Let’s talk UX: the Importance of Returning Feedback

Hello all!  Hope the day’s been well for you!  Today I’ll be speaking a bit on returning feedback from your interfaces.

Alright, so let’s say for example that you were speaking to an individual about something.  You both spoke on a rather interesting topic and you just gave your side on the subject and ask what the individual thinks, expecting an answer.  Yet, this individual simply stares at you blankly.  You ask again.  No response. You ask once more, annoyed.  At this point you may do one of three things:  ask again in a more annoyed tone, begin to think something is wrong with the individual, or become frustrated and leave.

Or, in web interface terms, let’s say you filled out a form and hit submit.  Nothing.  You hit it again.  Nothing.  You proceed to hit it multiple times and look around for some sort of message, but you find nothing.

Both of these are examples of situation in which case you, as the user, received no feedback in return.  

It’s highly important that we understand a key point about ourselves:  We. Need. Answers.  When we interact with others, objects, or user interfaces we expect some sort “return on investment.”  If we speak to others we expect a response, be it friendly or non-friendly.  When we push a door, we expect it to open (or not).  When we click or tap a submit button we expect it to give us some sort of response, whether it be a success message or an error message.  When we do not receive any sort of feedback from what we are interacting with then it is a little disorienting; sometimes even alarming.

What  counts as feedback?  Well, almost every interaction a user does requires feedback.

  •  Hovering over a navigation link or an in-page link and displaying a change in link color
  • Changing the page after clicking on a link
  • Submitting a form after a button is clicked
  • Displaying an error message after wrong information has be inputted
  • Highlighted navigation item while on that specific page after navigating to it

Let’s check out an example of feedback more closely:

googleFeedback

Google’s login page utilizes excellent examples of feedback  techniques when you’ve forgotten or input the wrong password.  If you have forgotten your password or changed it and forgotten, the form will inform you whether or not you have changed your password from the one that was inputted or if the password is wrong.  even more so, the password field itself is highlighted with a red border to pinpoint the area in error.

When feedback is provided through our user interfaces we can be fulfilling three of Nielsen’s 10 Heuristics:  Visibility of System Status, Error Recovery, and Error Prevention.

Visibility of System Status – By giving users adequate feedback from their interaction, users will know what is going on as a result of it and understand the situation at hand.  They may know, for example, whether or not they have used a link on Google before.

Google provides feedback of used links by recoloring them if a user has used before, allowing users to make a quicker decision on following a  past link or referring to a different link.

Google provides feedback of used links by recoloring them if a user has used before, allowing users to make a quicker decision on following a past link or referring to a different link.

Error Recovery – In the event that users have made a mistake, displaying feedback detailing the issue at hand will exponentially aid them in diagnosing and recovering from the error.

dropboxError

Dropbox allows a pop up modal to appear once delete file is hit.  Doing this provides users feedback of “hey, you’re about to delete this” and allow them to proceed or recover accordingly.

Error Prevention – Without any feedback given after an interaction, users may try to interact over and over again, whether it be a digital interface or face to face with an individual.  Actions like these may cause more issues, depending on the user interface or individual.  Providing feedback will guide the user in a general direction as to what his or her next action should be.

Microsoft's email service Outlook provides excellent feedback when an image has been uploaded.  Users can see the image transition from uploading to uploaded.  In addition the image is displayed in a very noticeable way, preventing users from multiple uploads.

Microsoft’s email service Outlook provides excellent feedback when an image has been uploaded. Users can see the image transition from uploading to uploaded. In addition the image is displayed in a very noticeable way, preventing users from multiple uploads.

So when you are designing your user interfaces or simply communicating with someone, remember that providing feedback is extremely vital to users.  Without it, users will almost always feel either lost or frustrated.

Don’t cause users stress!

 

——User First, Designer Second——

Let’s Talk UX: Why Research and Requirements are Important

uxdesign_maindetailHello everyone!  Today I’ll be talking to you all about why gathering research and defining requirements is important.

