There’s a demographic that appreciates innovation for the sake of innovation. They are curious, adopt early and await the next release even as the latest is announced. They aren’t the only group with passion. There’s another cohort that values functionality more. Especially in designing for this later group it’s important to deliver utility through a pattern they already know and understand.
Increase adoption and ease of use through visual design patterns
This is the basis for designing based on intuitive use patterns. An intuitive use pattern is a set of actions, expectations or meanings users have come to associate with a given visual experience or functionality.
By appealing to the group that prioritizes functionality and utility, adoption is higher as it requires little or no training on the part of the users.
Though innovators need less of a push to adopt a new platform or tech, intuitive use is important for them too. Take the adopters who have begun using Apple Music. Formerly, users could skip ahead between songs on the main viewing screen. Now, they are required to swipe up before performing the same function. Until users “cracked the code” they were lost.
More complex functionality like the secret swipe should be included for power users but should not serve as a mainstay in the experience. This Apple Music feature exemplifies “losing the user.” It’s akin to creating an entirely new paradigm that may be innovative but feels at first impenetrable or confusing.
Embrace elegance in digital solution design
Elegance in design is much like creating a bespoke, or custom-tailored, suit. It is well-crafted and familiar. The difference? It’s perfectly sized to the wearer’s unique physical specifications. Details about the work emerge and become more beautiful over time as their useful simplicity is appreciated — the rise of the pant, the cut of the ankle length, where the sleeve hits at the wrist.
The best UI/UX creates the same feeling of comfort that users are cared for and operating in technology that feels uniquely designed for them. Nothing is overdone or gaudy. All is beautifully useful. The first experience with the design (or suit) feels familiar, but each time you revisit it, the experience improves and gradually the quality and details reveal themselves.
Maintain design composition through hierarchy
Hierarchy is one of the most important ways to guide a user through an experience using visuals. In short, hierarchy is making clear the primary, secondary and tertiary elements in the experience by assigning varying visual weights or prominence to each through color, size or placement. Not every component in the experience should be “turned up to full volume.” That’s confusing.
The very nature of responsive design introduced challenges to creating hierarchy within an experience, especially when viewed on smaller form factors. In creating hierarchy for the small screen, it’s important to strategically hide elements of the experience that aren’t immediately important, while at the same time making sure users know where to find them.
Leverage the meaning of color
Unlike designing a print piece, color is used to connote meaning in digital experiences, not simply aesthetics. Red is associated with the negative or “stopping.” Green is linked with positivity or “continuing.” Red is subtraction. Green is addition. Red is stop. Green is go. If the brand identity you are designing for includes either red or green, maintain it’s meaning but also include it throughout the rest of the experience where it won’t confuse the actions expected from users operating in the experience.
Manage customization options in crafting the user experience
Designing more conservatively is a way for teams to demonstrate skill mastery, much like cutting and crafting the bespoke suit. Avoid excessive customization options. They increase the development needed and by proxy the budget required to complete the work. Attempting to justify unnecessary composition may be a good indication to revisit and refine your understanding of your target audience, their motivations and needs.
The caveat? For experiences where users will spend a substantial amount of time accessing for prolonged stretches of time, customization is justified. Think accessing once a day or week versus use over multiple hours, during multiple days in a given week. In the case of prolonged use and to account for workflow preferences, the size of user form factors, health restrictions like carpal tunnel or poor eyesight, customization may be worth the additional budget and development needed.
The fundamentals of digital experiences matter
While the importance of maintaining intuitive use patterns in digital design can’t be packaged nicely into the pocket square of our metaphorical bespoke suit. One thing is sure, lean on what’s known to users, but make it feel elegant and intentional. That way they know thoughtful design grounds their experience. They will appreciate it. The first time it will feel familiar. Each successive time, the beauty in the details will emerge.