Atomic Design 101: Creating Structured Design Systems

Atomic Design is a design system created by Brad Frost and inspired by chemistry. It is a modular system founded on the principle that a whole system can be subdivided into smaller parts (modules) that can be independently created, replaced, modified, or exchanged with other smaller parts or across different systems. It is a methodology that has helped develop modern, structured design systems capable of evolving and incorporating the input of various designers. Atomic Design is an interesting topic if you are looking to improve the way you design, which is why we’ve created this brief overview to help you understand how it all works. 

Atomic Design: Atoms, Molecules, and Organisms

As mentioned earlier, this modular system is inspired by chemistry. When you studied chemistry at school, you probably learned (but you may have forgotten by now!) that atomic elements combine to make molecules. In turn, molecules combine with other molecules and atoms to create organisms. Organisms combine with atoms, molecules, and other organisms to create even more complex structures.

Here’s a quick chemistry refresher:

  • Atoms are the basic building blocks of everything. All matter consists of atoms, the smallest functional unit of ordinary matter. Each element has unique properties and cannot be reduced further without losing its chemical meaning. As a result, they often must be combined with other factors to create sense.
  • Molecules are formed when two or more atoms are held together by chemical bonds. Molecules have their purpose and are slightly more complex than an atom. A design system generally has more than one function or purpose. 
  • Organisms combine molecules and atoms (and sometimes other microorganisms). Organisms tend to be much more complex, larger in size, and in a design system, are multi-functional elements. 

This is a very simplified version of the chemical composition of the universe, but it should help you understand the basic principles behind Atomic Design. Everything can be broken down into atoms, and subsequently, anything can be built by combining any variety of particles. It is more of a mental model than a consistent linear process and is a way to think creatively and methodically design. 

How do you create a design system using atomic design?

The Atomic Design framework can inform the way you think about design and the practical steps you take to implement designs. Using the chemical hierarchy we’ve just highlighted, Atom Design functions via five stages, in the following order:

  • Atoms - Labels, buttons, inputs, etc.
  • Molecules - Tangible UI elements such as search forms, survey forms, list forms, etc.
  • Organisms - When atoms and molecules combine to create complex structures such as headers or form entry modals
  • Templates - Page-level objects that solidify the content structure, such as a dashboard, landing page, or login screen
  • Pages - Templates with specific content that represent the final product

As mentioned, Atomic Design is a mental model. Therefore, it is essential to see all UI elements as parts of a whole. However, only atoms can stand on their own. Therefore, all molecules, organisms, templates must be smaller components. The best way to start using the atomic design system is by thinking about all of the basic needs for your website and understanding which essential components you’ll need to create your more significant design elements, such as: 

  • Labels
  • Iconography
  • Buttons
  • Interactive Elements (Checkboxes, switches, radio buttons, etc.)
  • Typography
  • Form Fields

Am I limited to creating my designs using only the atomic design system?

Remember, Atomic Design is a modular system. This means that not every single UI element you create needs to be part of the design system; only the UI element components need to originate from the design system. If a new atom needs to be created for a molecule or organism, you should work with the owner of your design library to be added to the design system officially. There is room for expression within the atomic design system, as it is a system of thinking that encourages and rewards experimentation. Furthermore, once you have a library of UI elements, there are so many variations to experiment with that it is unlikely you will feel limited in any way.

When should I consider creating/adding a new element to the design system?

It would help if you considered creating or adding a new element when you have used the same few elements multiple times on multiple projects. One of the ways you can make sustainable progress to your design system, and prevent it from growing stale, is by adding elements that force you to innovate and come up with exciting ideas.

Equally, you can create new UI elements with pre-existing atomic elements and store these new UI elements locally in your design file. You don’t have to start from scratch every time. The atomic design system also ensures that you have solid foundational elements in your designs to create reliable and robust designs.

To learn more about creating structured design systems, feel free to contact our team of UI and UX experts. 


Understanding Data Visualization from a UX Designer’s Perspective

In today’s digital world, the number of connected devices that generate data has increased exponentially. Recent research by IDC revealed that the global data volume would reach 163 trillion gigabytes by 2025. With more businesses relying on this data for decision-making, the design of business dashboards has gained prominence in the past decade. UX designers often need to coherently and visually communicate quantitative data to their teams and users. Thus, it’s paramount for them to follow the best practices in making data representations engaging. With the power of data visualization, UX designers can create effective analogies that can simplify complex datasets for human minds.

At Radiant Digital, we help clients make the most of their business data by leveraging data visualization in UX. In this blog, we focus on how data visualization is a crucial enabler for decision-makers to simplify concepts, identify new patterns, and obtain actionable insights for better decision-making.

What is data visualization?

Data visualization is a representation technique that involves restructuring datasets to obtain actionable insights. It uses graphs, charts, images, and other formats to convey complex ideas and logic better. UX designers must familiarize themselves with visualization to best represent data in their designs.

What does data visualization offer?

  • Simplicity: Data visualization simplifies data analysis by converting data into color bars, lines, circles, and other visual attributes. The human brain can comprehend different datasets by converting them into easy-to-understand and communicating trends, patterns, behaviors, and conclusions.
  • Fidelity: For a given context, a colored chart/graph can enhance the quality of your UX design, including its look and feel. On the other hand, data tables make data hard to understand by individuals who are not experts.

Benefits of data visualization

  • Data simplification: A large volume of unstructured data can seem overwhelming for users. Data visualization makes it easy to comprehend by blending pie charts, graphs, line charts, etc.
  • Expedited decision-making: Data visualization helps gain quick insights into many data patterns. Hence, leaders can make informed decisions based on them with more confidence and without manual intervention.
  • Personalization to meet business needs: When UX designers handle raw datasets, they can use custom designs to personalize and represent them. As a result, they can render different visualization perspectives and deliver value to other user groups using the same data. For example, the same data can represent information differently to marketers, finance managers, and HR teams.

Critical considerations for data visualization

  • Capturing the intended message: When focusing on representing complex datasets, you should emphasize accuracy apart from efficiency and transparency: select chart attributes, colors, and designs to communicate information correctly. The type of chart you’ll use should be dependent on the context itself. So, keep checking on your goals to ensure that the intended message is not getting lost in the visualization project.
  • Designing to populate a large volume of datasets: The data visualization placeholders created initially may not always accommodate the required datasets. This results in a critical communication gap between the actual data and the framework. In such situations, UX designers should build a scalable data framework that flexibly accommodates large datasets.
  • Understanding the tools and technologies: You should know about your handling situation and which visualization tools/components will fit the best in such cases. Implementing an incorrect feature can mislead the audience and may even fail to communicate the underlying information. Instead, your intent should be to convey full info with suitable graphs and colors.
  • Embracing inclusivity: Adding colors to data visualization doesn’t add visual attractiveness. However, a study by Salesforce has revealed that colors are significant factors behind consumer decision-making. In addition, this study has shown how the application of different color palettes can add aesthetic value to other datasets. Here’re some tips that can be useful for you in this regard: Use various labels and icons; try to use colors with high contrasts; use colors and patterns to communicate different types of information.
  • Handling distortion: Taking care of data distortion is a must during a data visualization project. Remember that you’re trying to tell a story here, and distorted data can become a barrier there. Using proper color choices, appropriate data points, befitting data charts is essential in data visualization. In addition, you don’t want the audiences to reach a wrong conclusion from distorted datasets.

Methods to visualize your data via UX design

Bar graphs

If you’re dealing with datasets that can change over the years or are based on specific categorizations, bar charts would be ideal for representation. Here are a few helpful tips.

  • Maintain a chronological order of information represented by bars.
  • Include two axes: one for the timeline and the other for quantities.
  • If you’re trying to visualize datasets with multiple categories and don’t have any time restrictions, you can place the bars in either most to most minor or least to most orders.

Line graphs

Line graphs help visualize specific datasets for a particular period. Combining them with bar charts helps visualize critical business datasets effectively. However, line charts represent deviations more efficiently and organically.

Pie and donut charts

Pie charts and donut charts are critical data visualization attributes. However, these charts are often misused, considering most people fail to understand their purpose and the type of data best suited for them.

Heatmaps

Heatmaps contain large areas, often parted into different sections, cells, colors, etc., to represent a content group. For example, in heatmaps, dark shades represent popularity or high frequency, while lighter shades indicate lesser traffic.

Retrospective

Edward R. Tufte once said, “the essential test of design is how well it assists the understanding of the content, not how stylish it is.” Data visualization through UX design can simplify information to a wide range of users.