Alright, so let’s say your team is building an app for a client.  The client asks for two requirements, and leaves the rest to your team.  Now,  your team holds excellent programmers and designers that utilize the latest tools of their trade to come up with ideas of what this app will do and look like.  Your team begins with making sure the basic features asked for by the client are included, then begin adding feature after feature that may help the end user and looks awesome.  As your team builds the product more and more, you all begin to really fall in love with the product.

The end product is a latest-featured aesthetically-pleasing design that does what the client does and more.

Key point on more.

Six months pass and you receive a rather heated email from your client saying the app is performing far below expectations.  He details out that the target demographic does not buy the app.  You investigate into the issue and find that the extra features were far misaligned with what the target audience’s goals were.

This is why research and requirements are important.

You find that if you had done some research into the target audience then a few key features that were tacked on would be avoided like the plague.  You would’ve known why some features were important and why were definitely not.  You would’ve had a direction of where your ideas should go.  Some things that could help your team in understanding why UX Research and requirements are important:

1. The product is not for you, it’s for the user.  Using your “gut” and going with what you think is good are very wrong driving factors in creating a user centered product.  Understanding your users is absolutely fundamental in creating this product.  What do the users prefer?  What type of things drive a user for the topic of this product?  What sort of problems are users having in order for them to want this type of product?  These are all questions you can extract valuable information from and apply to the creation of the product.  

2. The interface is magic, but wandering aimlessly accomplishes nothing.  The requirements are designed to help you define a “road map” to what direction your product design should go.  Without these a designer or programmer is left with creating indiscriminately, meaning there is no set way on where their designs are heading.  These requirements are to help drive your ideas in the direction your users would prefer based on educated conclusions, rather than aimlessly wandering in a direction.  

So next time you and your team are commissioned in doing a product, try to understand your target audience and define a path first.  Don’t throw features at an interface and hope or think something good will come out of it.

 

——User First, Designer Second—— 

 

Let’s Talk UX: UX Ain’t Just UI!

UXNOTUI

Hello everyone!  Today I’ll be talking a bit about User Experience and the lowdown on how it is not just UI.  

Just before I begin, here’s the website heading the point I’m getting at in this post.  The site has multiple file types and sizes of a side-by-side comparison of UX vs UI.  I recommend checking it out!

Alright, so let’s take a scenario:

You’re a UI/UX Designer speaking with a client about an app.  The client is asking for you to work with the team of programmers who are currently working said app.  The client asks you “tack on the design.”  You inquire about the research or prior planning that’s been done and the client responds with “we had an idea, thought it was good, and went with it.  Just do your design or UX stuff.”

OK.  That’s an issue. 

“User experience encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.”
— Jakob Nielsen and Don Norman

Simply put, UX, or User Experience, involves a process.  

UX is not something you can just tack on like a “band-aid” and call it quits.  It involves a multitude of fundamental ideas that must be interwoven into the very essence of the project from the beginning, these ideas being  gathering research, creating personas, information architecture, usability, prototyping, and a wide variety of others.

User Experience has to do with a user’s full experience, not just “how the interface looks.”  It involves every button click users must interact with to reach their target goal, the euphoric (or distressed) feeling they experience while completing an online purchase.  It involves the users’ drawn attention to a specific portfolio piece that fits in with what they are interested in.

UX  involves every aspect of the user’s interaction with an interface, and even outside the interface.  It involves the customer service users experience from the interface owner, the thoughts of returning to said interface tickling at the mind when a need for a product located within that interface arises.  UX is much more than just UI.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  UI, or User Interface, is still a very important component.

Kaplan Test Prep

KaplanKaplan expertly uses UI elements in their website to enforce usability and promote a unique experience for the user by attracting them to key elements on the page.  The contrasting green against the white/purple palette points out the starting point of the site clearly, and emphasizes what is important (in this case, you and where you start!).  Gestalt principle of Continuity is in play using the white lines and arrows that draw the eye to the multiple career choices.

