Non-Technical Entrepreneur? 9 Things You Must Know About UI/UX.
Not every founder knows the more delicate points of what makes for a good user experience or an appealing user interface. If this applies to you, it’s not a dig at all. There are plenty of successful entrepreneurs who have fantastic ideas and excellent marketing skills. But if you are a non-technical person, there are some essential things you’ll want to keep in mind with UI and UX.
Before we dive into a deeper understanding of UI and UX, let’s take a step backward and define these two terms. Often used interchangeably, these concepts have different meanings you’ll want to be aware of as an entrepreneur.
User experience (UX) refers to all user interactions with a product. Nearly 80 percent of users will never use an app again 72 hours after installing it, so there is something to be said for creating a positive user experience. An example of a compelling UX (by Sarah Racker) is what Amazon does when it shows items related to what’s being viewed to give users more choices.
The user interface (UI) is the visual stuff on your product (e.g., buttons, graphics, images, and text). Before a potential user dives into the specifics of your app, they will form an opinion of it based on what it looks like as soon as the first display screen appears. UI is important because it’s what sets your product apart from the other ones competing with it.
A UI design that does what it’s supposed to do is the one seen on the Authentic Weather app. Users swipe down to view tomorrow’s forecast, swipe up to share weather info with friends, and make a pinching motion to see the current temp. It works because of its simplicity.
Think of user experience as the blueprint and user interface as the stuff you add when the basics are in place to make everything look pretty. Keep in mind that you can’t have one without the other. An app that does a lot of beautiful things but has a so-so UI isn’t going to get a lot of attention. On the other hand, an app that looks sharp but is difficult to use is useless. Now, here are some things to keep in mind as you move forward with your product’s development, design, and launch process.
1. Give Users Room to Explore
New app users are natural commitment-phobes. Avoid forcing users to sign up or create an account as soon as they get to your app or Web-based product. People tend to want to explore first before they fully commit to a new product. So, give your new users some freedom to get the lay of the land. Users are more likely to be willing to share personal info after exploring for a while because of the following reasons:
• Users will have more of an idea of whether or not they will get some use out of your product
• First-time users will feel more confident in their ability to use it
• Users may naturally get excited about some of your product’s features they’re asked to commit to anything
Airbnb, an online marketplace and hospitality service, is an example of a brand that does the user experience thing right. What Airbnb does is let users check out available destinations before requiring the creation of an account. See, no commitment demands. It’s a good thing — at least regarding user experience. And it paid off big-time for Airbnb with a more than 300-fold increase in bookings.
2. Form an Emotional Connection to Facilitate Actions
Some apps get around that initial hesitation to sign up or create an account by attempting to form a personal connection during the initial exploratory period. This might be accomplished by asking a user what their first name is during the onboarding process so intros can be personalized (e.g., “Welcome Steve! Let’s take a moment to look around.”) Some apps include the option to connect and chat before getting to the sign-up part to form some type of relationship before any commitment is required.
When you do reach the point where it’s time to sign up or create an account, users will be more likely to take the desired action if they feel an emotional connection with your product. You’ll have a better chance of reaching this point if you make the initial onboarding process as personal as possible.
The website for your product can also be used to help new users form an emotional connection with your brand before they even download your app. Make your social media pages easily accessible as well so new users can interact with your team in real-time if they have questions.
3. Identify Potential User Triggers for Your Product
When Twitter first got started, they had a hard time getting users to use their platform after signing up. After experimenting for a while, they decided to require new users to follow a minimum of ten other Twitter accounts. What happened? Well, the drop-off rate dropped significantly. It turned out people were more likely to stick with the product if they had some personal involvement with it right from day one.
As for what your product’s particular trigger will be, there’s not always an obvious answer to this question. Do some experimenting in the early days of your product’s launch to figure out what’s motivating your users to stick around. You can do this in several ways, some of which include:
• Soliciting feedback from new users
• Carefully tracking app usage as you make adjustments to see what’s triggering repeated use
• Highlight the interactive features of your product (e.g., the ability to instantly invite friends or send text messages from within the app)
Since you will be doing a lot of testing before launch (at least you should be), you can always use your testing phases to identify potential user triggers. You might do this with A/B testing among a small group of users with a minimally viable product (MVP) version of your creation. Another possibility is to use focus groups to solicit detailed feedback to get a better idea what’s likely to keep users interested.
