UX Design Patterns You Should Focus On
As a designer, the challenge is to create an interface that is both convenient and visually pleasing, all while implementing structured content and logical navigation. It’s a balancing act, and when done effectively, many refer to UX design as a “work of art.”
To combat common interface problems, designers can leverage the power of UX design patterns. These patterns are essentially reusable solutions that allow users to overcome common usability issues.
What Are UX Design Patterns and Why Do They Matter?
When designing an interface, the goal is to create a convenient interface that retains users.
As discussed above, designers are faced with the challenge of getting everything just right in terms of functionality and the overall user experience. Luckily, there are UX design patterns that help target common interface problems. When applied correctly to user interfaces, these patterns reduce the time and effort required to navigate.
A great example of this is Skype’s status indicator, which resembles a traffic light. Although a user may not be familiar with the app itself, it’s easy to understand when a user is offline or available based on the color of one’s status (i.e. green means someone is active, while red means do not disturb).
When recognizing a familiar design pattern, a user will experience an increase in dopamine — the chemical involved in motivation, reward, memory, and attention. There can also be an increase in dopamine production when a pattern works as anticipated.
There are many UX patterns that have become common language among designers. When aiming to communicate an idea, mentioning a familiar pattern, such as the breadcrumb pattern, will help eliminate misunderstanding.
UX design patterns typically fall under one of various categories, including:
- Data input/output
- Content structuring
- Social media
Since you can copy and adapt design patterns, they will help you save time and money. Instead of “reinventing the wheel” for every new interface, design patterns allow designers to solve common problems.
When and How to Apply UI Design Patterns
Knowing when to use a certain design pattern is imperative. Although there are many design patterns available, you do not need to use every pattern in your layout. Patterns should be used when there is a usability problem. Meaning, if there isn’t a problem, there’s no need to implement a solution.
Choosing the best design patterns using a problem-centered approach can be achieved in four main steps:
- Pinpoint what the problems are — This can be achieved through your research, discovering what users dislike about current design solutions. In this case, you can research pain points to better the development process. When dealing with an existing product, leverage the help of Google Analytics. For example, if an ecommerce store has a high bounce rate and users leave the website during checkout, user feedback may reveal where the problem lies (i.e a lengthy sign-up form).
- Conduct research, analyzing other websites or apps that have found a solution to the problems you’ve uncovered — Whatever the core issues are, you can learn how to improve them by looking at successful websites that are similar to yours. Based on the example above, you’ll want to look at how competitors enable visitors to check out (i.e. a PayPal or store account).
- Examine how these other websites or apps have implemented solutions — The next step is analyzing the efficiency of each pattern to determine which pattern best matches your needs. For the example above, you may find that a social login is the fastest and most convenient way for your users to sign in.
- Analyze available patterns to decide which is best for you — Once you decide what is the best solution (i.e. a social login), you must then decide how to customize the pattern for your needs.
Related: How to Use the Best UI Patterns
The Most Common UX Design Patterns to Be Aware Of
As discussed above, there are six main categories of design patterns.
Here are some of the most common UX patterns based on each category:
Data input and output
As a designer, your goal is to make the user’s experience as seamless and positive as possible. When a user needs to create a personal profile or select a date, for instance, this process needs to be quick and error-free. A great example of this is booking a hotel or flight, which is when a date (or calendar) picker can come in handy. This pattern can be customized based on what the user will aim to achieve with their booking dates (i.e. Airbnb vs Booking.com).
It’s also important that you provide feedback when a user tries to complete a specific task. Whether they submit data or send an email, it’s important that they receive an alert about any potential errors. You can also provide input feedback when they are successful. For example, when a user successfully submits a campaign, MailChimp displays a fun notification of a monkey pay giving the user a hand five.
Clear navigation and well-structured content will lead to a more satisfying user experience, which is why you’ll want to implement quick fixes to common actions. The idea here is to reduce any possible friction so that the user experience is as seamless as possible. From confusing functions to visual clutter, there are many reasons why a user would abandon a page. However, these reasons are preventable.
This is where UX design patterns come into play, including those that improve content structuring (i.e. image galleries and dashboards), as well as those that simplify common procedures, such as autocomplete and social logins.
Learn more by downloading Designing Better UX with UI Patterns here.
There are navigation patterns for both web and mobile. These patterns will ensure smooth user flow and greater ease-of-use. The goal here is to ensure simple and clear navigation, which is why you should use common navigation patterns. That way, users will essentially know where to go next, based on the use of menus and tabs.
Best of all, these types of controls are flexible, allowing for greater customization. For content navigation, one of the more common patterns is infinite or continuous scroll. This eliminates the need for users to click buttons, such as “next” or “back”. Being able to scroll through content is more enjoyable for the user, allowing them to consume content more easily.
There are many UX design patterns available for social media, including chat for communication, auto-sharing for content sharing, testimonials to support a brand’s reputation, and follow to encourage social interaction. You can dig deeper into this topic by downloading the Essential Guide to Mobile Design Patterns.
These design patterns leverage psychology, encouraging users to perform desired actions. The goal here is to create a bond between the user and a product. This can be achieved through the use of hooks. Read more about hooks in this article, 6 Persuasive UI Design Patterns to Hooks Users.
Incentivization design patterns are further broken down into categories such as feedback, cognition, gamification, etc. For example, gamified patterns encourage users to take the next step in their journey (i.e. renew a subscription or invite friends). This is where incentives such as rewards, points, and other tactics come into play.
While design patterns associated with content structuring ensure more convenient and neat positioning, hierarchy is key for prioritizing content. For example, large, bold headlines draw more attention than small text. Some of the UI tricks to build visual hierarchy include everything from contrast to colors, space to page scanning patterns.
One of the most common UX design patterns that will allow you to develop great visual aids is breadcrumbs. Much like the breadcrumb trail from the fairy tale, Hansel and Gretel, this design pattern is used to help determine the user’s path from the main page. This is particularly useful for ecommerce websites when users need to effortlessly come back to a product category or main page.
What UX Design Patterns Are Best For Me?
Whether you use the leaderboard pattern to boost engagement or hover controls to hide nonessential details, the best UX patterns are those that provide familiar frameworks for YOUR users. You’ll want to use some of the most common UX design patterns without making your site feel too much like a “cookie-cutter” site.
If you’re ready to take the next steps to implement and customize patterns, be sure to download this guide — Tactical UI Design Patterns. It includes tips, tutorials, and more than 140 examples. Choose and apply the best patterns for your users!
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