At Radiant Digital, we apply the best practices in data visualization to make data genuinely valuable for enterprises and their customers. Connect with us to transform how you represent information.


Gestalt psychology – Inspiring Exceptional UX Design with the Power of Perception

White space, grids, information architecture, principles, and purpose are all good UX design staples. An often-overlooked tool of UX design, however, is that of the subconscious. The human brain has a fascinating ability to observe an image and create a 'whole' more significant than the sum of its parts. It is wired to see structure, logic, and patterns that don't exist but are perceived by the onlooker. That's why we see children (and adults) often finding patterns and entities in things like abstract designs, trees, nature, etc.

Gestalt Principles – The Background

Gestalt Principles were initially devised in the 1920s when a group of German psychologists Max Wertheimer, Wolfgang Kohler, and Kurt Koffka developed theories around how people perceive the world around them. They aimed to understand how human perception can meaningfully interpret the chaotic stimuli surrounding them. This observation led to a set of descriptive principles, called Gestalt Principles, that connected the dots on human perception of objects and addressed the natural tendency to find order in disorder. These principles are at the heart of nearly every graphic design, adding inspiration and technique through well-placed elements, perceived as a "whole" in UX designs.

Why should Designers care about the Gestalt Principles?

Great designs are based on the best understanding of the influential role played by psychology in visual perception. Influencing how someone sees your design creations is a UX designer’s superpower. To achieve this, you'll need to understand how their mind reacts to the message given by your design.

Gestalt Principles allow designers to strategize and plan out their designs from the multiple lenses of the observer. They also help associate meaning to design complexity in the following ways:

  • Determine which design elements are the most effective in a given situation based on visual hierarchy, background shading, gradients, and contour. They also help in grouping similar items and distinguish discrete ones.
  • By influencing visual perception, designers can direct their attention to specific focus and actions while creating behavioral change.
  • Enabling the design team to solve a customer problem and meet user needs in a pleasing, relevant, and intuitive way.

Gestalt psychology and the Key Ideas Behind it

Gestalt psychology is a school of thought inspired by various principles associated with it. Taking advantage of the principles can help in thoughtful design creation that leverages the user’s subconscious mind's power. "The whole is other than the sum of the parts." — Kurt Koffka. This quote is Gestalt psychology in a nutshell. 'Gestalt' is German for "Unified Whole." When humans see a group of objects, we perceive them as a whole rather than seeing them as individual objects or the sum of the parts. Even when the parts are unrelated entities, we still end up looking to group them as some whole. Some critical concepts behind Gestalt psychology include:

Emergence (The Whole is Identified First)

Emergence includes forming intricate patterns from simple rules. When trying to identify an object, we first seek to perceive its outline. This outline pattern is then matched against shapes and objects already known to the user to find a match. When the whole emerges through this outline pattern association, the user starts to identify the parts that form the whole. When designing, UX designers must factor in that people will first identify the general form of elements. A well-defined and easy-to-spot object contour will communicate more quickly than a complicated one that is hard to recognize.

Reification (The Mind Fills in the Gaps)

Reification is a perception aspect in which the object (based on perception) contains more spatial information than what exists. As we try to match what we see to the familiar patterns in our memory, we find a close match and then fill in the gaps of what we should be seen.

Reification suggests that designers don’t need to present the complete outline for viewers to see it. We can discount parts of the outline while including enough to make for a close enough pattern match. Taking advantage of this principle is vital for creating minimalist designs.

Multi-Stability (The Mind Seeks to Avoid Uncertainty)

Multi-stability inspires ambiguous perceptual experiences to move unstably back and forth between two or more interpretations.

For example, the image above is perceived either as two faces or a vase, but never both at once. Instead, you switch back and forth quickly between the one that is your dominant perception and the other, the less dominant one. From a design perspective, it's essential to find a way to get users to see an alternative. Then, work to strengthen that view while weakening the insignificant view.

Invariance (Inclination Towards Recognizing Variants of the Same Object)

Invariance is a perception attribute in which simple objects are recognized independent of their orientation, scale, and translation. Humans may encounter objects from different perspectives. This has led to the ability to recognize them despite their varying appearances.

Recognizing someone you know when they stand directly facing you but not from a different facial profile is a prime example of this property.

The 7 Guiding Gestalt Principles in Design

When humans see a complicated arrangement, the brain tends to look for patterns and fill in the missing pieces. This principle takes advantage of the negative space between components and allows users to perceive shapes and patterns based on their arrangement. You can use cleverly placed elements (lines, dots, shapes, etc.) in different and imaginative ways to let users appreciate them when they recognize pleasing “wholes” in them.

This principle is excellent for graphic design and logo creation.

Facebook applies this principle for elements of likes, comments, shares, etc., that appear within the boundaries of a post while standing apart from others. Using this principle, designers can exhibit a connection/relation between elements by enclosing them somehow. Everything outside this enclosure is seen as unrelated. Combining this with the Law of Similarity, which we will discuss shortly, can help emphasize the relationship between component groups. Placing a border around a series of components creates a visual indicator and a subconscious connection with those components.

This principle is predominantly used for designing social media and web pages.

This principle states that when objects appear to be similar, users usually group them. Additionally, they also tend to think these elements function the same way. This grouping may be done based on size, shape, color, orientation, dimension, texture, and other object attributes that appear the same.

For example, by coloring your form fields on your login page or your buttons the same color, an association is formed between them, and a user will understand that the form fields are related. When similarity prevails, an object, different from the rest, can be emphasized and called ‘Anomaly.’ It is usually used to create visual weight or contrast that draws the user’s attention to specific focal point discoverability.

Elements arranged closer to each other or grouped are perceived as related than those placed further apart. White space is vital as it creates a contrast to guide the user in the intended direction visually.

Element spacing boosts visual hierarchy and information flow, contributing to easy-to-scan layouts. With proximity, users can achieve their visualization goals faster and delve deeper into the content.

This principle states that the element/object that stands out visually will be the first point of interest that grabs the viewer's attention. This may include on-screen elements breaking from a pattern, such as a square within a series of circles. Buttons, checkboxes, and radio buttons are excellent examples of Gestalt's Focal point principle put into practice. Users immediately notice and focus on these elements because they have a different size, shape, or color than the other aspects.

Elements arranged in a soft curve or line are perceived as more relatable than those set in a harsh line or randomly. The human eye naturally follows a pattern in orientation, making a more decisive relativity aspect than the similarity of color, size, etc. This principle strengthens the perception of grouped information, guiding users through different segments by creating an order. Disruption of continuity can signify the end of a section drawing attention to a new content segment.

Tabs on the top of a web browser or the navigation options of a website are great examples. These options are generally vertical or horizontally aligned.

People instinctively perceive objects as either present in the foreground or the background. Design components are either prominent in the front (the figure) or recede to the background. The human brain will interpret the larger image area as the ground and the smaller as the figure. This principle can be useful when product designers want to highlight a focal point as an active or in-use element. The figure/ground relationship can stable or unstable depending on how simple it is to determine each element.

The aspects guiding this principle include:

  • Area - The smaller of two overlapping objects is seen as the figure while the larger is seen as ground.
  • Convexity - Convex patterns tend to be perceived as figures while the concave ones become the ground.

An on-screen component like a tooltip or a popover appearing on top or in the foreground exemplifies this principle.

Wrapping Up

Learning to implement any visual heuristic into your design can help elevate the user experience. Understanding the human brain's workings and leveraging a person's natural tendencies creates a more seamless interaction. UX design is about communication, convenience, and performance. Gestalt principles help achieve these goals while taking advantage of the subconscious of the mind. Gestalt principles are relatively easy to incorporate into any design.

Want to improve a design that seems haphazard or isn't grabbing your users' attention? 

 

Connect with Radiant Digital's UX design team to meet all your user interaction goals.


Delivering First-Class UX with the Visibility of System Status

Often in UX design, transparency and feedback affect a users' experience and how they engage with a system. Periodic feedback and system knowledge help users feel more in control, which supports better decision-making. The visibility of system status relates to communication and transparency, which are critical to user-system interactions.

Looking around for signs helps users manage tasks and time efficiently. For example, our phones and laptops display the remaining battery life to charge them when necessary. Similarly, email inboxes indicate how many unread emails lie in the mailbox and which ones are high priority.

