“Data-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.
Today's column is written by Erin Essex, product design manager at Shutterstock.
Like chess, cooking and skiing, user experience (UX) can be easily understood but hard to master. It’s simple to comprehend, right? An app or platform should be designed so that it’s easy for users to understand from the first jump. Yet, there is so much that goes into that concept.
Great UX needs to be simple to understand and, at the same time, robust and reactive enough to guide users at every turn. It must be silent, yet empathetic. Beautiful, yet invisible.
For brands, marketers and marketing technology developers alike, UX must be top of mind and continually reassessed. If not considered, new technologies, platforms and areas of engagement can quickly create or highlight deficiencies in the user experience. In the coming year, I see three areas that brands must evaluate to ensure their UX is delivering as expected.
Visual appeal and good UX are still a hurdle for mobile
Mobile is one of the most dominant platforms for brands to engage with their customers, yet good UX for apps continues to challenge brands. Apps need to run the gauntlet of smooth navigation and appealing design all while working to not flood the user with features – or worse, intrusive popup advertisements.
Mobile phones are ubiquitous among consumers, and an obvious platform for advertising. Yet surprisingly, few have fully cracked the mobile code in a way that looks and feels authentic enough to turn audiences into customers. Marketers and advertisers need to think through the end-to-end mobile experience meticulously to inspire customers to download, use, retain and evangelize a brand’s app.
In an attempt to upsell audiences, apps will put a lot of information, such as promos or offers, in front of a user before they can access the tools they need. Robinhood is a stock trading app whose designers have seemingly cracked the UX code. The navigation is not cluttered from the start. All the needed information, such as analysts’ ratings, earnings charts and activity graphs, is in once place. It’s a clean UX that understands why users have elected to use the app in the first place. Robinhood also makes some interesting and appealing design choices, like switching from night mode to day mode when the market is open and making it rain confetti when you make a trade. That’s a fantastic example of how design can be intuitive for a user without being overly explanatory.
Injecting design into an increasingly interface-less landscape
The proliferation of apps that interact with AI-assistants such as Alexa, Siri and others means that brand designers are faced with a new challenge: how to design an appealing, intuitive app without an interface.
Visual interfaces and intuition don’t immediately translate to aural experiences. While apps are being downloaded, added and integrated to AI assistants, users aren’t returning. It could be reasonably assumed that UX for these apps is a major contributing factor. Designers need to ensure that these apps are extremely empathetic to the AI assistant user. The design needs to be simple, intuitive and out of the way.
The added challenge for marketers and advertisers is approaching AI voice assistants differently than traditional auditory platforms like radio. The interactive, “smart” properties of a voice assistant require an entirely new way of thinking about delivering information and value in the user experience.
Itcher is an entertainment recommendation engine that has completely removed the interface. Users just ask for a recommendation for a movie, book or TV show, and Itcher serves follow-up questions to narrow down potential choices. It seems extremely simple, and it is. It needs to be. It doesn’t overcomplicate the experience. Itcher distills the options to deliver what’s advertised on the label and, in doing so, provides a clean, uncomplicated experience.
Designing bots as brand extensions
Brands have implemented bots as a method of streamlining the user experience. Creating an instant and responsive touch point for users at scale would be near impossible if manned by actual human beings. From a design and UX aspect though, bots have veered more toward function, with less of an emphasis on form. In an effort to make bots feel human, some designers have taken a more neutral approach to how bots interact with users.
Brands, marketers and advertisers spend millions of dollars to craft and establish an overarching identity. There’s a missed opportunity if that identity isn’t carried over to a brand’s bots.
Capsule, a pharmacy app, has carefully crafted its brand’s voice to sound like a loving mother. It would be counterproductive if its bot came off cold or neutral. Capsule, instead, has used its bot to reinforce this identity. The information it texts you is clear but also reassuring. (Example: calling you “dear” or telling you not to worry if your refills ran out before proactively contacting your doctor for an update.) It’s clean and informational but on brand.
The common thread between these three pain points – mobile, AI and bots – is that this tech is not new.
Brands have spent years building the infrastructure needed to take advantage of these platforms. Designers now need to add a little finesse to these offerings. As users become savvier in understanding what good UX looks and feels like, they’ll expect or demand it from other apps.