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How to Create Information Architecture for Web Design

Imagine this situation: You visit a website and spend time looking for the information you need. You click one link, then another, and again, and again… But you come up empty — you can’t find anything useful. Whether you’re a product owner or designer, you don’t want your website to be a maze with nothing but frustrating blind alleys.

Information architecture helps to avoid this. It handles the chaos, creating a clear structure for a website, an app, or a program. In this article, we’ll explain how you can create superb information architecture.

What is information architecture?

When you arrive at a new place, you need something to guide you. If you’re spending a weekend in an unfamiliar city, you have to consult a map. Then you use street signs and addresses on buildings to reach your destination. It’s the same with any unfamiliar location: You don’t want to waste time and get lost, so you need a guidance.

Information architecture (IA) is the science of structuring content as it is applied to news websites or blogs, online stores, booking apps, downloadable software, etc. The goal of information architecture is to classify the content in a clear and understandable way and arrange it according to relations between the content pieces, allowing users to find what they need with less effort. Not applied solely when creating a product from scratch, IA is used in redesign.

Information architecture is a part of interaction design that considers content, context, and users. This means that user needs, business goals, and different types of content must be taken into account while structuring a product’s information. Usually, information architecture design falls under the care of UX and UI designers or an information architect.

Peter Morville, the co-author of Information Architecture for the World Wide Webexplains the role of an information architect as a person who bridges users and content by designing search and navigation, embodying the abstract ideas into prototypes, units, and disciplines to turn the concepts into something understandable. An information architect who works along with a UX designer can concentrate solely on information architecture design, while a UX designer devotes more time to research. In this case, an architect creates a number of deliverables, which we will describe in the section on the steps of IA development.

Regardless of the title, a person who works on information architecture must start with the rules that help to achieve the goal of IA. In the next part of the article we will look closer at the activities of IA design and its deliverables. To create a strong information architecture, you must start with thorough research, so it all begins with learning your users’ needs and behaviors.

1. Conduct customer research

The aim of this stage is to learn about a user’s needs. You must work with a customer profile and the results of customer and stakeholder interviews. The data revealed at this stage will allow you create a user persona profile, list business requirements, and get an idea of what a user wants. Because these tasks belong to a UX designer or business analyst, you need the results of their activities.

At the end of this stage, you’ll end up with a user profile and user flow that illustrate the way a user thinks and interacts with a product. When you have all the necessary information about the product and the people who use/will use it, you can go to the next step.

2. Update and review the content

When you know what a user wants, you can update the content of an existing website and list it. The main activities to perform at this stage are content inventory and content audit. Let’s look at them.

Content inventory

The goal of this activity is to create a list of information elements on all the pages of a website and classify them by topic and sub-topic. This includes the following items:

  • Headings and subheadings
  • Texts
  • Media files (images, video, audio)
  • Documents (doc, pdf, ppt)
  • URL-links of the pages

Content audit

Well, you have the content list. Now, scrap the least important items, update some pieces of content, and rearrange them for the next steps. This activity is applicable both to new products and to app or website redesigns.

The next step involves grouping content into different categories. For this purpose, you will need the help of potential users.

3. Apply card sorting for content classification

All types of content must be classified and have proper names that won’t confuse a user. You need a taxonomy to do it. Taxonomy is another word for classification. In the case of IA, it’s an attempt to group different unstructured pieces of information and give them descriptions.

The most popular and the most important technique that allows taxonomizing the content is card sorting.

Card sorting

As soon as you have the content, arrange it. The point of the activity is to see directly how users perceive the product’s content pieces. Card sorting is usually conducted in small groups of 15–20 participants, where they have to describe and sort 30–60 cards with pieces of information into different classes. The cards contain topics that must be categorized, or pieces of content that must be described.

There are three types of card sorting:

Open — for free labeling. The participants categorize topics as they choose and in the order that makes sense to them. This approach allows you to understand how the users think in terms of classification. Open type is used to design new products.

Closed — with pre-designed categories. This method of card sorting is usually applied in redesign. The participants are given pre-defined categories from a content inventory list, and they sort the content according to them.

Hybrid — unites elements of both types, or starts with an open type, moving to the closed type to follow user logic.

You can conduct card sorting in groups or as a personal interview, or remotely via IA tools like UserZoomusabiliTEST, xSort, and Optimal Sort.

The cards can be digital or physical, i.e. written on pieces of paper. When creating cards, use the results of content inventory. Separate topics have to be on separate index cards. They should have numbers and some should have blank spaces, so the participants can create their own names for categories. As a result, you’ll see the approximate structure of a product and proceed with the first prototypes. But first, the categories must be labeled and defined in a navigation system.

4. Build a website hierarchy for user-friendly navigation

Every website or an app needs a solid navigation system that helps a user find what they need. As soon as you have the results of card sorting activities, you will understand how to embody and classify the content in reality. This step embraces navigation design, labeling, and site mapping. Let’s define them one by one.

Navigation

When working on navigation, remember that no matter which pages the visitors come from, they must be able to find what they need. A navigation system consists of many elements — buttons, menus, and tables of content. There are four main type:

Hierarchical — shows the information hierarchy from main elements to their sub-categories. An example is drop-down menus for large websites.

Global or site-wide — present across all the pages, this navigation enables the users to get to the main page from every location, for example, left- or right-sided, top-centered, sticky menus, footers, or hamburger menus.

Local — shows the navigation of a specific area: a page or a part of a site and its content. It can be present in the form of lists.

Contextual — relates to specific content, like document, page, video-audio object, or related products. Remember to make a clickable logo that directs a user right to a homepage.

These types can complement each other, but the main principle of good navigation is to avoid overloading with guiding elements. Sometimes navigation can be present in the form of an interactive guide, tour, or tutorial. It can navigate a user through a multi-stage process or a complex website. You can decide on the best option for location and menu type by conducting an A/B and multivariate testing for conversion optimization.

Labeling

The correct label gives users proper conceptualization of the category they are dealing with. During this procedure, name all parts of IA with headings and subheadings. The purpose of labels is to attract user attention, giving a proper understanding of what to expect from clicking on a link. Examples are the best description, so illustrate your labels.

When navigation and labeling are ready, outline the whole structure, creating a site map. Site map creation can be preceded by a mind map. Let’s look at the role of mind mapping in this procedure.

Mind mapping

Mind mapping is a technique based on relations between different pages of a digital product with a detailed description of functionality. As a tool, a mind map is very useful for instruction, allowing someone to understand the structure of the content by logical sequence and to develop associations. Apply it to an app or a website to visually represent the entities of a product and follow the logical structure of the content.

With a mind map, you can start making a site map. But first, you have to choose the hierarchy design pattern.

Hierarchy design patterns

Design pattern is a way to structure the content. It allows you to choose the direction at the very beginning of IA building or website redesign activities. There are several IA design patterns, which we describe below:

Single page model — one that serves a single purpose, for example, downloading an app or providing contact info.

Flat structure — one with a linear hierarchy, where all the pages are equally important. This pattern is suitable for brochure-like websites.

Index pages pattern — consists of a home page and equally important subpages. This type is one of the most common choices for websites because it’s simple, familiar, and deep enough for most use cases.

Strict hierarchy pattern — similar to index pages pattern, but more branchy: Each subpage has one or more subpages. Strict hierarchy pattern is chosen by websites that have a large number of categories such as blogs, eCommerce sites, or media.

Co-existing hierarchies pattern — unites several types of hierarchies in case the information from one subpage overlaps the content of another.

As soon as you have decided on design pattern, you can apply it along with the results of card sorting in site mapping.

Site mapping

A sitemap is a way to illustrate the hierarchy of content and display navigation. The word sitemap is self-explanatory. It’s a map of the content and categories of a website.

On a sitemap, you visualize the whole hierarchy of content. You can make it on paper or using different tools like WriteMapsMindNodeScappleMindManagerXMind.

Show the sitemap to stakeholders and send it to developers so that they can understand what to do next: Are there any important changes that have to be applied before a product goes into production? Still, there is one more stage before production — prototyping.

5. Create a UI prototype for future development

Although a sitemap is the first prototype in information architecture development, you still have to create advanced prototypes by wireframing and data modeling.

Wireframing

While a sitemap is a scheme of content hierarchy, a wireframe embodies the final look. A wireframe is a schematic representation of a website or an app that displays the navigation and interface of a website. An IA wireframe shows all the pages and screens of a product, with headlines, tags, labels, and grey boxes where the content will be placed. It’s also the first draft of a digital product’s UI. This deliverable is a bridge between the information architect and a UX/UI designer. Using a wireframe, you can conduct user testing to understand if an IA serves its purpose. These test results will allow you to apply the changes before developers and UI designers start working on a product.

