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Blog Description:

The latest content in user experience design, research, and strategy. Articles on the latest trends, valuable resources, and career advice for the UX community. Weekly podcast episodes hosted by Nicholas Tenhue with digital design professionals and respected thought leaders in the field of User Experience as guests.
Blog Added: June 26, 2016 04:34:42 AM
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A Quick Guide to UX Writing

UX writers help create a great customer experience through the written word. It’s a role more companies are looking to hire.

“I don’t get this and I never will!”

Just about everyone has felt this way at some point when attempting to understand something new. Whether it’s furniture assembly instructions posted on a website or a guide to using a new software package, the difference between a satisfied user and a frustrated one can boil down to one thing: words. This is why tech companies are now employing the talents of UX writers. The field is growing faster than average.

UX writers help create a great customer experience through the written word. The following guide is designed to help writers add UX writing to their skill set, and to help other professionals understand how writing plays a role in overall UX.

Understanding UX Writing

First, there are a lot of similarities between copywriting and UX writing. Both are jobs intended to make a product easier to understand and more desirable to users. The difference is that the job of copywriting is traditionally done after the design phase.

For example, a web design team may create the layouts and functionality for a new web page. They then send screenshots or mock-ups to the marketing department complete with ‘Lorem Ipsum’ space holders. Then, copywriters are given the task of filling that space up with instructions, information, or calls to action.

The problem with this approach is that everything the user sees on that webpage was created by the coordinated efforts of the web design team. The only exception is the words that appear on that page. As a result, the written content may not be as clear as it could be.

With UX writing, content creators are an integral part of the design team whether that’s for an app, software package, website, or online content. Any copywriter knows how frustrating it can be to communicate something to an audience while being constrained by both inches and word count. While the UX writer still faces constraints, the situation is greatly improved when content is prioritized during the design process.

For tech companies, this is the best of both worlds. Content is maximized for user experience. In addition to this, those creating it also have an understanding of communicating branding.

Which Companies Hire UX Writers?

Tech companies such as Spotify, Google, Amazon, Wix, and others have UX writers on staff. Major retailers such as CVS, Nordstrom, and Honeywell do as well. Those are just a few examples of some of the major players who have or are adding these positions. Essentially, any organization that uses on-screen text to communicate with users can benefit from the talents of a UX writer.

What Does a UX Writer Do?

UX writers are sometimes referred to as microcopy writers. They write the text that users see as they are navigating their way through apps, websites, devices, and software. They provide the content for error messages, on-screen help text, pull down menu content, and more. In some companies, this is an entirely different position from web copywriting. In others, they are one in the same.

UX writers contribute to a better experience by making things clear and intuitive. They must also communicate effectively while also keeping branding in mind.

Necessary Skills For a UX Writer 

Not all writers can succeed at UX writing. They must have the ability to be concise. Even when content is part of the design process, there is always a limitation in what can be fit onto a computer screen. Space becomes even more limited on phones and IOT devices.

It’s also important to be able to communicate diplomatically. In many cases, a UX writer is creating simple explanations and error message text, for example. They must be able to do that without coming across as patronizing or confusing and frustrating the customer more. At the same time, they must also maintain brand voice.

UX writers must also be careful not to be intrusive. Not everything the customer sees on the screen requires extra help or explanation. For example, hover help is great when something could be confusing. On the other hand, it’s intrusive when it isn’t needed.

Understanding And Thinking Like a User

Just like copywriters must rely on customer personas to communicate effectively, so must UX writers. This means looking at screens, putting themselves in the role of the user, and understand what they are trying to accomplish. A good UX designer will recognize points of potential friction and frustration. They can also recognize opportunities to offer extra information, even push someone a bit further down the sales funnel.

Helpful Technical Skills

Because UX writers often work with design teams during the development process, there are some skills that can be helpful to them. These include:

  • Developing familiarity with agile and other development methodologies
  • Using collaborative tools such as Google Docs
  • Learning the UX design process
  • Using A/B testing software
  • Using Videoconferencing software
  • Learning prototyping tools
  • Use of project management and collaboration tools such as Trello
  • Learning to recognize brand voice and to apply branding to microcopy

While there is no degree specifically for UX writing, many employers require a degree in English or technical writing. However, there are plenty of job opportunities that are more flexible. In large part, this is a career where you must build your own skill set. Successful UX writers have skills that can be learned in a combination of classes such as:

  • Web Design
  • Marketing
  • Digital Marketing
  • Content Planning And Management
  • Brand And Product Development
  • Technical Writing
  • Project Management
  • Data Analytics

Helpful Soft Skills

First and foremost, UX writers should work well in teams. They spend a lot of time in meetings and collaborative sessions. It helps to be articulate. They should be able to explain ideas and understand how their goals work in concert with those of others. It is also helpful to be naturally curious. While a UX writer does not need to understand technology at the coding level, they should be willing able to learn basic concepts.

