The Value of Anthropology in UX Research and UX Design

If you haven’t come across anthropology before, it’s simply the study of what makes us humans, human. For a long time, the science of anthropology has been connected to the world of academia. Those specializing in it tend to progress to jobs in universities and community colleges. However, things are changing.

There has been a noticeable shift in the last couple of decades as anthropologists use their skill sets outside of higher education. For example, business and organizational anthropology, medical anthropology, government policy, and NGOs (non-government organizations).

Different goals can be achieved by integrating anthropologists into these industries, such as action-oriented, result-oriented, and life improvement. And if we dig a little deeper, we can see that these skills can help improve.

  1. The quality of care and life in healthcare
  2. Enhance sustainability
  3. Improve equality, problem-solving, and overall quality in policymaking
  4. Increases individuals and communities’ lives in some aspects

How Anthropology is growing and influencing UX designs

To start, we can determine some key similarities between UX research and how anthropologists are trained. Let’s look at how information is collected, for example. This typically consists of differently structured interviews, surveys, focus groups, participant behavior, and transcription.

Alongside this, it can be noted that the main skills learned from anthropology can be transferred to leading roles in the UX industry. These types of skills include.

  1. Quantitative research skills (as surveys mentioned above, focus groups, etc.)
  2. Great communication and presentational skills
  3. The ability to learn independently
  4. Amazing listening skills to understand all stakeholder's needs and wants
  5. Able to navigate ambiguity
  6. Building good business relationships with everyone involved in the industry and users
  7. Undergoing high levels of research
  8. Identifying how culture, ideas, beliefs, and motivations impact decisions
  9. Having a holistic worldview
  10. Knowing how social systems play a role

Top 3 ways that show how anthropology can enhance UX design and research

1. An approach centered around humans 

Although we’ve already mentioned a few of the skills that achieve these above, other features assist in a human-oriented approach. For instance, a clear understanding is that humans behave differently, and their motives aren’t always straightforward, with many layers involved in the process.

2. Methodologies used 

Research gathering and observations are crucial elements of UX research. Anthropologists are adept at asking the right questions during research, whether through interviews, surveys, or other sources. Reviewing the data collected is just as important. Therefore, many in the anthropology field are trained to identify step-by-step processes, find issues, and determine what’s missing from the research. This is followed by triangulating results and testing new users to confirm that their theory is proven.

3. The ability to adapt 

By doing so, many things can be achieved. Creative solutions can be used to tackle problems, patterns in behavior can be identified, group analysis can run smoothly without complications (as group sessions are common in academia), and more.

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How & Why Storytelling is Vital for UX

What is Storytelling?

In today’s day and age, brands are selling much more than a stand-alone product; they’re also selling potential realities. Companies make subtextual promises when marketing to potential consumers, and people buy products because they want to embody the brand’s story. Successful activewear companies sell items by showing potential buyers a paragon of fitness and health, not to shame them into buying, but to emphasize, ‘This could be you!’. Belief in this story begins long before the end user; it starts with interdepartmental teams, stakeholders, and clients.

“I’ m writing my story so that others may see fragments of themselves,” Lena Waithe, screenwriter.

Design is the birthplace of a company story, which can find its beginnings in User Experience (UX) storytelling. To create an exceptional product, designers must consider the experience or story they want to unfold around a product. Every production level uses this story to help the collective vision of the product.

How to use Storytelling, and why?

The benefits of storytelling are best showcased by examining the elements of creating a story for design. When reduced to its basics, there are three key things to consider.

  1. UX personas play characters. They help the audience empathize with the user and create more valuable products. Perhaps the persona is a young businesswoman called Hannah, who struggles to leave her pet at home during the workday. She worries about something happening to them at home while she’s away, which creates stress.
  2. The Plot is why a person needs the product we’re designing. Take our example, Hannah. She sees an advert for our product, an app-based home camera designed for monitoring pets. She buys the camera and tests it out throughout her workday. Her phone buzzes if there’s a loud noise, or lots of movement, which lets her concentrate on work, assured that her pets are fine.
  3. The Setting is the envisioned place for users to use the product. In Hannah’s case, this is probably in her office, where the app must have a long-range video stream that she can access anywhere. What if she uses it on the train? Or abroad? Consider how this would change the design.

Having characters, a setting and a plot is half of the storytelling process; the other half lies in rules and techniques.

Rules for Storytelling

The next things to consider are rules, which ensure the story is useful for the team. Without them, it’s easy to overlook necessary details or be tempted into including useless information.

Design for the user’s needs.

Creating a product that doesn’t meet the right needs will ground a project before it hits the runway. To be aware of what a user wants from a product, we must focus on meeting the persona’s needs and avoid their dislikes. Our example persona, Hannah, needs to trust her camera and have a good video stream throughout the day. If she doesn’t feel like the product does this, she’ll stop using it and look elsewhere.

Speak the user’s language.

Using UX design terms when making a product for non-design professionals will alienate potential users and dissolve the credibility the potential user places in your company. To avoid this, we should use the language the customer uses appropriately. We need to take a pet-focused approach with Hannah, and notifications should use mild language like, “We’re playing!”. If we were designing a home security app, the language needed would be more direct.

Use data, not speculation.

Like designing a UX Persona, when storytelling, designers must base the plot, setting, and characters on accurate data; this data can be drawn from in-depth interviews, market research, or customer service logs and should be used to create a story that mirrors the actual customer experience as much as possible.

