Before I give a definite yes or no to this question, let’s understand the concept of User Interface or UI.
Remember back in the days when owning a Gameboy was as good as an Xbox now, when 30 minutes of Super Mario Land was as intense as a game of graphically dense Far Cry 5 today? Or how uber cool it was to hit your favorite music on a Sony Walkman while you browsed through your myspace account?
Fast forward to 2019, where software is more intelligent and much better looking, even the older millennials cannot ditch their Xboxes to go back to the Nintendo DS nor can they return to myspace from Instagram. Did they love their Nintendos? Yes. Did they enjoy using it even though it wasn’t as graphically demanding? Yes. Then what changed?
All thanks to better UI designers.
What Is UI?
UI or User Interface is simply the link between your customer and your product. Whatever elements your customer can see, touch or feel to navigate through your product can contribute to the User Interface. Be it the mobile phone we use, the smartwatch we wear, the car we ride or the websites we use. Everything has a User Interface.
Talking about software, do customers really care what your software looks like or do they just want any platform to get their work done quickly?
The answer is Yes. Customers do care about the interface you provide. Are they aware of it? Probably not.
Psychologically, most users aren’t consciously aware of the interface they use to navigate through the software. It is through their experience on your website that they decide whether to stay or leave. This is where the importance of User Experience or UX comes to play. A well thought of User Interface can subsequently lead to good user experience and can undoubtedly help you retain your users.
Here are a few points that you need to keep in mind when you design your next product to help you retain your customers/users.
1. Take Time to Research
This is one of the most underrated steps in the software design process. Many product teams focus on having the requirements in place and getting work started without “wasting” time. Little do we realize that spending those extra hours in user research and understanding the end user, can do wonders for your product.
Nowadays companies even consult with independent UX research companies that conduct user interviews, focus groups, personas, etc. for them. According to Forrester Research, a good user-centric design has proven to boost ROI and bring up conversion rates by up to 400%.
Moreover, in a study by the Design Management Institute, “design-centric” companies outperformed the S&P 500 by 211%.
Source – The Design Management Institute
It is imperative that the product that is being delivered to users cater to their needs, accommodate their goals and reflect their behavior in order to make them use your product. A design that does not take into account what the customer wants will only prompt them to move away from your product.
2. Make Educated Decisions
Needless to say, it is absolutely crucial that design teams are aware of the latest trends in software design and are up to date with the current design principles. As a designer, you simply cannot afford to offer a dated solution to your user. So make sure your product team takes that extra step to study what solution your competitors are offering for the same problem and try to come up with a better solution.
This does not mean you need to go over the top with new ideas and designs. For example, a trash can icon is synonymous to “Delete” in the digital world and replacing that with any other fancy icon would only confuse your user.
Some very well thought UI creations that come to my mind are
- Charlie AI
- Samsung SDS Flow
- ESPN Sports Programming
3. Use a Style of Communication that Suits Your Audience
Understand your user base and use a communication style that best suits their age and interests. Say for a children’s website or a fashion e-commerce application, a dull downbeat communication style might not sit well with your younger audience and could force your customers to move on to an application they can relate to emotionally.
On the other hand, a professional network like LinkedIn will require a precise and formal tone as the larger audience on it are strictly there for professional reasons.
Using a tone that makes sense to your audience is very important to capture their attention and build trust with them. Users like to know the “people” behind the software and the tone of your website does just that.
4. Consistency is Key
Like we talked about setting a communication style for your website, it is just as important that this style is maintained throughout the website. The importance of being consistent cannot be stressed enough when it comes to optimal user experience. Users tend to use applications that are consistent in their elements, color scheme, typefaces, and interactions.
Say, if your application displays notifications on a side panel, maintain all notifications on the side panel throughout the site. Believe it or not “Your users don’t like surprises”.
5. Include a Knowledge Base
Let’s explain this with an example. Patrick wants to use your application. He loves the concept and the UI design. He can’t wait to start using your app as he has heard it is perfect for his needs. But Patrick has no idea HOW to use your product. He searches for a guide to help him, but found none. Disappointed, he had to move to another application that had a detailed manual.
Now, losing a customer like Patrick is such a shame. Had you spent that extra effort to create a beautifully crafted knowledge base that explains every functionality and feature of your app, you would have retained millions of users like Patrick.
Understand what your users are looking for. If you don’t want to maintain a separate knowledge pile for this, you can add all the information you want to show the user in the UI, by making it seem less like a knowledge base but more like an intuitive design. You could even integrate an AI bot to answer popular queries for you instantly.
When customers are able to find answers to their questions easily and without having to Google/Quora for answers, the overall customer satisfaction increases and also increases user engagement on your website.
6. Less is More Vs More is More
Minimalism isn’t just a fancy word for lazy design. A minimalist design is a visual concept that seeks to embrace simplicity in design, in order to rope in users only towards what is most important.
