Good design goes under the radar, good design isn’t something that necessarily jumps out at you, but in contrast is something that works and enhances the user’s experience without even realising. Sometimes a great user experience isn’t really appreciated until a user has a bad one. Having a point of reference to judge and compare can really emphasise whether or not the experience is working.
A good experience isn’t something you are going to necessarily shout out about. All those elements you don’t realise have had a lot of planning and thought are taken for granted. It look and feels like it does for a reason, and logic, reason and tonnes of user research has been taken into account for every design decision made.
So where does the UI designer fit into this?
Whilst following design patterns and best practice it is easy to stray into the territory of looking unoriginal and bland, this is where the magic of a User Interface designer comes in, and it is their duty to create something that adheres to a practical user experience but reflects the brand and offers a unique take on interactive elements and visual storytelling. UI should just do enough to guide the user and as the saying goes if you have to explain it then it’s not working, and it is easy to lose sight and to create something that looks visually stunning but doesn’t have a clear intention or is a maze for the user to navigate around.
Design is a plan for arranging elements in such a way as best to accomplish a particular purposeCharles Eames
The asos experience
To look at a case study, an e-com store would be the easiest starting point, as it has a very simple objective, which is to get a user through to purchasing products through the site, which sounds like a very simple idea to carry out, a user lands on the homepage > navigates to a product > checks out and the purchase is complete. Yet hundreds of thousands of pounds is spent testing these methods and researching how user’s interact with the online shop experience, asos.com is a prime example of a store that has meticulous planning on every detail and element that appears with the site.
On the whole it look a very simple site, with a simple navigation with the main categories hidden in mega-menu’s behind two simple options, but this is key to making the user feel comfortable and able to find exactly what they’re looking for.
Navigation through to a category page, again the concept of simplicity is carried through here, with a muted colour palette, and clear signposting, an obvious filter, the focus is on the product and here is where imagery is key, as this is used to entice the user into taking a closer look.
Next on to the product display page, here again we see a large product image, with a very clear area in which the user would choose size and colour and then proceed to add the product to the basket (which is the first time we see a hint of colour in the UI, with a very hard-to-miss bright green).
This is a user journey with a very clear focus and result, whilst it isn’t going win awards for being a piece of art, it is a platform and concept that works and hasn’t lost sight of it’s intentions. As a user you come away with reinforcement and trust in the process.
As a designer it is easy to get carried away creating something that looks fantastic and ‘wow’s’ the user, but the real art in design is being able to know when to stop, and to use an element only when it’s necessary. A good exercise is being able to look over your designs and take away any element that isn’t adding anything to the experience, for example ‘‘do I really need that bounding box around all my titles?’’, “does that list really need an icon for every benefit displayed?’’ if there’s any doubt from these questions, you’re really working the intentions of the design and this is something that i would highly recommend. The smallest decisions, such as reducing the height of the header by 15 pixels all contribute to improving the overall user experience.
So should a website or product always be as simplistic as possible? Maybe, not always, each should be on it’s own merit, but the purpose and core journey should always shout the loudest.