Getting Started

Becoming a UX writer and applying those skills begins with developing or adapting the right skillset. Those who already work in writing or software design are already ahead of the game. The next step is to look at examples of UX. Websites that are easy to navigate or apps that users adapt to quickly are usually that way because they offer great UX. UX writers can learn by paying attention to the ways in which written content contributes to that experience.


About the Author

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Leona Henryson is a freelance writer and UX designer at Essay Supply. Also, she is a contributing writer for various blogs. When she is not writing or designing, she is swimming, hiking, and, weather permitting, snowboarding.



10 Ways to Improve Your Website Design

It’s not easy creating a website design that works. It really isn’t...

It’s not easy creating a website design that works. It really isn’t.

Did you know that when a visitor arrives on your website, you have about five seconds (or less) to capture their attention and keep them where they are? That’s not a whole lot of time to impress someone, so if your load time is not perfect or your site’s navigation is all over the place, you can say goodbye to your visitors.

Believe it or not, the rapidly changing world of technology is not helping with this, either. New trends can easily make your website outdated and render it all but useless, leaving you with fewer visitors than you started with.

So, how are you supposed to fix this issue and keep your visitors? How do you create a website that looks good, functions perfectly, and communicates your message clearly?

A complete redesign comes to mind as a valid option, but in some situations, you just won’t be able to do it. Full redesigns are expensive and take time, which means that not only will you have to invest additional money in the project, but also put your website on hold for the foreseeable future.

However, even if a redesign is out of the picture, there’s no reason to panic. There are still a lot of ways out there for you to improve your website without having to spend your life savings and lose any more visitors. 

In the infographic which follows below, we talk about ten ways to improve your website design and give you tips on how you can immediately boost your site and, with it, your online presence. We’ve covered everything from moving to responsive design to paying more attention to color schemes, so we’re sure that you’ll be able to find something that will help you better your site in no time at all. 

Happy reading and good luck!

1. Make sure your entire website is responsive

responsive design

Over the past couple of years, people have started using their mobile phones more for browsing the web, which is what ultimately led websites to move to a mobile-friendly or responsive design and why Google began penalizing sites that are not mobile-friendly in 2015. So, if you have your website, you have probably created a responsive version of it by now—if you haven’t, it’s high time that you do. A responsive design will do wonders for your website regarding SEO and help you position yourself higher in SERPs.

2. Simplify your navigation

simple navigation

If you don’t want your visitors to run away from your website because they can’t get the hang of your navigation, then do your best to make it as simple as possible. You’ll want to have no more than seven items in your menu (the point is to make it easy for people to move around your website), try to be as descriptive as possible in your labels, and even keep your navbar fixed. That way, your visitors will be able to stay longer than five seconds on your site.

3. Improve page speed for lower bounce rate and longer sessions

page speed

Website speed has long been discussed in the world of marketing, and it’s one of the main reasons why a lot of visitors tuck tail and run away from certain websites. In fact, if you’ve got even a two-second delay in your load time during a transaction, the chances are that your potential customers will abandon their carts and you’ll end up with one customer less than you started with. So, work on speeding up your websites before you do anything else—there are even tools out there that you can use to help you out!

4. Make a clear Call to Action, guide user behavior

call to action

Does having a CTA button on your page matter at all? Does making it a certain color change something in the way your users act on your website? It sure does! Studies have shown that orange CTA buttons boost conversion rates by 32.5%, while red buttons boost rates by a whole 21%. Now, that’s a huge difference right there for your website! Plus, if you want your CTAs to be game-changing, make sure to use actionable words in them such as: discover, start, learn, etc.

5. Make the most of social media, we live in a world of sharing

social media

If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past decade, then you might have noticed that social media networks have taken over the world. There are 800 million monthly active users on Instagram and 100 million daily active users on Twitter, which is why it’s important for your website to offer social buttons to your visitors. There’s a chance that they will like what they see, share their thoughts on their profiles, and boost your presence even further. 