Equally, UX designers should create physical references and data logs throughout the storytelling process. Resources like storyboards, mood boards, and team brainstorms can be raised in later meetings as a point of contact or to refresh a colleague’s memory on a story element.

Techniques for Visual Storytelling

Creating a resource for other departments, executives, and clients can take time to approach, even with the above rules and aspects of storytelling. As psychologist D. L. Butler highlighted, visual aids like diagrams, flow charts, and other graphics help communication. If we’re struggling to find the words to explain a concept to another person, we can defer to a visual storytelling resource.

Visual storytelling is a story told through visual media, such as graphics, videos, or pictures. They can be used in-house or shown to clients to help them visualize the product in their daily lives. Two examples of visual storytelling resources are mood boards and storyboards.

The table above is an excellent demonstration of the impact visual aids can have when conveying information. It makes comparing the two techniques easy to understand and eliminates unnecessary and confusing words.

Tying up Storytelling in UX Design

When creating a tailored user experience, there is no better tool than Storytelling. It’s inclusive, research-driven, and forces the designer to empathize and create with a solid user in mind. Done well, storytelling can elevate an excellent product to a great one, and it’s fun!

To find out more about storytelling in design, get in touch with our UX experts; we’d love to chat.

Knowing the story of the user and their need for the product is at the heart of great UX design, but how and why do we write that story? Please find out the rules and techniques we use when storytelling below.

 


The Psychology of UX Design

Providing a positive user experience is inherently psychological, and the number of theories related to UX design reflects this. Choosing the right approach is far easier when understanding the behaviors that drive each idea. A strong background in the psychology of UX design makes balancing functional and attractive design second nature.

The Relationship between Cognitive Psychology and UX Design

Cognitive Psychology is the branch of psychology that thinks of the brain as a biological computer. It focuses primarily on motivation, problem-solving, decision-making, memory, and learning, all of which are important for UX design.

When navigating software, users are constantly running cognitive processes in their subconscious, and the outcome of these processes dictates whether they feel positive about the product. If they have difficulties with accessibility, navigation, or comprehension, they will have a less positive user experience. A basic understanding of cognitive psychology can prevent this and have a huge impact on the outcome of a service or product.

How Considering Cognitive Load can Enhance UX Design

The mental stamina needed to process and retain information when using a digital product is called ‘Cognitive Load.’ Each person only has a fixed amount of processing power, and demanding too much of the system can have unpleasant consequences.

Giving a computer too much to do at once will overburden the processing system and cause a dreaded computer crash. The same thing happens to the human brain if we try to make it do too much at once. This biological system failure is called Cognitive Overload, and if it occurs during the use of a digital product, it is unlikely to encourage the user to keep using it.

There are three types of cognitive load

  1. Intrinsic Cognitive Load is how difficult a task is to complete. Designers consider Intrinsic cognitive load when developing registration buttons, like ‘Sign Up, by removing all additional options and stimuli.
  2. Extraneous Cognitive Load is how non-essential issues affect the brain. Difficult typefaces or faulty micro-interactions all increase extraneous cognitive load.
  3. Germane's Cognitive Load is the organization, construction, and implementation of learned behaviors, called ‘schemas.’ When learning a new process, the brain instinctively compares it to its already-known processes.

If users are faced with a complicated feature early on, they will likely feel overwhelmed or unequipped to deal with the product. Cognitive overload can be avoided by presenting users with small chunks of information. This process of breaking up news is called progressive disclosure and will improve the user experience.

Five Common Psychological Laws, Theories, and Principles in Design

1.   The Schema Theory

As mentioned above, a schema is how our brains register and organize processes, preferences, and experiences. As we grow, we choose the methods of organization that we prefer and dislike things that vastly differ from our own experience.

If we apply this to design, we have to consider if the cognitive cost of learning a new schema will outweigh the benefits of having a distinctive or unique product. We don’t want to drive users away by trying to reinvent the wheel, or in this case, the hamburger menu. To avoid this, some companies decide that a safe, familiar layout is more worthwhile than investing in a unique feature that takes a long time to adjust.

2.   Von Restorff effect

The Von Restorff effect suggests that users are more likely to remember an item if it differs from those around it.

It’s used to guide users to a function the designer wants to stick out, like notification bubbles, sale banners, and ‘Last One!’ warnings. Even a subtle change will attract a user’s attention, making this a valuable effect for designers aiming for a minimalist design.

3.   The Gestalt Principles

The Gestalt Principles are a collection of theories about human processing. Some of the most useful for UX Design include

  • Continuation, or what guides the eye from one object to another. This principle can help UX designers direct a user through a digital product.
  • Similarity and Proximity, or how our brains group similar objects. In design, this can highlight a preferred option using color, size, distance, and shape.
  • Figure and Ground, or the fact that objects in the foreground of an image will be seen before anything in the background. Designers use this when they want to draw attention to a focal point, like an action button.

4.    Hick’s Law

Would you instead scroll through a list of a hundred items or five? If users are looking for a single option, they’ll find having to search through myriad options frustrating.

Hicks Law states that the time it takes for people to make decisions depends on the number of options available. The time it takes to make a choice increases with the number and complexity of the possibilities. Here, simple is best.

5.    Serial Position effect

When displaying items in a sequence, the serial position effect dictates that the position of the item on the list affects recall memory. Ebbinghaus, the father of the theory, found that users best remember the first and last items in a sequence.

By placing the most critical information first and last, with the least important information in the middle, UX designers can decide which information the user remembers.

