I’m a child of my time – my generation witnessed the rise and fall of Acid House music, the evolution of the personal computer, the unbearable pain of the mullet haircut, and the sad, sad demise of the ra-ra skirt.
In amongst all that, I was a member of a geeky cult that locked itself away in it’s stinky bedrooms for days at a time. Hunched over our Commodore/Acorn/Sinclair/Tandy machines, we engaged in long and frustrating text-only battles with monsters, starships, wizards, and orcs. Yes, the text-only adventure game stole (Some of) my teenage years. It was D&D for those too insufficiently socialized to join D&D groups.
Anyone who was there will have unfortunately sharp memories of battling the unique syntax of the game designer and navigating the labyrinthine and topologically improbable routes they had designed. In one particular game, I remember getting trapped for days in a tiny (Virtual) spaceship compartment where for some reason (In this space only), you could not “turn” left but had to “rotate” left. The frustration was indescribable.
Web application design can be a bit like this. A poorly designed web app with a poorly designed user interface and unnecessarily complex (Or dangerously over-simplified) workflow is not just frustrating to use. Still, it will also have many associated negative consequences. These will vary depending upon the context, but it is likely the app will either be abandoned or deleted after download; feedback will be poor, impacting user uptake.
Let’s avoid all of this at all costs. If adhered to, a few fundamental principles will drive adoption, usage, and good feedback.
It’s a well-trodden path.
Seriously – useability is a thing. Here’s a secret – Your users are fickle, lazy, prejudiced, and judgemental. That may seem a bit harsh (It is), but keeping that in mind during the design phase will help you maintain a laser focus on increasing useability.
Simplicity is the target – Your design should make frequent tasks EASY. Web Application Design Patterns exist to keep you on the right track. Use them
Remember, before using your app, it’s pretty much inevitable that your users have used other apps before. Doing things differently might seem “creative” or “fun,” but they also add to the learning curve – Make it too hard, and they will delete your app and go back to doom-scrolling on Instagram or Twitter.
Structure is King
This means the design should be organized in a manner that is intuitive for the user to understand and allow a workflow that is obviously accessible to the task at hand.
Gary Larson is one of my favorite caricaturists & The Far Side series was on my desktop for years. One cartoon I always remember and pull out when the situation demands it is called “Wings Fall Off” (You are not allowed to repost Larson on the Internet these days, so here is a pre-existing link https://www.flickr.com/photos/feelingmyage/41118673530 ).
The message is clear – group relevant functions that do similar things together. Anything else is both confusing and dangerous !!
That cursive handwriting based font you love . . . It’s a bit edgy and makes your emails stand out – Don’t do that. Years and years of UX research have shown that users prefer a clean, consistent, easy-to-read font. Don’t forget some percentage of your users WILL be dyslexic and will find funky fonts inaccessible.
Keep Them Informed
All state changes, acknowledgments, errors with input, etc., should be clearly communicated to the user (Where relevant) – and without using overly technical or obscure language. “Format violation in UI#237” is not helpful. “Password must include at least one numeric digit” is!
Don’t be Picky – Except when you need to be picky
Using your web app is not a test (Unless it is a test) – your design should accommodate user mistakes and enable backtracking and re-entry without penalty. There will likely be multiple user journeys through the UI, and the experience should be consistent throughout.
Whenever the user is committing to something IRREVERSIBLE – they need to be clear of the impact before proceeding.
Reuse Reuse Reuse
Recycling is good (Unless we are talking about chewing gum) – All application development frameworks have well-tried and tested components available. Widgets for data capture, image display canvases, API for persisting object storage & parsing JSON objects – they’re out there somewhere.
DO NOT under any circumstances re-create your own unless the standard libraries really cannot be compelled to do what you need.
There are many excellent reasons for this; Productivity, Reliability, Performance, Security are merely the first four to jump to mind.
MVP and Early Testing
This last one is a personal preference. Objectivity loss is a common failing of all developers. When you have stayed up all night making sure that your text is displayed in PRECISELY the right shade of green, hearing that green text does not look right in that place is hard to hear. But hearing it the night before your major release is even harder.
Craft a minimally viable product (Be ruthless about the meaning of “Minimal”) and get early feedback as soon as possible.
Web Application UI Design looks simple on the outside but is fraught with complexity and bear traps for the uninitiated. Umbric is a master of this art and will guide you confidently through the process – probably faster and for less investment than you envisaged. Feel free to grab a quick meeting, and we’ll get you on track with your goals and ambitions!
About Umbric Data Services
Forget knowledge; data is power – especially when hooked up to custom web applications leveraging the latest in big data, machine learning, and AI to deliver profitable results for business.
Umbric Data Services combines the latest in tech with good old-fashioned customer service to deliver innovative, efficient software that drives productive business insight and revenues in the click of a button. Isn’t it time you worked smart, not hard? Find out more about how we help businesses to grow – visit umbric.com today.