Visibility of system status in UI is the first of Jakob Nielsen’s Ten Heuristics. Every UX designer follows these principles to ensure that their design is feasible, responsive, and user-friendly.

The system status should keep the user informed on what’s going on within the system with proper feedback at appropriate intervals. When users understand the current system status, they can determine the outcome of their prior interactions and the next steps.

Predictable interactions foster trust in the product and the brand, so UX designers prioritize the system status heuristic.

Definition

Visibility of system status defines how well the system state is conveyed to its users. This could include a dialog window, notification, an ‘appear and disappear’ text, and other mechanisms.

Why implement System Status in your design?

Knowledge is Power

Changing a system status with action requires knowledge about its current status. With this, you can overcome any gaps and decide what to do next to reach your goal. A lack of information always translates to a loss of control, resulting in diminishing trust in your design.

Staying in-the-know Means Better Control

Effectively displaying the system status encompasses proper communication with the user. After every system interaction, the user should be given a response from that system, informing them about the result and whether it is good, ineffective, or something that could impact other processes/tasks/outcomes.

Appropriate Feedback

Users need to understand if their interactions with the system were successful or not. Further actions can be taken based on the outcome of a previous one. The system should convey the outcome in a visible and comprehendible way.

Appropriate feedback is the most fundamental way of doing this. It keeps users informed of the current status and steers the interaction in the right direction. This saves effort and time when the user performs the correct actions instead of those, leading to confusion and error. Such feedback can include a change of color when the user clicks on a button or a progress indicator for a running background process. These feedback mechanisms show the user that the system is working, reduces uncertainty, and increases errors, such as clicking a button repeatedly due to a lack of system response.

Influence User Action

One key factor in displaying system status is predicting user behavior and guiding them to the next step. Doing this can influence the right actions while providing trust and security between your users and your product. On most e-commerce sites, communicating stock availability for a product influences their buying decision. When the stock is low, customers can immediately ensure they don’t lose a chance to purchase the product. Communicating if a user qualifies for free shipping or a specific deal can encourage additional purchases.

Communication Creates Trust

Understanding the system’s state helps users rely on the system to act as expected based on circumstances. The predictability of the interaction strengthens trust in the dynamics of the system and the brand.

Users should be informed about actions with consequences for mutual consensus required from a legal perspective. Any external event or time-based outcomes impacting the system state should be communicated clearly. For example, errors or interruptions during a system process need to be displayed effectively to the user for appropriate or remedial action.

Types of System Status Indicators in UX Design

While there are many creative system status indicators, here are some prominent ones used by UX designers today:

Progress Bar

This element is commonly used when a user uploads or downloads a file from an online or offline source.

A status window with a progress bar tells us how much progress has been completed or how much time is remaining by showing percentage (%), number file, or a bar. It also indicates process interruptions by an event or errors during the upload/download. The user can take corrective action at this juncture to restart or continue the process.

Here, the system provides enough feedback in a reasonable time after pressing the UPLOAD/DOWNLOAD button.

Image for post

Image Source: Medium.com

An advantage of this design heuristic tool is running backend processes in the background while the users continue with other tasks. The user interruption level is low while the information level is high.

Pop-up 

A pop-up is a window or bubble view with self-explanatory text with/without an image. It contains action buttons or other elements that appear over the existing user's interface. Some pop-ups dim the interface behind to ensure that the user recognizes that the pop-up has appeared.

Keep in mind that pop-ups may prevent users from continuing until they resolve the issue indicated in the pop-up window. This is effective as a warning; it asserts the user performs some corrective or critical action. Conversely, pop-ups can be overly intrusive to a user’s workflow. It is recommended that pop-ups be used sparingly and only when necessary.

Pop-ups can be critical or non-critical. Critical pop-ups can impact system operation or status, while the non-critical ones are more informative.

Critical Pop-up
Warning Messages - Win32 apps | Microsoft Docs

Image source: Microsoftdocs

Non-critical Pop-up

Image source: wishpond blog

Notification Banner

A Notification banner usually contains some text that appears above a colored background.  It generally appears from the top of the user’s viewport. These banners can sometimes be animated and slide into view.

They function similarly to pop-ups but do not dim or disrupt the user’s screen view. These banners also have a dismissal option where the user can make them go away or hide them.

Notification banners are effective and non-obtrusive to a user’s experience. However, these may not be as attention-grabbing as pop-ups.

Sometimes, a user may not notice that the banner appeared at all, so they are best used when you want to inform the user in their best-interest about a change or action that has already happened but is not very critical.

The message that appears in a notification banner can be dynamically set to change based on a time-based trigger. Many e-commerce and banking websites use this mechanism to update the user on policy, process, and status changes.

During COVID-19, notification banners have been the most-used system status tools on business websites and portals.

How to Create a Website Notification Bar to Keep Visitors Informed

Image Source: OptinMonster

Informative Text 

This type is used when an error occurs during form creation. Perhaps a user is creating an account on your website or configuring their settings. If a field is filled out incorrectly, colored text can appear near the form to inform a user about the validation error. This type of text keeps appearing until the user resolves the error and does not let the user move forward.

Image Source: wowmakers.com

Usually, informative text is associated with an action like submitting, continuing, next, or canceling, which is captured through a button. You’ll see this while installing an app for the first time.

Image Source: tubikstudio.com

Informative text can be used to denote errors and success as well. Tooltips are great examples.

Image source: appcues.com

Different color schemes like green for success and red for errors can be used for text display.

Image Source: isabelcastillo.com

All of the examples mentioned above are great ways to promote user interaction with a UX design. Banners can be used to inform users of limited-time offers. Colored text can alert users of unique interactions, and pop-ups can encourage users to sign up or subscribe to a service.

Final Thoughts

Visibility of system status is a tenet that promotes a high-quality user experience.

At its core, this heuristic enables open and continuous communication, which is fundamental to successful UX designs.

Uninformed users become poor decision-makers and will find difficulty in discovering their next steps towards task completion. Users also won’t figure out if their actions were effective and error-free without some system feedback.

The key is to let your users feel they are pivotal to interaction without blindfolding them or keeping them guessing.

At Radiant Digital, we help you implement this design heuristic and help your customers see the ‘bigger picture’ in your UX designs.


Keeping User Engagement Top-Notch with Gamification

Building highly responsive designs has become more of a norm rather than a trending exercise today. Additionally, many other factors contribute to user experience like ease-of-use, appeal, discoverability, simplicity, and above all, the ability to drive emotions toward a product or service through design.

There's always scope to add a "fun" element to the UX and make it more enjoyable. Making designs immersive with AR and VR is a booming trend, while Gamification's technique makes the interaction more productive by adding game-like elements to the experience. It creates an environment of growth and accomplishment and a spirit of competition that drives the business mission.

Gamification is a potent tool for increasing user retention, promoting learning and growth, and producing excitement and interest in your user base. Thus, many enterprises reap this technique's benefits to motivate their employees to perform better and customers to stay engaged in their products and services.

Let's delve into the details of this exciting method in UX design and how it could benefit your organization.

What is Gamification?

Gamification At Work: What is Gamification? | Interaction Design Foundation

It employs game mechanics in non-game/productive activities or real-world environments, such as websites and mobile applications. Gamification designs emphasize human-focused motivation as opposed to a function-focused design. This enhances user engagement with an interface because of fun features such as leader boards, badges, jackpot points, etc., in an existing system.

Some companies let their employees or customers monetize the points won or avail perks based on what they’ve won. With Gamification, designers tap the intrinsic motivations of users, so they enjoy engaging more.

The Appeal of Gamification in UX Design

Gamification is fun because it appeals to these eight Core Drives that motivate us towards certain activities. UX designers have to factor in these drives while designing a Gamification-centric app or website.

The fundamental psychological principle behind Gamification is to provide positive reinforcement for each action taken. Many organizations are taking it seriously because:

  • Gamification creates immediacy or relevance for users in an application or website.
  • It incentivizes users to achieve goals and helps overcome negative associations with the system. Users end up completing tasks they would not have done otherwise since they are motivated by rewards.
  • Multiple techniques like gameplay, rules to goals mapping, countdowns, rewards for completing a certain percentage or level of tasks, etc., can be applied.
  • People become more accustomed to a design through interactions to solve challenges.
  • Gamification uses learning and knowledge sharing in a more fun way.
  • Social elements and integration with social media let users share their digital universe experiences.

