Once you have a clear understanding of the needs of the people using your product or website, it’s crucial to ensure their experience is as seamless as possible.
The following tips have proved to be valuable from my personal experience when designing software.
- Give Feedback
- Don’t rely on recollection
- Reduce the visual load
- Be consistent
- Allow for flexibility
- Progressively disclose information
Tip 1 - Give feedback
Don’t keep people in the dark, wondering if that button press took any effect.
Clear and timely messaging gives people confidence in the product they are using. Any interaction triggered by the user should be likened to a conversation, there should be a response to let them know things are happening.
By introducing microinteractions, we are able to engage people through visual, and in some cases, audio feedback. If we take for example a form submission, we can immediately present a loading indicator to tell the user their request is being processed, followed by a contextual notification to show their request has been either successful, or needs alterations.
Microinteractions can be incredibly simple while being very effective. Ensuring you add two-way conversations into your interface shouldn’t be an after thought.
Tip 2 - Don’t rely on recollection
Relying on memory is risky, especially when it comes to dealing with important information.
Short term memory can be very fragile and only a small amount of information can be stored in working memory. Even a brief conversation can be enough of a distraction to cost you that phone number you were memorising.
There can be a lot at stake when people are moving between different states in an application or website, particularly when you are required to recall and repeat information you may have provided elsewhere.
Let the software do what it’s good at and remember important information so your users don’t have to.
Tip 3 - Reduce the visual load
Categorise related data into organised groups.
By following Gestalt’s Law of proximity, we can determine that people perceive information to be related when visually grouped.
In the context of interface design, by using clear content blocks, cards or even white space, you are able to reduce unnecessary visual load and make content easier to scan.
Everything presented to your users should have a purpose.
Tip 4 - Be consistent
Straying away from platform conventions too much can be detrimental to the user experience.
People have become accustomed to expect certain behaviours from inputs and form elements and have likely built up mental models of how to interact with content across multiple platforms. Applying too much customisation for the sake of form over function could hinder usage and unnecessarily increase cognitive load.
Take advantage of people’s past experiences and use tried and tested patterns.
Tip 5 - Allow for flexibility
There are likely going to be people with mixed levels of ability using your product. It’s important to do your best to cater for each visitor, whether they are new to the platform, or an experienced user.
Ensuring a suitable onboarding process is in place for first-time users can be a worthy addition. Allowing people to learn by doing by integrating early stage tasks into the process can be a huge benefit.
Enabling keyboard shortcuts for common actions can also be a useful technique, giving those who are comfortable with the product the ability to save time when completing common tasks.
Tip 6 - Progressively disclose information
Don’t be afraid to hold back information if it’s not immediately required.
Give people enough detail needed to complete a specific task, but no more. This is particularly crucial when requesting information through lengthy forms. Breaking down content into logical steps allows people to focus on one thing at a time, reducing the potential for mistakes.
Grouping form fields into multiple steps could also mean small chunks of information can be saved independently, limiting the loss of progress if people need to switch context unexpectedly.
There are many ways to optimise people’s digital encounters depending on your circumstances. Hopefully you can apply these tips to optimise your own users’ experience.