Wireframes are drawn on paper or using a special tool or a software like JustinmindWireframe.ccFluid UIBalsamiq, or Visio for creating digital wireframes, sitemaps, or high-fidelity prototypes. Wireframes are tested by users to define whether the structure is clear and concise.

Data modeling

The final step before development is data modeling: You can embody the content structure in data modeling systems. At this stage, you communicate the prototypes to stakeholders and developers to work on a product.

Usually, it’s done via wireframes or right through CMS (content management systems), supporting systems for content publishing, like SquarespaceWordPress, and Wix. Lay the content out via CMS and later use it as the platform for website development.

The eight principles of Information Architecture

No matter if you’re goal is to improve user experience of a website or create a completely new app, you must take eight principles into consideration.

These eight principles were defined by Dan Brown, a co-founder of EightShapes design company. An information architect should stick to them to build a product:

  1. Principle of objects — a content is a living thing with its lifecycle, behaviors, and attributes.
  2. Principle of choices — the pages of a product should offer a number of meaningful choices to users.
  3. Principle of disclosure — the users mustn’t be overloaded with information; show only enough information to help them understand what kinds of information they’ll find as they dig deeper.
  4. Principle of exemplars — the best way to describe the content categories is to show examples of the contents.
  5. Principle of front doors — assume at least half of the website’s visitors will come through some page other than the home page.
  6. Principle of multiple classification — offer users several different classification schemes to browse the site’s content.
  7. Principle of focused navigation — don’t mix different categories in your navigation scheme.
  8. Principle of growth — assume the content you have today is a small fraction of the content you will have tomorrow.

Applying these principles, you are likely to structure existing content and leave a space for growth.

Examples of information architecture

As you have already seen, almost every stage has its own deliverables. But the most important deliverable that unite the results of an information architect’s hard work is a sitemap. Now, let’s see how websites structure their content.

BBC Weather

First of all, it’s a part of the BBC news agency website, so in a way, it is also a part of a more global product. The information architecture of BBC Weather features a strict hierarchy design pattern with three hierarchy levels. The main categories involve forecast pages, UK weather, coast and sea, weather presenters, and story pages. A homepage features a map that sends visitors right to the cities they want and video. This IA allows a user to access the information from the home page.

Global Seed Network

The Global Seed network is an initiative that supports diversity and protects the public food system by encouraging farmers and gardeners to share seeds of different plants. The site’s information architecture has a simple navigation system and allows new visitors to sign up in two steps and find the available types of seeds right at the homepage. Also, the homepage features recent news. All this shows the visitors the advantages of an initiative and helps them to make a decision.

Spotify

This is an example of not-so-good information architecture. Spotify’s website features a co-existing hierarchy pattern with reiteration and partial reiteration of some sections. This makes the information architecture a little messy. Renee Lin, a UX designer, found a way to improve it by simplifying it and removing some sections.

Renee Lin, a UX designer, found a way to improve it by simplifying it and removing some sections.

Final word

One of the new trends in UX/UI design is zero UI. If you have ever used Google Assistant or Alexa, you know what it’s like: A user finds necessary information without even touching a screen, just by saying a couple of words or potentially even by a gesture. This is what virtual reality projects most frequently apply. Zero UI will influence the way information architecture is created. But as long as we have a regular UI, we must stick to some tried-and-true tips like adhering to the eight principles of IA and not overloading users with information.

Originally published at AltexSoft Tech Blog How to Create Information Architecture for Web Design”

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Tips to Create Stunning Business Cards

If you want to position your brand, it’s not just enough to make a good face to face impression. Make no mistake. I don’t mean that face to face impressions aren’t important. But you often have to follow them up with a business card. As a matter of fact, a business card sometimes doubles up as a first impression and also as a follow-up reminder as to why customers should pay attention to your brand in the first place.

5 Awesome Business Card Design Tips

Experiment with Your Colors

Yes, you want your business card to right off the bat define your value and differentiate you from your competitors, but you also want to appeal to your client’s emotions. And nothing appeals to people’s emotions better than color. I’ll admit there are two sides to this argument. Some people believe colors draw people and appeal to their emotions while others argue that if you use the wrong colors, you lose your audience before you even get a chance to sell them your ideas. The jury is still out on this one. But the truth is color impacts everyone.

So you will want to get a deeper understanding of color psychology so that you can use that knowledge to predict people’s responses. For example, psychology tells us that black is somber color and is often associated with death. So if you want to make an impression, then you might want to use black sparingly or completely forget about incorporating it into your business card design.

In contrast, white sends a different message altogether. It says elegance. It says sophistication and is often associated with high-end luxury brands. On the other end of the spectrum, pink comes across as being more feminine. It represents sweetness, love, warmth, and sexuality. So once a customer sees a pink shade, it tells them that they can get female apparel and female necessities.

Switch Up the Texture

The card’s texture is a priceless business card design asset. You know how people are said to be visually inclined to like something from the onset. Well, the same principle applies to texture. Only that with a textured card, you are engaging multiple senses.

This means that customers can create more memories with your brand and will, therefore, be more likely to give you a call or make an order.

The question is: How do you give the card texture? Simple: change the paper stock. Instead of using convectional paper stocks, look for a more modern paper stock with a unique feel to it. Something crisp and witty but still professional.

Another way to switch up the texture is to go for an entirely new manufacturing material. This gives you the chance to surprise your audience in a whole new way since no one will be expecting a card made out of cotton, leather, wood, crackers or chocolate.

Use Unique Shapes

You may not realize it, but shapes have quite an impact on our daily lives. I mean think about it. There are shapes everywhere. And just like colors, they have their own set of psychological associations. So for instance, when we come across the octagonal shape on the road, our first instinct is to stop while the cross symbol denotes first aid. Again, you will want to do a little research into the psychology behind shapes so that you influence the correct response. After all, you don’t want to send the wrong message, do you?

Enhance your Layout

I’d venture to say that the business card layout is the most important aspect of creating a stunning card. That’s a pretty big claim, right? But it makes perfect sense when you think about it. The whole point of creating a business card is so that people can read it. If customers cannot read what is on the business card, it’s a complete waste of time. So you will want to ensure that you leverage the power of readability by enhancing the layout.

Space It Out

Very closely tied to the layout is space. Just as with any other kind of design, spacing up elements on your business card unclutters the card and gives a little more breathing space to enhance readability. However, remember you also don’t want to put in too much white space and make it seem like elements are floating all over the place. You will need to ensure that there’s a balance to ensure cohesion.

Wrapping It Up

There you have it, folks! A comprehensive blog post on what you need to create stunning business cards. Of course, there’s a bazillion of other tips I could have included, but these are the most important yet. Be sure to leverage different colors and creative textures to come up with a better business card design for your card. Also, ensure that you enhance the layout and space out elements for maximum readability.

 

Author : Mirko

Source : www.designer-daily.com

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Consistency: MORE than what you think

Let’s examine a subject that has more to it than meets the eye. Applying a deeper appreciation of consistency to your designs will yield precious results, including keeping users happy.

Consistency enables users to feel familiar with your website, your brand, etc. and to be reassured that it is your company with whom they are interacting.

Ensuring consistency means careful attention throughout the conceptualization and design phase of your site. Defining, planning, designing, and testing with consistency in mind can save many headaches at the end of the design process.

If you’re working on a design project that has a real-world (bricks-and-mortar) presence, the brand message, color scheme, etc. must not only be consistent on your website, but it must be consistent with the brand message in the bricks-and-mortar location, too. Virtual reality must connect to reality in a like-for-like way.

The core of this is that consistency creates trust. It creates an experience which users can rely upon every time. It goes beyond the look and feel of a site, too; it also reaches down into interaction and behavioral patterns and even deeper. As a designer, you need to ensure consistency from the core of the company. Consistency is born from the alignment of the business and users’ goals. How do people work with your brand? As a company, how do you want to be known? What questions might your users have? What are the easiest ways for them to complete a specific task or process on your site? Conceptualizing with consistency and thus delivering a consistent experience as well as a consistent design is incredibly important.

The evolution of brand consistency

In the 1950s, in the post-war milieu of optimism, a new mindset developed. Standardization — the process of developing and implementing technical standards — was emerging as a central force in a new age of prosperity.