Zurb’s Pattern Tap

patternTapZurb

Zurb’s Pattern Tap uses UI elements in a way that draws you to what you want from this site: the massive library of excellent design examples.  Each example owns its own nicely-sized thumbnail that is small enough to be friendly on load time, but large enough to display the featured design example.

The User Interface is an invaluable piece of UX that must never be forgotten.  It is never just one or the other.  UI is like an entire section of a full UX orchestra;  it can’t be complete without it.

So there you have it.  Remember that UX is not something to be used interchangeably with UI, because it can’t.  It just can’t. 

UX is not UI!

——-User First, Designer Second——-

The “Home” Link: How do I wanna use it?

Microsoft's navigation, with the logo as the way home.

Microsoft’s navigation, with the logo as the way home.

I recommend checking out the 10 Usability Lessons from Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think, courtesy of Redd Horrocks.

Ever have a small feeling that your website could be actually driving your audience away?  Maybe have that feeling of “did I screw up my audience” or “is my site broken”?

No, it’s most likely not broken, and you probably targeted your audience pretty well….except you might have left out one piece to include in your analysis.

The Home Button.

How is your audience getting back home?

Alright, so a huge trend that’s been going on for the past few years is the lack of a “Home” tab in the main navigation.  It’s somehow become a “modern” design aspect in many sites today.  The common thought of the “Home” tab is that ‘most people know to click on a header image or left logo‘.

TheVerge relies on the main logo to return home, a very common convention.

TheVerge relies on the main logo to return home, a very common convention.

Now, did you make a similar assumption?  Ah, that’s alright.  Many people do.

Ok, I can see that.  It’s a common act many modern websites to do just that: logo link home or header image link home.  It’s been going on for years now.  I wish to pose a question though:

Isn’t that just assuming your users know to use that, or is that information fully supported with data?

Sure it’s a common thing to do that in websites, but have you taken into account what not having a “Home” tab could do to your users?

According to Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability (get it, study it, love it!  Great usability book!), A “Home” tab is used by users as more of an “escape plan”  in case they become disoriented in a website and need to catch their bearings.  You want to make it as easy as possible for your users to get back home.  Don’t force them to think! (Krug).

So when to use this?

Well, normally I’d say always, but I know that’s not quite the case now, is it?

So, you want to keep this in mind when you’re Identifying your audience and during your testing procedures (after sketches, after wireframe, after prototype, whenever you’re testing).

Identifying your audience:  Who your target demographic is can really change whether or not you need a “Home” button.  Let’s say for example your audience is older folk who know the internet but aren’t really too online savvy.  This is a case where you may consider using the “Home” tab.  Your audience sounds like one that can get lost rather easily if your information architecture isn’t flushed out correctly.  Make it extremely simple for them to “get back to start” rather than rely on the back button.

During your Testing Procedures:  Sometimes what you thought initially may not end up being the case for your website.  For example, you’re testing your wireframe with InVision, and you ask your test subject to “Go back to the Homepage”.  You think that he or she is going to click either the header image you used or the top-left logo image.  Your heart drops when you watch them delay, then press the Back button!  No! Something’s not working right!

On the flipside, let’s say you did include both a “Home” button and a logo image link.  You ask the same task to be completed, and you notice most of your users hitting the logo image rather than the home button.  Well, the “Home” button didn’t work here.

If either of these cases happen then this is the time for them to.  Make notes of how your users are performing with similar cases like these and evaluate them!  See where you can improve, and whether or not a “Home” button is needed!  If you have the time, test both and see which yields the better result.

Alright, I hope this helps in your endeavor of using the “Home” button or not!

“The problem is there are no simple “right” answers for most Web design questions (at least not for the important ones). What works is good, integrated design that fills a need—carefully thought out, well executed, and tested.”

                        -Steve Krug: Don’t Make Me Think:  A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability
——-User First, Designer Second——-