Benefits of Gamification for UX Designers

  • They can increase user engagement for their designs while making it fun and interactive.
  • For a website that promotes learning, Gamification improves knowledge absorption and retention.
  • Gamification helps reveal specific player behavior and learning experiences as a feedback mechanism that improves the design features and performance in a testing environment.
  • They can improve the discoverability of a website's different features by using fun elements and driving curiosity.

Benefits of Gamification for Employees (through In-house Apps)

Employees Motivation

Gamification is used to create an environment of healthy competition that drives better performance in employees. Contests in a game will be considered fun and less impactful than a failure at work. It also improves team spirit among employees.

Cost Reduction

Many companies try to reduce staffing costs by training their existing employees with necessary skills (like programming or team management) through Gamification.

Team Building

A common goal with a shared vision in a gaming environment can bring people with different opinions and perspectives. This unison can raise their spirits to perform better as a team and enjoy the fruits of victory together.

Accelerate Productivity

Incentivizing efforts influence better productivity through performance. Rewards like pay bonuses or paid leaves or awards can keep the employee’s motivation engine running.

Reduce Stress

A fun UX design for a Gamification activity can reduce stress, which is essential for better performance and more significant employee outputs.

Fast Staff Training

Employees learn better and faster when the course is fun and has rewards in the end. They complete the training faster with better understanding when there is a reward associated with it.

Benefits of Gamification for Businesses

Key Principles of Gamification Design

Gamification is based on the following principles, and much of it is not in the regulations themselves but how they execute.

Language and useful information architecture are fundamental in making a user feel sure, not a simple checklist of concepts and mechanics.

Challenge Users

The primary task is to invite a user to participate in a challenging contest. The application should set a straightforward task (challenge) for the player with clear rules, conditions, and terms of fulfillment with the most significant transparency level. If they seem too complicated, users will quit immediately. Some tips include,

· Providing users with ideal and timely prompts and options to push themselves.

· Displaying visuals that promote a user’s urge to win and compete.

· Giving users opportunities to display their earnings to others, encouraging other users to improve performance and compete.

Support Falling Forward

It is important to encourage users to continue trying, playing, and participating in the Gamification system that you create with motivational cues and messages. This includes insistence by offering users the chance to play again (go back to your app) through push-notifications, reminders, or even alerts.

Encourage Consistency

Encourage users every time they fail, hinting that consistency is the key to winning. Regardless of winning or losing, consistent upliftment is essential to keep players excited and motivated to move ahead. Consistent and comfortable language and copy are critical to demonstrate that users are making progress.

Provide a Rewarding and Exciting Experience

The Gamification experience must be exciting and promising. Rewards provide a logical conclusion to the whole process. The desirability of the prize must evoke feelings of delight, enjoyment, and excitement.

Additionally, other UX design elements like color, animations, iconography, and customizations will evoke excitement and create a unique environment for players with specific achievements. This can be executed by including analytics that generates animations, attention-grabbing icons, and components that lift and move with interaction.

Personalization and Ownership

Personalized content and design evoke a sense of pride and ownership in users. Rolling out bespoke experiences to users based on their tastes, and one which they could personalize themselves is a vital aspect of Gamification design.

This complements all the other Gamification principles, and lets players take ownership of the application in the most comfortable way. Include a feature to allow a user to decide their avatars or profile pictures, customize their interface by changing colors or styles of onscreen elements, and earn awards and achievements for doing so.

Here are some of the hacks to use to make your app very interactive with Gamification.

  • Virtual money - Although this is only virtual, people are motivated to perform some tasks to gain it. It is the best tool for encouragement, if not a reward.
  • Push notifications can be used as reminders in an app or a challenge to give the player essential information about performance, timelines, competition, etc.
  • Status – This includes the status of the various player levels or performance levels. Users enjoy getting a new status, especially if they are competing for a goal.
  • Tips – For new players, tips help discover the workflow of the Gamification platform. They simplify the experience and navigation of a website/application.

Gamification Challenges & Tips for UX Designers

UX designers must balance “fun” and the subject matter tonality while considering the users’ preferences. The degree of Gamification won’t be the same for corporate and personal environments. Designers face some challenges while inserting Gamification into UX, which include:

Lack of Autonomy – Encourage voluntary user actions. Taking away the users’ control can only pull them away from using the app/website. It would be best if you don’t push players to adopt desired behaviors but insert subtle elements/prompts which guide them toward a particular experience while giving them control.

Missing Relevance – Users need to feel relevant to the brand’s objectives. Customizing your design’s content and tone to players fosters their loyalty. If there is no relevance, users would prefer another platform or step backing from using your platform.

Not Meeting Competence Levels– If users are not comfortable playing, they stop discovering your design since it becomes too overwhelming or confusing. Try to use easy to identify icons, language, and process flows for an average user caliber to boost engagement.

Lack of user curiosity – The element of human curiosity drives discoverability, especially for mobile app Gamification. The UX designer must plan each step to spark interest in the user to move ahead.

The role of gamification in creating user engagement — a UX case study | by  Riya Samuel | UX Collective

Too Many Features – Building a game or Gamification platform requires precise planning of its features. Overdoing the features or adding irrelevant ones would weigh down the fun while defeating incentivizing users to complete real-world tasks.

By understanding these four phases of a user’s Gamification journey, a UX designer can ideally plan the processes with the right mix of features.

Types of Interactive Game Mechanics for UX Improvement

Wrapping up

A successful UX design covers increased user engagement through pleasurable activity and satisfying the design's original purpose. Gamification is an experience you should “tailor” carefully into your design and not a feature you insert abruptly.

Radiant Digital can help you step up your Gamification plan for an optimized UX design.

Connect with our UX Gamification experts today! by Gabriel Manfredy, Radiant Digital
Principal UX Designer
All rights reserved. © 2020 Radiant Digital Solutions


Understanding Data grids and Using them to Power up your Designs

The best UX experiences achieve consistency of elements. Connections between these elements build a harmonious visual system that users can navigate seamlessly. To achieve this, web designers are always finding solutions to visual and organizational problems.

Large amounts of data fit optimally in the rows and columns of a data grid.  When faced with overwhelming content, it is best to let user behavior define your grid-based design approach.

Understanding Data Grids or Tables

Grids form the backbone of cost-effective, responsive websites by handling data disintegration and improving page readability. They build websites that render consistently in all browsers and at any number of resolutions (known and unknown).

By organizing and placing content uniformly across devices, grids create a look and feel that resonates with users. Creative teams and designers can also use them to plan for a responsive website design.

Also known as data tables, grids vary in size, content, complexity, and purpose. Regardless of the use-case, well-designed tables clarify the information presented, and in many cases, help users with actionable insights.

Data grids are handy for customizing data and giving users the power to act in specific scenarios.

Here are the benefits:

Clarity/Order — Grids make layouts look orderly. Users can navigate information with ease on an uncluttered webpage.

Efficiency — Designers can quickly add elements to a layout when the structure has already been built.

The Economy of Scale — Designers can collaborate on the design using grids as the design blueprint. Grids become the agreed structure for element placement, interactions, and design references.

Consistency/Harmony — Grids create a visual hierarchy and design congruity across a single site or several sites. Units, rows, fields, columns, gutters, and other parts rely on natural proportions to bring about structural harmony to your layout.

Plotting data into the rows may seem easy, but it’s not, especially if you’re designing for mobile.

The size of mobile devices poses an immediate hurdle for data grids. Responsive mobile designs are crucial. However, utilizing grids for mobile-first designs is ideal because:

  • Developers can build mobile-first designs even when it was conceived in a desktop aspect ratio.
  • Grids show how elements will break at different layout sizes using breakpoints when the browser decreases or increases in size.
  • It allows designers to focus on percentage-based design instead of pixels.
  • Designers can build standards and apply them to grid-focused frameworks like Bootstrap and Foundation.
  • You can establish guidelines for later revisions without making tweaks that look out of place or inconsistent.

Most layout editors have a tool called “snap to grid.” Red or blue lines appear when elements move inside the design so that designers can ascertain when the edges line up accordingly. More complex layout editors help position elements proportionately by showing the distance between them.

Five predominantly used grid types include:

Manuscript Grids 

These are used in documents, ebooks, pdfs, and presentations with lots of text.

Column Grids

These come in handy while organizing content in columns for e-magazines and enhance readability.

Baseline Grids

These are defined by the line in which the text sits and require a more technical approach. This grid improves the reading rhythm for any text-heavy design.

Modular Grids

This kind of grid is used when there are too many elements to fit in a column grid. Modular grids are also great for laying out forms, schedules, and charts.

