In a digital world obsessed with content, the importance of User Experience (UX) has largely managed to get lost among the noise. But UX is by far the most integral part of web design, and has the ability to either engage or completely switch off a user just by virtue of a site or app’s usability. Aesthetic of a site or an app had all too often been viewed as an afterthought, though, a nice add-on to an already functional product. In reality, the two are more deeply intertwined than many think, with the usability of the website or app and its aesthetic naturally dependent on one another and coming together to form the UX.
Just like the technology it’s consumed on, it’s important that UX is constantly evolving to keep up with user expectations. If a great UX is what separates average products from brilliant ones, companies need to be ahead of the curve to have a chance of standing out and retaining their users. Now well into Q3 of 2016, we look at some of the key trends your design team should be aware of, and personalization of content has grown to match video in the list of things you really can’t ignore.
Despite being one of 2016’s biggest buzzwords, personalization has been a factor of UX for much longer than just the past seven months. The use of data analytics in web and app design allows the UX to be tailored more and more for each individual user, and as users become more comfortable with the notion of personalization through data, UX will only become more and more user specific.
Before long, a ‘one size fits all’ home page will be a thing of the past, and data collected can be used to ensure the site is designed to best suit each user or user group. Current personalization can be as simple as being asked to identify yourself as belonging to a certain group upon visiting the site - as a teacher or a student on an educational tools site, for example - after which the entire experience can be recalibrate to fit. Media websites and apps, similarly, will encourage users to create a profile so that their data can be stored and the UX can be tailored to them every time they visit.
Another thing to bear in mind is that not being too protective over your product’s UX can only be a good thing. Increasingly, apps and website have allowed users to make changes to certain design elements, like layout or color, even allowing users to entirely hide features they don’t find useful. Websites and apps are largely imperfect when they launch, and users will invariably find problems with them. Giving your users an element of control over the own experience the result will be ultimately more satisfying.
Video, too, is having more and more of an effect on UX. Video has been a longstanding design element, but designers are finding new ways to integrate them into the fundamentals of a site’s UX. Videos that autoplay seamlessly as the user scrolls, background video, a short landing video. A big part of an effective UX is being able to tell the brand story through the user journey - video helps do this in a clear, arresting way. Video is, of course, neither novel nor revolutionary, but incorporating it in innovative ways can add the extra level of engagement that is often the different between retention and desertion.
UX develops alongside technology, and is at the same time both responsive to the changes this tech facilitates and preemptive of the next trend in user engagement. Issues like load time will always be a major part of designing a functioning UX, but being aware of developments in personalization and the use of video could be the difference between your site or app retaining users or fizzling out.