6. Use white space to create a visual hierarchy  

white space web design

Moving from the social media talk to more technical parts of your website once more. What’s so special about white space, you might wonder? Well, first of all, it doesn’t have to be white—that’s just how designers refer to it. Secondly, it’s worth mentioning that research has shown that the use of white space in the left and right margins, and in between paragraphs, increases reader comprehension by almost 20%. Adding white space means more user interaction, the page looks better, and you can highlight your CTAs with more ease if you have enough white space to go around.

7. Use photos, a picture is worth a thousand words

photos in web design

Let’s face it: we all like visuals. Whether they’re photos, videos, GIFs, or drawings, they are more likely to draw our attention on a page than any piece of text, no matter how great it may be. According to research, users spend 10% more time looking at pictures of people on 'About Us' pages, than they do reading content associated with those photos. This means that you should try to incorporate great visuals as much as you can on your website. Many websites offer stock photos:

8. Use color theory to your advantage

choice of color

The color of something as small as a CTA button matters, as does the choice of color on your entire website. You’ll want to pick one dominant color for your whole site and brand, and then add complementary colors to complete the perfect scheme. The standard language for color communication (yes, that’s a thing!) is called Pantone, and everyone who’s at least a little bit in the business of marketing or design knows about it.

9. Custom illustrations can reinforce your brand

custom illustrations

What’s even better to add to your website than regular, old stock photos? Custom illustrations, of course! They can truly play an important part in keeping your visitors on your site and serve as a great piece of decoration. If you have an in-house designer who’s able to draw doodles and illustrations for your website, then make sure to go for it! Original always beats stock, anyway. Your brand and marketing team will thank you.

10. Use motion and animation with intent

animations

Last but not least, we’re going to talk about animations. Just like all visuals, animations in the form of galleries and slideshows can be a fantastic addition to your website, but what you need to keep in mind is that these are not the only animations that can be found on a site. There’s eight of them, including loading animation (which is there to annoy us all), hover, scrolling, background, and so on. A lot of work goes into creating animations that look good, but once they’re done the right way, your visitors and website will thank you for it.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this article and that you’ll be able to improve your website design in no time at all!

This article was provided by the software development company, KOLOSEKYou can download the full infographic from their website.

references



The MVP is dead, long life to the MAP. (Minimum Awesome Product)

I will say this bluntly and without sugar coating … the MVP has died. What does that mean for product and UX designers?

I will say this bluntly and without sugar coating … the MVP has died. What does that mean for product and UX designers?

MVP: Minimum Viable Product

The minimum viable product (MVP) is a product with enough features to satisfy the initial customers, and provide feedback for future development. Some experts suggest that in B2B, an MVP also means saleable.

“It is not an MVP until it sells. Viable means that you can sell it”.

Yes, this is a copy-paste of a simple definition in Wikipedia. One that I agree with in many aspects. Mainly due to one factor, the analysis. In my opinion a more accurate definition of MVP would be:

The minimum viable product (MVP) is the one that allows us to launch the product with the least amount of features possible so that we can learn and extract relevant information from this trial period and user interaction through a series of metrics and then act based on that data.

The best (and most common) way to explain an MVP is using this famous image.

 Image by Henrik Kniberg. Example of MVP.

Image by Henrik Kniberg. Example of MVP.

The approach is simple.

Do you want to make a car? Perfect! Let’s begin the process. How? First a wheel, then another, then another, then the engine, etc…Is there a problem? It will take too long to create the car we want. Solution? First make a skate, then a bicycle, then a motorcycle and then we end up with the car.

Is the process longer? Yes. Is it more viable? Yes of course!

I will not go into detail about the process of an MVP as there is enough information on this. We are here to comment on the death of the MVP, and the reasons that lead me to believe this.

fast good cheap

It is difficult to do anything that is good, pretty and cheap. At the end there is the need to prioritize when making an MVP. The costs have to be low, at the end of the day it’s a simple “test”, but…

Are potential customers willing to lose quality (or at least the appearance of quality) just because this is a test?

That is the point that I want to get to and I would like to explain; with the new times, new technologies and especially new generations, the internet is no longer a novelty, and e-commerce is no longer a novelty, a free chat application is no longer a novelty. Everything has changed.

