Silicon Valley is synonymous with innovation, from the mythical HP garage to the remarkable Apple and Google campuses and product launches. What is it about Silicon Valley that drives this success?
Companies are turning to user experience design to revolutionize product value, customer happiness, and technology advancement. They are taking their products to the next level by applying remarkable focus on every second of the end user experience. Whether it’s a business software solution for the enterprise or a consumer product like the iPhone, users adopt these innovations because product functionality is just as important as usability. So, how do experts in Silicon Valley define the rules for user experience?
Let’s dive into the four totem poles of UX design.
1) Simplify the Complex
Since the dawn of the Internet generation, there has been a seismic usability shift anytime a new search engine appears. Historically, while most companies went for the “kitchen sink” approach with a dense portal of information, Google found success through simplicity: a simple search field underneath their logo. Today, the less-is-more approach has trickled down to virtually all aspects of user interfaces, whether it’s a mobile app or website. In most cases, complexity, density, bells and whistles wind up creating clutter rather than adding value and power — so simplify, simplify, simplify.
Don’t make your users think, click, and hunt more than they have to. Identify their end goal and focus on how to best get them there. There’s a reason why some of the best user interfaces tend to have the least amount of buttons. The fewer the decisions, the better. Time is money.
2) Manuals are for Dinosaurs
No one enjoys reading a manual. That’s a time-tested axiom, and while that’s pretty true across just about anything, it especially applies to software. The video game industry began shifting about a decade ago, relieving instructional manuals and instead focusing the first moments of gameplay on gradual in-game tutorials. That user experience translates to just about any application, and whether it’s a Wizard system, tutorial videos, or pop-up guides, intuitive interaction has trumped the old giant book of instructions. Make the initial experience with your product fun. Personalize the experience or even gamify it with achievement badges or user scores for completing tasks.
Sure, online help and paper/PDF manuals are still great resources when you’re stuck, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone who sits down and reads a manual from Page 1. Make the user experience interactive and contextually appropriate. You’ll find that learning curves and adoption rates will quickly accelerate. Follow the example of trailblazers in user experience like Apple, Adaptive Path, and Digital Telepathy.
3) User Experience is not User Interface Design
During the mid-2000s, Flash-based websites were all the rage for developers. With Flash, you could make all sorts of interactive animations and icons, but overly zealous designers got a little too ambitious. In those cases, the pretty designs looked great but users got lost while trying to find the right buttons and links — and if you couldn’t figure that out, the whole purpose of the website was defeated.
Fortunately, user experience design has moved past that and further towards focusing on intuitive interactions. It’s a good lesson to draw from when looking at any UX — the top priority, beyond aesthetics and traffic generation, is to give users an immediate sense of “I know how this works.” Website studies have shown that online attention spans last less than ten seconds. If those ten seconds provide a frustrating experience, your click-through rate will drop off considerably. When designing any user interface, put yourself in the mindset of the user and make sure to focus on the functional elements and not get too crazy with over-designing.
4) User Experience is More than just Usability
So you’ve got a clean design with an intuitive menu and strong branding. What next?
There’s one final layer on UX and that’s the element of human response. Are you getting the interactive reaction you want, be that click-through, purchase, or something else? There are different ways to gauge this. If your site/app has analytics, you can see where your call to action is statistically strong and weak. You may discover patterns and habits that spell out where call to action is adopted quicker or at a more sustained level. For instance, we follow these top 4 rules at Webdam. As a result, we have been recognized for having the best user experience design compared to other digital asset management platforms. By constantly gathering feedback from users about the ease-of-use and intuitive design, you can continually optimize their experience and achieve leading advancements in UX.
Talk to your users. Even just a test group of 5 can substantially increase your knowledge of what is working and what is not. Whether you have your customer support collect info, send out a survey, or host user meetings, it’s extremely important to hear directly from your users. Remember, the cleanest interface in the world doesn’t do much good if it’s not ultimately delivering the desired response by the end-user.