4. Encourage Habitual Use
When UI and UX are done correctly, your product has the potential to become a part of a user’s daily routine. Twitter does this with re-tweets that allow messages to inspire new conversations. The user who sent the original tweet is likely to keep checking in to see how many times their message has been re-tweeted or what comments they are getting. Fitbit achieves a similar goal with its step-tracking feature.
The psychology beyond habitual app use lies in the fact that humans are naturally creatures of habit. This explains why, according to one study, people touch their phones nearly 3,000 times a day. And since roughly 90 percent of mobile phone time is spent “in-app,” a lot of that touching involves interactions with apps.
But how do you encourage habitual use? One way to do this is by making stats visible on the main screen. Going back to the FitBit example, users are instantly rewarded with an update on their steps. There’s also a natural tendency for people to want to achieve personal goals. If your product has features that keep people coming back, habits will eventually be formed. Incidentally, it’s estimated that it takes about two months for a behavior to become a habit, on average.
It’s not always possible to know what type of user experience will be conducive to encouraging habitual use. Additionally, it’s not still easy to make a product one of the nine non-native apps an average smartphone owner uses daily. Look at some of the best apps that are designed to encourage users to form habits.
Apps like Chains.cc and Momentum are efficient because users are enticed to come back to track their progress with either forming good habits or breaking bad ones. Pokémon is another excellent example of an application with a concept that was instantly habit forming from the first use. Some app designers encourage habitual use with:
• Dashboards that show the progress or achievements of other app users
• The ability for users to set personal goals so they’ll keep checking in see how they’re doing
• Designs meant to evolve with the user based on accumulated data and user actions
5. Explore Action-Driven Learning
Here’s another quick psychology lesson for you. In the 1960s, University of Western Ontario psychology professor came up the notion that verbal and visual information plays a role in the process of acquiring knowledge and understanding. He referred to it as the Dual Coding Theory, which was a contrast to the notion that the brain processes information with only one kind of representation (either visual or verbal).
It’s similar to techniques commonly used to teach children new concepts before they can read and write. A physics-based puzzle video game called Cut the Rope uses this idea to improve timing and precision skills with relevant, engaging graphics. When it comes to app development, this idea simply means teaching users by actually letting them do stuff.
Therefore, a smart user experience design is one that uses both verbal and visual elements to help users learn about a new product and use all of the features it has to offer. This is why many of the favorite apps use a combination of text and graphics to facilitate learning during the onboarding process.
6. Cut the Clutter
If you have a closet where you have some stuff you like buried behind a bunch of clutter, odds are you’ll eventually stop making an effort to get to it — or you’ll even forget about it altogether. The same thing applies to an app with too much clutter.
With app design, cutting the cutter starts with a process known as velocity optimization, referring to what steps are required to take a particular action. The “cutter” with your app is anything not necessary to complete a specific activity.
Remove as many taps as possible from the process required to complete any tasks on your app. If for example, a pizza shop has an app on-the-go patrons can use to order and pay for their pizza; they might cut down on app clutter by using known user details to suggest selections or populate required fields.
Another way to minimize clutter is by collecting data on how long it takes, on average, to complete different tasks. This data can be used to determine where steps can be cut for the functions that taek the most extended amount of time to complete. When it’s not possible to minimize steps anymore, things like pop-ups that say “just one more step to go!” can ease anxiousness, as can letting people know ahead of time how many steps it will take to set up an app or complete a task.
Just be careful not to cut steps and create more user confusion at the same time. For instance, you may be able to stuff everything that’s required into one form on the screen, so it’s all one step. However, users may see a screen with a bunch of stuff to fill out as a burden. In this situation, it would make more sense to spread the process of collecting use info out over several screens and steps. Further cut down on clutter with your product design by:
• Avoiding the temptation to include too many features on your app (apps with one clear purpose tend to perform better)
• Embracing a minimalist approach to design (by Nick Babich)to emphasis the uncluttered nature of your app (if it makes sense to do so for your app)
• Making some info that can be displayed in your app’s dashboard optional so users won’t have to look at stats not relevant to what the features they’re using
7. Maintain Consistency with Certain UI Features
People don’t just get into habits using a product every day. They also get accustomed to the placement things. It’s important to remember this fact with your interface design. For example, don’t flip the “cancel” button with the “OK” button on different screens. If you change button placement, users will likely get frustrated when they accidentally take the wrong action.
