Visual design that creates a dialog with the user is more than just responding to search queries and leaving breadcrumbs. It’s about using static elements to interact with the user based on their needs/behavior. In order for designers to really “hit the spot,” they need to employ the following principles:
1. Start with the basics
Once you get to more advanced concepts, the basics seem to fall by the wayside and atrophy through lack of use. But one way to get those muscles back in shape is to use them. Just like a sculptor, designers need to start with the basics in order for them to create the dynamic from the static. Here’s how:
- Learn your medium – the chances of becoming a master coder in just a few classes are slimmer than none. But as a designer dedicated to GUI design, learning the fundamentals of coding can only enhance your understanding of your design can and should work in the medium.
- Talk to the experts – Now that you have some fundamental knowledge, having a conversation with the expert coders will make more sense to you. They are in a better position to help you to develop a better understanding of how the code and your designs really interact on a deeper level.
2. Know your audience
When trying to achieve the best user experience, it is far too common to omit the one factor that will make or break interactive design: the user. Knowing your audience helps you to discern the patterns of their behavior which can lead to better user interaction.
3. Set clear constraints on design
Once behavioral patterns have been understood, the design can now be customized to the certain user’s experiences. For example, if you know that a significant portion of users is going to access your app/website using a mobile device such as an iPad or iPhone, then your design needs to accommodate those schemes.
Other constraint factors to consider:
Background - What the user does for a living – Perhaps their job requires heavy internet research, webmail access, or are they using only the company’s intranet
Age - How old are they – Age can indicate usage patterns, savviness, even which sites they are most likely to frequent
Knowledge - What do they know about the web – what browser do they use, what search engine, how do they input search terms
Environment - Learning more about user patterns is an ongoing process that reveals points of pain and preference that help designers customize their interactive design specs
4. Help the user to know their options
Now that you have all of this insight into the user’s behavior you can guide them through the process of doing what you need them to do. A good way to accomplish this is to show users only the options they currently need instead of all available options.
In order to guide users, there is one rule that must be adhered to no matter what: KISS – Keep It, Super Simple. Simple design means guiding the user safely from point A to point B minus distraction and confusion.
5. Make sure your design talks back
If a user inputs an incorrect element then the good design needs to alert the user of the error. A great example of a design that talks back is when a user puts in a search term that doesn’t come up with an exact match but shows similar or related matches. In this case, the design responds with viable options.
And there’s one more step that designers need to take and that’s to:
6. Be consistent
It may seem obvious but more than a few designers take this for granted. Creating a visually consistent design helps the user to create a more positive relationship with all elements because s/he knows what to expect.
Creating dynamic user interaction using static communication boils down to trust; the designer trusts his or her skills to guide the user and the user trusts the design to tell them where to go and what to expect.