In Summary

The limit to the application of these principles is dictated by the designer, but that’s not to say that every project needs to apply as many principles as possible to be successful. Instead, these theories should serve as useful tools for designers when considering how to approach a problem.

Get in touch if you’re interested in learning more about the psychology of UX design; our experts are always happy to talk!


How People Read Online: New and Old Findings

The internet is a beautiful place that has a wealth of information. However, how this information has been presented has changed dramatically. But why? The answer is simple; it's because of how we humans want to receive information.

This leaves us with an interesting question: has this impacted how we read? Let's take a look.

Methodology: eye-tracking

To investigate this question, eye-tracking can be used. This involves using tools to track a user's eye movement when browsing information. It allows us to glimpse what information is read and missed and examine other things, too—for example, understanding how visual design plays a role.

The various studies we've analyzed contain quantitative and qualitative results that seem to have the same outcome. However, we'll get to that in a minute.

The quantitative observations include a large pool of data collected from many participants. The data consists of heatmaps and gaze metrics to understand key points, such as how long an individual spends on a particular element in a user's face.

The qualitative observations - Gazeplots and gaze replays are used to understand viewing behaviors. Participants were encouraged to bring their tasks (e.g., from work) for these results.

Overall, the data retrieved from the studies comes from 13 years of findings. Over 500 participants helped contribute with 750+ hours of eye-tracking during these years.

Studies that were first conducted (2006-2013)

 An eye-tracking study was conducted to research how people read online. A large number of people participated in this study, with over 300.

In addition, two more studies were carried out in 2009 and 2013, looking at qualitative findings. However, the outcome of these two did not find anything new compared to the first one. 

Next round of studies (2016-2019) 

 Two eye-tracking studies in 2016 and 2017 were conducted to identify qualitative outcomes. They happened in two separate locations.

  • Raleigh, North Carolina (46 participants)
  • San Francisco, California (105 participants)

There were two main objectives: to analyze how people read online and to check other factors, such as the effect of low-signifier interfaces on interaction design.

Moving forward to 2019 and another comprehensive study was conducted to explore this topic; the tests took place in two very different locations.

  • Raleigh, North Carolina, USA (48 participants)
  • Beijing, China (12 participants)

The premise behind picking these places was to see if any cultural differences occurred when individuals from China and the US participated in the study. If any did exist, they would be identified in the qualitative part of the study. Typically, reading patterns are similar across cultures as human behavior remains constant. Although contrasts are present, it's often found between Western and Asian cultures.

Findings observed

Dating back to 2006 and onwards, how information online is viewed has changed significantly. The introduction of responsive design played a big part in this, allowing content to adjust depending on the device it's being viewed on.

As a result, old recommendations made by the community, which suggested "liquid layouts should be used for text instead of "fixed layouts," is outdated. 

Furthermore, the rise in zigzag layouts (where the content appears next to a picture and continues to flip as it goes down the page, creating a zigzag effect) and comparison tables being used co-occurred when a new developing gaze pattern had been identified.

Following this, content put into different cells on a web page is usually read by people who use the lawn-mower pattern to digest the information. If you're unfamiliar with the lawn-mower pattern, it consists of individuals starting at the top left cell and moving their gaze to the right until they reach the end of the row; next, they move their vision downwards and back to the left until the last cell on that row, and this continues so forth (mimicking how a lawn-mower works).

Search result pages

When SERP results are scanned, it was identified from the studies that individuals were watching them less linearly compared to old data. It's likely that the development of new SERP features on Google and other search engines has contributed to this.

The new layouts of SERP have also caused a new gazing pattern: the pinball pattern. This pattern has no linear path, with the reader "bouncing" between SERPs and results.

Alongside identifying how gazing patterns change, SERP results also significantly affected information-seeking behavior. This was down to SERPs acting as signposts. People viewing them can quickly determine if the results are related to what they want to know.

In addition, SERPs help guide an individual's attention. This is thanks to its high presence on a search result page that pulls the person's gaze to different areas. The development of the pitbull pattern is primarily because of this factor.

Additional information in SERPs in the form of the 'people who ask element' and 'the carousel' provide modified queries and tasks. As a result, this additional information closely linked to the search query can help expand on the subject. This allows users to find alternative information without needing to leave the page.

Lastly, SERPs can provide rapid answers to queries. Small snippets are sometimes included in search results that aim to answer questions, removing the need for individuals to click on a website - we call this 'good abandonment.'

Observations made in China

With one of the latest studies looking at Asian cultures compared to western cultures, the following was noticed.

Reading patterns stayed relatively the same, even when different languages were used. However, there was one exception that was identified: the pinball pattern. From over 60 searches from Chinese participants, it was noticed that the pinball pattern only occurred once on a Baidu SERP.

We believe the reason for this is due to a couple of reasons.

  • There are a reduced amount of SERP features on Baidu compared to Google.
  • Baidu SERP features aren't as visually attractive compared to Google's (fewer and smaller images).
  • Baidu has ads and other SERPs on its sidebar; however, they are less relatable to the query, especially compared to Google's.

Three distinct differences can be identified between how the US and China use the internet.

  • Culture
  • Language Characters
  • Sites and services have very contrasting designs. On average, Chinese sites tend to have higher design complexity.

Considering all of these, it's surprising that the overall result was that the reading behaviors between Chinese and U.S. participants were very similar. Therefore, this assumes that other countries and cultures will act the same way. This is further backed up by a non-eye-tracking study conducted in the Arab world that looked at Arabic sites. The result was very similar reading behaviors, apart from them being mirrored.

