User Experience: 5 UX Principles You Have to Know
The field of User Experience (UX) does not get the attention it deserves. In many cases, organizations and businesses focus on the “design” and strive for unique or pleasing ones. What’s really important is not a website’s visual uniqueness or its digital tools, but the experience of the user while using it. So, what is User Experience and what are the principles that should guide us when talking about UX?
User Experience: Put Yourself in Your Users’ Shoes
The field of User Experience mainly deals with understanding human behavior. We will focus here on the digital user experience. Every website, and in fact every webpage, should have a goal. Characterizing and designing user experience is meant to move the user, both psychologically as well as physically, towards actions we want them to perform on each of the website’s screens.
To create a positive user experience, there is a need to answer the following questions: what is the user’s goal in reaching the page? What will the user feel when exposed to the page or to part of it? Where will the user’s gaze instinctively go? What will make the user continue consuming certain information on the website, and in what order? What would be the best way to make the user perform an action such as pressing a button or filling out a form? Has the user’s need been fulfilled? And so on.
Micro-Decision: Getting into the Mind of Your Users
Each decision made by the user is comprised of dozens of micro-decisions, some instinctive but most unaware. The human brain is a very complicated machine which aspires to reduce contemplation and simplify decision-making, among other things by using “shortcuts” which allow it to make very quick and unaware decisions – micro-decisions – that determine the final and conscious decision.
The field of digital User Experience is relatively new, but research and experience allow us to form a few central rules of thumb for designing websites that create a proper and effective user experience, which influences micro-decisions as the brain makes them.
User Experience Design: 5 Key Rules
We cannot detail the hundreds of rules and insights the field of User Experience now contains, as the application of these insights may also vary between websites according to their goals and audiences. However, we will refer to a few representative base rules that you should take into account when designing your User Experience.
Creating clear visual hierarchy: the brain wants to understand what’s important
The most common decision the modern person makes is to not decide. The more complex a decision is, the more the brain is expected to avoid making it. The brain has to immediately understand “what’s going on” when entering a website. It has to decide where to turn the gaze, as quickly as possible, and understand what’s more or less important. This is why creating a clear visual hierarchy is critical for the user experience. The application can be, for instance, having important headlines in a larger bold font, in a color that stands out or is separated from the rest of the content by white space.
Using conventions – the users need to feel they are someplace familiar
As mentioned, the first instinct businesses have when building a website is unique design, one that does not “look like every other site”. This urge has to be restrained by considering the end-user. The user’s brain wants to feel it has arrived at a safe and familiar place. To make your users feel “at home”, you have to use “conventions”. Conventions are structures known to the users, so they can quickly understand where they are and how they should behave, giving them the confidence of a familiar environment, allowing them to comfortably and quickly make decisions and perform actions. A prominent example is the use of the shopping cart icon on eCommerce websites, as its commonality made it a convention that can be used without having to add an explanation, and users can be expected to understand it without wondering about or lingering over it.
Dividing the page into well-defined areas
The human brain scans before it reads, sometimes unintentionally. That is why users are supposed to understand the main content of each area through their initial scan of the page. The page’s division into areas is important since it provides users with the possibility of deciding which part of the page they would like to focus on, and which they can ignore.
Highlighting everything clickable
The human brain has gotten used to the fact that its browsing pattern includes scanning the page and then searching for the next thing to click in order to access more information. That is why it’s important to create visual differentiation between what’s clickable and what’s not. For instance, a different-colored link or an underlined one will stand out from the non-hyperlinked text.
As previously mentioned, the human brain tries to simplify the decision-making process. Noisy visualization, with unnecessary elements on the screen, creates a confusing and overwhelming experience. That is why it is recommended to decide on the action we would like users to make, visually accentuate it and “silence” the rest of the screen.
Visual uniqueness? Only if it doesn’t damage User Experience
There’s a reason all vehicles have their steering wheel, gear stick, dashboard and paddles in the same place. It is human engineering that makes us best operate it, allowing us to move from one vehicle to another and still feel comfortable driving. In fact, vehicles that try and play it “smart” with their human engineering often receive harsh criticism from their users.
By the same token, there is a reason all websites offer a similar feeling. It is a collection of conventions that makes the users feel comfortable and understand what they need to do. It is also the way to lead the users to perform the goals we set for each page.
Uniqueness? Sure. Appealing design? Excellent. Within the genre.
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