8 lessons from UX Colombo Meetup #8

The 8th meetup of UX Colombo was held at Dialog Axiata Auditorium on the 10th November, 2016. The topics discussed were “5 Psychological Facts behind creating a Great User Experience” and “Branding and User Experience”. These are some of the notes I took that evening.

1. Reduce the load on the human memory

Humans have a long-term memory and a short-term one. The first is the the place where you recall information from a book you read some time back, The second allowed you to remember the title of this blog post.

Don’t give the user information they would not need at this moment. Capturing the user’s attention is key to great UX. So, make sure to not give too much of information and tire their focus and attention span.

2. Humans perceive the world as meaningful complete objects, not as a series of individual parts

When presented with something new, the mind tries to make sense of it. The mind does not like what it cannot understand. So, it tries to group things together whenever possible. Therefore, a good designer should be asking if their design ‘makes sense’.

When designing navigation, for example, attempt to group together items which are similar. This is called Similarity.

Proximity is when we leave some space between groups of elements which have differences between them.

Common Region principle is applied when we have a header and separate it by using a different shade of colour, shadow or border.

Continuity says that ‘elements that are arranged in a line are considered to be connected’.

The background colour should be communicated to the user. For instance, when we use a light gray for the background, users can better identify sections and widgets on the page.

3. Larger targets are easier to hit

Likewise, it takes longer to hit smaller targets which are far away. This seems quite obvious but is so profound there is a law behind it, know as Fitts’s Law. This is the reason the brake in a car is larger and is easier to reach than the accelerator. In an emergency, the brake should be easier to hit.

In a registration form, have the the ‘Submit’ button larger than normal. When developing a UI Library (a set of css or js files common to the whole project), make the buttons, checkboxes and radio buttons bigger than the default sizes. Of course, there is a limit to how big it can be.

Time to task completion is a ratio that indicates how quickly we get something done. Aim to reduce this using Fitts’s Law.

4. Human needs are hierarchical

Maslow’s Hieraarchy of needs is something most of us would have come across in business or psychology classes. How do we apply this to design?

Maslow in UX

Aim to fulfill user needs from the bottom up. According to Maslow’s hierarchy, it is essential for a design to meet the lowest need on the pyramid before progressing to meet further needs.

  • Functionality – does it work to meet the user’s basic needs?
  • Reliability – does it work in a reliable manner?
  • Usability – is it simple enough to use without frustration?
  • Pleasurability – Does it delight the user? Think Apple products [or your favorite brand] for example

Reaching up to usability is generally considered good enough. However, in 2016 users expect something more. This is because, most problems already have a solution and the person who provides the solution with the best experience is going to win in this game.

It does not matter if you have the most beautiful login form in the world if clicking on the login button does not accomplish a task. Keeping the design hierarchy of needs in mind during your own design projects will result in better user experiences.

5. Human beings are social animals

From the beginning of time, humans have lived in groups as part of a community. A sense of belonging is essential for our survival. We also love social validation, which we achieve through imitating others. Mirror neurons in our brains allow us to copy others – and that is a good thing.

A good UX designer should strive to make use of this factor. Build social features into your products wherever possible. For example, a chat feature can be built in to your product. The speaker, Marlin Jayakody used this principle in the product he developed at 99X Technology, by giving users the ability to post updates which would be seen by their co-workers.

6. Brand Experience is User Experience

This is true whether the product is digital or otherwise. Businesses strive to give their customers a superior User Experience, thereby giving their brand-name an edge in the market. Good branding has the following main aspects:

  • Focus – who are you targeting?
  • Message – what do you have to offer?
  • Consistency – are your giving a consistent experience? Like McDonalds’ fries
  • Brand Identity –  is this being communicated effectively using visual and other methods? Like the architecture of Apple stores

We see brands are everywhere – from the moment we open our eyes in the morning to turn off the alarm clock to the time we brush our teeth and get to bed. So, standing out to deliver your message is vital.

7. Use design to build trust

Messages can be communicated through a variety of channels – sight, touch, smell, taste and sound. The aim of giving a good brand experience is to build trust by giving a unified message through these different ways.

The speaker, Samadara Ginige applied this by paying special attention to colours depending on the client’s fan base. In another example, she used geometric shapes to create her own font face – since our minds like to perceive geometric elements.

8. Designing is a process

The speaker mentioned that when she gets a lead, she starts off with a questionnaire for the client. She follows this by carrying out research and brainstorming sessions. Only after performing multiple research, does she start to sketch her designs. This is followed by multiple iterations until the designer is satisfied with her work.

This reminded me of the Design Thinking process, which is similar to this approach.

About UX Colombo

User Experience is the study and practice which focuses on the experience between a user and the product. It involves creativity, adaptability and a lot of learning through trial and error. I think one of the necessary skills to excel at UX is empathy.

Founded in July 2012, UX Colombo is a community which strives to enhance this creativity among Sri Lankans. It hosts regular meetups where aspiring designers and developers can attend and learn about UX.

UX Colombo logo

Both topics for this meetup were fascinating and captivated the audience, thanks to the team behind UX Colombo and the speakers.


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