The Practical Basics of UX for the Interested Entrepreneur
As an entrepreneur, you probably do have a basic understanding of user experience (UX): yes, users must have a good experience; otherwise, they will not buy from you. Entrepreneurs usually also know that this has something to do with their website.
Indeed, as an entrepreneur, you do not have to know everything about everything, but a little deeper understanding of user experience might be convenient. After all, if you are going to hire someone who has to create the best UX for your company there is, you want to be able to have a conversation with that person about your expectations.
However, a deeper understanding of UX might be overwhelming as UX comprises so many things. In this blog, I will touch upon several but not all aspects of UX and show you links to resources. This way, you can learn the things you want about UX and see how it can benefit your company. After all, UX is way beyond just your company’s website!
The resources start off easy, but they get a little harder later on. That is why it comes in handy to start with five practical ways how not to be overwhelmed by UX.
Five practical ways how not to make UX overwhelming
Are you feeling overwhelmed by all the different aspects of UX? Guy Ligertwood, UX Designer, can relate: “It can be overwhelming when you start in UX design. There is so much to learn and so much new stuff to keep up with. Things move fast; there are new information and new tools all the time. I tried to get my head around everything for a while, but it was too much. The more I tried to do, the more I struggled; my brain got foggy.” He has come up with a five-step plan for learning aspects of UX, of which you can find a summary below:
1. Find your focus with chunking
Stress and anxiety come from a feeling that we have an impossible number of things to do. Do not worry too much about keeping up with everything. Instead, find the areas you like to focus on and have a daily routine of keeping up with those areas. Chunking is the grouping together of those focus areas into well-sized pieces. By doing this, your mind will relax and you will position yourself well to complete your goals.
2. Start capturing what you want to do
To start the chunking process, you need to start capturing. This is the process of getting all the ideas in your head noted down. Write down everything you want to do this week, such as reading design articles, going to a meet-up, learning more about Sketch or reading a few chapters of a design book. Focus on two to three areas to get started!
3. Find the commonalities
You have captured all your things you want to achieve, so now you need to look for commonalities. What items relate to reading, studying, learning design tools, etc.? Group these together and you have the areas you want to work on. Once you have chunked your tasks together, it is easier to see what you need to do for the week. When you focus on the bigger picture, your goals are much easier to digest.
4. How to get the chunks done
Set out how many hours per week you have to do design-related learning. Make more time in your day by sacrificing something. Prioritize the chunks from the most to least important. Then, work through them in that order. Work through the chunk until it is done. In addition, you can use a timer to break down chunks into intervals of 25 minutes in length. You can use this method to read articles on design, for example.
5. Create a habit
The final step is to create a habit. This is when change happens. Getting through manageable chunks on a daily basis gets you a long way.
Below, I will get you started on some UX aspects. The first two are easier ones, which are followed by a harder article.
Three quick steps to improve your website’s UX
UX is one of the keys to your website’s and your company’s success. James Barnes warns you that if your customers become dissatisfied with your website and you do not take corrective action, you are gambling with your company’s future. Revising your website gives you the opportunity to be your own critic and make changes in your website’s content that will improve UX and increase your sales. Barnes lists three quick steps to improve your website’s UX. You do not even need a UX designer for some of these!
1. Check your use of keywords
Keywords are identifying how your customers view your company and the products or services you provide. Therefore, you need to determine which phrase you would use to describe your business in simple and clear language. Once you have accomplished that task, you need to integrate that phrase into the content on your website.
It used to be a common SEO practice to use that phrase excessively in content (keyword stuffing) to try to increase your search engine rank. If you have not revised your website in a while, you may have some pages written in that manner. Keyword stuffing causes more harm than good: search engines now penalize you for doing it and it makes your content sound unnatural, giving your customers a poor UX. Use keywords naturally and in reasonable numbers.
2. Make your website design attractive
Learn as much as you can about your customers and design a website that appeals to them. Many potential customers will click away immediately if they consider a website unattractive. In addition, most online shoppers have a limited attention span when they are browsing. That means you have a limited time to grab their attention with your website design. You need to have a website that has a professional look but also makes it easy for your visitors to scan.
