Top 8 Signs Your Site Is Outdated

Overview

Having an updated site is a huge part of giving users the ultimate
user experience. For instance, your site users can’t enjoy using your
site if the pages load slowly because of outdated features in your
site. Also, unresponsive sites are downright outdated since they
aren’t up-to-date with the mobile devices most people are using today
to access the internet. The importance of having an updated site can’t
therefore be ignored. It is however important to note that many site
owners have problems discovering whether or not their sites are
outdated. Apart from the obvious clue revolving around visual designs,
many site owners don’t really know how to identify a site that needs
updating. If you happen to be one of those site owners, look no
further. Below are top signs to look out for when you want to know if
your site needs an updated.

1. Your site traffic doesn’t convert into sales

This is by far one of the most common and obvious ways to tell that
your site needs a major update. An updated site usually has good user
experience which results in sales since people can easily find and buy
the goods or services they need from you via your site. In case you
are getting lots of web traffic but you are still having problems
making sales, it’s time for a major update on your site’s usability
features. You can use tools like Google Analytics to trace the origin
of the problem. It could be anything from slow site speeds to lack of
effective checkout systems. Whatever the problem is, it has to do with
outdated site features.

2. High bounce rates

Bounce rate refers to the number of visitors who enter a site and
leave without viewing other pages. A high bounce rate is an obvious
sign of an outdated site. Website users usually leave a site hurriedly
without visiting other pages simply because they don’t find what they
are looking for instantly. A high bounce rate is also a sign of bad
user experience simply because users can’t leave a site that offers
instant gratification i.e. you can find exactly what you are looking
for in seconds. High bounce rates should prompt you to reconsider a
major upgrade on your site’s first impression and usability. You
should concentrate more on the pages that matter most i.e. home pages
and product/service listing pages.

3. Slow speed

If you site takes too long to load, this is another obvious sign that
you need an update. Slow site speed is one of the main reasons for bad
user experience. No site user wants to waste their precious time
waiting for a site to load fully. In fact, slow site speed is one of
the main reasons for high bounce rates. Given the highly competitive
nature of the internet, there is always another site capable of
offering what your site offers. Internet users are therefore extremely
impatient. You should consider shrinking image files, optimising
browser caching etc. to increase your site’s speed.

4. It has become difficult to update your site yourself

Technological advancements have made it possible to do things which
were once reserved for specialists i.e. designing and updating
websites. If your site has updated features, there should be no reason
why you should hire someone else to do basic updates. Content
management systems solve simple site update problems. With a good
content management system (CMS), you can be able to do basic and
complex site updates on your own by keeping complex functionality low
and choosing the right theme for your site.

5. Your site isn’t responsive

As mentioned above, majority of internet users today are accessing the
internet via mobile devices i.e. Smartphones and tablets. An
unresponsive sites won’t allow users to access the site in its
entirety using mobile devices. For instance, a Smartphone user may not
be able to access some links in your site. Images may als be
distorted. Responsive sites can be accessed perfectly using any device
capable of accessing the internet. You must therefore consider
upgrading your site to an adaptive design to make it more responsive.
It is important to note that you don’t need to create a separate
mobile version of your site if your site is responsive. If your site
isn’t responsive, it’s definitely time for an update.

6. No social media traffic/linkage

The importance of social media today can’t be overlooked given the
fact that social media sites are second in rank after search engines
when it comes to driving traffic to websites. The most popular social
media websites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ have over
1 billion active users on a daily basis. Social media traffic can’t
therefore be ignored by any serious website owner looking to take
advantage of everything available to them to establish competitive
advantage. If your site doesn’t receive a sizeable chunk of traffic
from social media websites, this is a clear sign that your site needs
an update. Also, if you haven’t incorporated social media features
i.e. Facebook and Twitter share and tweet buttons, your site is
outdated. You need such features as well as business pages on social
media sites to ensure you don’t lose out on valuable social media
traffic.

7. No update/promotion features

Gone are the days when you could afford to set up a site without sign
in features or features for sending your users news and promotional
content. Including such features is one of the most effective ways of
capturing majority of the leads that visit your site. If you’re
operating a site which doesn’t have such features, you obviously need
to update your site. Up-to-date sites have all the features needed to
capture all leads. The sites also have features for frequently
updating users on new things/promotions.

