First impressions are key. As a developer, communicating your mission, vision, and offerings in an intuitive and efficient way through your platform will shape the user’s understanding of your brand and credibility. Regardless of how strong your product or service is, inefficient web or app design will reduce the likelihood that users will return to your platform. From the perspective of a user, a strong web or application design can allow users to quickly access the information they are searching for, with minimal barriers to their understanding of the product and offerings.
While leveraging certain effective design elements may improve your particular platform, catering your platform to the needs and interests of your intended audience will yield the most success. For example, while some app and web applications can benefit from their complexity, others may have a primary user base that would benefit from a platform that is straightforward and easily navigable.
This article will discuss the following design elements: navigation, standardized visual design, clear content, predictability, interactivity & feedback, functional minimalism, and responsiveness. Crowdbotics pays heavy attention to these elements, so I'll be discussing how these elements are incorporated in Crowdbotics-built apps such as Copper and Aura.
Although the following list of design components may be helpful to keep in mind when building your application, you should always consider user needs and interactions at the forefront of your design process.
One of the first things that users will notice about your platform is its appearance. Having a uniform and tone-sensitive design will immediately influence your user's perception of your brand; thus, you should employ design components that match the message and perception you want your user to leave your platform with.
The overarching visual design of your platform can be broken down into three parts: visual consistency, functional consistency, and external consistency. Visual consistency entails using a standard set of typefaces, buttons, labels, and color palettes, while functional consistency entails ensuring that interactive elements work homogeneously in all parts of the platform. External consistency involves, at a higher-level, ensuring consistency amongst your design across all products (eg. making sure your app and website have standard, coordinated designs).
Putting in extra attention to make sure the visual design is standardized, professional, and consistent will effectively complement the actual content of your platform, and leave your users with a positive perception of your platform.
Including clear and digestible content on your platform has twofold significance: the content that you provide on your app or website is what the user came to the platform to access in the first place, and the content on your platform affects search engine placement.
To strengthen your website or app's content, you can segment information with bullet points, include practically positioned headlines, and use white space as a buffer for content to appear more legible. Moreover, using action verbs at the beginning of headings or subheadings can give users an explicit understanding of what they should take away from a particular page.
While visual design is really important in shaping user perception and strengthening the appeal of your website or application, unclear or inadequate content will deter users from returning to your platform in the future. Content should be an asset to communicate your vision, mission, and purpose, so it's up to you to use it as one.
Navigation refers to the process that your users would take to find information or traverse the different pages of your platform. Well-designed websites or mobile applications have clear and intuitive navigation that allows users to reach the information they are looking for in less than three clicks.
Intuitive navigation entails anticipating user behavior and tailoring your platform's structure to this common behavior. In contrast to intuitive design, inefficient navigation can cause users to lose interest or patience when trying to look through your website or application.
Best practices to ensure navigational efficiency include grouping pages with similar functionality or content, limiting hyperlinks, placing the navigation bar in a consistent location, and linking users to the home page at all touchpoints. If you are able to organize your website or application content in a hierarchical structure in the development process, it will be much easier to maintain good navigation.
Designing your website intuitively instills a level of predictability in your website, which is a fundamental principle of UX design. People have different objectives when they first reach your platform. While some may want to thoroughly go through each page of your platform, others may just want key contact information, like an email address. If you are able to anticipate the varying objectives of your users when they are using the website or app and cater your platform to these objectives, the users will feel in control of their experience.
Along with intuitive navigation design, you must consider what each component of your website or application conveys to the user alongside what your goal was for including that component. The appearance of any objects you include impacts how users perceive that object's functionality. For example, if you include a trash can icon on a page, users could clearly understand the functionality of the visual, without actually having to understand the inner workings of the operating system.
In your final design, function should always precede form. Think about what message your design choices are sending, and make sure this perception matches what the user is looking for when using your website or application.
The best websites and apps not only effectively engage their users visually, but they also hold the user's attention throughout each page on the platform through some form of interactivity.
Interactivity can manifest in many different forms: call to action buttons, email subscription pages, downloadable materials, dynamic product specifications, and more. These interactive facets of your platform fuel users to take a more active role in their engagement with and understanding of your platform, instead of passively scrolling or browsing through different pages.
As a developer, the ultimate goal for your website or application is user conversion. By giving users avenues to take their engagement one step further or actively providing feedback to acknowledge that users took a particular action on your platform, you can ensure that the user journey is action-oriented.
In website and application design, less can in fact be more. If pages and processes on your platform are lengthy and embedded, users might feel disengaged.
To prevent this from happening, declutter your platform! Keep content to a minimum and make sure to break down longer processes into subpages. For example, if your platform has a checkout or purchase process, divide that process into subpages with an embedded progress bar. By prioritizing one main purpose or action per screen, you can minimize the clutter on a single page and make the process easier for the user.
Along with this, minimizing user input as much as possible will make the user experience much more straightforward. Optimizing data entry by giving the user a choice between predefined options or dynamically validating field values will minimize user decision making and streamline the user flow.
Blank or static screens throughout a user flow give users the impression that the website or application is not working, which often causes users to leave.
To keep users engaged and aware of what's happening "behind the scenes" on the platform, skeleton screens are a valuable tool. These temporary information containers are essentially blank outlines of pages, and information will gradually be loaded onto the screens over time.
Users implicitly love to feel engaged and aware of what's happening on the platform throughout the process, and leveraging responsive screens (skeletons screens and progress updates) is a perfect way to do this.
At the end of the day, website and application design comes down to how well you are able to understand the user's needs, and consequently, how well you are able to meet their needs with your product. While these elements may be helpful to push your website or application in the right direction, always keep the users at the forefront of the design process to increase the likelihood that your final product is successful.
July 13, 2020