Content elements that have risen in popularity

Since the first study that was undertaken in 2006, 3 different types of content have grown in use due to popularity.

  • Content generated by users, including reviews, comments, and posts.
  • Inline elements, including pull quotes and ads.
  • Content Tables and comparison tables are included.

Recent studies found behaviors and preferences when these types of elements.

For instance, pull quotes and inline messages often disrupted reading and caused some participants in the study to fixate on them. Furthermore, some individuals within the study started linearly reading articles until reaching an inline ad or pull quote. Afterward, they began to scan the text rather than continue as before lightly.

What has not changed between old and new studies

It's still common for individuals to scan text rather than read it. However, scanning all of the text displayed on a web page or even most of it is still uncommon. It's rare for people to scan content linearly, even when they read all of it. Typically, you see users jumping to different parts of the page, missing certain bits of content, going back to the information they skipped, and relooking at content that has been scanned already.

Although light scanning is the most used method to view information on the web, the time dedicated to reading a web page can be linked to four reasons:

Motivation - How essential the information can affect how long is given to reading.

Focus - Focus plays a big role in determining how long a person stays on a page.

Personal Characteristics - Some individuals are detail-oriented when reading; others may scan content even with a deep interest.

The task at hand - Whether the person is looking for certain acts, wants new or intriguing information, or is researching a complete topic can play into how they read/scan content.

The earlier and newer studies point to one main outcome: individuals are less likely to read all content on a page or in a linear way. The essential information that's wanted is found and acquired. Therefore, content that makes scanning easier can be designed to meet the reader's wants by doing the following.

  • Using noticeable headings and subheadings that help break up content while clearly labeling information, so people can find what they're looking for when scanning.
  • Putting the important information first (known as 'front-loading') so individuals can quickly comprehend what is being said from scanning. This goes for the essential parts in sub-headers and links too.
  • Using formatting techniques, including bullet lists and bold texts, for individuals to obtain content that's crucial to them on the topic.
  • Make sure to use plain language for conciseness and ensure it's clear to the reader.

Gazes patterns: new and old

The more recent studies found that all the gaze patterns identified in, the earlier ones were still used. This includes.

  • Layer cake pattern
  • Spotted pattern
  • F-pattern
  • Love-at-first-sight pattern
  • Bypassing pattern
  • Sequential pattern
  • Zigzag pattern
  • Commitment pattern
  • Exhaustive review pattern

Human behavior conclusion

Earlier studies seem to show that fundamental reading behaviors have stayed relatively the same compared to the latest round of research. This is interesting, considering designs have changed significantly. Therefore, it can be said that while technology changes rapidly, humans stay somewhat constant.

However, new behaviors have been identified due to the change in online page designs, for example, the pinball pattern. As a result, the following can be said, individuals want a quick answer to their search. Designs that focus on clearly proving the desired information will meet users' wants.

Are your designs up to scratch?

Feel free to contact our UX experts to see how these findings can improve engagement with your audience today.


Consumer Marketing Methods Insights for UX Research

It’s no secret that user experience research (UXR) and consumer marketing have been the center point of conversation in the design industry. The UX sector has seen tremendous growth over the last couple of years and doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. Consumer marketing is also seeing dramatic changes as research continues to improve the field.

Although UX and consumer marketing are two separate sectors, they have features that intersect, allowing researchers in both of them to learn from one another. For the purpose of this post, we will look at how researchers with a branded mindset can produce more value during user experience research.

User experience research is essential for the intended user and the client

Understanding the unique position that UXR has in UX means that different interests can be identified among stakeholders, designers, and users. However, many of these interests are interconnected. The main force connecting all of these interests is the brand.

With the UXR being located between the user and client, both benefit greatly. The user receives their wants, and the client can achieve their overall goals, creating the best possible situation for both parties.

As a result, UXR plays an important role in helping implement positive change. And it goes without saying that this type of research is fundamental in consumer marketing and can be achieved by discussing core elements connected to the brand.

Understanding that customers have a plethora of choices

Emotions and other factors can affect how users navigate certain things. Therefore, it’s essential for UX research to include brand-experience factors. If not, understanding user engagement and how long they’ll be engaged (even if barriers occur) in the product will be hard to determine.

When users interact with great interfaces that have clear connections to the brand, it’s suggested that they will be more understanding if issues occur. However, the same cannot be said if the brand isn’t clearly represented.

User experience research is so much more than just identifying pain points for users. In addition, it’s about finding the brand interface's effect in terms of a social and sensory experience for the user in question.

How brand perception impacts UXR

User perceptions of brands can determine how their products are viewed. So, brands must learn to capture users’ attention.

The consistency of the experience is also essential. If done correctly, the overall opinion of the company will likely improve. When UXR is concerned, it’s typically focused on the user’s experience with technology. However, when adding consumer marketing into the mix, it’s easy to see that the technology experience is also a brand experience, meaning that the research should include more factors.

Qualitative data that identifies pain points commonly shows a user's digital experience and perception of a brand; this data is intertwined in many cases. Furthermore, every moment reviewed could invoke different reactions due to emotions. It can be said that the cumulative response to the amalgamation of points will develop the perception of the overall brand.

To explore this in more detail, say all touchpoints benefit the user, apart from one. As a result, the brand is likely to be perceived by the negative point rather than all the good ones. This leads the user to view the brand poorly, especially if the negative touchpoint is significant. Thankfully, journey mapping, which is used a lot in consumer research, can be implemented in UXR.

