Reviews – we don’t mean that you shouldn’t try to get reviews and ratings for your app, you will need them over time. But don’t be too hasty. By asking for reviews straight away or forcing users to leave reviews, the feedback is unlikely to be as good. Let them enjoy a great interruption-free user experience first before you ask for anything in return.
How to Improve Your Next Mobile App
Using an app and designing one are two distinctly different things. If your design goes unnoticed, that means it’s doing its job. If it stands out, it’s usually for the wrong reason and is getting in the way of user experience. Fortunately, however, if you follow the do’s and don’ts of UX design, you’ll get a lot closer to creating something useful, relevant and valuable to your users.
To summarise, here are some of the key do’s and don’ts of UX design:
- Research your users and understand their needs
- Strive for a minimalist approach that is refined around key objectives
- Make navigation as simple, familiar and consistent as possible
- Use finger-friendly tap targets and clear fonts
- Acknowledge when users have done something
- Continually evolve your design based on user feedback
- Strive for perfection from the outset
- Work in isolation to your users
- Ask for too many permissions upfront
- Allow users to hit dead ends or error messages
- Expect ratings and reviews too soon