I have been around technology for a long time – just about as long as I can remember. Back when I started computing, the concept of user experience (UX) wasn’t even a thing. You knew the commands to tell your computer what to do. And if you didn’t know a specific one, you’d have a way of finding it. Soon after, graphical user interfaces (GUI) came to be, and UX became vital even before people really knew what to call it. Just like today, everybody was looking for the most pleasing way to present information – and trying to make every action a little easier.
Good UX Means Good Business
In a world where technology is rapidly advancing and user expectations are rising, it’s no longer enough to have an average user experience; to delight your users and surpass your competition you must strive for the exceptional.
Today technology evolves by the minute, but some truths don’t change. In fact, here are five lessons I’ve learned from UX over the years:
- Everyone is different. Not everyone is going to use an app or website the same way. While there are certain trends that humans as a whole tend to gravitate toward, there are no absolute certainties. I may expect a button to do one thing while someone else may expect it to do something entirely different. But you should maintain consistency within your site and take cues from top industry leaders.
- Listen to feedback. Again, users expect something to happen when they perform an action. Listen to their feedback, frustrations and sources of confusion. And if there is a lag time between when they click/tap/press and what happens next, they may assume something is wrong and become frustrated, too.
- Make it easy. I do a lot of software development, and developers hate repetitive tasks. Instead of spending hours doing one job, we’ll create code that does it for us. The reasons are pretty universal – people don’t like doing more work than necessary. They want the easy path to get to their destination. So if you can save a user two clicks to perform a frequent action, that creates a simpler user experience. And if you can remove the need for separate page loads, that user is going to be even happier. Case in point? One of my favorite examples is Amazon’s one-click ordering. They’ve made it super easy to shop and save the user a ton of time.
- Performance is key. Make it fast, and make it accurate. I love writing code that not only does what it is supposed to do, but does it quickly. These days, users expect everything to be as instant as a Google search. While it may not always be possible to emulate that kind of speed, do everything you can to make your app or website perform as fast as it can.Remember, your app or website is always going to be compared to industry leaders. If you users are waiting longer than expected, they are going to have a negative experience and may view your brand differently simply because of slow page loads. So if all else fails and you cannot speed up your page or app any further, mimic fast speeds by presenting the user with images or content that make it look like the page/app is doing something.
- Test, test, test. Just because that one feature worked in that one browser, on that one machine, it doesn’t mean it will work for all your users. Know your users and what devices and browsers/OSs they are using, and test on those devices in real world scenarios. Building a mobile app that depends on data? Make sure you know what happens when the user does not have access to a data network. Building an app that or site that relies on location? Give the user a way to set their location if it isn’t available. If you built an awesome desktop website, what happens if half of the users are mobile users? All of these different scenarios and contexts need to be considered when, not only designing, but testing and implementing your UX. It is a multi-device world today, and we need to be building the best products we can for each one.
Now … What Are YOUR Biggest Lessons?
While there are more things to consider when building the best user experience, these are the biggest insights I’ve found in the context of my work. What are yours? If you have any other great lessons you have learned through UX, leave a comment below. We’d love to hear from you.