The vision was there; however, the technological constraints were such that companies had to rely on modes of engaging the public that can make us smile today. Against the backdrop of more basic radio advertising, infant television advertising (on few channels!), and less sophisticated print technologies, companies couldn’t reach consumers in the dimensions they can enjoy now. Nevertheless, corporate designers made the most of what communication means they had and strove to aim for simplicity to get their designs “out there” consistently, in ways that customers would have no problems understanding. Branding was all about simple, catchy designs that, say, drivers could digest in a second while speeding past billboards.

Today, the ethos of yesteryear’s brand consistencyin design survives in a more demanding environment; even the way companies go about their branding has had to change radically. Those smart words and well-balanced, static designs from decades ago are what many now see as clichéd slogans and safe, samey colors. Looking too classic– if that’s not your goal – can cost you. Technology has redefined reality in many ways for users. Where before, companies were restricted by the technology then available, they were sheltered by it, too. Removed from such direct consumer interfaces, they didn’t have to face the challenges that their latter-day counterparts do now.

Postmodern society has become very judgmental about brands. Once, a brand’s reliance was on radio, TV, and print advertising. That’s exploded into another dimension now. The Internet first and together with social media now has forced companies to up their branding game. Consumers now interact with brands in many ways and places. The question of brand, image and the need for a company’s consistency has become more complex. Many users analyze, scrutinize and draw conclusions based on other criteria. They observe the brand’s presence through different channels and from devices in a myriad of contexts. With all these factors to consider, just how can companies strive for consistency? What can designers do to cater for brands in this ever-shifting set of expectations?

Well, as designers, the complexity of current times means that you should strive for total consistency knowing that with the diversity of channels, devices and contexts that companies and users move around now, it is getting more and more difficult. We have to stay realistic in the real world of our users to maximize their experience. The good news is that there are ways to keep up and adapt to meet our users’ expectations. It’s not a flux out there; far from it.

It is not just about marketing

Consistency is repetition for marketing. It ensures that users always find the same message over and over again, however they access a brand. Think about your favourite restaurant chain. Now, imagine that you’re feeling hungry (maybe you are!) and have just turned the street corner, expecting to see that comforting sign above the restaurant. Whether you realise it or not, when your eye picks out that expected sign with its logo and color scheme, etc., you feel comforted. You have faith from seeing that standard that you’re a few paces away from getting what your brain is telling your stomach it wants. Thus, the consistency of the design has done its job.

However, there is more to it now; companies and their brand names have to be adventurous in this new arena. The definition of their identity has moved on, too. The logo used to mean everything. Now, the manner in which the brand interacts with users in the virtual world as well as the real world is every bit as important as the logo to establish (and sustain!) identity.

Branding has gone from the old, passive way (catching the logo on a TV screen, billboard, or magazine ad) to a highly interactive sequence of processes. If you guess that such interactions happen on a computer, you’d be correct. Did you know that 90% of media is consumed on screens, according to a major Google study? About two-fifths of that occurs on smartphones — users engage brands on handheld devices. Because of this, brands have had to rethink their strategy. Modern designers have had to enter the fray by making fluid brand identities.

More than branding: Providing a consistent experience

Consistency is key for usability and user experience. A coherent design across devices and formats reduces the learning curve and promotes familiarity and bonding. It ensures that users don’t have to “meet” a brand for the second time. Design for consistency is a must for the emotional and cognitive aspects of the user; it’s also much easier to maintain from the organizational point of view. Users remember details in a design. Changes will disguise it, prompting them to wonder if the brand is an imposter. Change can cost a loss in faith, even if it is sometimes needed.

AOL (America Online) is a good example of a brand that risked much in transforming itself. Ironically, it’s an Internet pioneer, large in the US and big in Britain. It’s made a comeback. “AOL” is now “Aol” — it features on everything from goldfish to a “throwing horns” hand. This means that it’s transplanted well into a dynamic multi-dimensional tableau. Users can engage it far better than its original triangular brand design from 1991. In the United Kingdom, AOL had relied on an iconic character called ‘Connie’ to feature in the branding from 1998 to 2002, levering users with no Internet experience into a comfortable UX. Tall, calm and with a dress that kept changing like a computerized design sequence, she was “designed” to soothe and lead users. Once users in Britain became more experienced, Connie (and the actress portraying her) vanished from AOL’s branding.

The Superbowl is to American Football what the World Cup is to Football. Anyone who’s ever watched the Superbowl on TV in January knows that a draw for viewers is the advertising. Those cutting-edge, funny and cool designs present brands to ever-more demanding audiences. In the US, it’s the ultimate way to engage users on television. Brands such as Budweiser and CBS know that casting ever-more impressive brand identities is vital. Even sitting at home, watching large-screen televisions in the same spirit as earlier generations, users in America in 2015 have one advantage. During and after the game, they’ll interact on their mobile phones to check out brands; they will talk about the brands that had the coolest ads. Others look for those brands to check out what they missed.

Users face more ranges of goods from brands than ever before. Frequently, they’ll struggle with getting used to a group of related products from the same company because these look and work so differently from one another. That leaves the users with something called a broken user experience.

Broken user experience is a big problem. Brands can remedy this in five ways. As a designer, you should familiarize yourself with the scope of the remedial process:

  • Visual consistency & simplification – make the design more basic at the planning stage, using more uniform fonts and colors, etc.
  • Behavioral consistency – Reuse design patterns that have been proven to work.
  • Behavioral optimization – Design to make users perform tasks with either less (or more effective) work (eliminating redundancy/unnecessary work).
  • Unified experience strategy – Reconsider the ideal workflow for individuals working on the project.
  • UX Culture – Understand and make UX a core priority before we design.

Visual design for consistency

Once you’ve defined a consistent UX, this consistency also needs to be translated into the interface and the graphic design. Let’s take a close look at how we can achieve that visual consistency. We just have to think about the elements of our designs, for example:

  • Colors—What is your focal color? What will be your secondary colors? Remember the significance of different colors. What is the nature of your brand?
  • Graphics—How will you use imagery or photos? What about icons and buttons? Think about the tone and character of your brand. Is it appropriate to be rigid and business like throughout? Or, is your brand more fun? Reflect that in the graphics.
  • Typography—What hierarchy will you use (headings, sub-headings, etc.)? What font sizes? Where will you display text in relation to the other elements of the design? Once again, can you afford to be light-hearted and inject some playfulness?
  • Sizes—What size of content blocks will you use? What size of images? What relationships will you convey between design elements with size?

While consistency matters between all pages, it’s particularly important to be consistent about the way you’re using the most important elements of your visual and interface design. People will notice if your logo jumps about between pages. They will notice if the menu suddenly switches from the top to the side. They are much more likely to notice inconsistencies in the most familiar items on a page than a font change in the 13th paragraph of content.

Recently, designers have had to become more fearless, while not being foolhardy. This is the era of brands that are adaptive and playful. Think of Google and its logo. They are not afraid to tweak it and adapt it! Gone are the days of rolling out a design and assuming consumers will love it. Now, designers have to cater to the consumers based on their feedback. It’s a risky game, but it works. Keep to the core principles that created and kept the brand together historically and match it with your target users’ needs and characteristics; from there, you have to be flexible.

Building Consistency in Your Designs

Happily, there are many ways to ensure that your designs are consistent, including:

Style Guides

A style guide is a written document specifying how to use design elements. It’s similar to brand guidelines clients sometimes give designers, but it goes deeper and relates the key styles and elements of the intended web design. Many web designers will create a style guide for the client’s approval in the early part of the design process.

Pattern Libraries

A pattern library is like a style guide but on steroids; these are detailed documents that touch on every single possible element in the design. Pattern libraries normally come in three flavors:

  • Design Patterns
  • Markup Patterns
  • Content Patterns

These detail the design elements and how they will be used. They include styles for headings, text, icons, etc.

This is the CSS and HTML pattern library – with HTML and CSS classes provided so that it’s easy to expand the website consistently in the future.

This defines the tone and style of any content you’ll use on site. These can be quite challenging to develop; it’s difficult to foresee all the types of content you might use in the future. However, delivering content patterns for clients can help ensure that your designs are in keeping with the content that they employ.

CSS Frameworks

You can use a CSS framework to help deliver consistency in a design. This is a very common thing to do in WordPress designs. Twitter Bootstrap is often used to manage CSS Frameworks.

The Take Away

Consistency lets users feel familiar with your website, brand, etc. We designers use consistency in our designs to establish and foster trust with our users. Long ago, this was an easier matter; however, in the multi-platform interactive age, we have a wealth of formats, channels and devices to consider and choose.