A few years ago, with the boom of the new technologies, a potential client was 30 years old, just had started to get internet at home, and the smartphones, it was almost unthinkable to have one if you weren’t an executive, but everything has changed.

My neighbor of 12 years carries a smartphone with a capacity of x100,000 which is what NASA needed 40 years ago for the Apollo 11.

The technological evolution is taking giant steps and consumers are also advancing and moving forward even if they do it at a slower pace.

Yikes! When I was 14 years I didn't know or hear about Facebook, Instagram, Amazon or Whatsapp. None of them existed.  Who in the world at any range between 18–40 years do not know about these services now? Few, if any.

What is the problem with all this?

Users are accustomed to a minimum of quality, and they expect that of all new products.

What does it mean? That all users expect a new social application to share the activity of that application (whatever it may be) with other social networks. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Whatsapp, etc… it’s that simple.

If our product does not have such a simple feature, people will automatically believe that it is a bad quality product and they will not take it seriously. It is not what they expect.

Hence my suggestion that the MVP has died and Map was born.

MAP: Minimum Awesome Product.

In the present time, when you’re considering the development of a new product (whether physical, web, app, etc…) You don’t only ask yourself “This is the minimum that I need to make it viable?”, at first, it seems the right question, but the approach changes when we pose the following question.

Is this the minimum of incredible product that I can create to be viable?

quality curve

The change of context is important. Before we only had in mind that the product being launched was functional enough. That the customer/user could do at least 2–3 basic things perfectly, but the client has grown, the client understands 5–6 basic things easily, we have to offer something more, something with which feels familiar and something that will surprise you at the same time.

The best way to see this approach is with an example.

 Example of job search app design, both designs made in little more than 1h. Sorry, in Spanish.

Example of job search app design, both designs made in little more than 1h. Sorry, in Spanish.

What are the differences between the two products? They are really showing the same content. Both have:

Header and Item of employment (which includes: name, date, company, type and remuneration).

But it seems more reliable and attractive in MAP to the user/end customer.

The target of this dummy application is a person (male or female) between 18–36 years, who knows the functions of the online job search, it is possible that they have used the Job type of applications and Talent, LinkedIn, JobToday, etc.

 Example of current job search apps.

Example of current job search apps.

How do we intend to compete in 2017–2018 with a mediocre product when our competitors have apps with several years of advantage and with hundreds of thousands of customers already using them?

Not only do we have to bear in mind that we have to compete with features (features), speed and fluidity, but also in the design of the product, because the user/end customer already has pre-designed in his head “how an application for employment should be”.

“The true competition is to offer a better experience on our product.”

And a better experience includes everything: features, speed, fluidity and design. This is essential to compete head-to-head against other apps.

6–8 years ago when there was no “standard” design or design patterns, everything was to be discovered.

 A simple graph of what was or was being sought with an MVP, which requires a MAP.

A simple graph of what was or was being sought with an MVP, which requires a MAP.

A quick final example, in a new social network, do we really expect a product that does not have, for example, a search bar, a messaging system and a system of favorites or likes? No. We already have the pattern in our head about how things should look like in a social network.

That is why at the time of launch for a new product, in addition to being quick, viable and economically speaking, affordable, we need to be as “awesome” as possible with the resources that we have. We need to make an effort to provide an experience that the user/client can find to be good enough to give you a chance.

“Not only do we have to search for the minimum viable product, it is necessary to look for the best product experience possible with the resources that we have.”

Obviously, there is one detail that Dave McClure mentioned about my article on Twitter, and it's so important…

MAP depends a lot on how “awesome” the available alternatives are in your target industry. If zero alternatives, then MVP = MAP; if lots of options, then MAP > MVP.
dave mcclure

Thank you very much Dave for your comment, very correct. What would be an approach with this idea? Simple.

alternatives vs no alternatives

So the next time you think about MVP, think about MAP, (unless you have no competition, then your MVP will automatically be a MAP, as there is no reference): fewer features, but all properly designed.

mvp to map

Before creating any new feature in your product (MVP) think… do you really need this? If the answer is “Yes”, perfect, do it, but make sure that it works wonderfully (MAP).

“If you’re going to make a new product, think about what your customers expect and try to provide the best experience and product possible.”

And many people will ask… Where can I find developers or designers to make a MAP? Wrong question! It’s not about developers or designers, it’s about the manager. You have to raise expectations, motivate and know that everything needs your time, you can’t do a MAP in a few weeks or a month. And you have to accept it!