Hierarchical Grids

Hierarchical grids are mostly used for organizing content by importance; they can be set up with reference to a modular grid or as freestyle.

Grid Behavior

Grids are usually implemented based on their behavior (scaling and resizing).

Fluid Grids

Fluid grids include scalable and resizable columns. Breakpoints can be used in the layout to determine if it needs to change dramatically.

Fixed grids

Fixed grids use fixed-sized columns with fluid margins to keep content consistent within each breakpoint range.

A fixed grid’s layout can only be changed at an assigned breakpoint.

Data tables are incredibly user-friendly when it comes to scanning, comparing, and analyzing information. However, designing a mobile-friendly version of a complex grid can be a challenge.

Mobile interfaces are becoming more engaging when it comes to content presentation and the aesthetic quality of designs. Data grids play a pivotal role in the organization and layering of simple and complex elements.

Here are some important considerations to make while designing using data grids for mobile.

The optimal number of columns in the grid for mobile

The right number of columns may be the most confusing fundamental design aspect to a UX designer. A 12-column grid is one of the most convenient formats for mobile interfaces; it accommodates an even and an odd number of elements in a row. However, the width of one column is too small to fit fundamental elements.

We recommend using additional grids rather than sticking to the one-grid format. In this case, it is vital to maintain equal layout margins, equal or proportional gutters between the columns, and one behavior when changing individual column sizes.

Keep the columns large enough to be readable.

It is impossible to give users readable information and see all information on a data grid. Users need readable, scalable rows and columns for the best mobile experience.

Stick Column Headers in Place

For any table that accommodates more than a single vertical screen, sticky column headers maintain the context of what the table is displaying. Losing track of your location on the page can be easily remedied by including a header that remains on screen.

You can also add a header that appears while the user is not swiping and hides during a swipe, removing any interference and allowing a user to jump to another section or tab quickly.

Image Source: nngroup.com

Clarity about Horizontal Scrolling

Indicating if/when horizontal scrolling is required is essential. Swiping and scrolling are fundamental interactions when operating a mobile interface.

Including accurate scroll bars, pagination, page counts, and implementation of scrolling to said pages help users keep track of their current location on a page. Though viewing in a horizontal view may be ideal for large tables on mobile screens, there must be indicators like arrows or cut-off elements.

Image Source: nngroup.com

Freeze the leftmost column of the data grid for comparison

The leftmost column (indicating the row headers) should be locked in place, allowing users to see the required labels no matter where they scroll. That way, they will always have the context of the content within the first column and associate the remainder of the data grid content against it.

Image Source: nngroup.com

Consider providing customization options for your users.

Provide users with the information relevant to their needs when all the data don’t fit on the mobile screen.

The ability to customize the volume of content, type of data, and the options that users want to see is a powerful feature in this context and can be provided by:

  • Allowing the user to refine the data set as needed before seeing data.

Image Source: nngroup.com

  • Giving users control of the data view as they see the data.

Image Source: nngroup.com

Help Users Find What They Need

Small screens allow users to see a small portion of a massive data table. Icons such as locked headers orient users when they scroll through the data. Similarly, tools that display selective content according to user-specified criteria add value to the data being viewed.

Grouping Data with Accordions

Accordions present vertically stacked data useful for users when selecting based on what is available in the table. Grouping data logically with Accordions lets users directly access the information of interest and perform an action. It also provides an organized view of content to the user.

Image Source: nngroup.com

A grid system can help you create responsive and engaging UX designs for web and mobile. Additionally, grids make a design more consistent and efficient, saving time and budget dollars!

Want to know how? Connect with our UX experts today!


How Designing for Mobile is Different from Designing for Desktop

From desktops to smartphones to the ever-expanding gamut of connected screens and devices, it is safe to say that on-demand access to information is part of our lives. The way users interact with online content has seen a seismic paradigm shift in the twenty-first century; mobile is the definition of connectivity.

To state the obvious, the mobile browsing experience is significantly different from that of a desktop. Mobile offers the most user-friendly and convenient media use on-the-go while using desktops is confined to a specific stationary area.

According to Statcounter.com, the Market Share Worldwide for mobile browsing is 50.34%, while desktop browsing is 46.67%.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image-4.png
Image Source: broadbandsearch 

Based on the above data by Broadbandsearch (2019), mobile internet usage is poised to grow exponentially and further eclipse desktop.

The one area where mobile does not surpass desktop use is online shopping. The image below shows the device-wise US E-commerce conversion rate until 2019.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image-5.png
Image Source: broadbandsearch 

Connectivity is a necessity. Thus, companies need to consider the trade-off between mobile and desktop design (especially for web browsing) and adapt strategies accordingly.

Adapting strategy can mean anything from tweaking your website to look good on Android and iOS devices to responsive layouts, CSS media queries, and even building mobile-friendly applications exclusively for mobile-savvy users.

Today, designers are still scrambling to catch up with the game-changing digital design scene.

This blog will help you understand the differences between web and mobile design; to render the ultimate user experience.

Screen Sizes

A larger screen can accommodate more substantial content and information, both of which can be viewed simultaneously while adding more clarity to text and images. We expect a certain degree of content quality compromise on a handheld device. The placement of content also changes significantly.

At the same time, large screens become unwieldy for users on-the-go.

Placing too much content requires users to keep scrolling down till the end of mobile device screens. However, modern mobile browsers allow users to zoom in and out quickly and use adaptive font sizes to make the text more readable.

Content Organization

Placing relevant content logically and strategically on mobile and desktop devices is different. In other words, proper information architecture is crucial for designing for both mediums. Desktop devices support adaptive spacing and multi-column formats that support options like a left- or right-sided navigation menu, sidebars for widgets and ads, and space for card structures.

When designing a mobile user site, you must prioritize content based on the significance of its usage. For a website to look neat and convenient on mobile, you must display vital information at the top of the page, not use heavy content on the page, and use an easy-to-read font. The key idea is to make the page layout user-friendly on the smaller screen, as the minimal screen real estate requires a different approach to designing an interface than a desktop. Thus, when you must design for mobile, you must prioritize your users' needs in a fully functional way, as simply replicating your desktop interface on to a mobile experience won’t suffice.

Navigation

More than anything, how users access and navigate their web pages is one of the most important differences between the two.

Users will click on the desired screen object with a cursor to generate an event on most desktops. On mobile, users will use their fingers to tap or touch the screen to navigate or initiate an action. Menus and additional desktop options are accessed with right and left mouse clicks, scrolling, and various keyboard commands. From the phone screen, users will instead take advantage of different hand gestures, such as tap and hold, swiping, and tapping. How a user navigates their apps or websites from a mobile device must be considered serious.

Navigation on mobile is ideal along the top rather than down the side and closer to the right-hand bottom area since most mobile users are right-handed and can easily use thumb gestures for actions.

Gestures

Mobile devices allow users to take advantage of various hand gestures, such as tap and hold, swiping, pinching, and tapping multiple times. You can use gestures like swiping left and right to move between images in a gallery to enhance the mobile user experience. Adding gesture support to your mobile sites is a great idea for people who don't prefer moving the mouse. A user will use a keyboard and mouse on a desktop, clicking on indicated items with a cursor. One must consider these differences in the interaction when designing experiences for both platforms.

Ergonomics

The concept of mobile ergonomics has become even more powerful in the context of modern-day browsing. It offers comfort and portability on one device, and ergonomic mobile keyboards and other environmentally compatible devices provide full tactile usability to their users.

But when it comes to using the landscape orientation for viewing a video or content on mobile devices, bigger phones pose a problem. Each individual's typing and navigation styles differ, which is why a design that also supports wrists and joints to alleviate pain is essential.

One way to improve mobile ergonomics is to stack content vertically on the mobile screen. Stacking vertically helps mobile users stick to using their phones in portrait mode (preferred mode). A vertical phone fits more comfortably in their hands and allows for more comfortable hand gestures.

Menu Navigation

Desktop users can take advantage of a global header on websites and some apps, allowing quick navigation. Mobile screens do not share the same amount of screen real estate, and therefore must rely on other more creative options for accessing these features.

Many apps use a side or hamburger menu to access other features packed into it on a mobile interface. However, displaying multiple categories and sub-categories similar to desktop screens is difficult on mobile devices. As screen real-estate, multiple clicks/taps, and precision may get compromised for text links.

