Posted: September 5, 2016
Since my first day at VisionPoint, I have been given countless opportunities to learn and grow as a user experience (UX) professional. In fact, just last week I attended a user experience event where I had the chance to talk with other UX professionals from our local community and learn skills that have proven invaluable to my job. This is just one example of the many types of professional development that VisionPoint provides. We also have Lunch n’ Learns, group problem-solving sessions, regular collaborative meetings and time set aside for individual professional development.
For all of you budding UX professionals out there, here’s a sample of the things I’ve learned so far in my career at VisionPoint:
Simplicity is Key
The biggest issue in web UX that I run into is clutter. People are so worried about getting everything on their homepage and high level pages that they end up with a user experience that’s more akin to a highway billboard as opposed to a catalyst for quickly finding information. In my experience, it’s more effective to have a prominent title with some intro text and a “read more…” link. After all, humans can only process small amounts of information at a time, so if you don't make your point quickly, their attention wanders.
Research has shown that if you give people too many choices, they will make no choice at all. The old 1960's design principle rings true even today: Keep it Simple, Stupid!
The Users are Always Right
Part of a UX designer’s job is to give the users a voice. When working directly with a client, I often remind myself that since the users aren’t in the room, I need to speak for them. To do this, I first need to understand who my users are not just demographically, but psychographically. Note that I used the word “users” (plural). It is important to listen closely to the feedback you receive from everyone. Never jump to conclusions or change something based on one individual piece of feedback. Instead, look for patterns or trends found from user testing large groups of people.
Even professionals often forget to consider the user when they create a website and gauge it more towards an internal focus or what works best for them. It is vital to think about the people who will be using the site on a daily basis. They need to have a good experience if you want them to keep coming back.
There are two main types of users, Searchers and Explorers. Searchers are people who know what they want and go straight to the search bar to find it. Explorers are people who prefer to use the navigation and browse each page to find the things that interest them. Keep these two user types in mind when building a site. It will help you capture the audience you will be targeting.
Not Everything Has to be Two Clicks Away
A lot of people get hung up on the misguided notion that everything on a website needs to be “two clicks away.” What’s more important though, is that users feel confident in the path they’re taking on your website. In fact, there are many instances where nesting content deep within your information architecture can actually be a good thing (yikes!). For example, asking a user to click into an accordion structure to learn about specific prerequisites for a niche engineering program creates a nurturing experience which deepens a user’s engagement with your website.
What makes for a bad user experience is when a user clicks three levels in, only to realize that they are in the wrong place and must navigate all the way back home. To prevent this from happening, create a strong sitemap, conduct a lot of user research and design a simple layout.
Consistency is Essential
Not everyone will experience a website the same way. While there are trends that seem to hold true across almost all websites, like expecting a global navigation at the top of a page or footer at the bottom, there are no absolute certainties. I may expect a button to do one thing while someone else may expect it to do something entirely different. We cannot predict or prevent these differences. The best solution is to maintain consistency across all the various visual elements within your website.
When a user gets to a webpage for the first time, they have to learn how the interface functions. Within a consistent website, the user will be able to learn and navigate much more quickly if they know what to expect. When a site isn’t consistent, users become frustrated, and don’t come back to the site.
Listen to Feedback
No one knows everything, especially not in the rapidly evolving UX field. When you begin to make decisions based on what you think is the best user experience, that is when you start to make mistakes. Conducting research and requesting feedback are essential to understanding the needs of each different user group. Asking co-workers, facilitating user testing sessions and using internet resources are all easy ways to get the feedback necessary to give your website a great user experience. This doesn’t have to be a formal process either. It could be as simple as asking a coworker, family member or friend for their opinion. The important part is that you take their feedback seriously and implement it when necessary.
I have always been impressed by the amount of effort VisionPoint puts into making their employees the best that they can be, both personally and professionally. With all of the support and collaboration going on everyday, work becomes a place that you’re excited about when you wake up, a place where you know your co-workers on a personal level, and a place where you are proud of the work you do.
The most exciting part about all of this is that it’s only going to get better! With an expansion coming in September, we will be moving to a new office space and adding new members to the team. I am so lucky to be a part of a rapidly growing company and part of a team who are united and have the drive to learn more each and every day.