You need to manage and accept that everything needs your time and maturity. Better management is the solution for creating a good MAP.

Tell us what you think in the comments!

Disclaimer: Many people will say that the map is the same as the MVE (Minimum Viable Experience), I agree about 90%, but I am more in favor of the experience being merged with a good product, but it does not have to offer a good product design. For example, Craigslist, despite the fact that their service is extremely efficient, the product design very poor, so I prefer to search for products that are as awesome as possible. MAP.


About the Author

Carlos Beneyto

Carlos Beneyto is currently Lead Product Designer at Startupxplore, the premium investment platform, where he applies MAP principles. Check out Startupxplore, the startup funding community. Startupxplore is an online platform created to connect and promote the startup community and its main actors: startups…startupxplore.com



Building an Atomic Design System with Sketch Library

Sketch libraries will definitely change the way we design today. Here are few other things we learned while building atomic system

Thought I’d share my journey on creating the first Product design system at my company.

I remember the first day I joined Capital Float, I asked my colleague if there was a style-guide I could use in Sketch. He told me we didn’t have any style-guide and only had some screens designed, most of them in Photoshop.

The problem is that we have multiple products (internal and external), and they were based on different front-end frameworks. He told me that my mission was to define a visual guideline to unify all of our products.

I understood I will have to make a style-guide, to have one source of truth and make our products consistent, while working on new features planned in the roadmap.

Few brainstorming meetings and a month later, we decided to quickly make a first style-guide. It looked like this:

 The first attempt style-guide

The first attempt style-guide

We used this Sketch file as a starter template, we haven’t created symbols yet! After using this method for few weeks, we started facing problems. We had to design many features and faced many inconsistency issues as products were becoming more complex. It was also often difficult to stay synced together, and with developers. We were loosing too much time doing always the same small tasks. Till now we had a goal of building a design system but hadn’t worked on one!

The day we started to build an actual system

I was really inspired by design systems from big companies like SalesforceAtlassianShopifyIBM and of course Google Material design. So I started to learn everything about design system to understand how to build one. I also searched for the best design workflow and got really inspired by all the great content written on Medium.

Goals of Our Library

In order to understand some of the thinking that went into our decisions, here’s a brief overview of what we were trying to achieve with our design system:

  1. Standardized elements and a Unified design system for all of our products, regardless of platform.
  2. Creating a 1:1 match as far as possible with our coded components and sketch symbols, both visually and structurally.
  3. Easy to maintain. Component updates or additions should be simple so that designers and developers get the latest without much wait.

First thing first

Before we jump to what all things to be added, we had to define certain rules to make elements reusable and atomic in true sense. So we decided to go for a nested libraries instead of single source file. Doing so allowed us to split things like colors and icons into different Sketch files and then reference symbols across those files. If you make an update to a symbol in one of the files, it will still propagate to the other files that reference that symbol. (Great feature, Sketch! 🙌)

We have outlined certain patterns/rules to maintain “Workplace Hygiene

  1. File and folder structure
  2. Pages and Art-boards management (Art-board as variant of a screen, Pages as features)
  3. Don’t repeat yourself (Use Symbols)
 File and folder structure

File and folder structure

 Pages and Artboard management

Pages and Artboard management

Level 0: Quarks and electrons

Adding a layer under the Atomic system might seem a strange move, but it made the file easier to use. Also, it helped us balance between pre-built design elements and reusability. I consider colors and icons not as atoms but more like attributes of elements like electrons and quarks. Colors can be used everywhere, as backgrounds, text, borders etc. Treating colors as elements made icons file more consistent. These are symbols but mostly being used as over-rides in atomic level symbols.

 Design System Colors - Download sample file:  https://goo.gl/9WdLYR

Design System Colors - Download sample file: https://goo.gl/9WdLYR

We defined formula symbol to generate variation of a color and reuse it to generate palette. So that we just have to worry about base colors. Formulas arenothing but an overlay on a base color and works the same way as Shades & Tint.

Level 1: Atoms

Atoms represent singular elements of UI design which carry unique functionality. While defining atoms we also consider how these elements behave in HTML.

Everything that can be defined and used individually are atoms. For example card, tooltip, shadow, divider, button, logos, cursors etc.