3. Prominently display your unique selling proposition (USP)
Once customers find your site, they want to know what your company does and they expect to find that information immediately on your homepage. You should not expect your customers to spend time searching your website to figure out why they should do business with you. Instead, your USP should be displayed prominently on your homepage so customers know why they should choose you rather than one of your competitors.
6 Animation Guidelines for UX Design
When revising your website, consider using animation. As José Torre says, besides giving life to a static image, animation can help you tell a story much more effectively. However, do not just use animation for the fun of it; it has to be useful. Torre came up with a list of 6 guidelines on how to integrate animation in a way that is not superfluous; rather, with these guidelines, you make animation an essential piece of a good UX. Below is a summary. For more information and animated evidence, please read the article (opens in a new tab).
1. Animation should not be an afterthought
Animation is often considered at the end of the design process and that is wrong. Think of the user experience as a cake. In most cases, animation is being thought as the cherry on top of the cake, but animation should be just another ingredient that you need to mix into the cake batter.
Animation should already be in your head when you are sketching your wireframes. It can be as simple as an arrow indicating where a certain object is going to go after a button is pressed or a simple note. Keeping it simple will help you find a purpose for the motion without focusing too much how it looks. In addition, you will not become too attached, because animation will not always be the solution to your problem. Just discard it if it is not helping you accomplish something. Unnecessary animation will just be an obstacle for the end user.
2. Animation must serve a purpose
Animation needs to be functional. If you are wondering what animation can help you with, here are some examples:
- Soften harsh cuts
- Provide context
- Provide orientation
- Provide instant feedback
- Make the content feel alive
3. Animation must reflect the brand
Consider a simple motion of an object from left to right. There are virtually endless ways to make this motion just by tweaking its easing curve. With this, you can add a personality to your animation. The possibilities are endless but you need to consider your brand, your user, and the tone you want to transmit. If the animation does not fit the tone, your users might feel out of place and lose their trust in your brand. Imagine a banking app with the same bouncy style of animation as in a game: would you trust it?
4. Animation should not be the hero
If your animation takes the center stage, you are not designing an experience; you are just forcing the user to watch a movie. Animation needs to be part of the whole experience, complementing the visual design and supporting the interactions. To achieve this, restraint is key. In most cases, a good animation is the one that users do not even notice. Your job is not to entertain the user but to help one accomplish something in the easiest and most intuitive way possible.
5. Animation must feel natural
Since the user interacts directly with the UI, there is a certain expectation that the UI follows rules of physics. A list that responds to your speed is a perfect example, but the same applies to other objects. However, this does not mean that all the apps should react the same way. It is all about the tone and the weight you want your brand to transmit. You have to define your app’s “material” and weight and make it behave accordingly.
6. Animation must be used to use time wisely
Animation can be used to tweak the user’s perception of time, so use this in your favor. For the human brain, anything below 0.1 seconds will seem instantaneous and below 1 second will seem seamless. Breaking down a process of, for instance, six seconds should make the process feel much faster and keep your users engaged. You can also use animation to fake an instant action that will actually take bit longer in the background. This will make the app feel more responsive, even though the process still takes longer than what the user sees.
Successful interaction design principles to boost UX
According to Miklos Philips, well-executed interaction design plays a huge role in the implementation of great UX, and is indisputably one of the fundamentals of UX design principles: “No matter how good looking the visual design, mess up the interaction design and your UX is ruined. Get it right and you will be well on your way to a much better UX even if the aesthetics fall short. The product will have a much better chance of succeeding, which in turn contributes to the bottom line.”
Interaction design is defined by the Interaction Design Association as “the structure and behavior of interactive systems. Interaction Designers strive to create meaningful relationships between people and the products and services they use, from computers to mobile devices to appliances and beyond.”
Truly excellent interaction design relies on a set of standards, best practices, conventions, and rules-of-thumb. Interface standards do not stifle creativity; they are not hard and fast rules, but foundational guidelines that help a designer establish a usable and familiar design base from which to innovate.
