User Experience Best Practices

There are a number of factors that affect a user’s experience. The primary factors include the software interface’s ease of use, how quickly users can learn to use it, performance and aesthetics. User experience, UX for short, is an essential consideration for websites, software developers and application developers. What are a few user experience best practices that software and website developers can adopt in their own operations?

A classic example of a user experience best practice is the Amazon one-click purchase button. Users gain a quick, simple way to buy what they see. Amazon sees more sales. Users appreciate simplicity, and they will recoil at a complex user interface. If any transaction or function takes more than five steps, users begin to feel as if the software is in their way. When there is a suite of software products, one of the simplest user experience best practices to implement is standardizing the menus and other elements in the user interface. This standardization will make it easier for users familiar with one software product to adopt another.

Designing for user experience must balance software development time and costs with creating a product that a user easily adopt and will continue using in the future. Focus development on simplifying the interface and application’s functions over adding bells and whistles.

Users should never have to hunt for regularly used functions. Help resources should be prominently displayed on the main screen and throughout the interface. Context based help is important and even expected.

Developers seeking to improve the user’s experience should periodically survey their users for what the user expects. Then determine the gap between what the software does and users expect. Close the gap to deliver a better user experience.

Data interfaces should be simple for users to set up and work as expected. Business owners or individuals link their bank websites to accounting software application to automatically download recent transactions into the software’s register. Even teenagers are now expected to link their applications to the cloud for automatic data backups or enable the synchronization of multiple devices. An elegant user interface loses its appeal if the software is too cumbersome to connect to other data sources or the Web.

Software development and website design should be customer-centric. Users should be involved in testing as early as possible. Software development teams should react rapidly to reported problems and fix bugs that are annoying as well as those that cripple the user.

Clearly identify those features restricted to premium customers or only available after a software upgrade. Users of free or limited software versions should never be surprised by the limits on what they can do. The option to pay and upgrade should be easy to find but never ubiquitous. Advertisements and promotions for related software and services should be sparse. Users should never feel as if they are bombarded with solicitations.

An often missed aspect of the user experience is trust. If users host their personal documents in your cloud, users must trust that their information will not be lost, hacked or used against them by the service provider. Facebook’s thrashing for violating its own privacy policies and selling of user data to advertisers cost the company millions of users. Software applications that are delivered and run through the cloud must strive for the utmost level of security. Any website or software application that handles personally identifiable information or financial information must meet and exceed information security standards to retain its  customers’ trust and their business.