A lot of these elements have different states and variations from which designer can choose. All these states are named exactly how it is used in development. Atoms are also likely to be used as overrides unless you are creating a custom UI.

Level 2: Molecules

This is the section where most of the magic happen! Molecules help us reduce our repeated work and allow us to bring consistency in design. Every molecule is built to offer exchangeable content, e.g. button states change, removing/hiding some elements.

Whole idea of molecules is to think generic.
 Variations of a generic component

Variations of a generic component

A Molecule generally consists of multiple elements (text, images, symbols) but yet designed to be abstract and reusable. They have an intermediate level of complexity, such as Tabs, status-bar, action-bar, list-rows, modals, alert messages etc.

Level 3: Organisms and Pages

At this moment, this level contains very few elements like page-headers, tables, Play/App Store mockups, date-pickers, keyboards etc. The reason for this is that I find it difficult to see sense in providing pre-built organisms, as this level designing often depends on the project we are working on and features and content that should be displayed.

Of course, all project has repeating organisms in pages, but they are often derived from individual needs and requirements. So better to use symbols here.

Pages or templates are actual output of a design process, so we decided not to include these level in the Atomic design system.

Last words

Sketch libraries will definitely change the way we design today. Here are few other things we learned while building atomic system:

  1. Order of layers in your symbol matter. As they will appear in the same order in the Override panel. You can also lock some layers to avoid clutter.
  2. Use Sketch runner to search and insert symbols as it has better preview than what Sketch currently has.
  3. Use Sketch Styles Generator to generate shared text and layer styles.
  4. If you are from a non-programming background and want to know how developers see design elements, use Sketch Measure plug-in to export your designs. It also helps in easing design handover.
Undoubtedly sketch is improving our design process but there are still few important missing features such as..
  1. Shared text and layer styles are not actually shareable outside your file!
  2. Exporting assets from symbols with overrides is a pain! Check out this thread for more info.
  3. Versioning control for libraries. (Unlike developer’s version control, Sketch allows to move only to higher/latest version of a component)
  4. Symbols as a mask

If you have feedback/question for implementation of design system or want to discuss other things please feel free to comment.


About the Author

Pratik

I am Pratik Shah, an Indian multidisciplinary designer with 5+ years of experience in UI/User Experience & web development. Check out his website here: http://pratikshah.website/



UX Best Practices for User Retention

The most successful apps give us a reason to come back every day. We return to Facebook and Twitter every day because of the community social media fosters -- for better or worse.

The most successful apps give us a reason to come back every day. We return to Facebook and Twitter every day because of the community social media fosters -- for better or worse. When you need to check your bank balance (which, admit it, is most of us daily), you visit the Chase app. But there are plenty of non-essential lifestyle apps we use regularly. What keeps us coming back to the apps we don’t need for survival?

A reported 77% of users stop using an app within the first three days after download. The ultimate goal of any mobile app is having an accessible and rewarding user experience. UX developers know that the best design excites the user or makes a difficult task easier, which is a key factor in retaining users. These best practices will turn your app from a one-time use download to lifestyle.

First Impressions

You want your app to make an impression, while not being too overwhelming. Creating a User Experience that finds a balance is critical. Make sure that the user onboarding is flawless and representative of the experience to come. Onboarding should be as seamless and friendly as possible. You want the user to feel like they are a trusted member of a community, not just another email for a newsletter.

Collecting consumer information during onboarding is a common business goal, but can be difficult. Be sure to set requirements on info fields that are absolutely essential, while allowing the user to skip as many steps as possible for info that is less valuable. If you need to send a verification code, do it over text, not email, to keep users engaged with your interface. Providing a user-friendly interface to eschew with this menial process quickly will give users a positive first impression.

From a design perspective, it is essential to give a brief tutorial that will show off your top design features while easing the user into the feedback loop of UX that you want to create. Give the option for a walkthrough with visual indicators of where to swipe or tap next. A systematic approach where each step answers a question the user may have from the one before. Make it visual. Users tend to withdraw when having to read a whole bunch of text in the first minutes of using a new app.

Create a Feedback Loop

Creating a loop is crucial and the key to keeping users hooked. What is the ultimate purpose of your app? What type of content lives on your app that users can’t live without? Using motion design can give your users the feedback needed to create such a loop.