8. Old content

If your site still has content you created months or years back, you
also need to update your site. You must work on creating fresh content
frequently to ensure your site visitors are engaged at all times.
Fresh content also ensures your site is optimized for search engines
at all times. It doesn’t matter how insignificant the content might be
to warrant a change. You must rewrite content in your site frequently
creating new content where necessary to enhance user experience.

Conclusion

In summary, the above information highlights the most important and
common signs to look out for when you want to know if your site is
outdated. Although there may be other signs that can enhance the
process further, the above signs are adequate enough to guide you on
the right path.

6 Effective User Design Tips for Inciting User Emotion

Overview: User design for inciting emotion

For more than a decade, web designers have focused solely on logical design factors i.e. meeting web standards, choosing layouts & fonts, organizing navigation etc. Design, however, is evolving at a very fast pace. The focus has shifted to inciting user emotion. Web designers are focusing more on creating user interfaces which give complete experiences by offering users web experiences that touch on their emotions on top of presenting them with aesthetically appealing sites that meet their product/service needs.

Some of the emotions webmasters are targeting include; uniqueness, surprise, attraction, attention, exclusivity, anticipation and responsiveness. It is possible to induce all these emotions using web design. Below are some of the best design tips to consider when you want to incite user emotion using UX design.

1. Modifying common annoyances such as error pages and downtime

Most annoying experiences for web users are caused by error pages and downtime. It’s a fact that these annoyances upset many users especially when they are depending on your products/services. Emotional design can help you steer clear of these kinds of annoyances. For instance, you can break from the norm and include messages which communicate the same message using less annoying words.

You can also apologise and offer your web users a treat for inconveniencing them. Error pages shouldn’t be left as they are if your focus is UX design that incites positive user emotion. A treat in the form of a contest can go a long way in turning a negative experience into a positive one. Many popular sites have tried out this strategy. Tumblr is a good example. When the site was down recently, apologies were issued to users reminding them that there are worse problems than a site outage.

Site outages aren’t the only annoyances faced by web users. Web pages that take too long to load also impacts user experiences negatively. In some cases, such instances can’t be avoided by webmasters i.e. when an app is gathering information. You can consider doing something else on the screen i.e. displaying a tip to shift the attention of your web users from an annoyingly slow task. You can also use humour on design features such as CAPTCHAs to incite positive user emotion although most people hate CAPTCHAs despite them being necessary safety features.

2. Add personality using comic illustrations

You may be wondering what UX has to do with personality. Well, contrary to popular belief, personality has a significant impact on target audiences to an unimaginable extent. It’s important to note that personality expresses emotions perfectly. For instance, personality is responsible for signifying whether a person is serious, funky, amusing, sincere, lazy, pragmatic, down-to-earth etc.

Integrating personality in online brands can therefore break barriers which consumers may have when they interact with your products/services. MailChimp is one of the best examples of personality using comic illustrations. MailChimp uses a monkey as its mascot. Adding such comical illustrations adds delight to design stirring user emotion.

3. Spark sentiments using high resolution portraits

Emotional responses are crucial when you want to form connections/bonds with others. This explains why face-to-face interactions are encouraged more than other forms of interactions. Since face-to-face interactions aren’t an option in web design, webmasters must think of suitable alternatives which create strong connections/bonds between webmasters and users. The use of high resolution portraits has been proven to be effective in sparking sentiments on personality, traits and attitude in an online setting. It is important however to ensure the portraits used are strategically placed and they communicate exactly what your brand stands for.

4. Personalising UX

This is another perfect design strategy proven to incite user emotion. Websites which respond to a user’s input on a personal level always trigger positive emotions especially when the responses don’t necessarily require you to disclose your personal information. One classic example of personalizing user experience is including location features in design which are capable of detecting a user’s location and updating graphics based on the real-time conditions about that particular location i.e. temperature. For instance, you can include design features that tell your users the temperature in their location. Such personalized UX design features demonstrates attentiveness on your part which definitely triggers user emotion.

5. Incorporating storytelling in design

It’s a fact that most people pay attention to stories. There are many compelling examples of product storytelling that has been extremely effective in inciting user emotion. One such example is on Ben the Bodyguard; an iPhone app which protects personal data in your iPhone. The app’s design revolves around the character Ben. Before Ben the Bodyguard app was launched, the developer set up a site which featured Ben walking on the streets whenever you scrolled down. The app’s actions were accompanied by a story. The character Ben is weaved into all aspects of the application consistently making it appear like you will be entrusting your personal data to your personal bodyguard.