This helps to understand what emotional responses are triggered from different touchpoints. Overall, it can determine how the brand is seen through users' eyes.

Looking at macro and micro perspectives

 If we draw our attention to some of the biggest global brands, you can see their identity is integrated with user experience. Take Coca-Cola, for example; the bottle is uniquely shaped and has a tint of green. Or look at Apple; the well-known brand shows the difficulty of trying to remove user experience from a brand’s identity. All interactions that users have with Apple products show that there’s no escaping brand identity.

To some extent, UX researchers look at the user experience's micro elements, but macro-level factors should also be considered. Macro aspects of the brand identity can influence micro experiences by affecting cognitive and emotional responses. That’s why UXR needs to understand how users look at the brand aesthetics of products and how the brand is viewed overall.

Need help from UX professionals?

At Radiant, our team consists of highly passionate UX designers. We help businesses connect with their audiences without the hurdles of poor interface design and more. Contact us today to learn more!

 


Minimalism with a Twist in UX

The term ‘Minimalist’ brings clean white spaces with no single-use appliances or functionless decorations. This doesn’t mean, however, that to achieve minimalism in design, we must strip a website or software of all but the barest of functions. Instead, UX minimalism focuses on simplifying complex processes into a more accessible and better processes, making better apps, webpages, and systems.

When incorporating minimalism in design, the goal is to eliminate unnecessary functions while conveying the intended message concisely.

What is Minimalism in UX Design?


With Big Tech companies like Apple and Google trailblazing minimalist websites, minimalism has become an influential contributor to the overall user experience. Synonymous with exclusivity, minimalism also has the advantage of faster loading times and good compatibility on both small and large screens.
As with all UX design, minimalism focuses on maximizing user-friendly traits. But what sets the minimalistic approach apart from other techniques? As highlighted by Darya Tronsco, minimalism keeps the basic components of a system as simple as possible, allowing the user to interact without the direction or experience needed to deal with cluttered interfaces.

Why use Minimalism?

Aside from projecting a polished and exclusive company image, minimalist websites selling a product have an advantage over competitors. There is no better approach than minimalism for highlighting products, as there is nothing on the page to distract the consumer’s attention.

Minimalism doesn’t only work by emphasizing a product; it also refines it. As UX designers, there is a temptation to include additional, superfluous elements to improve user design, which has the opposite effect. Minimalist UX Design involves relentlessly culling inessential components, which can be challenging to do with our work.

To help with this, we’ve included a list of five essential features of Minimalist UX design, compiled by Amlan Sarkar:

  1. Quick-loading Interface because fewer components make websites more responsive.
  2. Increased SEO makes the layout easier for search engines to comb and index.
  3. Less maintenance because the interface is less complex, and bugs are easier to fix.
  4. Simplicity, which is classy and enhances accessibility.
  5. Meaningful content ensures all features have a purpose and facilitates easy navigation.

If these characteristics are applied to a project well, the resulting system is sophisticated, accessible, and a pleasure to use.

Achieving Minimalist Designs with Examples

The overarching question every designer should be asking themselves when creating a minimalist website is simple:
But even knowing this question, how do we achieve this?

Achieving a minimalist design takes a lot of work, and we can’t replicate that clean website design just by removing components. To help, we’ve detailed a few research-driven techniques below:

Hick’s Law

This law was discovered in 1952 by American psychologists William Hick and Ray Hyman and stated that the time it takes to make a decision increases with the number and complexity of the available choices. When applying this law to minimalist design, it makes sense that giving users fewer choices in the form of more periodic functions will improve the overall user experience.  Customers who find a website too difficult to navigate will look elsewhere.

A great example of this is Google’s search page:

The center of Google’s search page is a search bar and two buttons. The choice is easy, creates positive user experiences, and helps make Google the leading search engine worldwide.

Whitespace

The negative space between content is called whitespace. Whitespace is essential to achieving a minimalist design because it highlights the important part of the system or page. Take Apple’s Apple Store Online page, for example:

The generous amount of whitespace emphasizes the page's important part: the Apple products on sale. This focuses the user on the product while maintaining the clean, sleek design typical of Apple.

Color and Typography

Minimalist typography involves choosing textual elements that create open, airy, and highly legible lettering. Generally, these simple letterforms have fewer curves and give the page a more modern appearance. Colour is also critical to minimalist designs, with most designers leaning towards grey, black, and white to provide a clean appearance.

Samsung’s UK website uses dramatic, white typography that doesn’t distract from the overall image. The color of the lettering matches the elements of the picture, and the size draws the eye without taking over.

Flat Design

This technique keeps everything from fonts to images as essential as possible, giving the system an aesthetically pleasing, functional look. The Winter Games Olympic Story website is an excellent example of flat design.

Everything from the black and white background to the single pop of color in the date makes this website easy to understand and navigate. The eye is drawn to two options: the hamburger menu or the Winter games button.

Visual Elements

Visual elements refer to site images, icons, or graphic illustrations. They are accessible to everyone and convey more information in a short time. However, in minimalist designs, there is a risk of pictures taking over the page and making any other minimalist choices redundant. One way of getting around this is using grayscale images or images with simple color palettes. A website that successfully uses color with a minimalist design in mind is Ikea:

Ikea’s UK homepage uses yellow in all images, which links back to their logo while giving the media a cohesive look. This maintains a minimalist, Scandinavian feel without sacrificing the joy in their products.

