Four Tips for Designing a User Interface

4-user-interfaces

Note: This blog is the third in a monthly co-authored series written by Charlotte O’Donnelly, Research Associate at Blue Hill Research, and Matt Louden, Brand Journalist at MOBI. MOBI is a mobility management platform that enables enterprises to centralize, comprehend, and control their device ecosystems.

Capable software is a powerful competitive business advantage. Without an easy-to-use interface, however, it often fails to make the lasting impact your Information Technology (IT) department expects. Whether your enterprise is designing a User Interface (UI) for the first time or making changes to a preexisting one, be sure to keep these four tips in mind:

Do Your Research

More than anything else, organizations make the mistake of implementing changes and new UI features based solely on what users want. While the intent is admirable, it’s important to remember that a product’s audience brings suggestions to the table, not solutions. User requests can be unreasonable or downright impossible to implement if they fail to understand the scope of work or technology required.

However, that doesn’t mean user feedback should be completely ignored. When properly vetted, it can be a valuable research tool. ESPN.com, for example, increased its overall revenue by 35% after selectively incorporating visitor suggestions into its website redesign.

The first step for any UI project should be conducting thorough, fact-based product management and user experience research. This uncovers the most critical user needs and gives an enterprise definitive rationale for any changes and/or feature additions to be made. Resulting from careful research at this stage, Bing.com generated an additional $80 million in annual revenue by selecting a specific shade of blue for its UI.

After initial research is conducted, protocol-based interviews, paper prototyping, and UI testing can help resolve issues before a new product release even takes place. Development team involvement in these tasks provides additional benefits, as any relevant findings and ideas are properly translated and incorporated into UI design as early as possible. In late-stage user testing, noting any common areas of confusion also ensures the effectiveness of future training efforts.

Focus on Form and Function

UI design involves two separate aspects: interface and workflows. It’s important for an enterprise to anticipate and understand how users will react to changes in both components. In today’s constantly connected digital landscape, full functionality needs to be optimized across all platforms, not just traditional desktop environments. In fact, 83% of users say a seamless experience across platforms is either somewhat or very important to UI design.

While interface changes are immediately visible and create instant, emotional reactions, workflow differences take longer for users to notice and evaluate. In both cases, be sure to sift through initial concerns for any lasting impact that could remain after adjustments are made.

Leaving project calendars clear for at least a few weeks after significant design changes are made prioritizes a product’s user experience and ensures issues can be fixed when they inevitably arise. After all, 52% of users are less likely to engage with a company after a poor user experience.

Take Risks

Fortune favors the bold when it comes to software product design, but unfortunately some companies hesitate to make changes when they’ve already experienced some level of success. Companies can be lulled into complacency, causing them to fall behind the rest of their respective markets.

Undertaking a significant UI update comes with legitimate concerns, but as technology rapidly evolves and changes, the likelihood of product stagnation increases, and its impact becomes potentially more damaging. You may need to inconvenience your user base in the short-term to bring a big payoff down the road.

Even an enterprise giant like Apple takes risks and changes its product in anticipation of future opportunity. After surveying app developers, the company realized that alienating this group would drive revenue to competing platforms and potentially harm the App Store’s future. Despite 40% revenue growth in 2016, it decided to build new analytics tools and update the store’s interface to allow developers to respond directly and publicly to customer reviews.

Remember: No Solution is Perfect

Even the most cutting-edge, revolutionary software developments are met with complaints, so expect them any time a UI is updated or changed. Users are rarely satisfied with changes right away, so remain level-headed when responding, and keep in mind that concerns don’t always indicate a widespread problem.

Few innovations are ideal for an entire user base, so decisions should be made based on evidence and research that identifies critical tasks and the most important design elements. Randomly surveying a target audience not only helps determine the validity of complaints, but provides insight into whether that group truly represents a product’s primary user base.

Before releasing any new UI feature, roll out the improved product to a small user group without notifying them of the change to seek honest impressions and reactions. After further time has passed, contact the users again to gain additional feedback and accurately gauge the success or failure of any updates.

Ultimately, no two UI design projects are created or implemented equally. Careful product and user base research are key to successfully updating or changing software. Though it can be an arduous process, the potential payoff for an organization is huge. Even industry-leading platforms can use the occasional new look.

About Charlotte O'Donnelly

Charlotte O'Donnelly is a Research Associate at Blue Hill Research supporting written and research topics in mobility, IoT, and technology expense management. She is primarily responsible for surveying the market and reporting on significant trends and developments from market leaders in this space. Charlotte also supports the analysis, writing, and creation of client deliverables, multimedia assets, and internal initiatives. Prior to Blue Hill Research, Charlotte worked in mobile technology and financial services consulting. Charlotte has a background in business, technology, and law, and is passionate about the intersection of these subject areas.
Posted on March 28, 2017 by Charlotte O'Donnelly

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