6. Paying attention to detail & surprise

Most of the design tips discussed above demonstrate attention to detail in one way or another. This simply shows that it all boils down to details. The level at which web designers go to in terms of details show exactly how passionate they are about their product and also how far they are willing to go to give their customers a perfect user experience. Web users will more often than not appreciate the trouble web designers go to offer them unmatched user experiences.

Paying attention to detail is therefore a sure way of inciting user emotion. It is however important to ensure details don’t compromise usability. Incorporating surprise design elements can also be effective in inciting user emotion. One classic way of incorporating the surprise element in design is leaving a lot of things to discovery. For instance, you can include jokes which diggers understand and appreciate. Using this approach will also incite positive user emotion.

Conclusion

In summary, the above tips have been proven to be extremely effective design tips for inciting user emotion. It is however important to note that there may be other tips capable of achieving similar results. It is therefore advisable to use this article as a basis for further research.

May 28th, 2014
TAGS

Why Marketers Should Care About UX

Overview

User experience refers to any interaction potential or existing customers have with a brand. Although user experience is a relatively new concept to many people today, the concept has proven to be very important in online business. In the recent past, user experience was confined to web design. Today, the concept spans to on-page website experiences, the functionality and usefulness of correspondence such as emails, the significance/impact of ads displayed around the web, the presentation of brands on social media channels etc.

These user experience components among many others have been proven to have a significant impact on how people interact with brands online. Marketers can’t therefore afford to adhere to old marketing practices if they are keen on maintaining competitive advantage. In case you are interested in knowing why marketers should care about user experience, you are in the right place. Below is an in-depth discussion highlighting the main reasons.

1. User experience drives customer loyalty

Driving customer loyalty is one of the most important tasks of any marketer. In online business, there is no better way to drive customer loyalty other than making sure customers have a good user experience with your brand online. Since every single brand is visible in many places online i.e. on the official website, social media, ads etc., users experiences in all these places plays a very important role in driving customer loyalty.

For instance consistent messaging is a very effective way of creating customer loyalty. Brands with consistent messages (as opposed to multiple messages across the web) tend to drive loyalty better. The trick lies in providing your customers with a direct message they can stand by regardless of where they are interacting with your brand online.

Customer loyalty can also be achieved through responsive design. The importance of responsive design can’t be overlooked today since many internet users access the internet via many platforms and devices. Websites must therefore be designed in such a way that they offer ultimate user experience regardless of the platforms or devices users are using to interact with brands. If marketers focus on one channel, a large segment of their target market won’t be able feel the connection a brand is supposed to put into their experience.

2. Creates strong advocates

Marketers must also care about user experience because it creates strong advocates. Loyal customers are usually the best advocates for brands. Again, there is no better way to acquire strong advocates online other than ensuring you offer your users the best online experience possible. User experience drives advocacy in very many ways. Below are some of the most important ways.

a. Social engagement: When users have positive interactions with brands, they have no problem sharing such experiences with the world i.e. by sharing content, purchasing goods/services and engaging with your brand. It is important to note that many marketers lose out on user experiences via social channels in instances like; publishing content that contradicts with the brand message, initiating sporadic or infrequent communication/engagement. For brands to create strong advocates, social engagement must be exemplary across all channels.

b. Referrals: This is another benefit enjoyed by brands which manage to create strong advocates. When your customers can’t wait to recommend your brand to their friends, family, colleagues etc., the endorsement is accompanied by a ”seal of approval” that eliminates most hurdles faced by online marketers. A great online experience with brands usually results in referrals which are very hard to get in online business. It’s simple psychology. No one wants to share anything that may diminish their credibility. Supporting confusing user experiences achieves that. Providing your customers with a shareable user experience is the best way to offer them something worth advocating for.

3. Drives sales

The goal of any marketer is to make sales. In online business, user experience counts more than many other forms of marketing since it makes it extremely easy for your existing and potential customers to buy what they like or want. Strong user experiences drive sales by eliminating friction and accelerating customer engagement.

In regards to eliminating friction, there is no better way to increase online sales other than smoothing out the entire checkout process. According to numerous research studies on online sales, approximately 60% of all potential customers online abandon their shopping carts due to problems in checkout processes. The importance of having a smooth checkout process can’t therefore be ignored.