You can still make the screens for each feature unique. Any features or buttons that will be consistent on every screen, however, should remain in the same place. Doing so allows users to quickly get familiar with your interface design.
8. Use Simple Design Patterns to Your Advantage
Ever since Facebook fully embraced the card design style, this particular interface style has become a go-to design pattern for many apps. It’s useful because it’s easy to break down key features of an app into conveniently shaped cards that can be personalized with a color, shape, and style that works best with your product and brand.
If the purpose of the app was to help users organize paper files as digital ones, for example, you might shape your cards like file folders. A variation on this design is to use rotating or cascading cards to highlight main features for new users.
As long as we’re on the topic of simplicity, grid designs (by Elliot Dahl) can be effective for maintaining the right spacing and alignment of the visual elements of your interface to create consistency. It may not seem like a big deal to have everything aligned just right, but it could cause some users to hesitate.
If your app is going to be used to accept payment info, for example, users may think something is up if the place to enter this information is a little off in appearance from the rest of your app’s alignment. Here are some more layout tips to consider:
• Don’t force your main design features to naturally fit above the “fold” (midway point of the screen) because people will typically scroll down to see the rest of what’s shown.
• Pay attention to symmetry with your design since the eye naturally seeks sensible patterns.
• Use subtle lines where appropriate to draw the user’s eye to related components that may stretch across your screen.
9. Add Animation to Increase Engagement and Keep Impatient Users Happy
UI and UX may be different, but the two eliminates are connected. This point becomes even more apparent when you consider how animation can be used within your interface to create an engaging user experience. There are many possible purposes for animation used in apps.
In some cases, the animation is used on the launch screen to distract the user while the app loads, especially for apps with a more complex code that will take longer than a few seconds to load fully. The great thing about animation is that it can be either fun or professional. So, it’s easy to customize animated features for many purposes. Animation can also come in handy in other elements of your product’s design, including:
• To guide new users through the onboarding process in a more orderly and organized way
• As progress and activity indicators to give users something to pay attention to when waiting will be necessary for specific app functions
• To remind users of features they may not be using as they continue to use your app (if you do this, give users the option to turn off animated suggestions)
Since users are more likely to stick around when they are involved, a related tactic to consider is gamification, or the use game-like elements for other purposes. Gamification in app design works by using simple games to explain features. As is the case with animation, gamification can be used to distract users during times when things will be loading. Using game features can also boost engagement by:
• Making the mundane interesting: The task list management app Epic Win uses simple actions and rewards with “badges” to make it more appealing for users to cross things off their to-do list with this app.
• Encouraging users to complete tasks: It’s common for users to put off finishing a profile. LinkedIn users a progress bar to show users how close they are to completing their profile. The “payoff” comes when this task is complete.
• Rewarding use of certain features: Realistically most users will gravitate towards certain ones. Gamification can be used to take users to different levels as they continue to use more features (e.g., bronze, silver, and gold levels based on how many times an app feature is used).
• Rewarding user behaviors: Some gamification features are more subtle than others. LinkedIn does this by rewarding users who stay with the platform’s network. Facebook does this in a less obvious way be simply allowing users to easily add friends since people are less likely to bail if they have a large circle of friends paying attention to what they share.
What people want is to download something that comes across as trustworthy and easy to use. This is why it’s important to find the right mix between your product’s user interface and the typical user experience it’s likely to offer. Preferably, you want to produce a product that does what it’s supposed to do as quickly and simply as possible.
Sure, it’s the “window dressing” that makes you pick one app over another one that does something similar. But what happens during the onboarding process as you get introduced to your preferred app and use it will determine how you feel about it (and whether or not you’ll use it again). With whatever creation you have in mind, get into the habit of putting yourself in the shoes of your intended user. You’ll likely end up with something worth sharing with the world.
Get our FREE E-Book — The Ultimate Guide to Hiring App Developers in 2018!
Packed with best practices, tips and resources used by many successful companies to hire A+ players! ?
Download here for FREE and sent directly to your inbox! ?