Minimalism in UX - Keep it Simple

The proof is in the webpage, Minimalism works. With the front runners in technology all using minimalist website designs, it is only a matter of time before maximalist web pages are a thing of the past.

Making a minimalist product as a UX designer is not easy, but our UX experts are always here to advise if needed. Get in touch to learn more about creating great, minimalist sites - we’d love to hear from you.

 


Micro-interactions Matter in UX Design

What are micro-interactions?

Even if you didn’t realize it, you’ve likely encountered several micro-interactions to get to this article. Micro-interactions are tiny, satisfying reactions people get from interacting with a web page or product, showing the user that their actions impact the digital landscape. Loading screens, click animations, and pinging email notifications are all cleverly conceptualized micro-interactions designed to keep a user entertained and optimistic about a product.

However, when poorly designed, micro-interactions can achieve the opposite and seriously damage the overall user experience. Think about how you’d feel if clicking ‘Add to Cart’ had no result. The likelihood is that you’d click again. And again. Before you know it, three unwanted duplicates would be in the basket, and you’d feel frustrated. Would you want to shop there again? Probably not.

Where do you see them?

Many micro-interactions happen without us registering them, including distinctive notification sounds, loading animations, and the haptic feedback, or short vibration, users get when pressing keys on a touchscreen keypad. Micro-interactions are so ingrained into a technology that successful implementation should leave a positive impression on the user, especially if they don’t notice it.

Some common and not-so-common micro-interactions examples are:

  • Sounds or animations when toggling volume up and down.
  • Micro-animations when clicking, scrolling or
  • Loading screens.
  • Payment refusal or acceptance animations.
  • Error code.

Finding a successful and user-friendly product that doesn’t take advantage of micro-interactions in one way or another is a rarity. Being so easy and practical tools, it simply makes sense to use them.

Why are micro-interactions important?

Daniel Saffer famously said, “It’s the details that make systems feel more human and humane.” When considering how individuals interact with and use their devices, the truth of this statement is unavoidable. One of the pitfalls of product development is that in the pursuit of creating a valuable and in-demand product, it’s easy to lose sight of the essential humanity in UX design. UX developers need to consider people’s behavior when creating digital products for repeated use.

Depending on the target audience, developers should distinguish what impression they want the product to have. The micro-interactions on a gaming app will differ significantly from those in video conferencing software. Fears of unprofessional-seeming software can dupe product designers into creating impersonal and cold products which lack a human element. Micro-interactions are an essential way of bridging the gap between technology and man.

According to Daniel Saffer, an Interaction Design Lead in Smart Design, the key components of a micro-interaction are universal and include:

  1. Trigger: which instigates an action. This includes user-initiated triggers, such as clicking, pushing a button, or swiping, and system-initiated triggers, like an exit-intention pop-up.
  2. Rules: decide what happens after the trigger is engaged.
  3. Feedback: this is how you know an action is taking place. For example, clicking a ‘Pay Now button is a trigger, and the device buzzing is the feedback.
  4. Loop and Modes are needed when there are multiple feedback options. Perhaps the page can’t be found, so the appropriate feedback would be to change it to a friendly error code.

The figure above showcases the elements of micro-interactions coined the Process Cycle. If any part of this process fails, Saffer claims the micro-interaction will be unsuccessful, and most people will not react to the product as the developers intended.

Here are some great micro-interactions in practice:

Let there be light

 

At first glance, this Dark Mode button by Aaron Iker looks like any regular switch. Still, if you look closer, you’ll notice the crescent moon micro-interaction triggered by engaging and disengaging Dark Mode. This subtle detail tempts you into trying out Dark Mode and leaves you pleased you did. It’s a brilliant example of practical and attractive user design.

Sign me up!

Take this Notify Me button by Oleg Frovlov; it makes a usually unattractive task (signing up for an email list) seem light and rewarding. People are likely to feel like they’re signing up for useful

emails, not spam and the friendly ‘Thank You!’ notification afterward leaves them feeling positive.

Rewarding purchases

The more time a user spends staring at a motionless payment processing button, the more likely they will get bored, reconsider the purchase, and click away. This ‘Pay Now’ micro animation by Paarth Desai keeps users interested while the payment is secured, and the tick symbol feedback reinforces that they’re done the right thing.

Miro-interactions, a marriage of form and function

Ultimately, the truth is undeniable; Micro-interactions shape the user experience. Such a little thing can make a difference to users and drive home the importance of form and function in successful user experience design.

Still, want to know more? Get in touch with one of our UX experts to explain how micro-interactions can improve your product.

 

 


The Design Language of Dance

Although it might sound strange, there are quite a few similarities between UX design and dance. UX design requires highly creative thinking and expert problem-solving skills when creating great experiences that users love.

Dance, in comparison, is much the same. Practicing new moves requires great communication skills, problem-solving know-how, and creative thinking skills to overcome any issues. So, let’s go into more detail about other similarities between dance and design and how learning about this can help shape great UX experiences.

Why Learning About Dance Is Fundamental to Great Design

Simplicity is Key

Simplicity is key when it comes to dancing. Dancers need to look as graceful as possible, making it look extremely easy for the audience. When it comes to UX design, it’s the same. The design should be easy to use, and the user should know exactly what to do and how to find the things they want to find without stress. It’s no wonder that one of the key tenets of UX design is ‘choosing the path of least resistance for the customer’.

