I've heard many people say that websites should be simple for users and that's true, but it's not as black and white as this.
Many people would have you think simple is just plastering the button you want the user to touch in the user's face. And, in some instances, this can be the case. But, things are changing and users are becoming more savvy. So, is UX really making things simple anymore?
Functional - does it work? Useable - can users actually use it without extensive training and handholding? Delightful - does it give the user what they need? Are they likely to come back or tell others about it?
Functional, Useable, Delightful. Derek Skaletsky, CEO of knowtifyio
In the early years of the Internet, UX was not really something that was thought about in great detail, it certainly didn't have a cohesive term. Now it's a huge industry that seems to have sprung up almost overnight and everyone wants a piece of it! Back then we used signposting, writing 'click here' to get the user to do something. Now we rely much more on the intelligence of users and familiarity. We often don't even use words to direct actions, we use icons and symbols to indicate purpose. Spurred on by the dawn of social media, particularly Twitter and Facebook, this has become the norm. These platforms are setting the bar for what is acceptable in terms of UX. This isn't because other UX designers aren't making great changes and strides. It's largely due to the high use of these social networks, especially on mobile devices, providing deep insights into usability. As a result, many actions originating from social networks have become expectations for users when using other sites - think 'like'/'favourite functionality and swiping.
Once upon a time when a designer replaced clear word signposting with an icon, I'm sure people scoffed. How very radical. It's this kind of thinking that leads to advancements in design and technology and something we all try to do here at After Digital. It's all about not only creating interesting and clear user journeys but also breaking ground with new ideas around how users think and interact. What will the next big shift be in terms of designing for devices be?
I think now is the time we can start treating certain audiences as smart users. Smart users for me are “millennials” - late teens to early 20 somethings that have grown up using digital devices, playing a Super Nintendo or PlayStation as a young kid and leading on to smartphones in teenage years. These are the next generation of users and thinkers they are the users that will be paving the way and laying new foundations on how we approach UX design.
Personally, I can already see it in my younger brother - he was born in 2000 and at the age of 3 was drawing pictures on Microsoft paint ( I know Microsoft… Eugh). Now at the age of 15 he's playing pretty advanced computer games and able to manipulate the games pretty easily by going into the system files and changing some code. At his age I was still quite happy with my pencils and paper, doodling new cartoon comic strips and concept cars. When I think about what these users already expect from sites it's terrifying and exciting. How do we create interfaces and journeys for users who want everything? We learn. We ask them, it's never a bad move to ask the audience what they need and want - how else can we make sure we continue to grow and evolve this industry?
I already feel that we can be designing smarter because of the amount of people playing games on their phones - sometimes really complex games. One in particular (which I love and would recommend by the way) “Monument Valley”. Not only is the game beautifully designed and has the perfect soundtrack within the levels to complement this, it explores how people perceive things. The world it creates is made up of puzzles which you need to solve in order to lead the princess to the end. Creating a beautiful and rewarding journey for the user. This game along with others of a similar nature are the kind of games that allow people to view their devices as smarter technology which means they can expect to find new ways to navigate through sites and new ideas for how to use page transitions for example.
The digital world is becoming homogenised and quite honestly, I find that boring - let's create something new within it to make it that bit more interesting everyday. Give users credit that they're smarter than UX best practice may suggest. But remember to make sure it's still useable for your audience.