If a user takes action, motion can be used to reinforce that action. In iOS when you tap and hold an app icon, the widgets become wobbly indicating a change in mode. This shows you can move the icons. The X in the upper-right hand corner of the widgets indicates these apps can be deleted; this is all communicated via motion design to provide visibility of system status.

An excellent example of a negative feedback loop is Apple’s “horizontal shake”. You know, when you enter your password incorrectly on your iPhone and the popup window “shakes” back and forth. This gesture is instantly recognizable and gives the user an immediate understanding of the problem.

The user should know where they are within the app’s flow and how exactly they got there. Each step of the process should be crystal clear, from step A to step Z. Failure to create such a flow will result in a poor UX irritates the user, and will ultimately result in deletion of the app or lack of use.

Tweak or Redesign

While not every aspect of retaining users is UX dependent, there are good strategies to ensure continued growth. Unfortunately, there is no hard and fast rule to determine what needs fixing. Often when building an app from the ground up, it is a smart idea to begin with an MVP (minimum viable product). MVP is a strategy for gaining critical feedback in the early and most crucial stages of product development. The core concept is to get feedback with a stripped down version of your product that reflects the design and business philosophies you are to use.  

Minor tweaks are what it’s all about. Core tenants of your product, especially the ones that are working, must stay consistent. Often, designs that work well do not receive active user feedback; seamlessly integrated interaction design patterns feel natural and should be second nature. Users will let you know what’s not working for them. You just need to ask and listen.

Only implement design changes that do not interfere with the flow of your feedback loop. Users will complain about changes, but given time; users will adjust. Only implement a major redesign if you feel you do not have a sizable enough user base to leave. In extreme cases, it will fix your UX to undergo a complete rebranding in an attempt to soft-reboot your brand.  This approach doesn’t always bode well, but plenty of companies like Target, Harley-Davidson and even Apple have successfully rebranded.



Not so scary: Using Design Thinking for Haunted Houses

Unknowingly (at first), I studied human behavior to give people what they want: nail-biting, scream-inducing fun.

(aka The Haunted House Queue Line Disaster)

Ever since I was could walk, I’ve been obsessed with Halloween and design. This passion evolved from building a haunted (grass-killing) maze on my parent’s front-lawn to designing large scale, scary, mountaintop attractions which cater to the thousands. Unknowingly (at first), I studied human behavior to give people what they want: nail-biting, scream-inducing fun.

In retrospect, my decision to become a UX Designer was a no-brainer. Both jobs require creativity, observation of human behavior and problem-solving to design a product tailored to a particular audience. Now that I’m a UX professional, I have names for these things. It’s called Design Thinking and we follow its steps daily: empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test. Whether it’s defining new features based on a customer interview or listening to our audience’s screams, my best decisions have been informed by Design Thinking.

Let me take you behind the scenes, to demonstrate the connection between Design Thinking and Haunted Attractions.

It was a dark and stormy night

Just kidding, it was a clear night in the beginning of October. Atop Thunder Ridge Ski Mountain, nestled deep in the woods, our haunted village lay polished (well, maybe a little bloodstained) and ready to go. Our production team and the cast had spent months preparing for this moment.

Opening Night!

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Our cast got into character — donning robes, chains and airbrush makeup — transforming themselves from cleaning ladies and deli clerks into vampires, psychos and an assortment of vile characters. The Bone Collector exercised his voice as he finished his sandwich, careful not to get any fake blood on it. The haunting scenes and soundtracks were switched on, and our haunted village came to life! Hearing the squeaks of approaching hay wagons, our production ghouls rushed to the peephole to watch as our first groups arrived.

Filled to the brim with our customers, the hay wagons creaked along the narrow gravel road up the mountain. By the time they emerged from the dark woods into the clearing at the top, our customers became our victims — full of nervous anticipation and screaming with delight. As families and couples were offloaded, they confronted a decrepit, glowing Victorian mansion towering three-stories above them.

Terror building

Breathing deeply, the now hushed customers walked slowly along the snake of the queue line, which led them to the ominous house. They laughed nervously, hearing echoing screams and clanking coming from somewhere and nowhere. We had our new victims just where we wanted them. 

As the everyone moved closer to the front doors, the queue line netting swelled causing the crowd to grow denser. The large, hooded gatekeeper emerged from behind the shadows and snarled “WHO’s NEXT? HOW MANY VICTIMS IN YOUR GROUP?” Everyone stepped back in fear, except for a large knot of uncertain people who inched forward. The gatekeeper’s bright red lips growled with the rules of the Haunt as she sent that group through the entrance doors. The door slammed and louder screams ensued.

