#DESIGN

Making the leap to build great products

Isn’t it fascinating that everyone’s idea of building a great product is different — For some, it’s a matter of making a positive impact to millions of lives, and for some, it’s essential to crush their sales targets.

Yet, one definition of a great product that has withstood the test of time is that it’s intuitive and doesn’t need a manual to operate. And this is exactly what makes the journey of building great products difficult. The journey to make it intuitive. The journey to make it human.

Let me paint a scenario which you might have encountered while shopping online– You enter your bank details and you’re just one click away from completing the order. You click on the “Submit” button and then *snap*-

something happened

It hits you hard in the face and you are left wondering- Wait, but? What the hell just happened?

SOMETHING. Don’t you get it? *a voice screams from the dark corner of your screen*

You want to scream at the top of that voice- Something, what? Aliens attacked? A submarine with your servers drowned? Meteors fell at your headquarters? What happened? I need an answer.

But..alas!

*sigh*

Been there, experienced that!

Infact, I have been on the other side as well. I have also designed checkout pages for different products and I’ve made my own share of mistakes not guiding the users when the shit hits the fan.

But all I can say is, building a great product is a skill that comes with experience. A great product is built with numerous rounds of trial and error and applying design thinking in every small interaction. A great product not only focuses on solving user’s problem but it also makes sure that the user is not stuck without any help.

I have been in discussions where people ask questions like- How can I build a product that everyone loves? Is there a recipe for making products that stand the test of time? Is there any checklist that we need to use?

I usually don’t have an answer to these questions, but I tell them that there isn’t a  secret. Designing something which users love is like embarking on a journey, which might not have a destination.

It’s not a rocket science but I can suggest a few guiding principles which can help you a great deal in elevating your thinking towards building great products-

Be kind

That’s the first thing that you need to learn. Humans make mistake and that’s how they learn. As a designer, it’s upon you how you make them learn from their mistakes, or better, help them avoid it in the first place.

For instance, what should happen when a user has filled all the input fields but forgot to hit the send button? Do we want them to fill it again or do we want to show them a warning?

We should design our interface in a way that we can make actions reversible and recoverable whenever possible, as well as warn our users of any consequence of a given action.

With sufficient guidance at every step, you can enable your users to learn and become more proficient.

So, how do we do that?

Get confirmation – We should always verify the intention of a user before every critical action. This will help the user to re-think at every step and avoid mistakes.

Get confirmation before any action

Provide help – We should help users at every stage to assist them in what they need to do for a successful outcome. It’s more important for the first-time users who are looking at the functionality for the first time. So an information icon which provides detailed info always helps them in moving forward. Sharing an example below-

information icon

 

Build on user’s mental models – While designing, you should always use the knowledge of your user which they possess with experience from using other products. This will help you to establish a baseline of design. All the call to action button should have same look and feel, see some animation while on hover, should clearly indicate what to do with buttons.

Reduce the cognitive load on users

There are some websites which overwhelm you just by the amount of information they present. You find it hard to move from one focus area to another. In fact, sometimes it takes too much of mental effort to complete a simple task.

Whereas, sometimes you encounter websites which are so simple to browse. You won’t feel an iota of effort in searching for information and everything works effortlessly.

Why? It is because in the latter case there is no cognitive load on the user.

By definition-

Cognitive load is the total amount of mental effort that is required to complete a task involving working memory.

So, what can we do to reduce Cognitive Load?

Here are 3 simple tips –

  • Keep it simple – Remove the stuff which is not necessary for the users. Show only things which matter to them the most and help them in completing tasks.
  • Use different methods to present information – There are multiple techniques that you can use to showcase information. Sometimes, use of cognitive aids like flowcharts, checklists, or any other suitable visual representation helps in reducing the cognitive load.
  • Make learning a stepwise process – Divide content into smaller pieces. You can group things which belong to one category. This way users have to learn only a few things at a time.

Remove unnecessary friction points

Have you ever thought why it takes so much time to order food from the restaurant menu? Or, why our TV remote looks complicated as compared to the apple remote? Or, if you belong to 90’s, why do you still prefer Nintendo over the current gaming console?

Because it’s difficult to swim in the sea of options. It makes the process of learning much harder, slow and time-consuming.

I am not sure if you have heard about the Hick’s law.

Hick’s Law states that increasing the number of choices will increase the decision time logarithmically.

Hick's law

The objective of Hick’s Law is to try and simplify the decision-making process, not eliminate the process entirely.

So, how can we use in improving the experience in web design?

Here is one simple method to apply Hick’s law –

Chunking – One of the methods is to categorize the choices. You can chunk all the information like Amazon does for their menu. Had they shown you all the options then you might have become overwhelmed by the information. So, it’s better to arrange information into smaller groups. That way it becomes a lot easier for users to choose. One of the methods to do this is card sorting. Card sorting helps to finalize which option matters the most.

chunking

Conclusion

Most of the time we get into the flow of the projects without understanding what is a long-term goal, which is a huge mistake. As a designer, it’s our responsibility to think and ask about the long-term vision and test our assumption with users, continuously.

When you focus on user’s wants, desires, goals, and frustrations, then only you can creatively come up with ways to address those problems. As a rule of thumb, always keep them in the loop, ask for their feedback, and iterate based on that feedback. And that’s the only way you can build a great product.

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