Designing a digital experience that feels authentic and uncomplicated is surprisingly complex and a good UX designer utilizes an almost overwhelming amount of information, thought, and data to ensure business, brand, and user goals are met. Here’s a quick overview of how we go about it at FOUR32C.
01. Start With Research
First, gather data. Lots of it. Understand the brand and its relationship to its competitors as well as how a brand’s particular set of attributes, features, or audience segments have parallels and intersections with non-competitive brands to learn about both the user and product. There are many ways to gather this type of data and in the past, we’ve done one-on-one interviews with internal stakeholders, man-on-the-street interviews, surveys, ethnographic observations, and market research. Customize research accordingly.
Tip: Don’t rely exclusively on traditional focus groups. Get out in the field and use an ethnographic approach to gathering insights. Be an anthropologist, not a market researcher and observe real users in real spaces, not in a conference room.
02. Your Design Agency as Arbitrator
Design agencies don’t know more about your brand, but they should help focus internal teams, find common ground, and identify value for the business and the user. Every business needs to define goals for its products and services and it helps to have expertise outside the organizational bubble—like from a design agency—to gain a fresh perspective. Naturally, groups within an organization believe that their initiatives are most important, and different groups may compete for resources and recognition. And, of course, there are internal politics to contend with so it is up to the external consultants to help hone business and product goals utilizing their expertise. Once objectives are established, a clear and concise interaction design hierarchy can be created. These prioritized interactions can be for all users or specified for different user groups with their own hierarchies of overall importance to business goals.
03. Understand Best Practices Rules—Then Break Them
Google and Apple have created Interface Guides to help interface designers understand what they believe are best practices within their respective platforms. Very clear definitions about navigational metaphors, animations, typography standards, and hit spot clearances are all documented. These guidelines can be both general, such as “Hit points need to be X size,” but also can be very specific, like “A menu option should always animate in a particular style.” When best practices become stylistic choices, the UX designer decides if the styles relate to the client’s brand. If not, rules were made to be broken.
04. Reflect Brand and Environment
A transmedia approach takes the core attributes of a brand’s visual, empathetic, kinetic identity and adapts it to be in context with its environment—whether it’s an app platform or an in-store experience. Translating best practices while allowing for innovation and clear alignment with the brand personality, style, and product line is our transmedia approach to UX design. These subtle design choices make for a brand alignment that feels both authentic to the brand and resonant with its surroundings.
05. Be Systematic—Users Intuitively Sense Patterns
As humans we are programmed to perceive patterns. This may not be a conscious understanding, but if an established pattern is not maintained consistently, we feel it. Sensing a broken pattern creates unease and ultimately sets the mood for a brand feeling untrustworthy. Establishing a consistent patterned approach to user experience allows creative expression of a brand’s unique characteristics that is supported by a system that becomes intuitive, understandable, and trustworthy.
We think about UX a lot at FOUR32C, it’s what we do. If you’re interested in some of our great user experience designs, take a look at our case studies.
by Mike Lee
FOUR32C is a UX design company, New York. We’re curious digital natives who bring creativity and intelligence to the world’s most beloved brands. We create thoughtful, compelling experiences by starting every project with questions. Our process leads to evocative products designed with a purpose for every pixel. For more information, visit us at www.four32c.com.