Single-menu designs for mobile incorporate expansion and contraction features, in addition to large text or buttons and vertical alignment, to accommodate as many options as possible.

Multitasking

Being able to run more apps or do more in the background is a true blessing. Poor multitasking support on mobile websites can affect the way you design them. Sometimes, filling and downloading a file in the background can cause errors or slow device performance.

On the other hand, mobile devices offer better multitasking when you are on-the-move. You can book a ticket, schedule a meeting, browse apps, share screens, and much more. Desktops offer the same multitasking benefits but in one place.

Thus, strategizing multitasking is imperative on mobile devices today after understanding what your target users need.

Form Filling

Web forms are great for online conversions, especially if filling them out is convenient. A poorly designed form can be a conversion-killer, so vertical alignment is an important consideration to make, as scrolling back and forth is tedious when forms are horizontally aligned.

Web Browsers and Apps

Designers may differ depending on whether you want to use a mobile or desktop for an app or browsing. Almost 86% of online smartphone time is spent in apps, and only 14% is spent on web browsers. It's quite the opposite of desktops.

Desktop browser features like bookmarking, printing, or opening links in new windows are not available when viewing web pages within apps (on mobile devices).

Viewing websites in mobile apps means crammed information in smaller spaces if proper information architecture is not considered and applied.

The load time of apps and web pages is faster on desktops because of the processor speed and bandwidth support. Mobile browsers take longer to respond, and JavaScript-intensive pages can run very slowly. A simple and optimized page layout for mobile browsers that use less markup and CSS is useful for slideshows, interactive forms, etc.

People and Devices

The context of use, or the individual and the tasks they wish to complete, is one of the major differences between mobile and desktop web experience. Put, mobile and desktop devices serve different purposes and are used for different reasons.

People use computers while,

  • Sitting at their desk
  • In an office environment
  • Randomly surfing the web
  • Creating content or working on long and more-involved tasks involving special features
  • Programming and performing configurations and technical tasks

People use mobiles while,

  • Looking for instant information
  • Performing a quick task like booking a ticket
  • Sending out a quick email or message or a quick file share
  • Chatting
  • Walking around or being on-the-move
  • Consuming content or using an app
  • Being at home, work, or other public places
  • Inventive tasks using AR/VR, multi-camera support, sensor-based metering, mobile contact list, RFID, IoT, etc.

Wrapping up

When designing any mobile website, it's essential to keep these differences in mind. By considering the points listed above in your website and application strategy, you can provide an exceptional user experience for both these mediums.

What are some ways to take advantage of the differences between mobile and desktop for your design projects?

Which do you prefer designing for, mobile or desktop? Let us know.

If you're unhappy with your current business applications' user experience, the creative design team at Radiant can help you change that for both desktop and mobile! Call us today.


7 Fundamental Principles of Iconography Influencing ‘Iconic' UX Designs

Imagine a digital world without icons or visual cues for user action or one with confusing and inconsistent icon designs.

You would get a disappointing user experience that offers low or no commercial value to your business. This is why proper design and implementation of icons are so critical.

An icon is a sign or a symbol that visually represents a purpose when placed in a meaningful environment. The way it is perceived or interpreted has to align with its functional objective. Icons are meant to be simple and recognized immediately and effortlessly.

Many designers lose focus on keeping icons metaphoric and minimal, leaving little to no room for clarity and consistency.

This is highly crucial in enterprise design, a realm in which Radiant Digital specializes. The applications we design, and the iconography we use must remain consistent throughout each project.

Some compelling reasons to implement iconography principles for effective icon design include:

  • Icons effectively communicate information in the blink of an eye.
  • One icon can replace a hundred words or instructions.
  • When you create a new symbol for an idea, it leads to viewer memorialization.
  • An icon can shape people’s behavior based on inference.
  • Icons can be flexible when it comes to representing an idea.

The key questions UX designers need to answer to create compelling icons are:

  1. What action will users take using the icon?
  2. Where do you want someone to take that action? (Home Page, a user form, etc.)
  3. How is an icon going to set off this whole reaction?

Iconography principles apply primarily to these four basic icon types:

  • Similar icons depict simple actions and concepts that are easily understood by non-technical users, like forwarding or backward navigation on a page.
  • Example icons- These icons are associated with an action, object, or concept to exemplify its usage, such as an envelope representing a message.
  • Symbolic icons include abstract images symbolic of an action, object, or concept, such as a locked padlock representing a secure page.
  • Arbitrary icons represent non-conventional ideas or actions that only repeated exposure or a technical understanding could help understand. The three-dot options menu icon is an example.

Here are seven iconography principles that will influence how icons should best represent features, functionality, or content:

1. Establish the Tone of Your Icon

Depending on how you want your icon to appeal to your audience and viewers, you need to set its tone into casual, formal, or a perfect blend of both. It would be best if you allowed the user to interpret the icon but in the right direction.

When you put an icon in an environment, it will merge with other elements to stay meaningful. For example, an icon for a user profile combines with other profile information elements to reflect its real intent. The tonality of icons facilitates quicker reading and recognition while promoting higher user engagement and universal appeal.

2. Say No to Finer Detailing

Effective icons should be distinguishable at any distance, size, or screen viewport. One way to ensure this is to use fundamental geometrical shapes to construct the icons. Though many operating systems support scalable icons these days, a detailed realism level could supersede its ability to be immediately recognized effectively.

It can even baffle the user as to what the icon represents. Ensuring that overly illustrating an icon does not lose its symbolic qualities and lower recognition, especially at smaller sizes.

Designers have to be careful not to lose iconic impact while adding interest and complimenting their designs.

3. Start with Lines, Paths, and Grids

Uniformity is key to any icon design. Designers must initially implement lines, arrows, and visual pathways to guide a viewer’s eyes and mind in a specific, meaningful, and intentional direction to fulfill the business objective of using that particular icon.

While drawing some initial ideas for your iconography on pen and paper is a great start, designing your icons on blank paper does not achieve the above goal. Grids help achieve the desired levels of shared and consistent icon styles. They act as guidelines to ensure all the icons have the same dimensional construct and use equal line spacing.

Grids also help establish aesthetic unity within a single icon and across an icon set. Grids help create pixel-snapped icons that are optimized for their size.

4. Define an Objective Icon Style

Many top brands like Apple have a distinct and intuitive icon style that resonates with their brand and tells users exactly what it does. This is because they implement objective icon styles that are universally recognized with a holistic approach.

Whether an icon is meant for desktop applications or mobile apps, the graphic elements need to work together harmoniously. Irrespective of your design approach, begin by examining your UI elements and find a reusable pattern for direction. If a style guide has been created for your project, make sure to consult it and employ the standards that have been set. The key is sticking to the basics and using the brand feel to guide you.

5. Using a Limited Perspective

To retain your icon sets' uniformity representing a unified whole, using a single or limited perspective is paramount. If you want icons to be looked at from straight ahead or at a specific angle, then make sure to implement the same orientation and perspective across your design ecosystem.

Consistency is key, which can be established only through an established perspective. However, depending on where the icons are located, perspectives can be flexibly implemented. For example, a toolbar icon needs a flatter perspective than an application icon. This can be achieved by adjusting or changing the icon imagery.

6. Casting Elevating Elements Consistently

Making icons realistic is essential to increase their impact for specific applications, even if they don’t have to depict an entire process. The realism you implement in designing icons needs to function coherently as a unified system. Ensuring that enhancements like lighting, shading, gradients, and shadows meet design integrity is vital to symbolize your craft's professionalism.

Using lines, colors, textures, values, forms, and space to carry or direct the viewer's eye from one part of the design to the other can be achieved with movement.

Also, adding direction to icons can remove ambiguity and add semantic value. For example, a Wi-Fi icon is depicted as an inverse cone with a radiating signal from the smallest to the broadest line or arc. Designing lines or arcs of the same size/length can change how users interpret the icon.

7. Strategic Placement

Placing or positioning your icons strategically in an environment is key to getting them noticed. Emphasis can be made by placing objects, size, complexity, and color more dominantly in a picture by showing more impact or being heavier in volume while maintaining the balance with other subordinate elements.

Placing an icon at the wrong location or different website pages' locations is misleading and defeats the purpose. Putting a shopping cart at the bottom left corner instead of the top right corner of a web page can increase customer churn on E-commerce websites.

Here is a list of six "Do's and Don’ts" that will help designers establish consistency and brevity through the use of icons for your company:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-04-14-at-10.47.00-AM.png

Radiant Digital has been instrumental in designing functional and appealing icons for growing businesses over the years.