Marketers must analyse web analytics highlighting why their customers abandon potential purchases. They must also look at the current checkout process. Doing this will help to identify potential problems which can be addressed to increase the number of complete transactions. Websites like Amazon utilise checkout systems featuring one-click ordering. Such systems maximize the number of complete transactions which in turn drives sales.

In regards to accelerating customer engagement, it is important to note that people tend to be attracted to rewarding and intuitive experiences. Making your customers’ experiences easier and more intuitive increases customer engagement with your brand which in turn drives sales. Company’s like Apple have perfected this concept i.e. purchase driven user experience by maintaining their design, colour flow and product messaging.

Apple may not be the best tech brand in the world however, they stand out from every other tech brand when it comes to user experience. This explains why people have no problem spending more on Apple products.

4. Increases discovery

User experience also increases discovery; something which is extremely hard to trigger online using any other channels/methods. The internet can be a very cruel place for online businesses which aren’t able to keep up with their competitors. Online businesses are finding it extremely hard to maintain competitive advantage using search engine optimization tactics only. Gone are the days where marketers focused on search ranking only. It is important to note that having a lot of traffic to your site doesn’t necessarily translate to sales if your user experience is below par. Metrics like bounce rates are more important now than ever. Luckily, user experience solves this problem perfectly increasing discovery chances.

A good user experience is beneficial to users and search engines which crawl your content. Presenting your brand online via on-site content, site maps, and blog posts among other forms of ”crawlable” data/content helps search engines discover your brand and the appropriate ranking criteria. Also, a good user experience will direct your site visitors throughout your site with ease encouraging discovery.

Conclusion

In summary, user experience goes way beyond design today. The effectiveness of the concept also goes way beyond conventional marketing methods. Marketers must therefore strive to familiarize themselves with this dynamic concept to maintain competitive advantage online. The future of online marketing obviously lies in the ability to perfectly blend user experience together with all forms of effective marketing.

Increase User Retention With A Better User Experience

Introduction

Convincing users to download your app isn’t as difficult as convincing them to use the app for a prolonged time period. According to recent studies, only 10-20% of users use apps in their device a few months after downloading them. This simply means that user experience is more important in getting users to use your app for a prolonged period of time. Although apps are supposed to create a very powerful first impression, they should also offer exemplary user experience for them to be deemed useful by users. In case you are interested in finding out how to increase user retention with your app/s, look no further. Below are 5 important tips that will definitely give your users a better experience which will in turn increase user retention.

1. Make sure your app provides a perfect on-board user experience

Considering majority of users stop using new apps within the first month, you need to make sure your app offers the perfect on-boarding experience. There are many ways to do that i.e. include welcome messages, tutorials, tours e.t.c. This is important since it helps to break app features into digestible chunks that are easy to understand. It is possible to automate the entire on-boarding experience using any app development software. Your focus should be educating your users as much as possible to drive engagement. You shouldn’t have problems retaining users if your app offers a perfect on-board user experience.

2. Offer In-App support

This is another important tip to consider when you want to create an app that offers the best possible user experience. The most popular apps offer some form of In-App feedback. Your app should make it extremely easy for users to offer their feedback since this is the only way to identify and fix app problems quickly. User feedback (positive or negative) offer real-time insights into app issues, user needs and opinions. Such information is crucial when your focus is increasing user retention rates.

In-App support should also include responses to users. Your app shouldn’t just receive feedback. It should be able to offer appropriate responses to users to inform users that their problems/concerns are being attended to. Such In-App support channels are bound to offer better user experience which translates to higher user retention rates.

3. Improve your app continuously

Web apps are continuously evolving. There are plenty of new app features/tools being introduced on a daily basis in an effort to improve user experience. To ensure your app stays up to par with the latest app trends, features etc., you must constantly look for ways of improving your app. For instance, you need to constantly look for ways of improving your app update process.

According to numerous studies done in the recent past, tedious/cumbersome app update processes are among the main reasons why users stop using most mobile apps after a few months. To avoid this, your app update process should match industry standards in every way including speed, features, engagement etc.

4. Consider engaging your app users on a personal level

Nothing beats personal engagement when it comes to creating customer loyalty as well as increasing user retention. Your app must personalize user engagement as much as possible to create a strong and special bond. It is possible to do this with your app using behavioral based messaging. For instance, your app should be able to message users automatically based on what they normally do or don’t do in your app. 

