December 1, 2015 | Design | by Xavi Beumala

It’s All About Me, or U…X

In one more sign that consumers are becoming increasingly comfortable in the online environment, mobile devices have surpassed desktop and laptop as the first choice for Internet searches in ten countries, including the U.S. It’s clear that providing a first-class online user experience today is more essential than ever. Users want mobile sites to be easy to access and navigate, and they want their visits to be quick and intuitive. And if it takes more than three clicks to get where they want to go, they’ll be gone. It’s all about the user now, and that means it’s all about UX.

What is UX, and how does it differ from the better-known UI (user interface)? The UX concept incorporates UI, but goes far beyond it to encompass “all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products,” according to the Neilsen Norman Group’s definition. That explains why delivering an outstanding user experience must begin at the earliest stages of site development and design.

For fresh ideas on leveraging UX to drive engagement, mobile publishers would do well to look to game design, UX designer Theresa Neil suggests. “While the stakes might not be (virtual) life or death, the frustration that users experience when they don’t know how or what to do is the same. And when that happens to too many of your users, it’s game over for your app.” Many of the “basic rules” that Extra Credits cites for game design are relevant to mobile, Neil writes:

  • Show, don’t tell – Blocks of text do nothing to hold the reader’s interest, so build in visual appeal
  • Make it interactive – Reward users with something fun or playful to do as they move through your site
  • Put it to the test – User testing tells you exactly where users bump into confusion or frustration on your site

In recent years developers have aimed to create “sticky” sites that draw in users and entice them to come back again and again. Now “slippy” UX design is surfacing, with a new goal—not engagement, but “glance-ability.” A slippy experience offers just enough information, and the right information, to steer users toward their destination, without tipping into information overload. A slippy UX never calls “unwanted or unsafe” attention to itself. By remaining nearly invisible and never distracting, it maximizes its usefulness to the user.

Even one of the most deeply ingrained routines in life on the Internet may be giving way to the trend toward UX. Log-in screens have long “masked” passwords and other sensitive fields with those familiar black dots. Now some designers are moving to keep passwords visible in “clear text,” a simple detail that can improve usability and accessibility, and even prevent “lost business,” says product strategy and design consultant Luke Wroblewski. He writes that when online shoppers have to interrupt their check-out to recover a password, 75 percent won’t complete their purchase. “Passwords are broken. And the situation is worse on mobile where small screens and imprecise fingers are the norm.”

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why 2015 has seen the influence of UX skyrocket, but, as UX Magazine states, “the importance of UX to a company’s business model and strategy have never been higher.” What’s more, adopting UX is now widely recognized as “a key marketplace differentiator.” At this point, mobile publishers who aren’t already on board need to ask themselves, what are we waiting for?