Terror fading

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The impatient crowd moved still closer, squishing together. Someone shouted: “We are 7, no 8! We already heard the rules. Can we go in now?!” The gatekeeper wanted to bring this large group inside but the rest of the crowd was too close. So, she stalled, screaming once again, “NO, YOU MUST LISTEN TO MY RULES!” As more hay wagons arrived, this scenario continued. Scary enthusiasm turned to eye rolling. Equally frustrated, our professional gatekeeper had little choice. She barked the rules over and over.

Design Thinking Step 1: Empathize - We witnessed our customers’ frustration with our queue line implementation and heard their feedback in real time. This helped us get into their shoes and feel their pain.  We saw how little things could add up to a big problem!

Our production crew’s concern grew along with the crowd size, as the entrance became packed with irritated customers. “We’ve heard the rules already. Let us in!” Their fear was dissipating quickly. We were losing our crucial scary built up, our terror! Our perfected screams were drowned out by annoyed parents and first dates who were now cutting in line, ignoring our carefully rehearsed directions. 

Design Thinking Step 2: Define - We shared observations, hearsay, and customer feedback. This helped us identify three problem areas: re-hearing the rules, too much space for people to stand and not enough separation.

We never expected our customers to push the queue netting and move so close to the gatekeeper. The production ghouls quickly called an emergency meeting huddling in a hallway in the middle of the haunted house! Chains rattled, monsters roared and chainsaws wailed as we calmly talked through this emergency. 

Design Thinking Step 3: Ideate - Using a stick to draw our concepts in the sand, we quickly sketched out solutions to those three problems.

A solution rises from the dead

The following day, as the sun set atop the mountain, we sprung into action, merging our two concepts into one fluid prototype. First, we moved the queue line back about 40 feet from its original position right against the entrance. Next, we tapered it, causing the crowd to automatically funnel into smaller groups. Finally, a coarse old rope was placed across the now-tapered queue line exit where the ineffective netting had been. Rushing back to our peephole, production ghouls eagerly watched as the haywagon lurched up. As before, anxious customers funneled into the queue line as the spectacle came to life.

Design Thinking Step 4: Prototype - We created a prototype for our ideas and used the next night to put them to the test!

Then something amazing happened. The tapered queue line swelled but stayed true. Couples got closer, groups stayed together and all got into single file! The gatekeeper screamed, running  up to the rope, causing the crowd to jump back in fright. She snarled “HOW MANY VICTIMS IN YOUR GROUP?!” A meek girl stuttered “4-4-4 in our group”. The gatekeeper undid the rope and lead the trembling group of 4 to the front entrance. Now alone with the gatekeeper, that group held each other tighter as she barked the rules, leading them into the haunted village.

Design Thinking Step 5: Test - We observed our customers with our prototype queue line and witnessed a solution! All of our ideas had worked to help address the major pain points!

Cheering behind our peepholes, we ghouls high-fived each other. It worked! There were no line cuts, no one was frustrated, and fright was heightened as each group separated from the crowd! It’s scary how successful that year was.

Haunted houses and UX design

Being creative and thinking outside the box is sometimes a challenge in the corporate environment. Thankfully, my passion for haunts has only fueled my creativity, as it inspires me to try a different approach as a UX Designer.

During Halloween season, I lead a double life. Like Batman, my costume changes after hours. In the haunt industry, we transform our customer’s reality and make them experience a range of emotions in the middle of the woods! I encourage you to follow your own creative bliss and see how this added perspective inspires you to design new experiences for your customers. Try applying Design Thinking to your own interactions and hobbies. Who knows? Maybe your golf game or kid’s playdate will be your new testing ground for Design Thinking!

Come see us for a few laughs and screams: www.hauntingatthehollow.com

Or follow me for all things fun with a spooky twist: Instagram: @adamczarnik


About the Author

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Adam is a Senior UX Designer at PitneyBowes who has a passion for creating spooky Halloween  attractions and UX design. And it turns out those two jobs have a lot in common!!  His specialities are Web/Mobile Design, Graphic Design, Illustration, User Research, Wireframing/Prototyping, Front-end Development, Photography, Video, Airbrush, Fine Arts, Sculpture, Special FX, and Haunted House Fabrication. 



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