Creative Director of ArtVersion, a Chicago design consultancy. We craft ideal user experiences for the world’s most innovative companies.
Our society is continually inspired by innovation. As creatives, it can consequently be tempting to shift from established design conventions in pursuit of originality. While innovative thinking should definitely be encouraged in design, there is also a certain logic in adhering to standards and best practices, particularly as they relate to user experience (UX) design.
As global internet usage climbs steadily from year to year, it is clear that consumers spend a significant amount of time online. With this in mind, it is also safe to assume that the majority of users are not spending that time exclusively on one site. As a result, the average user has built a set of expectations for the sites they visit.
To enhance the user experience, designers need to be cognizant of these expectations and preferences. By building familiar pathways throughout the user interface (UI), designers can ensure the site functions just like any other site, thereby allowing for superior experiences.
Building Familiar Pathways
In web design, user experience remains the key to generating successful results. One of the primary obstacles to consider when designing for user experience is confusion. Confusion inevitably leads to frustration, which is obviously something to be avoided at all costs. For this reason, it is so important to anticipate the user’s pain points and eliminate confusion wherever possible along the user journey. To do this, designers need to establish some level of consistency throughout the interface to produce a frictionless experience.
In terms of the UI, building familiar pathways begins with adhering to established standards in the web design industry. A website or app should be intuitive for users, which means that it should function in a way that users are already accustomed to. Otherwise, users may get frustrated and abandon the session.
Users have come to expect certain functionalities and elements in their digital experience. The main navigation for example often appears as a menu across the top of the site, or it may appear as a hamburger icon that expands into the full menu. When a user clicks on a particular menu item, it then takes them to the corresponding page or section. Your site then should follow those standards so that users can instantly recognize how to move through the interface without having to search. Incorporating these familiar elements and functionalities within your interface reduces the learning curve for users, allowing them to complete tasks seamlessly.
Likewise, maintaining consistency within the same interface is paramount. Once a particular functionality or element has been established, it should be carried throughout the site for all corresponding elements. For example, a button that functions one way on the home page should not react differently on an inner page. This eliminates confusion and encourages users to remain engaged throughout their journey.
Presenting A Familiar Experience
In addition to a more seamless user experience, the concept of familiarity also benefits designers because it means that you don’t need to reinvent the wheel for every interface you create. With best practices already in place, web designers can leverage established conventions to effectively streamline their workflows and meet the expectations of their users.
When building an interface, designers need to understand and adhere to the current standards and best practices in UI/UX design. After all, exceptional user experience can only be accomplished by first meeting user expectations. Thus, the interface should incorporate those familiar features and functionalities that are standard in the industry. To that end, design teams should use those conventions to organize their own unique set of reusable UI components. Accompanied by their own set of standards and guidelines, design teams can easily pull elements to use throughout the interface. The result is a faster design process and a better experience for users.
Designers may be reluctant to mimic a standardized format when creating a layout, but they should also consider the user’s perspective. Users have become accustomed to seeing certain elements in specific locations, such as the menu spanning the top banner and the brand logo appearing in the top left corner. Within a certain context, it may actually make sense to stray from convention. But before doing so, designers should first consider whether this deviation will result in confusion or frustration for their users. The bounds of creativity are indeed limitless, but the end goal is, ultimately, to satisfy the user.
Another thing to consider when designing any interface is consistency. The final product should be a unified experience, with all UI elements, fonts, colors and content in agreement with one another. If every page reflects a different style and tonality, users may get distracted from the overall message you are trying to convey.
Familiarity is good. It not only allows web users to feel comfortable when visiting any interface but gives designers the opportunity to engineer with confidence. Rather than constricting innovation, adhering to standards wherever it makes sense to do so can simplify design decisions so you can focus more intently on creating a positive experience for your users.
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