Interaction design principles and best practices
Successful interaction design employs simple, clearly defined goals, a strong purpose, and an intuitive UI. In an effort to keep interactions simple and easy, goal-driven interaction design puts nothing more than the absolute minimum necessary in front of users in order for them to complete a task.
These are some of the most important principles (read more about them in the article):
- Conceptual models and mental models
- Consistency, standards, and heuristics
- Patterns and learnability
- Visual hierarchy and emphasis
- Fitts’ law
- Gutenberg diagram, Z- and F-pattern layouts
- Recognition rather than recall
- Aesthetic and minimalist design
- Error prevention
UX experts to follow
I can understand that if this blog is the first piece of information you have found on UX, it may seem overwhelming. Think of the tips at the beginning of the blog! Let this information sink in for a while and start searching for more information on the UX aspects you want to learn about. A great way to do this is following UX experts. Adobe has listed ten UX designers on Instagram they think you should follow. Here they are:
1. Aleksey Omelchenko
Omelchenko’s Instagram is a mash-up of gorgeous interfaces paired alongside design quotes that can deepen one’s understanding of psychological design considerations, such as a user’s cognitive bias and perceived affordance. He uses the photo descriptions to explain theories and concepts in more detail and often provides resource links for additional information.
2. Jessica Robbins
Robbins takes a playful approach by sharing inspirational design quotes and thinking points written on post-it notes. Her focus is on finding “small moments of big UX thinking.” They are quick, snappy notes of inspiration that will brighten up your feed and gives you plenty to think about.
3. Yael Levey
Levey’s account shows her enthusiasm and passion for UX design. She shares candid reflections on her design process and the things that inspire her, providing authentic insight into the life of a UX designer and the thinking that goes into creating successful UX. Her page is a good one for tricks of the trade. It gives readers an educational and refreshing take on UX, often discussing challenges as they are unfolding. She has a lot to say about user research and never hesitates to share her lessons with her audience.
Though it is not credited to a single one designer, this account shares wireframes from different designers, curating them into one place for all your inspiration needs.
5. Kevin Mercier
Mercier’s account is bursting with visual inspiration. His posts show a strong diversity of work that reimagines existing and conceptual products alike. He does not provide a lot of written context, but the substance of the work makes up for it.
Tamarashvili’s account features colorful UI designs that will pop in your feed. Interspersed with occasional photos from his travels, this is the Instagram of a modern designer with a unique professional style. It shows his voice as a designer, something that is not always easy to discover or express. By honing his technique, his work will no doubt appeal to designers who aspire to develop their own design flavor.
Buononato’s work is spread across two accounts: his personal one and @becreatives, the creative agency he founded. Combined, they are pure inspiration for the entrepreneurial-minded designer and those who are enthused by marketing, branding, and coffee.
8. UI Trends
Another account that aggregates work from different designers daily, UI Trends is an endless stream of inspiration that will appeal to your eyes while also connecting you with other designers in the community.
Fellow-Dutchie Crombach’s account is ripe with UX/UI inspiration mixed with a dash of travel photography, a sprinkle of behind-the-scenes designer life, and a decent amount of flashy live music videos. This account features conceptual explorations into the various disciplines and provides insight into where UX is heading.
Anfisa has lived all over the world and her posts frequently reflect her journey while interweaving it with her thoughts on UX design, user research and more. She is candid about the challenges that come with being a freelance UX designer, but she always finds a way to be positive and insightful. She engages with her community and frequently asks questions, which makes it a very human account that is inspiring and authentic.
User Product Demonstrations
Wow, that was a lot of UX information for beginners, right? Remember, do not let yourself be overwhelmed by it!
If the last article was a bit too hard for you and you are looking for a simpler read, user product demonstrations may be a good and interesting next topic. In ‘The How and Why of Successful User Product Demonstrations,’ I talk about a video that you do not create yourself, but you let your users create. Why would you want to do that? Well, it increases the UX of potential customers visiting your website. Placed in the right spot, it enables customers to make the buying decision more quickly, leading to more sales for your company. Enjoy!
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