22 Research Terms You Need to Know as a UX Designer

Below we’ve listed some of the most common research terms you’re likely to come across in the world of UX design. While you probably already know some, we’re hoping that by discovering some new terms here, you’ll be able to grow as a UX designer.

1. A/B Testing

A/B testing, a common practice in the world of design, is when you test two different versions of an idea, design, or function with users to see which one they prefer.

2. Accessibility

Accessibility refers to the ease with which people can use and understand a piece of software, a design, a website, or an app. This term is also used in relation to how websites and apps are adapted for those with disabilities or special needs. For example, many websites include settings to assist those who are color blind.

3. Active Listening

Active listening is a conversational and interviewing technique where the person pays careful attention to what is being said and provides feedback to encourage the conversation.

4. Analytics

Analytics provide vital information about the traffic and engagement with your website and app. Through analytics, you can understand where your traffic comes from, where they move, and what is/isn’t working with your design.

5. Card Sorting

Card sorting is a technique that enables you to design or evaluate the information architecture of a site. During a card sorting session, participants can organize topics into a variety of categories. They may then label these categories. Then to do a card sort, you can use a number of methods, including cards, pieces of paper, or an online card sorting tool.

6. Clickstream Analysis

From an online perspective, clickstream analysis (or clickstream analytics) is a method of collecting and analyzing data pertaining to the pages a website visitor visits and in what order. A visitor’s path to navigate through a website or online design is called the clickstream.

7. Competitor Analysis

An overall assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of current and potential competitors.

8. Context of Use Analysis

The context of use analysis is about collecting and analyzing information. Most of the time, this information will be centered on intended users, their tasks, the physical environment of the product, tools to support user goals, and the other technical aspects that’ll affect the UX.

The data for a context-of-use analysis can be obtained via surveys, site visits, interviews, workshops, focus groups, and observational studies.

9. Conversion Rate

Conversion rate is whether your users are taking the desired action on your website or design. For e-commerce purposes, the conversion rate provides you with the percentage of visitors that complete a targeted transaction online.

In e-commerce, conversion marketing is the act of converting site visitors into paying customers. The process of improving the conversion rate is called conversion rate optimization.

10. Diary Study

This is a research method that can be used to collect valuable qualitative data about user activity and behavior. Often users self-report their activities at regular intervals to create an account of their activities. Commonly, diary studies can range from a few days to a couple of months.

11. End Users

The end user is the person who uses the website, app, or design.

12. Engagement (User Engagement)

User engagement is about retaining the user’s attention. It also measures whether users find value in the website, app, or design.

13. Entry Field

The entry field (also known as a data or text entry field) is the place where users can enter or modify text.

14. Error Analysis

Error analysis, as part of a broader task analysis, is used to identify the errors that may occur during a set of tasks.

15. Error Rate

The error rate is all about the frequency with which errors occur during a given period of time. 

16. Ethnography/Ethnographic Research

Ethnography is the study of people in their own environment via observation, face-to-face interviewing, and other research techniques

17. Eye Tracking

Eye tracking involves the measurement of eye activity on a screen or an environment. The software allows you to track what users are looking at, how frequently, and in what order.

18. Hick’s Law

Hick’s law is about the time it takes for a person to make a decision as a result of the possible choices he or she has. Increasing the number of choices will increase the decision time.

19. Minesweeping

Where are links located on your page? Minesweeping is an action that involves the user quickly moving the cursor over a page and watching to see where the cursor changes to show the presence of a link.

20. Three Click Rule

The 3-click rule is a theory that users will lose interest and quickly leave a website if they can not navigate to the page they want within 3-clicks.

21. Five-Second Test

The 5-second test is when you show users the visual interface of a website, design, or software application for 5-seconds. The user must then remember and recall what they saw on the page. This test allows designers to determine whether the key visuals or calls to action are instantly engaging and memorable.

22. Eighty/Twenty Rule

The 80/20 is based on the Pareto principle, which states that 80% of consequences come from 20% of causes. When applied to a website, web app, or software environment, the Pareto principle explains how 20% of the features and functionality will be responsible for 80% of the results.

Summary

As a UX Designer, you are likely to come across many of these terms. If you want to fulfill your responsibilities and achieve as much as possible in your role, you need to know how and when to deploy these terms. Ultimately, staying informed is the easiest path to success in UX design.

