The job of a UX designer is more difficult than ever.
User expectations are rising, and the bar is already set high for interaction design. This shouldn’t surprise you, but it means designers need more skill and knowledge than ever before. It’s important to understand the reasons behind the rise in interaction standards in order to deliver a truly futureproof experience today. The current spotlight on interaction design and user experience is spurred by larger trends:
- Large company buy in
- “Design first” startups
- Generally more experienced users
To meet (or exceed) user expectations, product designers need to:
- Question common interactions
- Avoid being lazy
- Always plan ahead
Large Company Buy-In
Either larger companies are buying into the importance of interaction design or savvy tech companies are growing larger. Either way, resources are being spent on user experience. This is great for the industry, but it means more users than ever are being exposed to well-planned, well-researched interfaces and workflows. A good example is adding a credit card in Uber’s app.
Drew Thomas Credit cards are notoriously tedious to enter, especially on a mobile phone, but Uber lets users snap a photo of their card to capture all of the information. To put this into an interaction design perspective, in order to compete in today’s app market, not only do you have to manage credit card security and handle a multitude of complex ecommerce interactions, you also have to read the numbers off of a card with a mobile phone camera. It’s getting intense.
The Design-Focused Startup Boom
It’s becoming widely accepted that design has the power to make or break a business. A great example is Slack, and a lot has been written about the role design and interface played in Slack’s super fast success. This article was pretty popular on Medium.
HipChat on the top vs. Slack on the bottom Slack is a team chat app that feels more like hangout area. The rich colors, random GIF generator, and soft edges all create a sense of friendliness and fun. But don’t let the delightful elements fool you – Slack is powerful. It’s fast, reliable, and undeniably useful. You can pin posts, turning Slack into an information hub for the whole company. You can send complex files to coworkers, then reference those files easily. Everything works at the speed of thought. Slack’s true success, however, is that it’s more than just a workflow tool. It’s a social tool that improves workflow at its core by encouraging more interaction between people. With Slack’s success being attributed to an attention to detail and an importance placed on user-focused design, other companies are looking to replicate their success in the same way. Now every new app or web service is required to demonstrate a certain level of interface polish, slick interaction design, and overall humane consideration for the user’s emotional and functional needs.
Users are Experienced in User Experience
Lastly, as users are exposed to more interfaces, they simply expect more and are less forgiving of interfaces that fall short. Once a user sees an interaction pattern or feature that’s simple and pleasurable, more complicated and less pleasurable experiences become intolerable. As explained in the guide Interaction Design Best Practices, here are just a few things users have come to expect from apps:
- Fast load time
- Easy setup
- Pain-free onboarding
- Location awareness
- Suggestions and autocomplete
- Contact and calendar integration
- Synced data across devices
- Offline capabilities
- Deep linking
- Twitter integration
- Facebook integration
- Privacy settings
Although this all may sound intimidating, there are ways to stay ahead of the industry and create experiences that delight users today and in the future. The key is to pay attention to important usability and interaction design techniques that will stand the test of time.
Question Common Interactions
Re-examine all of your interactions and ask how they can be better. It sounds simple, but often, everyday interactions are overlooked and “standard” elements or interactions are used incorrectly. For instance, on a form, if you require users to choose among specific options, a select element makes sense. Without too much thought, that interaction is decided and we shift our focus to other parts of the application design. However, consider cases where a second look could benefit the interaction. If users must select from a large number of elements, then an input with autocomplete could be much easier. Choosing a state in an address form is a good example of this situation. The state dropdown is infuriating, and everyone knows typing the state name or abbreviation is easier than choosing from 50+ options in a dropdown.
Etsy To take that specific example a little further, though, consider that we can populate the city and state field from the zipcode field alone, which saves the user from filling out two whole fields. There’s no interaction pattern breakthrough or trend that will make that easier in six months. You just need to constantly rethink your decisions from the user’s standpoint.