UX Culture: 10 tips you can’t ignore
By Rúben Vaz, Mobile Developer @ Xpand IT
Let me start by saying that this will be more of a general-purpose post instead of going deeper through technical details. This is because I believe these tips can be applied to several aspects of our lives and not only to designing and implementing great UIs. You’ll see what I mean as you read the rest of the post.
Have you ever wondered how impactful your UI is for your users? Do you think it has a positive or negative impact? How good is the user’s experience when using your software? I guess we all hope it’s excellent but… is it?
Designing (and implementing) User Interfaces encompasses a myriad of steps and factors to ensure great (sometimes memorable) user experiences.
Let me share with you the top tips that I found to be incredibly useful throughout my career. Feel free to share yours as well!
1 – The first experience
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is the importance of the first experience to a user when using a product.
That single moment will affect how the user feels about your product not only that time but also in future interactions. Moreover, even if a potentially bad experience is not directly linked to the UI (e.g., bad internet connection), the user may not perceive it that way.
That leads us to our next tip.
2 — Know your users
Research about the environments and conditions that you want your users to have but, more importantly, learn the ones that they need and value.
It may seem to be an unbearable task but focus on the typical users and let that guide you.
Spend time with them, know their goals and their fears. Only by deeply understanding your users is it possible to create memorable UIs and, more importantly, memorable experiences.
3 — Altruism is key
For me, genuinely caring for the well-being of others, has become a way of life. However, this only happened after taking UX seriously and understanding what the end goal is: to impact people’s lives positively.
This doesn’t only apply to software development but to every aspect of our lives. From the old lady carrying her groceries in a cart through a street full of bumps and small holes to the firefighter that needs the water hose to unroll fast and efficiently to put out a fire. Those people need someone to care about their struggles. The old lady needs someone to fix the street or design a cart that handles those bumps, and the firefighter needs the hose unrolling mechanism to correctly work so he can help someone else.
The way I see it, designing and creating great user experiences goes hand-to-hand with being altruistic. So, start doing that, and you’ll experience the gratitude from those you help, which is one of the best feelings there is.
4 — Open your mind
Accept that you don’t know everything and open up your mind to all ideas and feedback you get.
Let me tell you a story.
I used to work on a software that was responsible — amongst other things — for publishing the work shifts of train crews on a web application.
We developed a simple functionality in which, upon inserting a train number, it was possible to see which crew members would be working on that train. The idea came, I believe, from team leaders who wanted to follow up on their team’s work schedule.
After some time, we received lots of positive feedback without really understanding why. Eventually, we were told that the workers were using that functionality to see who would be having the meal break with them, and that was something they valued a lot.
Good ideas come from the most unexpected places; you need to be attentive…
5 — Know the standards
Big software players have invested a lot in UX and UI, so their standards provide valuable lessons for those in the business.
Not only that, but there are also several entities and companies outside software development that are excellent sources of information.
So, sharpen your Google search skills and dig into those pools of information!
6 — Learn from mistakes
I said the tips in this post could be applied to several aspects of our lives, didn’t I?
Admit that you’ve failed when the results are not what you expected. Don’t dwell on it too much; instead, use that knowledge for the next time.
Here’s another story that serves as an example.
While working on that same crew scheduling software, we once got a critical error report in production: If memory serves me, the error was while loading the dictionary file, responsible for translating the software to a given language, and it was preventing the software from loading entirely.
The error message was: “Attempt to take the car of John Shaw, which is not a cons”. It is a rather common message when you’re working in Common Lisp.
When the system manager John Shaw (not his real name) called us, he was in a mist of panic and surprise because, on the one hand, the production environment was in trouble but, more importantly, he was afraid that someone had stolen his car. He wondered how the system knew about that!
That message was clearly not the most appropriate for that situation and, on top of solving the problem, we had to calm down John and assure him that his car was fine (at least that’s what we expected).
We learned from this and eventually improved the error message and the dictionary loading mechanism.
As you can see, you can learn from other people’s mistakes or other companies. The Internet is full of stories that will help you so, again, search through those piles of information!
7 — Ask for feedback
Learning with your mistakes leads us to this: ask for feedback.
Either through contacting directly with the users or by analyzing the data from analytics tools, feedback is essential.
Build prototypes and show them to your users. Let them explore those prototypes and ask their feedback. That is valuable information.
You can also build some custom inquiries for an even more significant amount of information.
8 — Build a UX culture
9 – Be pragmatic
At the end of the day, we are also doing this based on a set of requirements for a given client, and we need to be practical about it (not to mention the financial aspect of it).
There will always be a few requirements or client requests that may jeopardize the UI/UX that was designed. In those situations, it’s all about balance: find a compromise between what you think is the best for the users and what the client asked for.
10 – Improve constantly
This one comes as no surprise, right? I’ve been talking about it indirectly throughout this post.
It is kind of a summary of all the tips I’ve mentioned — keep paying attention to what you’re doing right, what you’re doing wrong and use that knowledge for the next development iteration or your next project.
Personally, I think that can only be accomplished if you remember to be altruistic and make an effort to understand the users.
Let’s wrap it up
UX is something that can be applied not only to software but in our daily activities and, if you try to follow these tips, you will surely make a difference.
What’s your opinion or experience on this? Share your stories and let me know what you think!
I’ll leave below a few sources that have helped me a lot regarding this matter.
The Design of Everyday Things, Donald A. Norman — This book is excellent for UX and design enthusiasts like me. Definitely worth reading!
https://www.nngroup.com/ — One of my favourites and it was co-founded by Donald Norman, the author of the book above. Their articles cover a wide variety of topics in UI/UX.
http://www.uxpa.org/ — The UX professionals association has several courses and useful links.
https://www.experiencedynamics.com/approach/ui-style-guides — Style guides with standards for several platforms.
https://userinyerface.com/ — Great source of knowledge by providing (really) bad examples.