Talk to us about making your UX designs iconic by effectively implementing icons.


A Designer’s Guide to Effective Wireframing Tools

Compared to active concept designs, prototyping and wireframing simplify communication between interaction designers, project managers, and website developers. They represent the critical steps in web or mobile app development that detect loopholes during the early stages of design evolution.

Interaction designers conceptualize and create intuitive designs based on the premise that a prototype must be user-centric and run through the whole product design progress. Wireframing tools enhance the professional perspective and enrich the user experience for designers by directly influencing product usability.

The superabundant low-fidelity wireframing tools available today prevent choice phobia for designers while supporting quick & cost-effective design and rapid product iteration.

Convenient wireframing tools can define the content layout, design information, global and secondary navigation flow, and interface design to clients while reducing the room for errors.

Some core goals of designers met by wireframing tools include:

  • Depicting the content and functionality of the pages before any further design changes.
  • Communicating design concepts with clients efficiently.
  • Establishing the information hierarchy of a site.

In this blog, our expert designers have hand-picked the top five wireframing tools that are quick, effective, and don’t break the bank to give you some exceptional results.

Adobe Experience Design (XD)

Adobe XD is one of our top picks to turn an abstract sitemap into a visual design for websites, apps, voice interfaces, and games due to its powerful features, easy-to-use at scale, and ability to leverage the power of seamless collaboration.

This tool runs on both macOS and Windows and needs an Adobe Creative Cloud to account for the basic and the paid versions.

Adobe XD helps in information gathering, embedding user empathy into designs, and expediting the development of a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), in addition to offering a myriad of features that define its design roadmap.

Feature Name Description
Components It helps create reusable design elements
like vectors, character styles, colors,
grids, and guides throughout single and
multiple XD documents from a design
system.
Multiple Interactions It helps communicate the flow and feel of
your user experiences using artboards
without coding. Triggers and actions can
be used to define the exact experience
flow. Multiple prototype interactions
help limit the duplicate artboards that
bind together different prototyping
flows.
Content-Aware Layout Avoid manual tasks by creating and
editing UI elements. Content-Aware
Layout recognizes object relationships
and makes automatic adjustments
across object groups after edits.
Precision Design Tools Align your experience with layouts,
sitemaps, artboard guides, grids,
flowcharts, and functional prototypes
on-the-fly.
Coediting (Beta) Multiple designers can design and
iterate in the same cloud document
simultaneously while tracking changes.
Native applications that refer to a single
source of truth without duplication or
redundancy of work/documents can be
developed sooner.

Sketch

This intuitive, lightweight vector editor is designed to make collaborative prototyping convenient on the Mac OS.

Wireframes can be created quickly by combining artboards and vector design shapes without ready-made UI components. User-crafted assets, known as Symbols, are a compelling feature and reason to opt for Sketch. The vast array of customization options for Symbols offer reusability that is hard to beat.

You can breathe life into your designs by downloading third-party UI kits that support necessary element insertion. Lightning-fast prototyping helps convert ideas into ready-to-code project designs.

The vast array of available, free-to-download plugins also has the potential to enhance your Sketch app far beyond the capabilities of any other wireframing and prototyping product on the market to date.

This tool is a wireframing powerhouse for pixel-perfect precision, plug-in options, export presets, non-destructive editing, and code exports. It also houses integration support for Crystal, Lingo, Marvel, Overflow, Proto.io, Draft, Invision, UXPin, and Zeplin.

Feature Details
Cloud Inspector It helps to move from design to
development smoothly with few clicks.
You can inspect elements, measure
between layers, and copy attributes in
the browser.
Smart Layout Automatically resizes reusable
components to create responsively
wireframes.
Sketch for Teams Helps share prototypes, feedback, and
collaborate in a shared workspace.

Other reasons why this tool is great:

  • Powerful Vector editing.
  • An intuitive and adaptive user interface.
  • Reusable components for consistency in your product's design system.
  • Designers can test their brainstorms, convert static designs into interactive prototypes, and share data-driven designs in minutes.
  • Automatically resize responsive components to fit content with Smart Layout.
  • Customized workflows, plugins, and integrations to expedite localization
    projects.

Balsamiq

If you need to implement quick, simple sketches, group various elements and layers together, and build a useful wireframe rapidly… then Balsamiq is the ideal choice. This tool reproduces the experience of notepad sketching on a computer.

Built for macOS, Windows, and browsers, Balsamiq has several drag-and-drop elements, each styled as a hand-drawing. Balsamiq works on the premise of keeping the mock-ups 'intentionally crude and low-fidelity to encourage more feedback and quick iterations on POCs, or proofs of concept.

The interaction design is completely visualized from scratch. You can build interactive wireframes and prototypes the way you like with a simple drag-and-drop.

This design tool is effective for pre-interaction design phases. It helps focus on structure and content while avoiding lengthy discussions about colors and details. Balsamiq supports a zero-learning curve for designers and can be brought to quick meetings to discuss requirements, pitch ideas, and get quotes on the spot.

Features Details
UI Components and Icons Built-in and community-generated UI
controls and icons are made accessible.
Drag and Drop Assemble elements for easy
implementation.
Export to PNG or PDF Share or present wireframes on the web,
using images or interactive PDFs.
Optimized for Speed Using Quick Add, wireframes can gain
speed-to-scale.
Reusable Symbols Create masters, templates, and reusable
and customizable component libraries.
Interactive Prototypes Create simple prototypes and link them
for demos or usability testing.

InVision

InVision is a quick and easy prototyping tool that lets you create and share interactive design mock-ups. It is a stand-alone design presentation app with all the progress visible inside one app.

Presenting designs is more efficient in InVision than sending out a. Pdf or screenshots. Mock-ups can be discussed inside the app by leaving comments about a point on the screen you discuss.

InVision lets you share a link to an interactive prototype that clients can toy with, like an actual website. Some the other important features that designers love include:

  • The screens are designed to mimic an actual web browsing experience, with the designers having control over how others see their design.
  • Feedback is made easier as clients have a better context of what they’re viewing.
  • Comments and notes can be set to the point of discussion on the screen with a link.
  • This also creates a to-do list of tasks that is easy to track and mark as changes are made.
  • Mobile prototyping with gestures lets you create hotspot links for your screens that let your clients experience transitions, navigations, and movements realistically.
  • InVision Sync lets you add and access screens on your local machine with version history.
  • Hover states help add components like tooltips, menus, and hover states for buttons.
  • The Live Share interface lets you collaborate in real-time with in-browser screen share, chat, and sketch capabilities.
  • The VOIP live chat in-browser helps with anytime conference calls.

InVision Studio

This freehand wireframing app produces responsive designs for multiple screen sizes and team collaboration sketches on a whiteboard-like canvas.

InVision Studio is suitable for collaborating on basic wireframe sketches and developing more refined wireframes/prototypes. Design iterations are more manageable since it supports direct annotations on polished prototypes and real-time syncing with Sketch and Photoshop.

The built-in free design library offers ready-to-use UI components. The Inspect tool grabs relevant design specs and adds them to your documentation.

Other features include:

  • Intuitive vector-based drawing capabilities with support for flexible layers on an infinite canvas, it's easy to turn ideas into compelling designs because of:
    • Powerful vector editing
    • Flexible layer styling
    • Pixel-perfect layouts
  • Responsible for designing with the best-in-class layout engine to automatically design, adjust, and scale your vision to automatically fit any screen or layout.
  • Rapid prototyping helps create and review fluid interactions and high-fidelity prototypes faster using:
    • Point-and-shoot
    • Mobile device mirroring
    • Instant playback
  • Implementing component hotspots (action points), animations, and interactions for all-inclusive wireframes

MURAL

This online whiteboard lets you organize thoughts & ideas efficiently, collaborate seamlessly, and interact with whiteboard sticky notes or post-its. You can scale visual collaboration by organizing lists, flowcharts, diagrams, frameworks, methods, and drawings to activate workflows and align your team. MURAL offers a digital workspace for visual collaboration for quick problem-solving.

Designers benefit from the speed and ease of use in creating diagrams in an agile environment. It supports tools to support more meaningful meetings and workshops. What you can accomplish with MURAL are:

  • Plan for the future
  • Brainstorm new ideas
  • Evaluate what works best
  • Design impactful prototypes
  • Execute better decisions
  • Leverage on customer empathy

Radiant Digital uses these wireframing tools to accelerate design workflows and create appealing designs through collaboration.