When catering to a mature target audience, minimalism can be more attractive than a page full of creative design elements, sliding panels, glittering headlines, and modish popups. If your aim is to urge your customers to focus on a particular set of products, minimalist design is the path to choose.
However, it is crucial to understand your customers here. A minimalist design may not work as well for software designed for children, like an educational game. Younger audiences probably would not understand the aesthetic that you are trying to create and may move away to a more attractive website.
7. Improvise and Adapt – The Secret Sauce of Software Design
This is probably THE most important point that businesses need to keep in mind in order to retain their user base for years.
According to a survey by Skype, Adobe, Norton, and TomTom, less than half of the technology users do not like to upgrade software when they should. The simple reason is that people are comfortable with the way things work and do not want to risk getting an update until it’s proven to work for someone else.
On the contrary, users are attracted to new features and functionality as well.
So how do we ensure our software stays on top of its game to an audience that are hesitant to upgrade but wants new stuff too?
Let’s look at the case study of a simple messaging software.
Starting with a messaging platform to simply connect with friends and family via text messages, the team introduced push notifications on mobiles to ensure messages are received even when the application is not running in the foreground. Once the application garnered a few users, more features like photo and video sharing were added and while they were at it, some edit and filter features were included too. Once the application turned out to be an indispensable communication tool for its users, they added voice and video call features.
At this point, users were receptive to all these subtle changes because they hadn’t realized that the application as it was in the beginning, had completely transformed into something much bigger. As far as the customers knew, their experience on the application was flawless. Once the users were comfortable with the current working, the team added group conferencing and even payment integration. Finally, what started as a simple one-on-one messaging app had the potential to replace at least 4-5 apps that were needed every day.
This is the story of how the messaging giant “WhatsApp” increased its user base from a humble 250,000 users to more than 1.5 billion active users standing right next to Facebook and YouTube.
Takeaway – Start by building trust with your customers. Be attentive to your customer’s needs and incorporate improvements without overwhelming the users.
Some popular applications that have evolved into tech giants over time are
- Google Suite
- Adobe Photoshop
Knowing how to improvise and adapt is the reason these intelligent businesses remain relevant in the market for years.
Related Read: How AI is Redefining the Future of Customer Service
Coming back to the beginning of this article, we asked you why millennials are unable to switch back to older technologies even though they enjoyed the UI at that time. Gameboys for one, were well researched, were consistent, came with a detailed manual and had a great design given the technological limitations of that age. Where they failed to deliver was improvisation. Users are always looking for the next big technological breakthrough.
To stay on top of your game, you must be open to enhance your product for improvements and cater to the continuous cycle of changing customer demands. Product teams should focus on providing users with a flawless experience, be it through the user interface, functionality or customer service. A user-friendly UI is a catalyst for building good relationships with your customers. Retaining your users become easy when you have earned their trust by consistently meeting your customer’s expectations.
By building sustainable software that sees well into the future, we at Fingent, believe our partners deserve the best that technology can offer. Feel free to contact our consultants to get an insight into how we work to deliver your dreams.
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The success of mobile apps depends on three things: user experience, user experience, and user experience!
Even if the app offers very intuitive and powerful features, it is of little benefit unless users are able to make use of the app properly. Today’s mostly harried users have little patience to put up slow loads, confusing menus, half-baked functionality, breaks in the process, or any other glitch, and would just abandon confusing and hard apps.
Even as there is a consensus on the need for superior User Experience (UX), many stakeholders confuse UX with the user interface (UI) and use these two terms interchangeably.
User Experience is much wider than User Interface and refers to designing apps in a way that optimizes usability and accessibility. The overriding aim of a good UX is customer delight, or delivering maximum possible pleasure to the users interacting with the app. UI is delivering a good UX through a good interface. UI may be regarded as one element, albeit critical, of UX.
The Power of User Experience (UX)
User Experience is work “under the hood.” A good UX delivers a neat and simple design that facilitate users to complete their tasks easily and seamlessly.
User Experience focus on the scientific and methodological applying what the target users prefer and industry best practices to the app architecture, to enhance the design and make the app functional and intuitive. It deals with the way product flows logically from one sequence to another, how information is laid on screen, and how people interact with it, aimed at enabling users to complete a specific task in the best and seamless manner possible.
A good User Experience typically ensures the user progresses through tasks and screens in a natural flow, without having to think too much about what they are doing. The effects of a good UX is almost invisible, but the effects of a bad UX manifests quickly, with users often searching on what to do next to complete a task. Obscure or confusing menus, convoluted process flows, poorly visible buttons and more are all tell-tales of a poor UX.
The implications of sound UX go much beyond customer satisfaction though. A lean approach to design contributes largely to faster page load times, at a time when slow-loading websites cost retailers $2.6 billion in lost sales every year.
The Power of User Interface (UI)
The User Interface is more a work of art, aimed at making the interface beautiful. UI concerns with the choice of colors, the style of buttons, the animations and widgets in use, the spacing between elements, click/tap behavior, and other elements that make it easy and attractive for users to interact with the app. The different UI elements combine to enhance the aesthetic flavor of the app. The best UI designs inspire, engage and excite, and create a state of mind where users feel confident of using the app.