To learn more about UX design terms, feel free to get in touch with our UX experts.


Understanding Behavioral and Attitudinal UX Metrics

UX metrics are a set of quantitative data points. These metrics can be used to measure, compare and track user experience. They are, therefore, vital for ensuring that UX design decisions are informed by relevant facts and measurable data.

Is your design strategy working? How are your designs working over time? Are your designs serving your user base? The number of UX metrics is always growing, so you may be tempted to ask, “Which metrics are most valuable for my project?”

Below we explore two of the key UX metrics and how you can use these metrics to inform your designs and products.

Behavioral Metrics

Behavioral metrics tell you how users interact with your product and the issues they may have had. Many of the behavioral metrics mentioned below are relevant to a design’s usability, which is an integral part of UX.

Good usability is key to ensuring that users are happy with your product and don’t start looking for alternatives. Behavioral metrics can be collected using digital analytic tools or during lab usability testing.

1. Time on Task

Time on task is the time that a user spends doing a particular activity. It is usually measured in seconds, minutes, or hours. This metric is ideal for task-focused activities that need to be efficient. For example, you can track the time it takes for users to complete an online shopping experience.

2. Average Session Length

This metric measures user engagement. Normally, the more time users spend using your design or product, the more engaged they are.

3. Abandonment Rate

The abandonment rate is the ratio of the number of abandoned purchase attempts to the overall number of initiated transactions. This metric is relevant to the online shopping experience. A high abandonment rate is a key indicator that something is wrong with your checkout experience.

4. Error Rate

The error rate is the number of users who make errors while completing a task. If users accidentally choose the wrong option or enter data incorrectly, this can be tracked. These kinds of errors often relate to usability issues. Once you know more about the kinds of errors users are encountering, you can start solving them.

Attitudinal Metrics

Attitudinal metrics will give you an idea of how users perceive your product. Examples of attitudinal metrics include Adoption (Which features do people use?), Satisfaction (Do users enjoy your product?), Credibility (What are the levels of user trust?), and Loyalty (Do users want to return to use your product or service again?).

1. Daily/Monthly Active Users (DAU/MAU)

Measures-Loyalty

How many users do you have? Tracking the number of users you get on a daily or monthly basis will help you measure user retention. The DAU/MAU ratio, also known as stickiness, is about how many users engage with your product on a regular basis. For example, an MAU ratio of 50% means your users engage with your product or service 15 out of 30 days.

2.Net Promoter Score (NPS)

Measures-Loyalty

Net Promoter Score (NPS) is measured using a survey that asks users one question- “How likely is it that you would recommend our product to a friend or colleague on a scale from 1 to 10?”  Those who respond with a score of 0 to 6 = are detractors. Those who respond with a 7 or 8 = are passive. And those who respond with a score of 9 or 10 = promoters. Then a final NPS score is calculated by subtracting the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters.

3. User Retention Rate

Measures-Loyalty

User Retention Rate is the percentage of users you have retained over a period of time. It is an indicator of whether your retention strategy is working. It is calculated by subtracting the number of acquired users during a period from the number of users at the end of the period divided by the number of users at the beginning of the period.

4. Customer satisfaction score (CSAT)

Measures-Loyalty and Satisfaction

The CSAT is an indication of how satisfied a user is with a particular interaction or with the overall experience. A CSAT is gathered using a survey or questionnaire. This is a measure of a specific part of your product rather than the more generic NPS metric. The downside to this metric is that many users will not take the time to fill out the survey.

5. System Usability Scale (SUS)

Measures-Loyalty and Satisfaction

The System Usability Scale (SUS) is a set of questions that you allow to assess the usability of a product. It usually consists of 10 to 12 statements that users need to rate on a scale (Strongly Disagree - Disagree - Agree - Strongly Agree). SUS requires a relatively small sample size but can still provide you with some valuable user experience data.

Summary

Unfortunately, there is no universal set of UX metrics that works for every project. The best way to explore UX metrics is to understand your business model, your business goals, and your ideal user base. What are the models and KPIs that your company tracks? What do you need to pay attention to? Learn what has a significant impact on your bottom line and use metrics to help you grow your knowledge.