Focus Less on Invention and More on Perfection

Another great lesson that dance teaches us is creativity. Rarely will a dancer create a brand new dance that no one else has seen before. Instead, they will often look at classic dances made by professionals and look to perfect them as best as possible.

This philosophy should be the same for UX. Getting all the fundamentals and best practices perfect ensures that the design is easy to understand and use, which is more important than brand new UX design that users might not know how to use properly.

Timing is Everything

Dancers need to get the timing perfect, or they will become completely out of sync with the music and their fellow dancers, ruining the dance.

You could apply the same principles to UX design. Designers need to constantly time how long it takes for a user to complete their goal. If it takes too long, the user inference will need to change in order to accommodate a quicker and easier way for them to complete the action. If this is not done, the user will get annoyed and may even switch to a competitor that has a more user-friendly UX.

Critically Evaluate Everything You Do

One of the reasons that dancers never make mistakes in live performances is that they are also critically evaluating what they did in previous sessions to ensure nothing goes wrong. The same applies to UX designers. By gaining feedback from every design you do, both negative and positive, you can learn to improve to reach perfection in your designs as professional dancers do.

Utilize Patterns and Rhythm

Pattern and rhythm are vital for dancers. Without it, their performance would be out of tune with the music and look drastically wrong.

UX designers also need to look at patterns and implement them in their designs. If a UX shares patterns in its interface, it allows users to navigate through it much more easily, as they recognize where they need to go next due to them identifying patterns throughout the design.

How Balance Can Help

Dancers, and especially ballet dancers, know the importance of balance. Sometimes they only balance on their toes with one foot!

UX designers can take some tips from using balance like dancers in their UX designs. Although having cool and flashy animations are great, at the end of the day, you need to make it easy for the user to navigate through to find what they are looking for.

That’s why balancing complex visual designs with simple, easy-to-read content is key for your users to enjoy the experience, whether it is for a website or an app.

Working as a Team to Achieve Success

To ensure the performance is one the audience will remember, dancers have to work well in a team. Constant communication with everyone from fellow designers to production team members is required to ensure they put in a top-shelf performance.

UX designers need to work with their fellow team members in order to stay on track and ensure the overall UX works without error. Like dancers, constant communication and feedback are necessary to achieve success here.

Use the Design Language of Dance In Your Next UX Project

So, as covered above, dance has a lot of similarities with UX design, and designers can improve massively by taking some of these lessons on and implementing them into their next project.

Need UX designers for your project? Send us a message!

 

 


What role does the Hierarchy of Needs play in Design?

One of the most influential psychologists in the 20th century, Abraham Maslow, released a paper in 1943 called, ‘A Theory of Human Motivation. The paper’s central idea was that human needs could be categorized into a pyramid-shaped hierarchy called the ‘Hierarchy of Needs. It’s a revolutionary theory that is still referenced by researchers today, but what does this have to do with design?

In 2010, Steven Bradley created a modified version to guide designers, called the ‘Design Hierarchy of Needs. This updated hierarchy takes the psychological theory and turns it into a tool to help designers create a more useful, targeted product. With an overabundance of saturated markets, applying a psychological framework can be the edge a product and designer needs to succeed.

Background

Before explaining the modified version, it is necessary to understand the original hierarchy. In ‘A Theory of Human Motivation,’ the basic, most essential needs are at the base of the pyramid, the second level represents the second-most important needs, and so on to the tip of the pyramid. This structure highlights that the higher levels can’t be properly addressed unless the most basic needs are met.

As shown above, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs includes 5 tiers. From the base, these are:

  1. Physiological needs, such as food, air, sleep, and water. These are basic things humans need to survive.
  2. Safety Needs, such as physical safety, mental safety, and financial security. Maslow considered these the next most basic elements of motivation.
  3. Belongingness and love needs, like friends, family, and other relationships. This involves feelings of belongingness or being part of a group.
  4. Esteem Needs, including self-worth, respect, and accomplishments. The fourth tier involves constructs such as status or reputation.
  5. Self-actualization is a state of achieving one's full potential, whether that be peak creativity or efficiency. Maslow stated this could not be achieved unless the preceding four tiers were met.

Maslow argued that higher tiers could technically be met before a lower one, but the fulfillment is not sustainable. For example, even the world’s leading UX designers will struggle to repeatedly produce excellent products if they are overtired or physically unsafe.

Where Maslow’s Hierarchy Meets Design

Of course, designs don’t need physical or mental safety to succeed; they’re concepts and don’t need air or water to survive. So how does this translate? It follows the same basic structure.

As detailed above, Steven Bradley’s design mirrors Maslow’s hierarchy’s rule of tiers, so to progress to the next stage of the pyramid, the basic needs of the design must first be met. In Bradley’s theory, the five tiers are as follows:

  1. Functionality - Does the product work?
  2. Reliability - Is the performance of the product stable and consistent?
  3. Usability - Is the product easy to use?
  4. Proficiency - Can this product help the user do a task better?
  5. Creativity - What makes this product well-designed?

1.    Functionality

The service or product has to function before any other elements are considered. This means the basic functions of a product must work before any further steps are considered. If you’re designing a smartphone, it must meet all the defining requirements of a smartphone before any additional functions are considered (to make and receive calls, send text messages, browse the web, etc.). The design has already failed if it doesn’t meet these requirements.

2.    Reliability

At this level, the designer should now focus on offering stable and consistent performance. It must not only work once but work time and time again. The product must already function or achieve the base tier in the pyramid before examining reliability, which supports Bradley’s hierarchical model. Once again, design should have little influence on this tier, as reliability is more important.