As an example, your app should be able to send automatic messages to users who haven’t registered themselves, their credit cards etc. Your app should also be able to send birthday messages, holiday messages among other kinds of messages known to boost personal engagement. Your focus when implementing this tip should be improving the quality as wells as the frequency of interaction.

5. Consider reactivating lapsed users

Acquiring new app users is harder and more costly than reactivating lapsed users. This explains why every app developer should focus on reactivating lapsed users before attempting to bring new users onboard. Event messaging is one of the best ways of reactivating lapsed users. You can consider sending incentivised or soft messages to lapsed users to encourage reactivation. This tip should however be considered after you have improved your app in the best way possible. Your focus should be ensuring lapsed users find a better app.

Conclusion

In summary, the above 5 tips are bound to create a better app user experience that boosts user retention. Although there are many other tips app developers can consider when they want to increase user retention by improving user experience, the above tips are bound to guide app developers on the right path.

3 Ways to Improve UX by Content Alone

When you think of User Experience Design, the word “design” might create the notion that UX is 100% design related. While it is certainly a major factor, there are other elements such as copy and content which can easily make or break the experience of your users. Putting all of your attention in to design elements can ensure you have a beautiful app or website. Failing to consider copy and content could ruin it all.

Here are 3 easy ways to improve your user experience by copy and content alone:

1. Short and sweet copy is an awesome UX

Whether it’s writing for search engine optimization, or if it’s wanting to boast yourself a little too much, there’s too many sites these days that are loaded with copy.  In reality, there’s no real need for so much copy. Your users are intelligent, and they also have a seriously short attention span. If they can’t scan your site in under 5 seconds, there’s a good chance you’re going to lose them.

Here are two great examples from the HR Consulting Industry. Can you notice the difference smart copy makes? (You’ll want to click the image to enlarge)

 FGP HR Consulting Website Thumbnail Better With Bacon Website Thumbnail The chances that the majority of your users are going to read all of your copy, word for word, is extremely slim. By developing your copy to allow for scannability and by highlighting key areas the viewer should focus on, you have a much better chance to convert a lead, or to simply have your user stick around a bit longer.

2. Microcopy

Microcopy is the text you’re using on buttons, forms, labels, etc. It’s the “click here” and “sign up” buttons you might be using on your website, or the UI elements you’re utilizing for your app. Regardless of how you’re using them, they are the difference between having a vague call-to-action and a compelling one that guides your users well.

One simple example is the all too familiar use of the “submit” button. Submit a form. Submit your email address. Whatever you’re doing, “submit” is bland and lacks any interest. Add some flair instead “Join Now”, “Start Banking”, etc. are much better ways to go.

Checking out two examples from the IT Consulting Industry, we can see a huge difference (click to enlarge):

Hitachi Consulting is using the “Click Here” button which provides close to nothing. It’s not enjoyable. It’s not persuasive. There aren’t any nouns.

Hitachi Consulting Website Thumbnail

 

BMC does an excellent job on the other hand. “Discover MyIT”, “Let’s Get Started”, “Master the Cloud”.

 

BMC Software Website Thumbnail

3. Continued Ease

With the above examples, maybe you’re a BMC or BW Bacon. Your messaging is clear and concise. Your microcopy is fantastic. Your users are clicking-through and getting to where you want them to go. You can easily ruin everything you worked on and disappoint your users with a sloppy user experience on the very next page. Let’s take a look at two examples surrounding Canadian Immigration.

 Alberta Immigration Website

The copy starts off short and sweet. It’s concise and gets the user to move on their way instead of reading paragraphs of copy. Good! We also have a defined call-to-action with their “learn more” button, though it could be improved.

The next page is as close to a collage as you can get. Regardless of what you want to do, you’re forced to read through over 600 words (200 less than this article) in order to determine where you want to go. Scannability is gone. Call-to-actions disappear. They got the user to stage two, and then left them to fend for themselves.

 Alberta Immigration Website Thumbnail

Canada Immigration has done a better job. While there aren’t any major call-to-actions, we are guided to first determine what info we’re interested in. Perhaps we want to visit Canada as a tourist. Once we get to the page we want, the content is laid out well. Short and sweet. Overall, a much better experience.