At the conceptualization phase, think about what users might associate with your brand, how they feel about it. Are you designing for a toy manufacturer? Then you can inject fun into your images and fonts. If you’re designing for a florist, it would be prudent to maintain an appropriate tone; flowers are for all occasions, remember. This consistency is defined from the alignment of the business and target users’ goals and then is “transported” everywhere in the company: from branding and marketing, to the user experience (here we talk about consistency in the product and service behavior and throughout the different devices), to the interface and graphic design.

How do you want your users to feel? Reflect this in your design; your designs can guide your users to interact with your brand. Keep consistent in even the smallest things, such as margins, because users will notice. Keep in mind that consistency in design makes a trustworthy brand. Users will build faith in a good design that keeps consistent during their UX. This is how iconic designs are born.

Source : www.interaction-design.org

Author : Mads Soegaard

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Unique Illustrations Styles

With each product we design, we tell a story to our users. Illustration is something that allows us to tell a richer story.

Well-designed illustrations can enhance your brand experience and help you to create a very personal connect with your users.

Illustrations are perceived faster than text so users may cover the key message quickly. That’s why illustrations can be good for landing pages, onboarding and tutorials. But illustrations can also be used for error states — well-crafted illustration can easily explain what an error message means in glance.

In this article, I want to cover ten unique illustration styles.

1. Slack

Slack is a collaboration tool for business. In 2017, Alice Lee worked on Slack redesign; her team introduced a new illustration style that was intended to personalize the brand by showing people in illustrations. At that time, it was one of the first companies that followed such approach.

Slack team is continuing to experiment and bring new ideas into their design.

2. Dropbox

Since Dropbox started over 10 years ago, illustrations were the natural part of the product. Dropbox uses illustration to bring life to the product.

The new illustration style which was introduced in 2018 follows a relatively simple approach — loose, handmade, witty drawings deliver the key message and create a truly memorable experience for their first-time users. The great thing about Dropbox illustrations is that they make it easier to establish a connection with users — when we see such drawings, they remind us that real human beings are behind this product.

3. Oscar

Oscar Health is a service that allows you to get more from your health insurance. The company incorporated a friendly team of illustrated personnel within its visual identity.

Oscar integrated illustrations both on macro- and micro- design levels. For example, the icons that the team uses on various pages were created based on the same illustration style.

4. Etsy

Etsy is an e-commerce website focused on handmade or vintage items and supplies. The company uses bold illustrations with funny characters. Even though illustrations aren’t primary elements of the design, they still create a memorable experience for site’s visitors.

5. Notion

Notion is a tool that blends your everyday work apps into one. The home page of this tool is full of statements such as ‘With Notion, all your work is in one place’ and the company uses illustrations to show what each statement really means. Illustrations show that Notion isn’t just a tool — it’s a living workspace that brings teams and ideas together.

The one thing that differentiates Notion from any other brand in this list is that all illustrations that the team uses are black & white.

6. MailChimp

Mailchimp is a marketing automation platform and an email marketing service. MailChimp’s mascot is one of the most familiar illustrations in the product design industry— most of us saw this friendly chimp at least once.

In 2018, the team conducted a redesign. They introduced a new style of illustrations — flat illustrations.

One noticeable thing about MailChimp’s new style is using vibrant yellow color to direct user attention. As a result, on many pages copy takes a backseat while the illustrations make the point.

7. Digital Ocean

Digital Ocean is an cloud infrastructure provider. While the most companies this list use only one style of illustrations, Digital Ocean uses two different techniques of illustration. For the homepage, they use 3D illustrations. Such illustrations make it easier to deliver the message that the system scales to meet people needs.

Digital Ocean uses flat illustrations with vibrant colors for their blog. Such illustrations bring visual interest and make people read more.

8. Shopify

Shopify is an e-commerce platform for online stores and retail point-of-sale systems. Shopify uses illustrations to cultivate a relationship that is more emotional, rather than just professional.

Meg Robichaud shares a lot of details about the process that the team followes to achieve this result (check her blog on Medium).

Shopify actively uses metaphors to deliver the key idea. For example, the illustration below makes it clear that the platform is accessible for customers with all abilities.

9. Intercom

Intercom produces a messaging platform which allows businesses to communicate with prospective and existing customers within their app, on their website, through social media, or via email. Intercom is an excellent example of a site that uses illustration as a supplement to written content. Illustrations playfully describe and reinforce the message in the text.

Recently, the company introduced a new illustration style. Instead of anthropomorphic giraffes and walruses Intercom started to use illustrations of people who use the service. The great thing about this approach is that when users see such illustrations, they start to believe that people in the illustration can be them.

10. Duolingo

Duolingo is a language-learning platform that includes a language-learning website and app. Illustrations play a vital role in Duolingo user experience. Duo (the friendly owl) guides and motivates users as they complete exercise. Many users ended up feeling emotionally attached to a tool.

Recently, Duolingo team made a redesign. The team wanted to create a more intuitive look for their illustrations, and design even more engaging and fun experience for their users.

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Designing Emotional Interfaces Of The Future

When it comes to change, we tend to naturally resist it. The only real boundary we have are our brains telling us that things are best to be left as they’ve always been. In this article, Gleb Kuznetsov shares his thoughts and ideas of how interfaces will look like and what sort of extraordinary experiences we can expect in the near future.

Emotions play a vital role in our decision-making process. One second of emotion can change the whole reality for people engaging with a product.

Humans are an emotionally driven species; we choose certain products not because of what makes sense, but because of how we think they will make us feel. The interfaces of the future will use the concept of emotions within the foundation of product design. The experiences that people use will be based both on intellectual quotient (IQ) and emotional quotient (EQ).

This article is my attempt to look into the future and see what interfaces we will design in the next ten years. We’ll be taking a closer look at the three mediums for interaction:

  1. Voice
  2. Augmented Reality (AR)
  3. Virtual Reality (VR)

    Practical Examples Of Future Emotional Interfaces

    How will interfaces look like in the future? Even though we do not have an answer to this question just yet, we can discuss what characteristics interfaces might have. In my opinion, I’m sure that we will eventually move away from interfaces full of menus, panels, buttons, and move towards more ‘natural interfaces’, i.e. interfaces that extend our bodies. The interfaces of the future will not be locked in a physical screen, but instead they will use the power of all five senses. Because of that, they will require a less learning curve — ideally, no learning curve at all.

    THE IMPORTANCE OF EQ EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE IN BUSINESS

    Apart from making the experience more natural and reducing the learning curve, designing for emotion has another benefit for product creators: it improves user adoption of the product. It’s possible to use humans’ ability to act on emotions to create better user engagement.

    Voice Interfaces That Feel Real

    Products that use voice as the primary interface are becoming more and more popular. Many of us use Amazon Echo and Apple Siri for daily routine activities such as setting an alarm clock or making an appointment. But a majority of voice interaction systems available on the market today still have a natural limitation: they do not take user emotions into account. As a result, when users interact with products like Google Now, they have a strong sense of communicating with a machine — not a real human being. The system responds predictably, and their responses are scripted. It’s impossible to have a meaningful dialogue with such a system.

    But there are some completely different systems available on the market today. One of them is Xiaoice, a social chatbot application. This app has an emotional computing framework at its core; the app is built on the idea that it’s essential to establish an emotional connection with the user first. Xiaoice can dynamically recognize emotion and engage the user throughout long conversations with relevant responses. As a result, when users interact with Xiaoice they feel like they’re having a conversation with a real human being.

    Many of us have seen the power of voice-based interactions in the film “Her” (2013). Theodore (the main character played by Joaquin Phoenix) fell in love with Samantha (a sophisticated OS). This also makes us believe that one of the primary purposes of voice-based systems of the future will be a virtual companion to users. The most interesting thing about this film is that Theodore did not have a visual image of the Samantha — he only had her voice. To build that kind of intimacy, it’s essential to generate responses that reflect a consistent personality. This will make the system both predictable and trustworthy.

    Technology is still a long away from a system like Samantha, but I believe that voice-first multimodal interfaces will be the next chapter in the evolution of voice-enabled interfaces. Such interfaces will use voice as a primary way of interaction and provide additional information in a context that creates and builds a sense of connection.

    The Evolution Of AR Experience

    Augmented Reality (AR) is defined as a digital overlay on top of the real world and transforms the objects around us into interactive digital experiences. Our environment becomes more ‘intelligent’ and users have an illusion of ‘tangible’ objects on the tips of their fingers, which establishes a deeper connection between a user and a product (or content).