3.    Usability

Now, we must assess the products' accessibility. How easily can people accomplish basic tasks? Take the smartphone example. Can users figure out how to turn it on or access the homepage? This is where UX designers often come in to optimize the service provided and keep customers happy. This is the first level in which design is considered to influence whether or not the tier’s criteria are satisfied.

4.    Proficiency

This segment is where designers must consider how the product can help users do tasks more proficiently. What sets this product apart from others in its field? Every product entering the market must have a feature that gives an advantage over its competitors. This tier is where designers isolate and highlight that quality. Consider the smartphone. Perhaps it has a superior camera or battery life - showcase it! This is where design becomes a significant contributor to the fulfillment of the tier and can make the difference between a good and a great product.

5.    Creativity

This is the final, crowning achievement of design. Using the running example involves asking questions like ‘How can your design interact with users in new and innovative ways?’ or ‘Can it function as a debit card or rail pass?’

Bradley notes there is little point in considering what makes a product excel if it isn't functioning, reliable, user-friendly, and proficient. This final level is limited only by the designer and allows room for features that expand on the product itself, which makes it the playground of truly excellent design.

To Conclude

So, the product you’ve created meets four of these hierarchical criteria but misses out on one or two in the middle, is this a deal breaker? No, not necessarily. In reality, most users will be forgiving if the product or service plays up once in a full moon, and there are systems like beta-testing and quality control to catch any significant faults pre-launch. What's important is to listen to feedback and make improvements when needed.

Most of the time, designers will intuitively solve lower-tier needs before attempting to add higher-tier ones. However, the framework provided by Bradley’s ‘Design Hierarchy of Needs is a helpful point of reference that can simplify an overwhelming or complex project into its basic needs.

 

Are you thinking about design from a psychological standpoint? If you’re considering a new approach or want to stay up to date with current design approaches, this article is for you.


Unearthing the Discovery Phase in UX Research

“Great discoveries and improvements invariably involve the cooperation of many minds.” Alexander Graham Bell

Discovery Phase in UX Research

Discovery Phase in UX Research is one of the first quintessential steps in the User Experience Journey.  During this phase, the UX Researcher partakes in uncovering the fundamental and preliminary aspects, such as initiating conversational meetings to understand and develop rapport with the associated stakeholders in a preeminence way. This engagement process will help contribute to a successful UX design implementation product.

Let’s unearth how and why this phase is an important part of the UX Research journey.

What is Discovery Phase in UX Research?

To begin working on the UX Design of any commodity/product, whether as a new launch or enhancing an existing feature as a UX researcher, we should first lay the foundational base to the UX Research Roadmap, which is often referred to as Discovery Phase.

Definition

“Discovery phase is a preliminary phase in the UX-design process that involves researching the problem space, framing the problem(s) to be solved, and gathering enough evidence and initial direction on what to do next. Discoveries do not involve testing hypotheses or solutions.”

Prepping up

To begin with, as a UX researcher, one has to gain insights into the current scenario and the project's strengths and weaknesses. This is done by initiating communications with the stakeholders. The next process to perform would be identifying and mapping key stakeholders. This is followed by recruiting and scheduling research interview sessions. Next, UX researchers dive further to read/learn the subject matter of the related project documentation and vital user data information.

What Happens Next?

Once the groundwork is readily set, there would be one high-level Discovery session conducted by the UX Researchers with a core group of members. That would include Client team members such as Project Managers, Architects, IT team members, Business Stakeholders, and end users. This is to understand the main objective and get the ball rolling. The high-level agenda comprises-

  • Team Introductions
  • Goals and Objectives
  • Project scope
  • Formalities
  • User requirements
  • Observations
  • Justification for the work
  • Deadlines
  • Constraints (Budget, Technical tools, Company guidelines)
  • Attaining key contacts list
  • Questionnaires
  • Additional cardinal features

Discovery Phase’s Analytical Approach

Analytically, being a part of the qualitative research method Discovery phase provides insights into the user's behavioral and attitudinal perspectives, observations about tools, and other related activities. Once the analyzed information results are mapped and documented accurately, the UX Research team will start working on the next steps.

By brainstorming, prioritizing, selecting, and shortlisting the core features, this analytical approach helps execute the UX Research & Design process by

Fundamental Checkpoints in Discovery Phase

Listed below are basic fundamental checkpoints that are most commonly followed in a typical UX Discovery Phase scenario:

  1. Study / Read / Understand
  2. Identification / Classification
  3. Recruitment
  4. Scheduling User Interviews
  5. Building Rapport
  6. Observations
  7. Gaining Insights
  8. Consolidated Analysis
  9. Planning UX Strategy
  10. Next Research Phase Journey

Additional Prerequisites:

  • Run Contextual Inquiry
  • Understanding the target audience
  • Competitive Analysis - Comparing with other companies/organizations
  • Investigate user experience hypotheses
  • Assumption Mapping - Validate initial user experience assumptions

(Resource reference - Bootcamp.uxdesign.cc/ux)

What Next?

Setting standards in the Post-Discovery phase, we are now well prepared with a clear vision for the future UX Research Process. We can begin the next phase in the Research phase series with great tenacity- The Empathy phase.

To learn more about the process of in-depth investigative Discovery Phase and other important phases in UX Research, please reach out to our dedicated UX Research Professionals at Radiant Digital.