5 UX best practices that will make you think harder about design

by Garrett Reim
June 25, 2014

One of the most remarkable developments of the information age is the ability to empirically qualify the arts, to objectively judge the impact of aesthetics. At the forefront of this movement is UX. While UX is not a high-art form, this discipline of creating an optimal website or software experience does not lack sophistication.

Most of this sophistication relies on something called A/B testing. Ideally, A/B testing involves displaying varying website designs and watching how the audience responds to the differences. Usually, one design will reflect your website as it currently is and the other changes you want to make. UX designers are able to determine which design differences the audience prefers with this method.

And A/B testing is only the beginning of building better UX design. Technologies are being developed and used to observe how users actually move around and look at webpages. Software like Chartbeat creates a heat map to track user webpage scrolling, MOAT tracks a users' mouse movement and Sticky tracks user eye movement.

In LA, UX design is a huge component of General Assembly's curriculum. General Assembly UX instructor Jill DaSilva shared some of the best practices she drills into her students in General Assembly's immersive project-based UX course.

 

1) How to turn a bad user experience into a pleasant one

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“404 errors are going to happen. MailChimp has taken what could be a bad moment in user experience and turned it into a chuckle instead. MailChimp does a great job with this with their funny imagery and humanistic language when dealing with their 404 errors: ‘This isn’t the thing you’re looking for.’”

 

2) How to be utilitarian

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“The Waze app is a great example of an app that can make life easier. By crowdsourcing data, Waze: enables users to cut down on their commute times, alerts users to traffic hazards (and police), can update users on friends’ locations when they are going to the same location, and even help users save money on gas. And through their thoughtful UX, a user can do many functions of navigation hands free! In addition to making a app useful, Waze has kicked it up a notch and made it more fun to use by gamifying the experience! I use the Waze app every day to navigate my way to and from work in Los Angeles.”

 

3) How to make a user feel good with clean and simple designs

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“If you have ever designed for native mobile devices and tablets, you have most likely used Teehan + Lax’x GUI templates. Their templates are priceless (thank you Teehan + Lax!) and their website is also a shining example of great UX. Their language is direct, simple and to the point and their layout is clean. I’m also impressed by the subtle interaction of their header. It disappears when you scroll down and reappears as you scroll back up with smooth interaction.”

 

4) How to simplifiy processes

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“Sorting through choices for airline tickets can be a frustrating process. Hipmunk makes buying airline tickets much easier due to the clear layout of information. They even have a sorting feature that lets you sort by 'agony which is 'a combination of price, duration, and number of stops.' And, if you’ve ever searched for airline tickets online, there’s always a wait while the results are being called. On Hipmunk, their mascot is animated to look like it’s pretending to fly. This animation is so darn cute that, even in our culture of instant gratification, it makes waiting for the results a little easier.”

 

5) How to perfect the end-to-end experience

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“Speaking of travel, if you have ever flown Virgin America, you have probably had a great user experience. From simple and clear booking on their website, to checking in at the airport with cool music and decor (which is somehow soothing and exciting at the same time), to their entertaining safety video once you are on the plane (which you actually enjoy watching), to the cool design of the actual seats on the plane, to the lighting,… Okay, I’ll stop. But, not without mentioning how well they follow up with you after your travel via email. Virgin America is a prime example of a well thought out end-to-end user experience."

 

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