10 Simple Tips for Improving User Experience (Part 1)

The following post has been contributed by our Web User Interface & Graphic Designer, Mark Bridger.
We at SmartSimple are always striving to ensure our users have the best possible experience when using our products. Effective user interface design makes the user’s interaction with a system as simple and efficient as possible.

To aid this goal, we have compiled a list of 10 usability principles (known as Heuristics) that you can use to help find usability problems in any design. In this post, we'll show you the first five:

1. Show System Status

Tell the user where they are in the process and what is going on.
  • Time: Show a progress bar and estimated time to completion if a task is going to take more than a second.
  • Space: Show how much storage space the client has left so they don't run out of space.
  • Change: If a user made a change to a page and tries to navigate away, notify them and give them an option to save so they don't lose data.
  • Action: Show what immediate action is desired from the user.
  • Next Steps: Show the user what they are expected to do next, e.g. if they should they wait for an email, if someone will contact them, etc.

2. Use Familiar Metaphors & Language

Match your interface with visual metaphors that people are familiar with, and use understandable, clear language and categories.

  • Familiar Metaphors: The trash bin is used to visually communicate that you are throwing something out or deleting it.
  • The World in Miniature: You can find an example of this metaphor in print dialogues. Before printing, you are shown a preview of what your document will look like on a page.
  • Familiar Language: Use terminology that’s clear, direct, and easy to understand, e.g. "Email Us" instead of "Electronic Correspondence". 
  • Familiar Categories: Avoid non-standard categories. For example, if your business supports different States, simply display a list of those States rather than breaking them up into arbitrary regions.

3. Control & Freedom

Give users the ability to control and explore data.

  • Undo/Redo: The user should have the ability to go back and forth. They should never be stuck on a fixed path.
  • Explore Data: Give users a data set and allow them to filter, search and explore the data so they can understand what their options are.

4. Consistency & Standards

Buttons and navigational tools should be placed where people would expect them. Additionally, using standard conventions are imperative. For example:

  • Consistent layout: If your buttons are on the bottom of a page and summary information is at the top, every page on your site should have the information placed here as well. 
  • Conventions: Alerts during processes such as installation or data import should use affirmative language like "Yes" or "Continue Anyway".

5. Error Prevention

Provide needed information, clarify when necessary, and remove unnecessary restraints.

  • Provide Needed Information: In an alert about overwriting an image, display information to clarify the process. For example, show the user a thumbnail of both images. This will make it easier for the user to decide whether or not to go through with the desired action.
  • Descriptive Action Buttons/Links: Buttons and links should clearly state what they will do, e.g. "View Brochure" rather than "OK or "Click Here".
  • Remove Unnecessary Constraints: For an initial search, don't force the user to pick a category. Let the user initiate a search, and filter or relax the constraints on the results.

Want to learn more about SmartSimple and our software products? Visit our main site, email us at info@smartsimple.com or call toll-free 1-866-239-0991.

Check back soon for our final 5 tips to improve user experience!


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