One of the great debates in the world of UI/UX right now is which side of the equation should take priority. Is it the underlying architecture of an app, website, or interface, or is it the paint that goes on top intended to “surprise and delight” the user?
It’s not one or the other. Great design is about being thoughtful.
In the most simple way, designing an intuitive, beautiful yet functional experience for a user is similar to the process you go through in your head when you’re buying a gift for someone.
For example, when you buy your girlfriend flowers, you’re being thoughtful. You’re designing an experience for her. You’re questioning how the flowers look, how they feel, how they smell. What flowers are her favorite and why? Do you present them in tissue paper? In a vase?
It’s an experience, and as you design it, you make decisions based on how you think things will look through her eyes. Neglecting that mental process will make you a bad boyfriend or husband. That same mental process is what designers go through. It’s about being thoughtful and considerate.
Great UX designers are great listeners
We're not just designing for mobile apps or websites anymore. We’re now designing for experiences. For instance, the Amazon Echo and Siri are entirely voice operated, and despite not having an interface, it's user experience can still be measured. The design isn’t visual, but it exists through sound and conversation.
One can make the argument that we can program these applications to say please and thank you. But ultimately, I care more about whether the machine truly understands not just what I'm saying, but what I'm trying to say. It acknowledges my mistakes and anticipates my needs. This is as true for Siri as much as it is for a mobile app or website.
Thus, with the Internet of Things, today's user experiences are becoming so fluid that designers are having to change out their tool kits and improve their soft skills. And at the end of the day, it always comes back to whether or not the user feels like the experience was designed for them; whether or not it understands what I'm trying to accomplish.
When this isn’t done well, and it can dramatically impact how someone feels when using an app.
Bad UX is just rude
The best user experiences are the ones that work so seamlessly, you barely notice the complexity of what is going on right in front of you. Whereas the worst user experiences are universally known. Everyone can recognize a really bad user experience.
If a user ever feels that a system is not thoughtful enough, or they experience frustration using an interface (whether it be visual, text-based, etc.), you’ve lost them as a user.
For instance, one of MSTQ's tenets of usability is System Feedback—always providing information about the results of actions and the current state. If I'm in an app and tap into a new screen, and the screen loads without giving me a loading animation, it's going to frustrate me. Am I waiting for something to load or is this blank white screen what I clicked on?
This frustration is similar to being on the phone with a customer service rep and he or she abruptly puts you on hold without letting you know. That's bad UX. It's just plain rude!
A user wants to be surprised and delighted, but he or she also will be the first to throw your colorful masterpiece out the window if it doesn’t afford them the freedom to do what they want.
Moments where you screw up like this, you lose points with your user, and what’s so challenging about this relationship is that it decreases exponentially faster than it increases. It takes a long time to build up trust with users, but you can lose all that trust in an instant. It's Branding 101.
Simply put, a good user experience is one that was raised well by its mother.
This post was an adaptation of the original post Great Design Is About Being Thoughtful by Nicolas Cole