    REIMAGINE EXISTING CONCEPTS USING AR

    The unique aspect of AR is that it gives us an extraordinary ability to physically interact with digital content. It allows us to see things that we could not see before and this helps us learn more about the environment around us. This AR property helps designers to create new level experiences using familiar concepts.

    For example, by using mobile AR, it’s possible to create a new level of in-flight experience that allows a passenger to see detailed information about her class or current flight progress:

    AR helps us find our way through spaces and get the required information at a glance. For example, AR can be used to create rich contextual hints for your current location. The technology known as SLAM (Simultaneous Localization And Mapping) is perfect for this. SLAM allows real-time mapping of an environment and also makes it possible to place multimedia content into the environment.

There are massive opportunities for providing value to users. For example, users can point their devices at a building and learn more about it right there on their screens. It significantly reduces the effort and allows for an emotional experience of ease by allowing navigation and access.

The environment around us (such as walls or floors) can become a scene for interactivity in ways that used to be limited to our smartphones and computers.

The concept that you see below does just that; it uses a physical object (white wall) as a canvas for the content usually delivered using a digital device:

AVOIDING INFORMATION OVERLOAD

Many of us saw the video called “HYPER-REALITY”. In this video, the physical and digital worlds have merged, and the user is overwhelmed with a vast amount of information.

Technology allows us to display several different objects at the same time. When it’s misused, it can easily cause overload.

Information overload is a serious issue that has a negative impact on user experience and avoiding it will be one of the goals of designing for AR. Well-designed apps will filter out elements that are irrelevant to users using the power of AI.

ADVANCED PERSONALIZATION

Personalization in digital experience happens when the system curates the content or functionality to users’ needs and expectations in real time. Many modern mobile apps and websites use the concept of personalization to provide relevant content. For example, when you visit Netflix, the list of movies you see is personalized based on your interests.

AR glasses allow creating a new level of personalization, i.e. an ‘advanced’ level of personalization. Since the system ‘sees’ what the user sees, it’s possible to utilize this information to make a relevant recommendation or provide additional information in context. Just imagine that you’ll soon be wearing AR glasses, and the information that is transferred to your retina will be tailored to your needs.

Here’s a foretaste of what’s in store for us:

Moving From Augmented Reality Towards Virtual Reality To Create An Immersive Experience

AR experience has a natural limitation. As users, we have a clear line between us and content; this line separates one world (AR) with another (real world). This line causes a sense that the AR world is clearly not real.

You probably know how to solve this limitation, i.e. with virtual reality (VR), of course. VR is not exactly a new medium, but it’s only been in the last few years that technology has reached a point where it allowed designers to create immersive experiences.

Immersive VR experiences remove the barrier between the real world and digital. When you put on a VR headset, it’s difficult for your brain to process whether the information that you are receiving is real. The idea of how VR experiences can look in the nearest future is well explained in the movie “Ready Player One”:

Here is what designers need to remember when creating immersive virtual environments:

  1. Write a story
    Meaningful VR has a strong story at its core. That’s why before you even start designing for a VR environment, you need to write a narrative for the user journey. A powerful tool known as a ‘storyboard’ can help you with that. Using a storyboard, it’s possible to create a story and examine all the possible outcomes. When you examine your story, you will see when and how to use both visual and audio cues to create an immersive experience.
  2. Create a deeper connection with a character
    In order to make users believe that all things around them in VR are real, we need to create a connection with the characters played by the users. One of the most obvious solutions is to include a representation of users’ hands in the virtual scene. This representation should be of actual hands — not just a rigged replica. It’s vital to consider different factors (such as gender or skin color) because it’ll make interactions more realistic.It’s also possible to bring some objects from real life to a VR environment in order to create this connection. For instance, a mirror. When the user looks at a mirror and sees their character in the reflection, it enables more realistic interactions between the user and virtual characters.
  3. Use gestures instead of menus
    When designing immersive VR experiences, we can’t rely on traditional menus and buttons. Why? Because it is relatively easy to break a sense of immersion by showing a menu. Users will know that everything around them is not real. Instead of using traditional menus, designers need to rely on gestures. The design community is still in the process of defining a universal language for using gestures, and taking part in this activity is fun and exciting exercise. The tricky part is to make gestures familiar and predictable for users.
    1. Interact with elements in the VR environment
      To create an environment that feels real, we need to give the user the ability to interact with objects in that reality. Ideally, all objects in the environment can be designed in a way that allows users to touch and inspect them. Such objects will act as stimuli and will help you create a more immersive experience. Touch is extremely important for exploring the environment; the most important information that babies get in the first days is received through touch.
    2. Share emotion in VR
      VR has a real opportunity to become a new level of social experience. But to make it happen, we need to solve one significant problem, i.e. bring the non-verbal cues into the interaction.

      When we interact with other people, a significant part on information that we get comes from body language. Surprise, disgust, anger — all these emotions are in our facial expressions, and during face-to-face interactions, we infer information from the eye region. It’s important to provide this information when people interact in a VR environment to create more realistic interactions.

      The good news is that the head-mounted devices (HMDs) will soon cover emotion recognition. Almost any area of human-to-human interaction will benefit from facial expressions in VR.

  1. Design sound and music suitabke for a VR environment
    Audio is a huge component of the immersive experience. It’s impossible to create a genuinely immersive experience without designing sound for the environment. The sound can both be used as a background element (i.e., ambient sound of wind) or directional. In the latter case, the sound can be used as a cue — by playing with directionality (where the sound comes from) and distance (it’s possible to focus user attention on particular elements).

    When it comes to designing audio for VR, it’s essential to make the sound 3D. 2D sound doesn’t work for VR very well because it makes everything too flat. The 3D sound is the sound that you can hear in every direction around you — front, behind, above and beyond — all over the place. You don’t need specialized headphones to experience 3D sound; it’s possible to create it using standard stereo speakers of HMD.

    Head tracking is another critical aspect of a good sound design. It’s vital to make sounds behave in a realistic manner. That’s why when a user moves his head, the sound should change according to the head movement.

  2. Prevent motion sickness
    Motion sickness is one of the primary pain-points in VR. It’s a condition in which a disagreement exists between visually perceived movement and the vestibular system’s sense of movement. It’s vital to keep users comfortable while they experience VR.

    There are two popular theories what causes motion sickness in VR:

    • ‘Sensory Conflict’ Theory
      According to this theory, motion sickness occurs as a result of a sensory disagreement between expected motion and motion that is actually experienced.
    • ‘Eye Movement’ Theory
      In the book “The VR Book: Human-Centered Design For Virtual Reality”, Jason Jerald mentions that motion sickness occurs because of the unnatural eye motion that is required to keep the scene’s image stable on the retina.

    Here are a few tips that will help you prevent users from reaching for the sickbag:

    • Physical body movement should match with visual movement. Sometimes even a small visual jitter can have an enormously negative impact on the experience.
    • Let users rest between moving scenes (this is especially important when the VR experience is really dynamic).
    • Reduce virtual rotations.

Conclusion

When we think about the modern state of product design, it becomes evident that we are only at the tip of the iceberg because we’re pretty limited to flat screens.

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Interpreting Contradictory UX Research Findings

Summary: If your product looks good from one perspective and bad from another, you have to check the methodology and try to interpret the findings.

The ideal way to conduct UX research is to use multiple methodologies, mixing both quantitative and qualitative research.  Using multiple approaches to answer our research questions and to see our product’s performance in different ways is a sophisticated triangulation strategy,. But what happens when those different research methods tell different — even contradictory — stories?

In this article, I’ll consider some possible problems, explanations, and solutions for this UX lead’s situation. Unfortunately, I have very few details about her product and her research, but I’ll generate some theories based on other questions I’ve been asked and teams I’ve worked with.

Check the Methodology

In situations like the one described above, the first step is to examine how each study was conducted. Since UX research involves studying human beings, there are a huge number of potential mistakes that could’ve resulted in an incorrect or misleading finding.

Before we consider what these contradictory findings might mean, we need to check some critical components in each study. We should look for potential problems in four areas:

  • Participants
  • Tasks
  • Logistics
  • Analysis

Participants

Who was involved in each study? 
How many people participated in each of the studies? Were there any outliers — people who behaved very differently than the rest of the group?

Was the same user group involved in both the quantitative and the qualitative research? How were the participants in the two studies recruited? Answering these questions may point to the reason behind the contradictory findings.

For example, maybe the researchers decided to recruit users with different levels of expertise in using the product. If novices participated in the quantitative research, but experienced users provided the qualitative feedback, then the differences between the participant groups could influence the results.