It is also important to tie these UX metrics to design decisions. You will then be able to track changes over time, benchmark against iterations, and measure your product evolution. You will also see whether your design and product designs have reaped the results you expected.

Finally, remember that data only tells part of the story. Data allows you to understand what’s happening, but it may struggle to tell you why it’s happening. Alongside data, it’s essential to conduct qualitative studies such as contextual inquiries and user interviews. Together, UX metrics and qualitative research will help you create a comprehensive vision of your product and how it performs.

To learn more about exploring UX metrics, feel free to get in touch with our UX experts.


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.

Need UX experts for your business?

The power of UX design cannot be underestimated. If you’re interested in enhancing your interfaces, then feel free to contact us today to learn more.


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.

 


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.


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.


Empathy That Goes Beyond User Experience Research

Empathy is an important human attribute to have in your personal and professional lives. But how does empathy work? And why is empathy a vital part of any user experience research?

In this blog, we explore what it means to incorporate empathy into your business life and how you can use empathy to become a better User Experience Researcher.

What is Empathy?

In practice, empathy can take many forms. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary states that empathy is the “action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.”

Empathy is about understanding the people around you and responding with emotional intelligence. It is something that you can practice every day and never truly master because empathy will differ with every person you interact with. While it is important to bring empathy to your personal life, it is equally important to understand the role empathy can play in business environments.

Empathy in User Experience Research is All About

Empathy is a big part of User Experience Research because it is about seeing the problems and experiences through the eyes of the users’. It is not easy to accomplish, but if done correctly, this approach can produce extremely valuable information about your users. This data can then be used to help design teams make decisions that are informed by their product users’ needs, likes and dislikes.

When you operate with empathy at the forefront of your mind, you can dig deeper, learn more, and derive more valuable insights. The idea is not to simply solve a need; empathy in user experience is about fully enhancing user lives by taking away unnecessary barriers.

For example, you are building a website, and a quarter of your users are students who are dyslexic. How should you approach your UX design? Instead of designing a standard website and adding an extra font to cater to people with dyslexia, you should design with accessibility in mind right from the beginning.

Consider a range of options like the text to speech, speech recognition, and spell checker. Use your empathy skills to see from the perspectives of dyslexic people and see how your website can be improved to accommodate everyone.

How Can Empathy Enhance Our Daily Lives?

Empathy has tremendous power to enhance our daily lives. With empathy, we can connect to others at a deeper level and understand a variety of perspectives. We can relate to each other with more honesty and learn to be less judgemental. Some people learn empathy from an early age, and it becomes more than just a character trait; it is an integral part of who they are.

Empathy is powerful, and therefore it needs to be treated with caution. As with most things, it is all about balance. You need to have a healthy amount of empathy for those around you, but you also need to take care of yourself, or you will suffer from empathy burnout and fatigue.

If empathy doesn't come naturally to you, there are plenty of ways to develop your empathetic side. In an article by Clair Cain Miller in the New York Times, Miller suggested a number of ways people can improve their empathy:

  • Talk to New People: Instead of staring at your phone, start conversations with strangers while waiting in line, while on a train, or at the grocery store. Fully and actively listen. Be curious about people with different backgrounds than you, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
  • Get Involved With a Shared Cause: We are more alike than different. Volunteer and get involved with something that is close to your heart. In doing so, you will not only help yourself, but you will also learn about yourself and your capacity for empathy. Learn about all the different people involved in making a difference and join in.
  • Admit Your Biases: We all have biases. They are an innate aspect of our human nature. Acknowledge your biases and move forward with curiosity while actively working on avoiding making conclusions about people, places, and things around you through mental shortcuts.

Takeaways

You can learn plenty from making empathy a significant part of your daily business life. A team aware of the power of empathy will more often than not be able to work better together and create products that address real consumer issues.

Who knows? If you want to have a long and fruitful career in User Experience Research, you have to work on your empathy skills all the time actively. If empathy doesn’t come naturally, you can always test Claire Cain Miller’s suggestions and see what happens.

Ultimately, working on empathy beyond user experience research will make you more aware and appreciative of others. This will improve the way you live your life and the way you do your work. Why not give it a try?

To learn more about how empathy informs user experience research, please contact our UX experts.