Are you making these 4 usability mistakes?

When designing a web or mobile app, it’s easy to get ahead of yourself once you’ve become immersed in the beauty and complexity of the whole process. You’re tempted to use ALL of your ideas, all of the beautiful fonts you fall in love with on a daily basis, all the shapes and logos and colors at your disposal. If you were to do that, contrary to popular developer belief,[tweetherder] the end result will not be the most beautiful app this planet has ever seen but instead more of a beautiful… piñata.[/tweetherder]

The recipe for a high-quality app involves some strict usability guidelines, while leaving room for awesome glimpses of creativity. Usability has been the center of discussion in the industry for quite some time and the reason why is simple: [tweetherder]you’re designing for the user[/tweetherder]! The main rule, as it has been proven on numerous occasions, is to first and foremost try a minimal approach. Less is more, and lets face it nobody likes rainbows unless they’re in the sky. Rainbow-apps confound the user, blind him, leave him confused on where and why to click and instead end with a click of that fatidic little x on the right.

So, the textbook definition of good usability goes along these lines: Making a quality features or products easy to use. In order to achieve this, you have to recognize and stop these 4 mistakes. Now.

1. Multi-layered navigation. Okay. We are guilty of throwing jargons. It simply means – ‘Don’t throw a long winding set of screens at the user to complete an intended task or action!’

Couple this with vague and hazy grouping and you’ll have the user in pain. When faced with a steep learning curve, instead of a simple, linear one, the chances of a user going away from your portal increases significantly. So don’t go for a deep navigation, instead keep it at a maximum of three layers of interaction.

            A.[tweetherder]Bring the most sought after feature/sections or functionality to the forefront.[/tweetherder]

            B. [tweetherder]Make sure the user has enough contextual controls in place[/tweetherder] so that he can guide himself around your portal at any stage.

A web or a mobile app that has a multi-layered navigation is like a building with flights and flights of stairs and no elevator.  Who’s going to want to make the effort of climbing all of them by foot?

2. Designing without a user profile in mind. If you design without a specific user persona in mind you’re bound to fail because you will be causing and/or deepening a gap between what the user expects and what he eventually gets from your product. That’s definitely a NO. Birds of a feather flock together. The same rule applies here.

[tweetherder]Users are more likely to engage/interact/relate with people or products who are like them[/tweetherder]. Understand the user profiles, patterns and behaviors and make sure you cater to that in the experience and also in the visual design. People react very intensely to colors, forms, shapes and languages, so make sure you take those likes and dislikes into consideration.

 3. Non-intuitive controls and interactive elements. The poor user will feel lost. Even though he will finally complete his desired tasks on your portal, the fact that you’re making it difficult to accomplish will absolutely decrease the likelihood of a second round. He has no time to learn the new, cool and geeky interface you and your designer friends know so well unless you offer him a very good reason to do so, but that’s another discussion altogether.

To simplify your life, and that of your user, understand how he reacts to controls. He generally has some preconceived notion about what a button or icon means or the way certain interactions work. If you change things around too much, he’ll most likely get bored and bounce off. Of course, you can counter-attack my argument by giving me the example of Facebook, who changes its interactions and UI overnight and users don’t mind making the effort to learn their way around. Of course they don’t mind! That’s because they’re more concerned about accomplishing the task of being socially active. Are you sure that your normal portfolio site offers the same level of engagement? I’m guessing not.

 4.Inconsistency in experience, design and brand language. This is one of development’s  biggest pitfalls. [tweetherder]Users hate it when they see visually inconsistent elements on a single portal[/tweetherder]. They hate it when the site’s tone of communication is inconsistent throughout the pages. After all, they visit a particular portal because they relate to its basic persona. They won’t like a site that has multiple, even contradicting, personalities. So do the following instead!

Make sure that the language on the site (in terms of design and tone) is the same.

[tweetherder]Pay attention to fonts, they should be consistent in size[/tweetherder].

Pay attention to design, keeping in mind the various devices that might be used to visit your portal, and make it easy to use.

Users love clearly defined calls to action and apps that let them solve tasks easily and with reasonable accuracy. Visualize a soldier in your mind. Now imagine that he’s wearing a t-shirt and bermudas while on a mission. It doesn’t ring quite well, does it? It’s the same with your app.

Usability is not an abstract & elitist endeavor anymore, even though entrepreneurs approach it with an element of fear. Do it right, follow the rules, respect your user and… have fun with it. You can still be creative. That’s both the beauty and the challenge of designing a great product.

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