Meeting User Expectations
Why you need to understand that your users care deeply about design.
The expectations of user experience are rising. Whether your users are selling to consumers or building applications in the enterprise – the advent of ‘user-centric’ design has made user accustomed to rich, focused experiences that engage and inspire them and most importantly help them to achieve their goals. This means that all applications and websites must take this into strong consideration when designing and developing, as rich experience has become a factor in the value perception of your application and those that do not are often times perceived as lower value and/or out-of-date.
It wasn’t always this way. Five years ago when many IT teams built enterprise applications, they paid little or no attention to designing the application. Engineering teams would simply build interfaces that met the requirements of the business team, which often times leads to busy interfaces that confuse the user. A typical scenario would be an application that allows Customer Service Representatives to perform day-to-day tasks from one screen. Engineers would create buttons for all possible actions and show different content based on what the user pressed. In design, we call this application “assembly”, meaning no thought went into the “why”, it was just put together. While this seems logical and efficient to an engineer on paper, it fails to consider that application users need direction and choices must be made to optimize for the most critical actions a user needs to accomplish while using your application.
Users need direction:
Think about Google, who was at the forefront of putting users at the center of their design goals. Even though their homepage is notoriously simple, it’s entirely focused on solving a user’s one need: searching the Internet. Fast forward five years and users are interacting with user-centric applications on a daily basis—whether on their PC, on their smartphone, even in their car! Because we interact with applications visually, it is easy for a user to see gaps in applications and devices that are “designed” and those that are “assembled”.
What is important to know here is that gap will continue to widen for those applications that are assembled. Meaning, if your application or website is perceived as outdated and under-designed to users, it will only continue to get worse as your competitors have easy access to market differentiation by making their application or website more engaging and better designed. More importantly, as the screen real estate becomes smaller and smaller, from a screen to a mobile device, you will be forced to make these decisions and poorly designed mobile interfaces will have an even greater negative impact on users.
Users need inspiration:
Microsoft is completely changing the paradigm of their operating system with Windows 8 (not yet released). Why are they doing this? Apple. Though Apple is not taking huge chunks of market share away from Windows in the global OS market, they are controlling the experience of the user in the market place. Meaning, users think that Apple is defining what is contemporary, modern, and cool.
Take the fact that they charged $300 for an iPod when competitors were giving away similar devices – users want to feel they are buying into the future of what technology is meant to be. Thus, after years of struggling to emulate the experience of the Mac, Microsoft decided to be bold and introduce a design paradigm that synergized the experience from your Windows Phone to your Windows desktop.
Why is Microsoft doing this? Because users need to know you are showing them the future of technology and educating them on what the future of technology is. If Microsoft is willing to look inwards and question the design of their biggest products, every technology company should do the same.
Workshop: Analyzing the ‘design’ integrity of your own product:
When I work with companies, I always have them identify whether they believe their product was ever truly designed form a user’s perspective, or from a developers. Meaning, when you developed your product, did you constantly evaluate if you were clearly:
Giving the user proper direction to achieve goals:
- What were the key choices you made to ensure clarity for a user to achieve a goal? Usually there is an optimal path for a user to achieve a goal just as if the user were driving from point A to point B. A good design gives the user an Interstate Freeway to achieve a goal. A bad design gives them several paths to achieve the same thing as they will likely get lost along the way.
Inspiring the user to know they were using cutting edge technology:
- What area of your application did you focus on to educate your users that you truly understood their problem to the level you could use cutting-edge technology to solve it. Five years ago, I worked with a lot of companies to implement drag-and-drop solutions because it a) was a more user-intuitive solution for doing certain things and b) users were excited to use technology that allowed them to interact with a web-page in a way they had not done previously. Many companies were hesitant to change but the results spoke for themselves and users enjoyed the experience.
Mapping out your users’ expectations – a 5 minute test you can do:
When I am working with clients to help them solve this problem, I will have them draw a map which has their users on Point A and their users’ goals on Point B. Each point the user interacts with the application is a stop along the way.
Freeway or Scenic Route?
- How many steps did it take for your user to accomplish a primary goal using your website or application? Are there steps you could eliminate or consolidate?
Destinations or Distractions?
- Each time your user stops to perform a necessary task, it’s important you create an experience that makes their stop exciting and value-driven. If you can find ways to make their experience exciting each they interact with a feature, it reinforces to the user why they use technology and that you provide cutting-edge technology.
Let us know!
If you would like to evaluate the design integrity of your application or website, please let us know! We’d be happy to offer you a complimentary consultation and walk you through the exercises outlined in this post.
Windows Phone 8 – Are you ready?
If you have just updated to Mango and think things are done, you haven’t seen nothing yet. Get ready for Apollo (Windows Phone 8).
The world has gone mobile, and online. And good old-fashioned Windows, that bastion of traditional desktop computing, will undergo a radical remodel in Windows Phone 8 in an attempt to keep up with the likes of Apple and Google…and everybody else.
According to leaked reports, Microsoft and Intel have joined their hands to launch Windows 8 on mobile phones. The main aim of Microsoft behind Windows 8 mobile computing is to provide better portable environment for its users so that users can experience new innovative Windows 8 exposure.
Nokia has told TechRadar that it believes users will really start seeing the potential of its tie-in with Microsoft on Windows Phone 8.
Niklas Savander, executive VP of Markets for Nokia, said that while it’s always hard to offer something fresh to the market, the Finnish firm has no qualms about using the same OS as a number of other vendors.
The Nokia connection cannot be underestimated, particularly if you are an App developer. Their first new Windows Mobile Phone that arrived with their Lumia 710 and 800. We are seeing a foreshadowing of Nokia enhancements on these phones such as Nokia Drive, a navigation app with turn-by-turn directions and offline maps. Also on the phone is Nokia Music with a feature called Mix Radio that provides pre-set music mixes. Lastly is ESPN Sports Hub, a multi-sport news center exclusive to Nokia.
While I realize that there are always some manufacturer-specific updates, Nokia has shown that they can deliver the goods when it comes to extra features and functions. We are like to see a lot more from Nokia when they release for Windows Phone 8. By that time they will have had a full cycle to get ready with more for their customers. Remember they had less than a year to get ready for Windows Phone 7.5.
I will provide more information on Windows Phone 8 as I find out more…