Ask anyone running a business and they will acknowledge that its greatest asset is its customer base. But when it comes to providing those customers with a seamless interface that will enable them to access the business transparently, it seems that sometimes corners are being cut.
Given that most users prefer not to be reminded daily of the complex technology behind services they access and that they value a consistent and straightforward user experience, involving as few clicks as possible, for business leaders who opt to make savings here, this is most definitely a false economy.
Yet engaging users with an interface designed to deliver the experience they need doesn’t have to be complex. Indeed it can be completely worry free.
Know your user
When designing a user interface it is always a good idea to walk a mile in a user’s shoes. Read up Worry Free Labs Notes to get some pointers. Getting to know what they are aiming to do and learning about their skills will help the smart business to understand what drives its users.
If one is armed with knowledge of users’ habits and is able to list the other interfaces that they like as well as how they use them, designing an interface which attracts and pleases them becomes more achievable. In fact, users repeatedly return to interfaces that they like and use them all the time – e.g. Facebook, MySpace and Blogger.
Consumers already know these interfaces extremely well so it doesn’t make sense to reinvent the wheel. Familiarity can be enormously comforting, when embarking on something new; therefore, it is wise to remember not to stray too far from what the consumer already knows.
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
Even at the design stage consistency is critical because everyone is familiar with the frustration of figuring out how to do something, only to have it change. Users need to know that they will be able to repeat an action they have learned and still understand how things work, due to a consistent user interface, which, for the user, means increased efficiency and workflow.
Look and feel
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so it is the user who needs to be satisfied by the look and feel of a user interface. In fact the interfaces that work well are ones where there has evidently been attention to detail.
The colors chosen, as well as the sizing and positioning of all the different elements of the interface should balance each other and harmonize so that users develop a clear understanding of the user interface and how to use it. In addition to this, a clear hierarchy always serves to make a good interface appear much less complex.
We all get it wrong sometimes and there unquestionably is truth in the words of the old adage: ‘To err is human’, so users love it when an interface provides them with ways of undoing or correcting their mistakes.
Moreover, if they don’t know what they have done wrong, how are they to avoid repeating the error? The most effective user interfaces provide customers with a dialogue in the form of clear and immediate visual feedback, letting them know the (positive or negative) results of their actions.
Likewise of necessity user interface designers would be well advised to keep messaging clear and simple; over-complicating this functionality serves to frustrate users and turn them off. Once the consumer knows what they are doing, it will be easier for him or her to forget about the complexity behind the interface, particularly if they are provided with shortcuts to simplify the more complicated tasks.
Thus the customer starts on the route to becoming a skilled practitioner, who understands both how to use the interface and fully access one’s business.
Putting functionality into a user interface doesn’t mean blinding the user with science; does the customer really need all that functionality or are the designers just showing off their own skills? In short, there is no need to create an ostentatious interface just because one has the skills to do so.
The interface is the user’s gateway to a business, so it mustn’t hold the business back. Rather it is imperative that it continues to be developed and improved, while at the same time any minor glitches are being smoothed out. The focus should remain on the customer and the experience they are given through the user interface.
Ultimately, the ease with which customers interact with the user interface will have a definite impact on their user experience and ultimately their satisfaction. Besides if we keep our users contented, we generally retain them.