 

Visit Canada as a Tourist

Keep your experience strong

This article has discussed websites primarily. All of the information rings true if you’re working on an app, or an intranet project. It’s important to remember that UX isn’t 100% about design. It’s about providing a rewarding experience for your user. By keeping your copy short and to the point, directing your user down a path and compelling them to go down it, and by ensuring there aren’t any hiccups in their experience, you can ensure a positive experience.

 There are plenty of other sites and apps out there. The more vague and laborious you make your experience, the more you’re compelling your users to head elsewhere. Keep them with you by keeping this info in mind. Your users will thank you for it!

Jul 30th, 2013
TAGS

The Top 5 Usability Myths

Usability Myths
When it comes to technology, there are various guidelines that are essential for good user experience. This includes accessibility, user interface, information architectures and usability. UX design is the ultimate human vs. computer interaction where certain methods and techniques are employed to produce a desired, predictable and well executed result. Accessibility, user interface, information architectures and usability can be controlled by a designer to suit the uncontrolled aspects like goals, user’s lifestyle and even habits. UX design uses the controlled aspects of technology to suit the uncontrolled.

Usability is a controlled aspect of UX design that seeks to ensure the end-user doesn’t strain or doesn’t encounter problems with the use of a web page or navigation. There are several myths that have been put up concerning usability in respect to UX design. These myths tend to make UX design seems like an unlikable aspect of computer technology when it simply shouldn’t be. The top 5 usability myths are:

Usability Makes Things Easy
Usability is not about making everything easy. The main areas that are brought about by usability are efficiency, effectiveness and ultimate satisfaction to the end user. Efficiency is in the sense that users perform the intended task with desired speed and can execute the desired command. Effectiveness measures its availability and unavailability. It brings the sense of comparison between usability with technology and without technology. Finally is the end user satisfied with what it’s capable of doing?

Usability Is Expensive
This is never the case as it’s normally portrayed. If, for example, only a limited number of users can access a page while others can’t because of lack of proper page formats. This doesn’t mean you will pull down the whole page, but it will just need additions or modifications on content to suit all. This will incur some costs, but in the long run it will be well worth it.

Usability Is Inquiring From Users Their Preference
Although usability is human centered, getting the right set of user preferences is far better than asking just a handful of users. The end users are the best source of information, but it should not be taken blindly. Getting the facts, across the board, helps to ensure it’s consistent before finalizing on usability.

Usability Must Look Nice
This will be a clear indication of misplaced priorities. The first goal of usability is efficiency and effectiveness while beauty comes later. Aesthetic value comes after it has been proved that a product is usable. One must dwell on the products usability before embarking on working on the beauty of the product.

Usability Can’t Be Measured
Before embarking on improving a product, its usefulness has to be measured in order to ascertain its efficiency and effectiveness. Several parameters are essential in carrying out an assessment in order to determine where and what to improve or change to get maximum usage. Before improving, a measure has to be taken so that the final product, when compared with the original, will clearly show the differences.

Conclusion
Always know the difference between a luxury product and a usability product. This will set apart the necessary improvements from the unnecessary improvements. In usability, the aim in increasing UX design is neither luxury nor beauty. The 5 items listed here are not an exhaustive list of all usability myths, but they do seem to be the most common when it comes to  making a new product or making improvements on an already existing product.

The Importance of UX in the banking industry

Bank Sign

As people, we all care about money. It’s not unusual for a person to want to check his/her bank account at least once a week, and it’s self-explainable why. We live in a financially-driven world, and many things revolve around our account balance. Therefore, even if we like it or not, we’re constantly in need to make financial decisions. When it comes to money, these decisions are mostly in regard to value exchange and transactions.When operating an ATM, using online banking services to pay for bills and/or to check the account, or when accessing financial services on our mobile phones, we always get in touch with user experience design. That being said, a quality design can ease the way people handle their finances, can reduce the time needed to access certain features, and can lead to a more pleasant experience overall. By comparison, a poorly thought out design can easily lead to the customer getting angry or upset and thus orient himself towards the competitions services.

Financial institutions have always focused on the performance of their products and services in order to attract customers. This focus hasn’t changed much over the years, although users have become more impatient and are seeking an immediate response to their needs and issues. User experience design plays a very important role in this, as it can facilitate users’ access to a number of services.