Tasks

Which tasks did the quantitative study include?

It’s possible that users may be more efficient when performing a handful of tasks that the company cares about. However, if users regularly engage in a broad set of tasks, that increased efficiency in one area of the product may not exist throughout the system.

How much exposure preceded the qualitative interviews?
If the researchers just pulled up the new version on a laptop, pointed to it, and asked participants what they thought without giving them the chance to actually complete any tasks, that could explain some negative responses. Users could’ve just been reacting to the fact that the UI looked new and different, if they didn’t have adequate time to explore its features.

How much exposure preceded the quantitative study?
Were users given any practice tasks before they tested the system? Did they receive any type of training from the researchers? If the quantitative participants had more exposure to the new system than the qualitative participants, they have had time to get over their initial negative reactions and learn to be efficient with the new product.

Logistics

How were the studies run?
We’ll need to verify that the studies were conducted in a reasonably realistic manner — that the studies have external validity.

For example, imagine that this product is always used on a factory floor, where users are exposed to a lot of environmental noise and distractions. If the study was conducted in a quiet conference room, the users may have performed better with the new version. But there could be some aspect of the design that would make it perform worse in realistic conditions.

Additionally, we’ll also need to check that there wasn’t some accidental problem with how the quantitative study was run that could have biased the result — that the study has internal validity. We can ask: who was moderating those tests? How much experience did the moderators have?

Even small confounding variables could produce an invalid result. For example, imagine if all of the participants who tested the new version of the product did so in the morning on a Monday, and all of the participants who tested the old version did so in the evening on a Friday. There could easily be something about the timing of the tests that influenced the participants to perform better or worse.

Analysis

Do we have statistical significance?
For the quantitative research, was the difference between the two designs statistically significant? In order words, were the faster task times in the new version reliable and not likely due to random change?

How was time on task analyzed?
In many studies, the time on task includes only successful attempts. The new design was faster than the old one, but were the success rates comparable?  If the average time on task increased by 2 minutes, but the proportion of users who could successfully complete the task decreased by 40%, that would still be bad for the company and the users!

What the types of errors did people run into? 
We should look not just at time on task, but other metrics that were collected during the quantitative study, to see if they all suggest that the new product is better. Even if there were fewer errors with the new design, it’s possible that they were more severe than the errors made with the old system and that they influenced users’ attitude in the qualitative study.

Interpreting the Findings: Not Only What Users Say, But Why?

If we find no substantial faults or explanations in the methodologies, it’s time to consider what the conflict between these two standards of quality (quantitative efficiency and qualitative satisfaction) might mean.

As UX professionals, it’s our job to listen to users. But as any experienced UX professional will tell you, that sounds easier to do than it really is. That’s because we can’t just listen to users and follow their verbatim requests. People usually don’t know what they really want — your users aren’t the designers of the system, they can’t see the big picture the way you can. What’s worse, their feedback is often influenced by other factors (faulty memories, social pressure, psychological biases, etc.)

This is part of the reason why a triangulation strategy is so necessary. We can’t just ask people what they want and do what they tell us. We have to collect a mix of data (quantitative, qualitative, self-reported, and observed) to really see what’s going on.  Then we can use that information to interpret what our users say.

So, in this UX team lead’s example, how should we make sense of the user feedback, which seems to contradict the quantitative performance data? We need to look at why these people might be responding so negatively to an objectively better product, while the task times in the quantitative study seem to be better.

Perceived Usability Can Differ from Objective Usability

Unfortunately, we don’t know exactly how much this particular team reduced time on task in the quant studies. The UX lead said that the reduction was “substantial,” but that could mean a matter of seconds or minutes. From the company’s perspective, even a reduction of seconds could be hugely beneficial. Imagine that thousands of employees perform this task thousands of times per year — at the company level, those efficiency gains add up quickly, and could result in cost savings.

However, from an individual user’s perspective, those gains might not matter so much. If it’s an improvement of seconds, an individual user may not even realize that the new system is actually faster, as she doesn’t see her own time on task or that of other participants. Or maybe they do realize the new system is faster, but those small gains may not seem worth the difficulty of a new workflow.

People Don’t Like Change

The users of this complex enterprise product have been using it almost every day for work. Some of them have been using essentially the same version of the application for many years. Even if it isn’t the most efficient it could possibly be, they’re used to it. They know how it works. By changing things, the design team is asking the end users to invest effort to become proficient with the new version. (It’s a common finding that users hate change — which is a reason to do research before release so that subsequent changes can be minimized.)

If users in the quantitative study received training or practice with the new system before the test (as described above in “Check the Methodology”), there may have been an initial lag in performance that was not captured by the measured task time. When a new interface is introduced, there will sometimes be an initial loss of productivity. Learning a new interface for a complex task takes time and is less efficient than simply doing the task with the old, familiar interface. Even though in the end the new interface may prove better, (1) people have no way of knowing that when they first start using it; (2) in the beginning, the experience can be worse.

It’s also possible that there was one negative reaction to some (presumably minor) feature of the new system — for example, a change in color that people did not like, a change in the visibility of the teams’ contributions in an Intranet — that did not necessarily affect UI performance, but dominated their reaction and created a peak-end effect.

Next Steps

My advice to this team lead was to first consider these reasons behind the user feedback, and then step back and look at the larger picture. Of course, in UX, quantitative data should never automatically overrule qualitative information or designers’ instincts (taking that approach leads to comical design mistakes.)

When weighing conflicting findings, we have to consider the tradeoffs. We always want users to be effective, efficiency, and happy with the products they use. However, in this context, the potential efficiency gains are probably much more attractive to stakeholders than the employees’ happiness. This new version of the product is very likely to be implemented, regardless of how users feel about it. That could be a potential problem, though — if users hate this new version enough, it could lead to decreased job satisfaction or employee turnover. It’s worth this company’s time to try to make its users both efficient and happy.

As we’ve discussed, this negative feedback may be a temporary negative reaction to change. Since the stakes are high, and so is this team’s research budget, my recommendation would be more investigation to see if that hypothesis is correct. The team could try qualitative beta testing with new hires, who had minimal exposure to the previous system, and see if their feedback differs. New hires will not have the same attachment to the old system as more experienced employees and may be less susceptible to affective reactions to change. (On the other hand, new hires are also less likely to have as much domain knowledge as people who have been using the system for a while, so they may ignore some important aspect.) Positive feedback from new hires might indicate that the experienced employees’ responses were caused by an initial aversion to change.

Or, the team could conduct a systematic learnability study, with multiple rounds of quantitative usability testing that track task time, task completion, and satisfaction over time. This study will give an accurate and complete picture of how user performance and satisfaction changes as people gain experience with the new product. If the new design is truly better than the old one, the team should expect both the satisfaction and the performance measures (task time and task completion) increase over time and eventually reach comparable or better numbers than the current design. The study will give a good idea of how much exposure to the new design people need in order to overcome their initial negative reaction.

(We did one such study for a consulting client. While the details have to remain confidential, I can say that it took a full year before users performed better with the new design than with the old, which they had used daily for a decade. In the long run, the new design was indeed much better, but the decision to change over required long-term commitment from management.)

If those studies show that the initial negative reactions will be replaced by long-term satisfaction and productivity gains, then the team can be confident that it is moving in the right direction. From there, they can plan an incremental rollout of the new system. Allowing current users to opt in to the new product when they’re ready (and not under pressing deadlines) can reduce the short-term frustration.

Alternatively, another possible outcome of research could be that the new design is mostly good, but that there’s some good aspect in the old design that should be retained in the new version.

The Challenge of UX Research

Making sense of contradictory findings is part of the challenge (and the fun) of conducting UX research. Each methodology is just one piece of information, a way of looking at our users or our products from a different perspective. The data should always inform our decisions, but at the end of the day, it’s up to us to make sense of that information and make the best choice.

 

Source: www.nngroup.com

Author: Kate Moran

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Brochure Design Ideas & Inspiration for 2019

Almost every designer has created a brochure at some point. And there’s a strong possibility you’ll be asked to design another! Whether it’s for a client or to promote your own business, there’s an art to designing a brochure.

And then there’s an added challenge: brochure design isn’t just for print anymore. Digital brochures are just as popular as the hard-copy versions. It’s quite common for clients to request a printed brochure with a digital shareable file of the same design.

Don’t sweat this design challenge though. We’ve put together some classic and modern tips so you can create a brochure design that looks great, and is easy to read.

