The First Rule of UX Design? Think Creatively.
What is creativity? Is it the preserve of artists, writers, actors and other such liberal arty-farty types? No.
Is it confined to the beauty of a Shakespearean sonnet or the grandeur of a Michelangelo’s David? Absolutely not.
So, what is it?
Well, it isn’t the output. It’s not the magnificent stone statue or the #SmilingNotSmiling portrait of an Italian noblewoman.
Instead, creativity is the process that results in original outcomes that either entertain or solve problems. And it’s the latter of which that is particularly pertinent to the world of UX design.
Creativity Lies in Understanding the Problem
Necessity is the mother of invention, so the saying goes. Or, to put it another way, the need to be creative often stems from the need to solve a problem. And whilst it might not be the first thing you think of the word “creative,” it is an essential aspect of UX design.
Because a UX designer is concerned with the entire user journey, from a website’s branding and design to its usability and function, UX design has to incorporate an array of considerations — which means problem-solving is a vital skill for designers.
So let’s take a look at how UX design, and its associated technology, have had to get creative when putting together successful web experiences.
More people now browse online via smartphones than desktops, which means designing for mobile is the one of the biggest changes and challenges that UX designers have had to wrestle with in recent years.
Creating the Appearance of Speed
We’re all used to high-speed internet these days, but mobile load times can still lag behind our expectations. However, there are couple of creative tricks designers can use to create a perception of speed and stop people from clicking away.
First, instead of showing a loading widget (normally a spinning circle designed to hypnotize the watcher while the screen loads), designers have started using skeleton screens. This is when the page loads in increments — effectively showing the wireframe or skeleton of the site to keep people engaged whilst the more resource-heavy elements load through.
Another way designers have overcome this issue is through lazy loading, in which the site will display a low-quality image to give the impression that the page is about to load.
These creative little tricks are a crucial weapon in a designer’s arsenal when it comes to the battle for keeping people’s attention.
All Fingers and Thumbs: Next-Gen Navigation
One of the problems designers have faced with mobile-first optimization has been the way people navigate, using their fingers and thumbs instead of mouse pointers.
To accommodate this, designers have turned to research that says the average size of a fingertip is 8-10mm, so their designs can work to a 10 x 10mm touch size and consider appropriate distances between interactive buttons, menus and adverts.
This reduces the possibility of the user’s accidentally pressing something he or she didn’t mean to, and provides a smoother, more ergonomic browsing experience.
We’ve all been there. We’ve spotted a natty little blazer or some boys-toys bit of tech and whacked it into our shopping basket, only to be day-ruiningly disappointed when we open it up.
With so much competition for our hard-earned cash, brands must always be on the lookout to instill confidence and trust in shoppers that what they see online is what they get in reality.
In recent years, online retailers have overcome this problem by utilizing UX tools such as augmented and virtual reality. By using such technology, along with a well-designed user interface and functionality, customers can get a much better idea as to how that footstool might look in their living room or whether their butt really does look big in that trouser suit.
Finding Your Type: Variable Fonts
Typefaces have long been treated as static glyphs with only a small set of adjustable parameters. Designers have had to treat fonts — and copy in general — as a rigid asset to be incorporated as carefully and artistically as any other design asset.
But with the rise of responsive design (design that responds to the user’s behavior, such as vertical scrolling), designers are now able to be more creative in their approach. This includes stretching.
Even better for designers, because variable fonts are infinitely malleable, offering an unlimited number of size and weight adjustments, they only need one file per font style. So gone are the days when a designer has to provide all of the files for the various font styles used.
(Hear that? That’s the sound of the world’s designers crying tears of joy into their hankies.)