We implement wireframes in the following ways:

  • Preventing designing in a silo by capturing an outsider’s perspective
  • Implementing step backs to widen the perspective of our designs with new considerations
  • Soliciting regular feedback from customers and developers
  • Engaging in periodic wireframe reviews
  • Applying innovation to low-fidelity wireframing to save time and costs

How do you handle wireframing? Do you start with low-fidelity sketches on pen and paper, or go straight to sketch and start on artboards? Let us know. We’ll be happy to share ideas.


How to Balance User & Business Needs for a Win-Win Product Design

Many design teams are caught in the crossroads between user needs and client requirements during product design—the failure to fit into the sweet spot between the two impacts both quality & designer credibility. Exclusively suiting client needs in your design can result in a product that is simply cost-centric; an effective design aims to improve the target user experience as well.

This blog will supply you with some key recommendations to find the balance between the client and user needs to create a winning product design.

Recommendation 1: Involving the Client and the User

Conventional software design wisdom dictates that you can’t cater to every stakeholder during the design process. However, it can be extremely beneficial to involve them in the beginning stages.

Here’s why stakeholders need to participate in the design actively:

  • The client/user has first-hand knowledge about the expected product performance, as they represent the single-point-of-contact for domain expertise. Their input is precious during the early portion.
  • Actively involving clients and users in the design process quickly captures realistic ideas and addresses practical problems.

The best ways for client-user-designer collaboration are:

Workshops & Joint Research

Workshops held during discovery, planning, design/redesign, implementation, and post-implementation of a software design helps designers:

  • Discuss concerns and ideas carefully while analyzing clients' past/present experiences relating to the product features.
  • Perform joint research on the different design aspects affecting customer experience and UX based on the data in-hand.
  • Discuss the probabilities and possibilities of certain events.
  • Save a lot of time & effort spent in corrections and design revisits.
  • Plan agendas for new product design or enhancement/bug fixing of existing products.
  • Gather people with different perspectives and goals to throw light on some of the hidden concepts/issues/topics that might not appear in individual interviews.

Suggested techniques: Branding cards, stakeholders map, MOSCOW technique.

Knowledge Sharing

Clients and users can collaborate with the designer to share their best and worst experiences.

  • The client’s knowledge can draw information about the target group, typical user paths, pain points, or other things that will add value at a later stage of the project.
  • Similarly, functionality-wise, users can help the designer enhance the design and apply better techniques by sharing timely information.
  • Working together on a persona, a customer journey, or just mapping the most common user paths lets you design a product that addresses the target group's problems.

Suggested techniques: Personas, scenario mapping, empathy map, Customer Journey Map, user stories, etc.

Recommendation 2: Prioritization Matrix

Weighing the cost against value and efforts against time can be challenging when designers need to cater to multiple users/clients.

A Prioritization Matrix offers clarity and determines value based on the execution time when lining up the task by organizing all user and client needs into four well-defined categories:

  • High Impact & High Urgency
  • High Impact & Low Urgency
  • Low Impact & High Urgency
  • Low Impact & Low Urgency

Designers can focus on immediate requirements to reap the most value with lesser risks. The scope ranges from simple design-driven tasks and complex design issues to requests from single-user/client and collective groups or organizations.

Four Common Types of Prioritization Matrices

Prioritization
Matrix Name
Description Example
Eisenhower's Divide tasks based on
importance & urgency
Value and Effort This matrix divides the
group of tasks based on 
task-related efforts and 
their value to the
user/client.
Value and Risk With this type, designers
can divide tasks into four
categories based on
workflow value and the
real risk of a particular
activity. Risk scoring is
done based on these three
criteria:

Schedule risk – The risk
determined by the time the task starts. 

Cost risk – The risk is based on rather expensive and irrelevant task execution.
 
Functionality risk– The 
risk affects technological 
possibility to do the task.
Value and Complexity Based on direct business
value and complexity, the
designer can represent the
low level with tasks
holding minimum priority & complexity, and the
highest level with a more
complicated degree of
execution that offers
maximum business value.

Recommendation 3: Setting a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

An MVP is the first usable version of a product that follows a lean concept. It defines what to expect during your first round of designing and iteration; nothing more, nothing less.

Setting expectations during each iteration helps designers avoid conflicts and work in tandem with the approved design steps.

An MVP is different from a prototype. Here’s how.

Why Designers need an MVP?

According to CB Insights, 42% of companies fail because there was no market need for the product designed/developed.

With an MVP or Minimum Viable Product, project goals and tasks can be reasonably set.

Here are other reasons why agile environments need an MVP:

Need Description
Build the Core of Your
Product
The focus lies on building the core product 
version that meets business viability
parameters.
Enables Market Validation Designers can understand if the users
will accept the product, what makes it
unique, and gather feedback to make the product viable.
Reduces Rework Building extended features for an
unreleased product is time-consuming.
Incremental feedback helps zero-in on
the reusable components of the 
working product needing minimal 
rework.
Enables Faster Release A ready and functional product can be
pre-launched or quickly released to
increase the customer base early on. This will help you distinguish between the
early adopters, late adopters, and
laggards. 
Validates Business Functions Business functions like sales, marketing
and business model assumptions can
be evaluated in advance.
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is MVP-Advantages.png
Image Source: ANODA.com

An MVP allows designers to gain the maximum amount of validated learning with the least amount of effort. Based on the information gained from this experiment, the team continues, modifies, or cancels work on the product.

Designers can fail by making common mistakes while developing an MVP.

Here’s an example of the wrong and right ways:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is MVP-Pyramid.png
Image Source: ANONDA.com

An ideal MVP should deliver a minimum yet viable & valuable product design, and it must:

  • Be useful to at least one specific audience.
  • Address at least one fundamental problem.
  • Have a well-designed UX.
  • Be easy to build and launch quickly.
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is MVP-Graph.png
Image Source: Net Solutions

Having helped multiple companies with our expertise,  Radiant Digital  can help you build a viable MVP faster and cost-efficiently. Our goals are focused on:

  • Testing a product’s design viability at low costs.
  • Spending less money on product design & development.
  • Faster delivery of a product that solves at least one significant problem of a user.

We implement proven concepts to establish user-client requirement balance, address the pain points, and help your product deliver the best customer experience.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to planning an MVP. It would be best if you approached an expert to build an MVP efficiently.

Want this for your business? Talk to us. We’ll help you get there. Contact us.

Recommendation 4 – Usability Heuristics

It’s not worth designing a good-looking product that cannot derive ROI in a competition-driven market. Heuristics are broad rules of thumb for UI design that give designers a peek into how their design works.

The Heuristic Evaluation Method, introduced by Jakob Nielsen, helps compare a digital product’s compliance with a set of established usability principles (Heuristics) for human-computer interaction.

Advocating for usability can help calm tough situations, and speaking to clients and users on the heuristics of usability display your credibility as a UX Designer.

Usability Heuristics Help:

  • Identify common usability issues with a product and resolve them earlier.
  • Improve user satisfaction and experience with empirical rules of thumb, best practices, conventions, standards, and observation rules.
  • Increase the chance of a product’s overall success.

This usability inspection method is usually performed by 5 to 8 evaluators who have expertise in product-relevant heuristics, interaction design, human-computer interaction, and/or UX design, among other subjects.

Usability Heuristics Analysis Process

  • Individual evaluators assign a “severity rating” to each of the usability issues identified.
  • As a rule, UX designers work their way down from the most critical issues on the backlog to the least critical ones.
  • The design team typically gives issues with the highest severity rating the most attention.

What does ‘Usability’ entail?

Quality components like,

  • Learnability
  • Discoverability
  • User Satisfaction
  • Flexibility
  • Memorability
  • Error handling

When to do it?

New Products Existing Products
Usually, later in the design phase after
wire-framing and prototyping, and
before visual design and UI development
begins.
Usually, before redesigning begins.

Usability Heuristics Report 

Though a Usability Heuristics Report for each product may look different, a specimen is shown below.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Ten-Usability-Heuristics.png

Designers need to understand usability heuristics well to apply them relevantly in the design process.

Conclusion

We hope that the four recommendations made in this article will help you bridge the gap between user and client needs to resolve inconsistencies, ensure you’re all on the same page, and develop a high-performing product design.

To learn how Radiant Digital strategizes and implements proven guidelines for Exceptional Web Design, Usability, and User Experience to your products, call us today!