There is no hard and fast rule on what constitutes the most potent UI style, but fidelity to the consensus on what constitutes best practices help. Keeping an ear out to the preferences and taste of the target audience of the app or website also helps. For instance, choosing a specific blue over some other hues gave search engine Bing an additional $80 million in annual revenue.
The Conjugation of UX and UI
Image Courtesy: Ana Haris
The User Experience and User Interface combine to deliver highly powerful and successful apps that combine functionality with elegance.
User Experience work is about the end-to-end experience when people interact with an app or website, and User Interface work is how users feel about that website as they use it. To illustrate, the UX design may decide users are redirected to another page on tapping a button. The designer working on the UI complements the UX by placing a visual signal, such as a spinning wheel, to convey to the user another page is loading. The UX may adopt a lean philosophy, and opt for simple and straightforward menus. The UI complements through a minimalist interface, with plenty of white space, and minimal graphics that drag down the website and reduce page load speed.
As the adage goes, “well begun is half done.” The robustness of the User Experience and User Interface is decided during the design stage, well before even a single line of code is executed. However, getting the UX and UI right invariably requires teamwork, with contributions from resourceful and talented technical experts, business managers, feedback from end users, and more. It requires talented and resourceful developers, who are not just up-to-date, but know how to apply industry best practices, to ensure a sound UX and UI for the software. With software playing an increasingly critical role in most enterprises, enterprises would do well to rope in external technical expertise, who deal with delivering apps and other digital assets with superior UX and UI, day in and day out.
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While security remains a pressing concern in the mobility space in continental Europe, UX is now emerging as a bigger investment area, in the English-speaking world of UK and US.
The increasing investment in UX syncs with the preferences of today’s highly demanding customers, who value a hassle-free engagement, without having to struggle to consume information. Even users of enterprise apps now expect a visual appeal, or UX similar to what they find with games and other consumer apps.
Traditionally, UX and security have been inversely linked, with improvements in security often getting in the way of UX. For instance, the common requirement of having to reset password once in two weeks makes the account more secure, but impede usability. Similarly, blocking file download from an unknown IP address may prevent a hacker from accessing the data, but also prevents the user from accessing his own data when he needs it, on the move.
The best security is invisible, working away in the background, keeping digital assets safe without the user even noticing the workings. While the ground reality is far from such an ideal state in most enterprises, there is now growing realization that the tendency to push in too many security features, especially in an already stressed mobility space, can drive away users, or worse, prompt them to seek out loopholes.
The solution, however, is not to throw security out with the UX bathwater, but rather deliver a seamless UX yet uncompromising on any security considerations. This requires a change of approach, best exemplified by an allegory of locks. While the existing approach resembles adding more number of locks to a door, which while keeping trespassers away also makes it more difficult for the genuine user to get it, the new approach tries to offer only a single, but an unbreakable lock. Mobility investments are flowing in this direction.
One way to reconcile security with UX is the “security by design” approach, or building in security early in the development process, rather than co-opt it as an awkward extra layer in the end, akin to manufacturing a door with a deadbolt lock built-in rather than affixing locks after installing the door.
But what exactly is the difference, one may be left wondering?
Consider an approach where users need to enter their login credentials every time and access to a specific section or resource depends on the credentials provided and another approach where there is a tight control on what each and every user can see, based on a need-to-see basis incorporated at the design stage itself. A user, rather than being prevented from peeking at data, not for their eyes, may not be served with means to access to such data in the first place. For example, the sales team may be given an app that offers all sales data, but not information that pickers in the warehouse access through their apps, and managers have another set of apps, offering a far wider range of data and information.
Another approach to reconciling the divide between security and UX is through the hardware. A case in point is Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint scanner and similar systems on Android smartphones. When hardware becomes the trusted security medium, UX can be spared from having to authenticating users. The assumption, of course, is only the right users will have access to the hardware in the first place.
Yet another approach is not to break it, but explain it. At times, there’s no workaround for a security procedure that impedes a smooth UX. In fact, focusing too much on usability may be counter-intuitive, for what is the easiest and most convenient may not be in the best interests of security. A confusing interface may best be solved with a tutorial, a FAQ page, or some help videos, rather than breaking the interface for the sake of UX and impede security in the process. There is also the issue of writing earning message in a way users understand, focusing on the implications of an unsafe action, rather than harping on technical jargon.
Security is all-important, but only if there are users available in the first place. A poor UX in today’s highly demanding and competitive age would simply drive away users, making rigid security protocols self-defeating and redundant. Developers are widening up to this all-important logjam and investing big in UX, but such focus should be with the understanding that UX and security aren’t necessarily at odds, and the duo even benefits each other.
Your best bet in developing state of the art mobility software that offers the best of both worlds is partnering with us. Our experienced and versatile team of developers understand both UX issues and security considerations and help you roll out software and apps that fit the bill perfectly.