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Ten ways you can avoid sucking at UX

Ten ways you can avoid sucking at UX

Users rightly have increasingly high expectations of how they will be treated when interacting with digital products and services.  Unsurprisingly, their experiences with the world’s leading apps have rightly convinced them that software doesn’t have to be difficult – that it can be both powerful and intuitive at the same time.  What this means for all organisations is that your users don’t expect you to compare well against others in your industry, or against comparators in related industries but rather that you will treat them in the same way their favourite app or website or software does.

As a result of this many organisations laudably pursue superior UX as part of their comms, digital and software processes.  They understand that in the experience economy, driven as it is by convenience, efficiency and speed, that there is a connection about how they make their users feel, and their users’ propensity to be loyal, to advocate and to repeat buy.  Understanding this need is straightforward, implementing it is difficult.

We know that this is true because in 2022, a quarter of a century after the invention of the world wide web, users are still frequently encountering experiences which leave them feeling angry and frustrated

UX has a proud track–record of reverse–engineered logic.  Product design seeks to increase the chances of success by decreasing the chances of failure.  UX methods seek to mitigate risk by dealing with common causes of software failure and underperformance early in the process.  In that spirit this blog article seeks to help readers achieve better UX by removing the things which make UX suck.

Here are ten things you can do today to make your UX better.

  1. Get obsessed about solving user problems – the moment you take your eye off solving problems for your users you’ve lost. Your software gets bloaty, diluted, and compromised.  If a feature or a piece of content isn’t helping a user achieve a goal it is watering down content and features which are.
  2. Translate business needs into KPIs – empower yourself with the ability to frame your design decision–making in the context of business goals by understanding the means by which the performance of the design will be measured and how it connects to business objectives.
  3. Overcome your personal preferences – we all have a series of natural aesthetic preferences which influences our views of men and women, cars and houses, shoes and clothes.  We need to overcome those when we’re designing for others, because we are us and our users are not us.
  4. Deconstruct the problem – all design influences behaviour and users typically need to solve a series of problems before they can ‘convert’ or act in the way the system is designed for.  Make sure you understand the various phases of the user journey and design specifically for them.
  5. Deconstruct the solution – just as there is a logical order when building a house (planning, foundations laid, walls built, plumbing and electrics, plastering and carpentry, decoration) so there is too with building digital products (content design, information architecture, flow, wireframing, UI design, front–end build). With software as with houses, each new phase builds on top of previous phases – it’s simply not possible to design a number of different phases at the same time as they each serve separate purposes.
  6. Don’t compromise on accessibility – as well as supporting the 10% to 15% of users who have a permanent impairment which impacts their use of technology (vision, hearing, physical, cognitive) it’s simply the case that accessible products are better products.  It’s therefore not just the right altruistic thing to do it’s the smart commercial thing to do.
  7. Don’t compromise on responsiveness – this involves ensuring your product will work well across all of the devices for which it is compatible, but it also means recognising that not all of your users will be using the latest iPhone 13.  Design around the hardware and internet connectivity that your users will actually have, not that which you or your colleagues have.
  8. Don’t compromise on readability – it is always good to recall that the activity your users are engaging with most on your product is reading and your typography choices should reflect that.  It is also critical that your typography choices support accessibility.
  9. Don’t pursue tidy – tidiness is often the enemy of good UX.  Hamburger menus are neat and tidy, but a usability nightmare, mega–menus are tidier than other types of menus but are suitable only for a very specific set of tasks, long buttons with more descriptive calls to action are less tidy than short succinct buttons but often convert better.  Do not pursue tidiness for its own sake.
  10. Always on optimise – no product is ever finished because everything can always get better all the time.  Its launch marks the start of the most accurate behavioural data you can find – of real users using your real product in the real world – bake that insight back into your product and increase your opportunity for competitive advantage each day for ever.

Winning in today’s digital–first experience economy is tough.  Competition is more ruthless than ever before.  Increase your chances of winning by removing as many of the self–inflicted reasons for losing as you can.

By Gareth Dunlop

Gareth formed Fathom in 2011 and has been in the business of design performance for over two decades.

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