Common Brochure Shapes and Sizes

The first step in creating a brochure design is to consider shape, size, medium, and folds. All these tactile properties of brochure printing contribute to the style of design you choose and how combining text, images and other elements comes together.

When it comes to creating brochures, common options include: https://blog.flipsnack.com/standard-brochure-sizes-for-print/

  • Tri-fold: Three panels on the front and back, stacked vertically or horizontally printed on common paper sizes such as 8.5 inches by 11 inches (or A4) or 11 inches by 17 inches (or A3).
  • Half-fold: This style works best for a mini-booklet style with a front, back and inside spread.
  • Die-cut: Brochures with cut out panels, shapes and styles are often printed on thick stock and come in almost any size. They are characterized by multiple cut elements so that at least some part of the brochure isn’t rectangular.
  • Multi-page: The more pages a brochure has, the more likely it is to become a booklet. These are almost always in a standard size (8.5 by 11 or A4) and include some binding.
  • Square: The shape has become popular thanks to usage online and square designs often include a custom paper size. It can be a little more expensive, but quite attractive.

Make sure to take into consideration print versus digital publishing. It is common that brochures live in both physical and online spaces. While some brochure styles don’t need adjustments other than converting a file to PDF, some print jobs don’t render well digitally. (Tri-fold brochures can look especially strange.)

When it comes to shifting a print brochure to digital, consider making each page or fold of the brochure a separate page in the digital version. Order them in the way content should be read. This will make the brochure easier to read regardless of format.

Creative Brochure Design Inspiration

What’s great about designing a brochure is that you can get creative with effects and textures.

  • Foil: Shiny lettering or feature for a certain portion of the design
  • Spot UV: A special gloss or matte finish on part of the design
  • Letterpress: Printing that makes an imprint on certain parts of the design, such as the brochure above)
  • Folds: Bi- and tri-folds aren’t the only option, interesting fold patterns can encourage user engagement
  • Paper: Paper types with different textures can set the tone of a project
  • Die Cuts: Cutting out parts of the design so something else shows through creates a send of mystery

Modern, Trendy Styles

Some trends in brochure design include using high-color options, plenty of sleek typography and simple images. Many of the same things that are popular in other areas of design apply to brochures as well.

Three modern, trendy brochure design techniques that always look great include:

  • Minimal aesthetics with plenty of white space, such as White (above)
  • High-color designs, including color blocking on alternating folds, pages or panels, like DIHK (above)
  • Use of oversized typography, that makes lettering a key element of the design, such as Impro KRK (above)

Highly Visual, Image-Based Designs

When it comes to creating a brochure design, highly visual elements with mages and color are trending. (These styles are especially popular for brochure designs that will only be shared digitally.)

High color, high image designs can work great and be quite impactful in print also. Just make sure to check with your printer to ensure that colors, images, and bleeds will work well with the paper and printing selections you have made and adjust if needed.

When it comes to brochure designs with a lot of color and imagery, look for visual elements that are easy to understand at the size displayed. Images shouldn’t be overly complicated and communicate a single message. (Note the Realcraft example above, which uses a lot of color and imagery, but the image is of a single element.)

Typography-Driven Brochure Design Ideas

A great way to handle a brochure design without a lot of images or other “designed” art elements is with big type. Fun oversized lettering can make a lot of impact and help users know exactly what the brochure is all about.

Get creative with type choices and the way you create words. Interesting word breaks for long words (such as on syllable per line), titling, color, and different alignments can add a lot of visual draw to lettering.

When choosing to design a brochure featuring only lettering, take care to include plenty of white space and a defined type hierarchy so that the eye travels easily through content.

Minimal Design is Great for Printing

When it comes to printed brochures, less is more.

Minimal design styles are popular with brochures because there’s less to worry about when it comes to printing and quality control. Avoid reverse type and you don’t have to worry about the readability of light text on dark backgrounds. Go for a white background or canvas and there’s less ink to worry about smear.

Minimal styles give you a little more choice with paper stock as well. You can actually use lighter weight paper when you don’t have as much happening with the overall print job.

Finally, minimal design styles are classic and modern. They never seem to go out of style.

Conclusion

Ready to get started? We’ve got even more tips to help you create a great brochure design. Or, if you’re short on time, consider starting with a brochure design template!

 

Source: designshack.net

Author: Carrie Cousins

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When Should I Conduct Usability Testing for a Product?

Usability testing is an essential part of product development. A common question from those new to the field is “when should we test?” The answer is simple; you test before a redesign, you test during the redesign and then you test afterwards too. Here’s why:

Usability Testing Before a Redesign

This might sound silly because you know you’re going to do a redesign but usability testing of the existing product can provide all sorts of ideas for the redesign. It also means that you can identify the biggest pain points of the current offering and work to resolve them.

We’d also encourage, budget and time permitting, you to look at competitor’s products and put them through usability tests too. This can tell you what works really well that you’re not doing yet and identify any areas which don’t work saving you time and effort trying these ideas yourselves.

Usability Testing During a Redesign

We know that during a redesign there’s no finished product to play with. This doesn’t stop you from testing sketches, wireframes and prototypes. This quick and dirty approach to usability testing can save a fortune in development time. Getting a user to run over a design before you put into production will let you know if an idea has the mileage to really be valuable or whether you’ve misinterpreted what users really wanted form the product.

 

If the resources exist you should do this at every milestone of the project. If they don’t pick the most critical milestones and place your usability tests against those.

Usability Testing After a Redesign

This is where most usability tests already occur. This is the time when you take that nice shiny new product and put it through its’ paces before a release. The objective is not to test the functionality (that’s normally a function of quality assurance) but to test the experience with that functionality. However, you are going to identify bugs, and niggles as well as experience issues. It’s a good idea to share those discoveries with the QA team so that they can add them to their tests (if they haven’t already).

Usability Testing and The Project Roadmap

There’s no point in conducting tests unless you’re going to use the results. That means usability testing needs to feature on the roadmap for release. You need time to conduct the tests, time to analyse the results, and time to put the findings into useful practice.

In particular, it’s very tempting to conduct the post-design testing a couple of days before launch. In reality it would be better to have a bigger window because if the experience is broken; it’s better to fix it prior to a launch than during the next iteration (whenever that may be).

Source : www.interaction-design.org

 

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VR: Empathy at scale

Virtual reality has introduced us to the possibility of being able to step into other peoples shoes, visit places we never thought possible and experience things all whilst sitting in the office but perhaps more interestingly it has given UX researchers a chance to immerse themselves into the perspective of their users — the chance of being able to reach previously unreachable groups, recreate specific scenarios or emulate specific attributes, all with a simple and recently inexpensive headset. This post explores how VR is powering the future of user research.

Using VR to Explore Immersive Storytelling

One of the most exciting aspects of VR is the way in which it is used for immersive storytelling. Powerful stories are already used in brand awareness to capture the attention of users but just imagine the recreation of these stories for product concepts in user testing where the response has the potential to reflect a more realistic reaction from participants.

The accessibility of these experiences becomes unrivalled. You are able to create a narrative around a product, allow the user to experience the actions and feed on their reactions straight back into your process. Yes, VR can be used for roller coasters, museums or Pornhub but I think the real trick is using it to measure the experiences of product iterations to get a better judgement of what makes peoples tick.

The Guardian created the above video, a VR experience attempting to capture what it is like being on the spectrum of autism at a family party. I used this film and a selection of others in an attempt to build a greater empathy with users with autism so that I could make better decisions moving forward in a certain project. The Party is a great example of how VR is used for immersive storytelling, I was taken away by how real the experience felt and these insights were instrumental in iterating my existing concepts without having contact with their intended users.

I’m not suggesting this is a replacement for user research, nothing can replace the relationships that are built through human contact. What I am implying is that in the correct context VR is another tool for us to utilise. Being able to share our ideas for interactions with users or even our own teams can help immerse others in the idea/problem space and hopefully result in better solutions through this increased empathy.

The final thing to keep in mind, however, is that with VR becoming a new tool for us to utilise it is important to consider the ethics and preparation that is needed for such a tool. VR could quite possibly be easily exploited in making others feel uncomfortable but is this ethically correct? No. We should provide comfort and transparency to others when using these new technologies.

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4 Key Takeaways from Being UX Researcher

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you see the word “research?”

I am sure that the answers will vary. However, according to articles from Irish Times(2015) regarding public opinion of research, it is known that most people are still perceiving research as something that goes on behind a closed door, in which only very specialized people can engage in.