We live in a society where the market competition is highly fierce, and this is especially true when speaking about the banking sector. Nowadays, there are so many banks and financial institutions on the market that customers can be easily tempted to switch from one to the other. However, smart banks know how to adapt to customers’ expectations by making use of technology, and this is easily revealed by looking at their profitability stats. Banks which have understood that an adaptation to customers’ needs is essential had the most to gain, both in terms of clients as well as in revenue.

But how does UX design influence this field? In more than one way! Consider that user experience does not apply only to a website, although this aspect is perhaps the most important of all. Customers interact in person with self service ATMs, mobile banking, internet banking, pay by phone services and more. All these take UX design into account, for in the absence of it, there would be nothing else but tech-savvy devices that only few would know how to use.

The right user experience design can show the user exactly what he/she has to do to complete certain actions faster and easier, thus ultimately leading him to achieving his goals. And a user who understood how the bank’s product/service works from the first time will certainly be a satisfied user, one that is going to recommend the institution to everybody he knows. But perhaps more importantly, the right UX design can prevent users from suffering a negative experience, and thus there is a significantly higher chance for them to remain loyal to the bank for longer.

The “fad” of flat design?

iOS 7 Flat User Interface Design

Flat Design

There’s been a lot of press these days surrounding Jony Ive, from Apple, bringing flat design to iOS 7. He’s had a direct impact on the design of Apple hardware since 1992 and is now bringing his talent to the software space. A TechCrunch article back in April announced this move with a post titled “Apple’s Jony Ive Said To Be Bringing The Flat Design Fad To iOS 7 With Visual Overhaul ”. There is one particularly irritating word in the post’s title – “fad”. Flat design is not a fad. It’s always existed. Today’s flat design is born out of freedom. It’s a natural progression based on today’s technology. As the new look of iOS 7 was just released, now is a good time to discuss the changes that occurred, from skeuomorphism to flat.

Skeuomorphism

In the possible event that you’re unaware of skeuomorphism, you should know that it’s heavily influenced by Apple. The first user interface introduced by Apple back in 1984 introduced ‘desktops’ and icons. As these concepts were new to most users, visual metaphors were required in order to help users learn. Skeuomorphism was a very valuable tool. The focus is on making objects familiar.

Essentially, we’re dealing with digital elements that are made to look like physical world objects. By presenting users with visual cues that they are already familiar with, they are understood. Today, iOS’ look is primarily skueomorphic. It’s filled with various 3D effects, shadows, and textures. Apparently, the skeuomorphic look is a direct attribution to Steve Jobs.

Flat Design

Flat design is gaining attention primarily by Microsoft’s Windows 8 as well as Google Now. Both focus on minimialistic design that is emphasizing usability, colours, and typography. With flat design, generally speaking, the obvious visual cues and textures are gone. Apple is now in the spotlight for embracing this principle with iOS 7. This change can be directly attributed to Jony Ive.

Flat design is aimed at utilizing the strengths of digital interfaces, rather than limiting the interfaces to real world confines. We can take a good look at Jony Ive’s view on this aspect from a Telegraph interview: “Simplicity is not the absence of clutter, that’s a consequence of simplicity. Simplicity is somehow essentially describing the purpose and place of an object and product. The absence of clutter is just a clutter-free product. That’s not simple. ”

The constraints or lack thereof

So why the shift to flat design?

1. Familiarity

Users no longer need analog world visual cues to understand how to use an interface. They’ve been there before. They know what a folder is. They know what a desktop is. They know how to use a button, and they understand what an icon is.

2. Smartphones

There’s no need to point out the importance of smartphones. Responsive design is now all the rage due to the massive amount of users visiting sites, or utilizing apps, via smartphones. By designing with a smartphone in mind, you realize that you can’t load a site up with massive graphics.

3. Display capabilities

Effects simply aren’t required anymore thanks to better display resolutions. The retina display, for example, provides such great resolution that the fakery that comes with skeuomorphism is no longer required. How often do you see this in good print design? Rarely. With good print design, the techniques from skeuomorphism isn’t required thanks to the beautiful resolutions possible from print.

4. Good Design

Simply put, flat design is almost a nod to the design of the past. That time before computers where flat images were required thanks to the restraints of printing. Furthermore, when “everyone” is utilizing skeuomorphism, why not buck the trend if you have the ability to do so?

Speaking of good design, now is a great opportunity to review Dieter Rams “10 Principles of Good Design”.

