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“Not what is beautiful is beautiful, but what pleases someone.” – the words of John Andrew Morsztyn are extremely universal and cannot be denied relevance. They are also applicable today, including within the framework of UX/UI design, which the author of these words could not have been familiar with.
UX/UI design has to be pretty, it has to appeal, and with that it is usually combined. But this is not its only role. Ba, today this role is not even the primary one. So what does good user experience and interface design mean?
Functionality of design
A design like this must be functional first and foremost. It must allow the user to accomplish his goals in the best possible way. This very broad formulation has a heavy dose of relativity in it. Users have different goals. And even if a given interface was created to fulfill only one purpose, such as a calculator application, each user has different needs and ways of satisfying them.
A given product can be used in different situations and under different conditions. A great example of this is using the application during the day in good light or at night in the dark. The solution is light/dark display modes. Whether the interface is light or dark is not just a matter of appearance, but largely affects usability.
User Centered Design
Design must therefore be functional. It must be user-centered. Thus, UX/UI design cannot just be the free expression of an artist. The process must be approached more analytically, studying the needs of future users, their preferences and gathering a lot of information about the potential use of the product.
Of course, artistic expression can also be helpful and help create a truly unique design. But it should not be the key driver of the process. Rather, artistic vision should support it, be an added value.
First, we need to get to know the prospective users well, create persona and Customer Journey Map. Examine where potential difficulties, problems, pain points lurk, find out what users care about, if and how they fulfill needs, etc.
The first thing we need to do is to get to know them.
Only with this knowledge can we move on to building solutions, and this is where an artistic sense really comes in handy as well. Something to go beyond the usual framework and build an innovative solution.
However, the culmination of such a creative cascade should be a compromise, resulting from the collision of the best ideas with a cool analytical outlook. With a gaze that will verify whether the concepts developed can actually work in the real world, in working with the end user of the product.
The best ideas are the ones that will work in the real world.
However, when developing a design, you have to make some compromises not only within the framework of the UCD described above, but also on a broader level. We must also reconcile the user’s goals, needs and preferences with the business objectives that the product faces.
Most products have one task to fulfill – provide income to stakeholders. It is supposed to achieve this either directly (e.g., through paid products or services) or indirectly (e.g., by building a positive brand image).
Most products have to achieve this.
Theoretically, the matter seems simple – a user who is satisfied with a product will gladly pay for it. He will also recommend it to relatives will increase the customer base. In practice, this is sometimes different.
User goals do not always go hand in hand with business goals. An example would be apps for finding the cheapest possible vacations. The user wants to spend as little money as possible, and the platform enabling them to do so wants to make as much money as possible.
Dark patterns in UX/UI
Temptations may arise to (consciously or not) take advantage of so-called dark patterns. These are ways to achieve business goals in a way that is inconsistent with user intent.
An example of such a dark pattern might be to obstruct actions that the user wants to perform that are not desired by stakeholders. An example? Unsubscribing from a newsletter list. This can take the form of having to go through multiple steps, negative messages (e.g., “I don’t want to learn anything, I’m unsubscribing from the newsletter”), or using button descriptions that are difficult to understand (e.g., when asked “Are you sure you want to cancel your subscription?” we see buttons: “Cancel” and “Unsubscribe”).
What is the problem if the business is making money? Well, such actions can actually benefit in the short run. If we use tricks during the ordering process that make the customer agree to buy additional options at the end of the process, he will certainly be left with unpleasant emotions at the end. He will remember it and will rather look for other platforms next time.
Bad UX/UI is punishable
The second danger that comes with the use of dark patterns is the threat of penalties. If the solutions used in a product mislead users, the consequences can be legal. At best, they can come down to just removing the dark pattern, which involves costs. In addition to the need for repair, one can also expose oneself to financial penalties and compensation.
Such practices are used by both big and small brands – Microsoft, Amazon, Booking. The list is long, and the fines awarded so far run into the millions of dollars. In 2022, Epic Games, the maker of the Fortnite game, was fined as much as $520 million!”
What’s important is that the use of dark designs can be conscious or not. Unfortunately, it’s quite easy to accidentally make something work as a dark pattern. Misleading and unclear messages are quite common, so when designing UX/UI, extensive knowledge and experience is essential.
Limitations in UX/UI design
In design, as everywhere, there are certain limitations. In the case of digital products, such as mobile apps, websites or online stores, there are several.
One such limitation is technology. Displays have limited surfaces, device components are not infinitely powerful, and the Internet often has low bandwidth. This is fairly obvious, but it is always important to keep this in mind when implementing a project.
There are further aspects related to this – showy solutions often put a heavy load on the devices, as well as the internet, to a great extent. This causes frustration of users, that is, we move away from UCD. Of course, we can compress multimedia, use modern formats, but this also has its limits if we want to maintain high quality.
UX/UI design vs. knowledge of JS, SEO, etc.
We can also make use of modern solutions. We can replace animations in mp4 formats with HTML5+CSS animations or even interactive ones written in JS. As long as they, too, do not prove too heavy for browsers and devices.
This is one reason why a designer should know at least the basics of HTML, CSS, JS, etc. It’s easier to assess the complexity of the work and to what extent the solutions in question will affect the functioning of the site or application.
They are also easier to assess the complexity of the work and the extent to which the solutions will affect the functioning of the site or application.
It is possible to create an unusual design, loaded with elements that, instead of adding a WOW effect, spice up the frustration by slowing down the site. You may also find the project so complicated to implement that the time resources planned for the task are too small. Meeting the dealine will then prove unrealistic.
What else should a UX/UI designer know? For example, the basics of SEO Successful SEO places certain demands on the design, such as providing for the right amount of text in the right places on the page and properly ostilized. Google’s algorithms are getting harder and harder to fool.
The art of compromise
AnUX/UI designer must have extensive knowledge in many fields. It is also necessary to be able to navigate smoothly in the face of constraints. A close-knit interdisciplinary team is certainly helpful.
In today’s world, especially in an industry centered around digital products, everything happens very fast. Keeping up with all the changes in every issue touching user experience and interface design is very difficult.
That’s why good communication with specialists in various fields as part of the normal day-to-day work of agency 360 helps. It will make your website or online store or app much more polished.
UX/UI design is the art of compromises. Compromises can be viewed negatively – after all, it means making concessions on every contentious issue. But if you can reconcile all the aspects cited here you will get a very good product.
Kacper has been a Lead Graphic Designer at Up&More for 9 years. He has been dealing with graphics since 2006 and during that time he has completed hundreds of designs for websites and online stores, static and animated advertising graphics, as well as printed materials. Currently, the main direction in which it is developing is issues related to UX/UI.