You don’t need to be a graphic designer to become a user experience (UX) designer. You do, however, need to think carefully about how users will interact with your design. The primary thought in your mind shouldn’t be Does this look nice? Instead, you should ask Is this user-friendly? The closer you can get to an intuitive user experience, the more receptive your audience will be to adopting your app or using your website.
Designing for the User
UX designers might decide to sketch out their ideas with paper and pencil before moving on to a design tool like Figma or Adobe XD. In whatever way you choose to bring your ideas to life, you’ll need to design with the user in mind. Let’s talk about what that looks like.
Use familiar symbols and common phrases- Instinctively finding exactly what you’re looking for is satisfying. Trying to figure out where the back button is located is not. Don’t make your users fumble around for the buttons to navigate your app.
Use whitespace for simplicity’s sake- Whitespace is like taking a deep calming breath with your eyes. Giving your design air to “breathe” by not crowding design elements together is restful for users.
Follow brand guidelines- Brand guidelines provide the consistency your users expect throughout your product. It also reduces decision fatigue for the designer. What if you don’t have brand guidelines yet? Check out HubSpot’s brand guidelines for a step-by-step walkthrough that can inspire your own.
Be consistent with your designs- After a software update, it can be disorienting to reach for a familiar button and find it shifted. It’s a similar concept in an app user flow. Keeping your designs similar to previous screens makes it easier and quicker for users to find what they need.
Accept feedback- User experience is all about designing for the end-user. That means you need to rely heavily on real-world feedback. Your design will only improve when you receive regular user feedback on what they do or don’t love about your app.
Look at your competitors- While you shouldn’t copy your competitors’ designs, there’s nothing wrong with figuring out how they solved a similar problem or placed a call to action. Looking for design inspiration on Pinterest could also help you improve on their designs and come up with something better.
Schneiderman’s Eight Golden Rules of Interface Design can also help you create consistent designs that focus on serving the user. Following the well-established design principles make it easier for users to recognize functionality within your product.
Designing for the Developers
The developers may never use the app they’re coding for in real life, but UX designers should still keep the developers in mind when laying out a flow. Here are a couple of reasons why.
- Certain designs take less time to develop. Decreasing development time is a simple way to reduce the total cost of a product.
- After working with developers, many designers realize that they need to lay out user flows that are easy to understand, and easy for developers to walk through and code. Documenting user flows in a methodical way makes the final design audit easier.
- Designers need to keep in mind where the data is coming from. “Data potholes” are instances in your app or website where data cannot flow through. Good design takes into account how the data will be accessed and transmitted and plans for that.
Understanding the limitations of technology can decrease the amount of time before your product becomes a minimum viable product (MVP). When UX designers ship their designs off to developers, clean designs that follow a logical sequence will fly through development.
Designing for Accessibility
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), created by the World Wide Web Consortium, provides a framework for designers and developers. Intended to provide better access to differently-abled internet users, WCAG covers four principles of accessibility:
- Perceivable- Users should be able to perceive all information in your content, including interface components.
- Operable- Users should be able to navigate and operate your interface component with ease and success.
- Understandable- All information and interface elements should be easy to understand and operate.
- Robust- Content should be robust and reliable so that it can be interpreted by various user agents and assistive technologies.
Designing for Vision-impaired Users
Let’s apply these principles to real-life designs. Specifically, let’s focus on how designers make the internet more accessible to vision-impaired users.
Write descriptive alt-text for images. For users who rely on screen readers, descriptive alt-text tags provide them with more information and context about what’s happening on the page. Instead of writing “boy with dog”, try “young boy holding German Shepherd puppy”.
Use contrasting colors. Color blindness or low vision makes it difficult for visually-impaired users to easily see the difference between colors that are close to each other on the color wheel. WCAG advises a contrast ratio of 4.5:1 between the text and its background.
Apply labels for buttons. There’s no need for a user to guess what a box is for when it’s clearly labeled. Increase the chances that a user will complete a form when you leave no doubt about what a labeled button or box is for.
Give links distinctive names and colors. A link should look like a link. Increase the chances that users will click on a link when you leave them no doubt about where a link is at.
Make the website responsive for any screen size. Not just necessary for mobile design, responsive websites make it easy for users to comfortably read text whether they’re using a computer, tablet, or smartphone.
Some of the translucent effects that are currently popular are not accessible for the visually impaired. Before adopting new design trends, think about the four principles of accessibility. Does that new trend make it easier or harder for differently-abled users to navigate your website or app?
Designing for the Real World
Of course, beautiful designs are not the sole aim of UX design. Usability is the keyword here. You can spend months pouring over your designs, but the true test of your work is when a real-world user opens up your product and completes an order, plays a game, or navigates the app just like you intended.
The false consensus bias is the logical fallacy that makes it difficult to understand that other people have different beliefs, characteristics, or actions. In the design world, it can make the designer blind to how users will actually interact with their designs. If a designer falls into the false consensus trap, they can waste hundreds of hours and a client’s budget solving a problem that doesn’t exist.
Conduct user research from the outset and you’re more likely to solve users’ problems the first time.
Interviewing users will give you a chance to break free from your own biases. Be prepared to ask good UX questions. Your goal is to gather more information. Asking “How” and “Why” questions will help you understand the reasons behind your test user’s choices.
A huge key to eliciting more information is SILENCE. Allow for awkward silent moments as users work through your product. Trying to fill the silence breaks the thought process of the user and causes you to lose out on valuable insights.
Whether you come with just a problem or a fully-formed idea sketched out in Figma, you can join the cutting-edge innovators who bring their ideas to Ventive every day. Our UX/UI designers are passionate about crafting expert user journeys, and they’ll carefully walk you through the design process to understand how to better help your users. Contact our team and start building your app idea today.