I'm a newbie to the world of 'UX'. Or so I thought. After some interesting conversations with my design colleagues and a bit of research, it turns out that I'm actually pretty au fait with the basics - and it's likely you are too. We're constantly interacting with design and functionality specifically crafted to suit particular online user experiences. As such, user expectations for a simple, no-hassle online experience continue to grow, with the standards constantly being raised. So, it's not surprising that so many companies are getting caught up on user experience (UX) design as a crucial component for both growth and success of their modern day brand.
The demand for an exceptional user experience has never been so high, with Internet access for the majority of consumers being a part of their daily routine across many platforms and devices. Expectations from users increase as their favourite brands continually strive for a coherent and smooth everyday browsing experience.
With that in mind, the constant need for fine-tuning is at an all-time high, with trends constantly evolving, the task of keeping up is challenging, yet exciting. In today's blog I explore some key themes that I've come across in the world of UX design.
A trend that dominated as soon as it was explored and continues to do so; storytelling is one of the most effective ways to create an engaged user in a quick and efficient way. Normally visually alluring as well as emotionally engaging, there is no better way to sell a product or service than to provide visitors with a captivating story.
With the majority of consumers now scanning instead of reading every single word you present to them; often your content can be ignored. An almost guaranteed way of standing out is to convey your message in the form of stories.
Involving the customer in your tale, keeping them as the main focus, making responsive visuals and adding interactive common actions, are amongst the many ways of keeping your user focused.
Perhaps one of the most important practices for brands to consider is anticipating what your consumer wants; with too many decisions to make on one site, the impact can be very negative. The ability to process an overload of information is hindered when presented with too many choices; this, in turn, causes annoyance, frustration and a desire to give up, resulting in consumers leaving the site.
Using anticipatory design, you are able to revoke some of the more mundane decisions from the user, giving them the opportunity to focus on the important choices. It can also be applied to help users consider options that may not have occurred to them in the process of being onsite; this may be something as simple as a trigger reminder or question for the visitor. An example being; if a consumer is returning to the site, previous purchasing behaviours can be used to offer shoppers the option of pre-filling their baskets with recurring purchases. This is especially effective when it comes to grocery or toiletry sites for example.
Expanded use of video
Much like storytelling, the use of video offers an engaging narrative. However, whilst many have embraced the potential video brings; to create engagement, growth and drive sales; there is a new way in which video is being used. Long gone are the days of demo videos, how-tos and mundane interviews. Instead, videos are now being used creatively; for example, as a background to enhance the user experience and give subtle, yet effective, visual cues.
Videos are becoming part of the website experience, not a hindrance to the site; developers no longer have to deal with the feat of trying to make a link look in place or work with embedding. Now, videos are often part of the website design process, a consideration from the get-go; making it an integral part of the user experience. It’s a great way to communicate with the visitor, without focusing on content too much and just another element encouraging the user to stay on the page and invest time in the brand.
Animation is an incredibly effective way of engaging your audience, whilst keeping their attention on the main objective; whether they are using your site or an app. It is particularly useful when guiding a user around a website, or if you require them to take a specific action.
Take Facebook as an example, who use the typing bubble, with an animated ellipsis when someone is typing a reply to your message. This in-built animation is an essential tool to keep both parties of the conversation focused and interested.
Interactive animations are the ideal way to keep the user from getting bored or distracted, especially with the overwhelming amount of calls on our attention that a user is faced with. The way we communicate today, along with the speed that everything is done has resulted in the average attention span reducing dramatically; animation integration is a clever solution with great results.
Mobile-First Web Design
Mobile-first design is not new, yet many designers, as well as brands, are apprehensive about the process. As a new brand, it would be the perfect starting point and whilst it requires a complete change in the design process when compared to original desktop web design; it will be well worth it when you consider the following:
- One in ten internet users go online exclusively through a mobile device [emarketer.com]
- Mobile only internet users are expected to rise from 27.8 million in the USA (2015) to an estimated 34.4 million in 2017, with a steady forecasted growth to almost double by 2020. [emarketer.com]
With the internet now being carried around in our pockets and on our wrists, a mobile-first design approach is not only the obvious but the necessary choice. It’s an essential process to keep up with the growth of mobile-only users across the globe and supports you in focusing on how you can deliver more for less (less screen real estate, less memory and functionality, etc).
These latest design ‘trends’ are prevailing because they are responding to real-life consumer needs and expectations, and then exceeding some. They are not fads, nor flimsy. They have been created with purpose. So remember, design is about style and substance.