Honestly, I used to think of research just like that before I started pursuing a career as a researcher myself. I even think of researcher as an occupation that is quite nerdy. Well, here’s to prove my point:

Reverting a bit to my past, I used to study Psychology. I studied it not because I specifically want to be a psychologist, nor delve into the field of HR like most people expected a psychology graduate would be. I simply study it because I like communicating with people. What I didn’t expect from studying psychology was the countless days spent for research. During my University days, I would say that I wasn’t very good at quantitative research. However, I like qualitative research. While people who like numbers loathe it, I found myself enjoying the abstraction of qualitative data.

Little did I know, my enjoyment of qualitative research eventually lead me into my current profession. Never ever have I ever, thought that I would be UX Researcher. To be honest, 2 years ago, I didn’t know even know the meaning of “UX”, moreover the existence of job title that came with it. I used to think of researcher as a title that was related to numbers — scientist, statistician — you name it. But now I know that I was wrong.

User Experience (UX) researcher’s job encompasses a variety of investigative methods to add context and insight to design process. UX research merely translated from other forms of research. That is why anyone who has experience in running scientific research may be suitable for this role. To prove a point, my team members in Tokopedia (which consist of UX Researchers and Product Researchers) came from various backgrounds, such as biological science, IT, management, anthropology, psychology, and Chinese literature. Some even have previously worked as market researcher, field researcher, HR, business support, and data analyst. However, instead of diverting our focus as a team, those differences turn out to be empowering, as it enables the team to see things from a different point of view. Because of it, the team becomes braver in trying various method of research — to see what is working and what is not. It also opens more room for each individual to voice opinions based on his/her respective background — something that is needed to drive collaborations in the team.

While my experience in UX may not be much, I personally feel like I have learned a lot from being UX Researcher. Just like research finding that has key takeaways, every job also has it own lessons. Here are some key takeaways (or lessons) that I learned from being a UX Researcher:

  1. Perspective taking really helps you to get through the day.

    Since I begin to work, I have come to realize that many people aren’t used to the practice of perspective taking. I have seen people forcing their belief to their colleagues — be it in a harsh way, or in a more acceptable way. I also have seen people blaming others if something goes wrong, or even worse — blaming themselves too much that it ended up destroying their self-esteem.

    I can say that I am very fortunate that my current job teaches me a lot about perspective taking. Since each research usually has a different goal and can be handled by multiple stakeholders, I have to accommodate their opinions in order to formulate a research plan. Be it the Designer, Product owner, Associate Product Owner, Business Development people, or even Marketing people— I need to understand how they think, how they work, and what they need so that I can conduct a research that can answer their problem. Not only I learn from the stakeholders, but I also learn so much during my time spent with users — be it directly or indirectly.

    Let me give you three examples on this one. First of all, seeing quantitative data from survey enables me to see how different kinds of variable, such as demography, roles, and economic standing — can affect people’s sentiment or behavior toward things. Secondly, talking with different kind of users makes me realize that every person has their own story, and even when some of it seems similar, each one of them is actually unique. Last but not least, visiting users to their natural environment give me depictions of their daily life and also the limitation that they have to face every day.

    By knowing lots of aspect regarding users, I have more or less been put in the position where I have to consider their point of views when solving a problem. It really helps me on making sense of the things that happened in my life – be it work-related or not. Without those experience, I would still probably think of things only from my point of view. I would also more likely to have problems in understanding people who had different opinions than I did— which would lead me into higher tendency to be frustrated because I can’t make sense of what’s going on, or being in conflicts with other people.

    2. There’s always time to try or learn, even when you feel like you don’t.

    When you are working, it is really easy to be caught up in work and abandon everything else. Sure, working can be fun, especially if you love your job. However, even when I love my job, there were days when I felt like I was just running my work responsibilities instead of improving myself. After a long time reflecting on what could have been wrong, I found out by then that it wasn’t my job that was wrong — it’s just the way I did it that was wrong. I forgot that there were actually so many things that I could do rather than just sat down and tried to finish my job as good as I could.

    Working as a researcher pretty much drives me to be aware of many things since the job enables me to be in contact with so many people and topics. It somehow drives me to be more open to change. At some point, I then learned to challenge myself to do things that were out of my habit, starting by attending various meetups or workshops, volunteering in an event, embarking on outdoor adventures and even spending more time to do my hobby — something that I previously do in rare occasions. By spending time to do other activities, I become more able to pursue new knowledge and skills that otherwise wouldn’t be there had I chose to be caught up with my usual work routines.

    If you open your eyes, you can always try and learn — whenever, wherever, from whoever it is — be it from books, movies, parents, friends, communities, colleagues, strangers, etc. Learning doesn’t always involve something that is really new. Sometimes, the things we learn might be more subtle — it can be from the things that we have heard or maybe have experienced before. If that’s the case, you can try seeing things from another point of view. As long as you are willing, you can always find that there are many things in the world for you to learn. If you ever feel empty despite your best efforts to do your routines, just take the chance to try and learn more things to break out from the feeling. You have countless better versions of yourself, inside you. They are waiting to be expressed and realized. After all, you can only regret the things you don’t do or try, right?

    3. It’s very important to communicate things clearly with othersI remembered a day when I sent a report to my lead. I thought that I have done the report well until she asked me to check her feedback. Eager to see it, I found that she told me that some of the written sentences were hanging — leaving the reader with ambiguous meaning. I decided to re-read it, and turned out what she said was true. I have just realized that I have forgotten to explain things in context — something that is very important when communicating things to others.

    Sure, the word “context” has various definitions. One of the widely acknowledged definitions of context is the one according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, in which it is defined as “the parts of a discourse that surround a word or passage and can throw light on its meaning.” I previously read an awesome article regarding the importance of context that is written by Julien Samson in the Writing Cooperative. In the article, it is said that “context adds specificity to your writing and directs the reader attention to a particular train of thought, thus avoiding unwanted interpretation.”. However, it is also said that while the context is important, too much explanation will further confuse the reader and will make writing becomes harder to understand.

    As a researcher, I can’t guarantee that stakeholders will always have time to meet with me and discuss the findings of the research altogether. More often than not, stakeholders can’t meet the researcher in person due to various circumstances (ie: stakeholders are residing outside the country, different schedule with researchers, etc). Given the situation above, it is very important to make sure that the audience can understand research findings in a glimpse, by delivering the findings in clear and concise words.

    Now, back to my experience where my lead asked me to revise my writing — so, in order to make it easier for the audience to understand what I wrote in the report, I then learned to add more context to it. Adding context doesn’t mean that you need to write a long explanation — it means that you have to find the most effective way to communicate things in a way that will avoid misunderstanding. For example, I started by explaining numbers of user base (ie: answered by 315 participants who have bought pulsa), and make sure that I have written all the base for the graphics and chart that I have included in the report. The information that I added regarding user base may seem simple, but it can help readers to better understand what I write. From that time until now on, I will always keep in mind that I have to put context when communicating with people. Without context, people can’t relate to your story — and that is just sad because the most powerful stories are usually the ones people can relate to.

    4. Practice makes everything better — but not perfect.

    “Practice makes perfect” is one of many age-old sayings that is still popular until this time. Well, the concept itself is believable. For example, if you are learning to drive a manual car, where you constantly have to think about shifting the gears — it’s logical that you have to practice to drive over and over — until you just can do it instinctively. However, after mastering the driving skill, does it really make your driving skill perfect? what if you are put in the situation where the road is steep? what if the road is bumpy? can you still drive successfully? During my time working, I have done many usability tests, interviews, surveys, and other methodologies to gain information from users and make use of it to improve products. Due to that, there was a time when I thought that I was good enough in this field — probably better than certain people at it. Fortunately, that feeling of superiority didn’t last long, because, in one event, I found that my colleagues were able to give better explanations and practical solutions to stakeholders regarding a topic. That event made me feel like I was kicked in the guts. It left me thinking “ What the hell did I do wrong? how come I didn’t think of better solutions? how did she/he able think of that while I couldn’t? ”. That was also the time where I realized that falling in the illusion of perfection is very easy.

    Since it’s the researcher’s job is to unravel the truth through various kind of analysis, I have come to the term where I realize that I need to know more today than I did yesterday. By falsely believing myself to have expertise in a certain field, I have shut down my curiosity, and that is the death of my growth. Embarking from my mistake, now I believe that there is no such thing as perfection no matter how hard you try — but you can always learn to be better, and curiosity is the key. As long as you are curious, you will never stop learning — which is good because explosive growth is usually triggered by curiosity, not knowledge.

Source: uxplanet.org

Author: Ananda Nadya

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