It used to be that companies were concerned with how clean their stores were, how to make the most eye-catching and clever displays, and discovering the best ways to hook their customers and keep them coming back for more.
Then, as it so often does, the world shifted and brick and mortar businesses moved online and then suddenly… well, actually, now that you mention it, not very much changed. Even now a company based exclusively online community is worried about the same things that they were back when they had a chain of stores across the country. Are they bug-free? Are things eye-catching? Will the customers come back time and time again?
We’re going to start the conversation today by asking what is UI? What is UX? Why are they important? How do we guarantee that they are successful? Which mistakes should we avoid and why is it increasingly important that we understand all of this?
Although UI and UX are used interchangeably, they are actually different and any conversation about either necessitates knowing what both are.
User Interface (UI) deals with the look and feel of an application, software or website. Related to the overall design of a product, UI is concerned with everything from the general appearance to nitty-gritty of the display screen. The way that the app or product interacts with its users lies in the domain of the user interface.
User Experience (UX) is directly tied to the experience provided to the user (no one ever claimed UX was creatively named!). The success of UX is most often measured by the level of ease and satisfaction the product gives to its users as well as the success it has in generating loyalty amongst users. Put another way, a successful user experience is demonstrated by the ability to keep your people using your product or app.
Why Do We Lump User Interface and User Experience Together?
As mentioned, UI/UX are used interchangeably in most contexts, but, as we’ve seen, they are technically distinct from each other.
The simple reason the two so often get lumped in with each other is that UX is completely dependent on UI.
A good way understand this is to remember that UI is what gets the user to use your services in the first place because it’s what makes the product or app usable and attractive. But it’s the UX that keeps your user coming back and keeps them from doing things like deleting your app from their devices.
In short, good UI hooks ‘em and good UX keeps ‘em.
How to Make Your UI/UX Amazing
Now that we understand what User Interface and User Experience are and why they are important, we can turn our attention to asking what makes your UI/UX amazing and able to stand out from the crowd.
There are 5 essential elements that any UX worth its salt will address if you wish it to be successful: usability, desirability, accessibility, credibility and value.
Usability is simple. It means that your user experience should be uncomplicated and easy to use and usability is arguably the most important element of a successful UX. A poorly structured user experience is a sure way to lose your customers to your rivals. Conversely, when its well structured you can impact the way your users interact and behave.
A good example of this is Facebook which started out as little more than a simple profile page social media platform and which has grown into being the primary communication method for many people to keep in touch with their friends and family. Unlike Friendster or MySpace, Facebook never gave up on continually improving its UX (sometimes to the chagrin of its users who can struggle to keep up).
Additionally, it is increasingly important to build your user experience around mobile interaction as more and more people rely on mobile devices for seemingly everything under the sun. The more you can build your website or product from the ground up in a way that takes this into consideration, the more you increase your usability factor.
Usability is closely linked to the idea of usefulness which means that you will improve the lives of your users by making the relevant tasks easier.
Desirability is essentially the reason your users are using your app or product, desirability is conveyed through things like branding, identity and image.
With desirability, some of the things you should be asking yourself include: Does what you’re offering connect with your users? Does it address any emotional attachments they may have (consider the nostalgia factor that Pokemon Go tapped into and the immense and rapid success that arose around it)?
Creating an image as reliable by maintaining a credible, secure retail storefront helps to online desirability by providing confidence in sales, while a clear brand identity enables you to grow your reputation amongst your user base.
Accessibility refers to the ease with which new and returning users can access your content. If you’ve created an app or website that requires users to spend 20 minutes trying to find a basic feature, you’re doing something wrong.
A poorly designed app or product is not accessible can damage desirability (that thing we just talked about) and value (which we will be discussing in just a moment).
One of the worst things you can do is is to code something so badly that it barely registers in search engine rankings, or to load it up with so much multimedia content that it saps the bandwidth and fails to load altogether. Doing so means you’ve created something that is not accessible and thus, fails to be adoptable.
One thing we want to make sure everyone remembers it that at its core, accessibility means the same thing with UX as it means in the “real” world – people of all abilities need to be able to use your product with ease.
Your design should take into account people with all manner of disabilities ranging from mobility impairment to hearing loss to vision loss and more. This is a chronically overlooked demographic and if you can provide this kind of accessibility, you’ll have a big jump on the competition. In the U.S. alone, 1 in 5 people has a disability, which means that if you create something that isn’t accessible… Poof! There goes a whopping 20% of your potential market.
Credibility deals with the ability of your user to trust in the product and user experience that you are providing them.
This means not only that it does what you say it is supposed to do, but also that your product will last for a reasonable length of time. Credibility means your app, software or website provides information that is accurate and appropriate to the necessary tasks.
Damage the user experience enough and your credibility gets damaged right along with it
Value is, on the surface, one of the simplest concepts out there: your product must deliver value to the users who buy it. The more value you give your users, the more they come back and spend money on your products or put up with your advertising or follow the affiliate links that you want them to follow. In other words, value for them equals value for you.
Further, a poorly designed user experience, whether it be a website or app, that cannot be accessed by various browsers or which has been so poorly coded as to be nearly impossible to use, will undoubtably damage the desirability and the the value of your service
5 Mistakes To Avoid in UI/UX
In the spirit of total honesty, that’s a misleading heading. The truth is, there are far more than 5 mistakes you can make in creating a terrible user interface and user experience. That said, the following 5 are what we see as some of the biggest and most pervasive mistakes made in everything from apps to websites to software itself:
- Focusing on looks over functionality – This one is simple and is best expressed as: you designed something pretty but it doesn’t do much of anything.
- Illegibility or confusing layouts – Poor font choices, poor grammar, putting too many options on a screen at a time, using links that lead to the wrong places and so forth all fall under this category.
- Unable to handle traffic or instability – A slowly loading website or app is pretty much kryptonite. Products that don’t load properly or function as they should will drive customers away faster than you can blink.
- Inopportune advertising – Everyone knows that ads are vital for revenue but if you assault your customers with pop-up ads or make them so intrusive that it’s hard for users to access key information, you’re screwing up big time.
- Browser and/or device exclusion – We all have our preferred browsers and operating platforms, but if you build something that is only usable, or only works well, on the ones that you prefer, you’re automatically excluding a large potential customer base. A website must make sure to be friendly for mobile devices as people increasingly rely on their mobile products.
Final Thoughts: Why You Should Care About UI/UX
If you care about your app or business succeeding, then you care (or you definitely should) about a beautifully built interface and well constructed user experience.
Whatever you are building, be it an app, a website, new software or any other number of products, it is important to remember the 5 essential elements behind good UX design: usability, desirability, accessibility, credibility and value.
On the flip side, it’s equally important be on the lookout for these 5 common mistakes that hinder good UX design: prioritizing looks over functionality, creating illegible or confusing layouts, an inability to handle traffic or instability, inopportune advertising, and the exclusion of devices and/or browsers.
If you take nothing else away from all this, it should be that an outstanding user experience is crucial for two key reasons. Which are inextricably linked to your ability to succeed in the future. First, good UX enhances user engagement for publicity as it makes users loyal to your products and gives you free marketing because they’ll be more likely to recommend it to others. Second, good UX supports monetization because with good UX, ads are tailored to your users and are seamlessly integrated to such a degree that users don’t mind them and come back to your product time and time again. At the end of the day, all of this translates to more successes for you across the board.