1. Good design is innovative
2. Good design makes a product useful
3. Good design is aesthetic
4. Good design makes a product understandable
5. Good design is unobtrusive
6. Good design is honest
7. Good design is long-lasting
8. Good design is thorough down to the last detail
9. Good design is environmentally friendly
10. Good design is as little as possible

Now, think about these points one more time:

Good design is honest
Good design is as little as possible

There are times when skeuomorphism is required, and there are times when flat design is required. It’ll be entirely based on the project you’re developing. If you require realism and its real-world visual cues, then go with skeuomorphism. If something requires a flat, minimal design, then work for flat design. Work on both if needed.

With Apple diving in to the world of flat design, they aren’t joining the so-called ‘fad’ of flat design. They are, instead, focusing on the principals of good design. Isn’t that a good thing?

The HEART of Your Users’ Experience

Heart MetricsWhen deploying a web application on a large scale, it is important to gauge the level of user experience that users get when using the system.

For a long time, PULSE has been used to measure the quality of the user experience and provide data. However, it has had some shortcomings and this led to the introduction of HEART. This is an additional framework for user experience metrics which stands for happiness, engagement, and retention and task success. These metrics can track progress by UX teams towards certain goals. Happiness involves satisfaction of the user while task success is made up of both effectiveness of the system and its efficiency. The other three categories have been brought about by the availability of data about user behavior on a large scale. This framework is aimed at making the principles of user experience design easier to follow. It is important to keep in mind that not all the categories have to be used at the same time and one can always decide to exclude a category or two. This depends on the context in which the user experience metrics are being measured. The categories reviewed in more detail are:

1. Happiness
These are the attitude based metrics involving aspects such as the perceived ease of use of the system, the visual appeal, the likelihood to recommend and the overall satisfaction when using the system. These can be tracked easily by employing the use of a properly designed survey that tracks this metric over time showing progress as changes are being made to the system. The data from this metric is very important when deciding on new designs and determining the success level of design changes made.

2. Engagement
This refers to how involved the user is with a product. In terms of metrics, this refers to how frequently the user gets to interact with the system. This can be, for instance, the number of weekly visits, or even the amount of new content generated by the user. This is usually reported as a per user average. This metric is good for predicting user retention in the long term.

3. Adoption and Retention
This is a very important metric for distinguishing new users from existing ones. Adoption metrics are used to identify the number of new users over a given period of time. On the other hand, retention metrics are used to track down how many new users are still using the product after some time. Usage of a product may vary, depending on the factors that the UX team decides upon. In some cases, just visiting a website may count as usage while in other cases, there has to be something done in order to count as usage. The duration over which retention is measured may vary depending on the relative age of the product and stability.

4. Task Success
This combines several traditional metrics of user experience such as effectiveness, efficiency and the rate of errors. On a large scale, this can be done using a remote usability or a benchmark study. In the benchmark study, each user is assigned a specific task to carry out. Using server side log data can be quite a task, as one will not be able to know exactly what task the user was carrying out. If there is a defined sequence to carrying out a task however, one can easily measure which of the steps were followed by the user hence giving a measure of effectiveness and error rate. This is a very important metric when deciding on new features and major changes to a system.

At the end of the day, HEART metrics are meant to act as a pulse of your overall user experience. If you haven’t considered utilizing such a framework, perhaps now is the time to do so.

Redesigning A Revolutionary School App

We’ve had the great pleasure in working with LiveSchool. LiveSchool is an app for schools and teachers that truly revolutionizes the way that classes are managed.

Imagine being in grade school, and having your school performance monitored and tracked? Everything from how many times a student raised their hand, how long they’ve been on a washroom break, how well their homework was completed, and how much respect they show. Students then can receive a type of paycheck, based on their performance, where they can then use the ‘funds’ to buy rewards. It’s amazing, and it certainly shows the new model for education in the 21st Century.

Rossul Design worked to provide highly optimized workflows and a minimal learning curve. Another aspect which was very enjoyable to work on was vision anomaly testing. Here, we ensured the app would be accessible for those with visual impairments.

Take a look at the screenshots below. You’ll see the before & after progress. Hope you enjoy!

LiveSchool App Design Before Working With Rossul Design LiveSchool App GUI Design Process
LiveSchool GUI Design After Working With Rossul Design

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