We live in a world where multi-tasking has become the norm. For instance, whilst browsing this blog, you might also be streaming a video on YouTube or checking your phone.
Fun fact: to reach your smart television that data had to pass through thousands of kilometres of underwater cables that service more than a hundred countries and which achieve a total length of 621,000 miles.
What have these underwater cables got to do with user experience (apart from the fact they power the technologies users experience)? The answer is simplicity.
Let’s dig a little deeper into this topic and explore how it’s crucial not to overcomplicate your UX.
Compared to underwater cabling, smartphones are the new kids on the block
That’s right. The technology that pipes data to your smartphone is old. Victorian era old. It’s also simple and efficient (despite first) being laid on ocean beds in the 1800s. It transmits an astounding 4 terabits per second to businesses and the general public globally.
To reiterate, we’re talking about lines of cabling. Not high-tech satellites that cost millions of tax-payers money to beam internet traffic to users around the world. Were you envisaging something more complex?
Like the underwater cabling used by mobile phone giants like EE, Virgin, and Vodafone, user experiences should also be straightforward. The aim is to move the user smoothly down the sales funnel without any hiccups. If you give them pause for thought then the spell is broken and the likelihood of a conversion greatly diminished.
So, how can you make user experiences simpler for your customers?
1. Fewer words, shorter paragraphs
The average reading age in the UK is about eight years old. Tempting though it might be to use industry jargon or long words to impress your users, you’ll only succeed in losing them.
Keep your content short and pretend you’re telling your business story to a child who has no knowledge of your product or service – no matter how simple you perceive your offering to be.
2. Simple labelling works best
This point connects with the previous. When using labels, don’t use unfamiliar or over-inflated terms. Imply outcomes by appropriating the language of the user when labelling elements like CTA boxes and navigation buttons.
Overcomplicate and you’ll succeed only in creating a digital environment that’s unfamiliar, unwelcoming and hard for the user to navigate. Moreover, it’s unlikely to convert them into an advocate of your brand. If you try to do too much, instead of attracting more customers, you’ll push them away. People have an extremely short attention span, particularly online. Apparently, people have an attention span of just eight seconds. Bombard them with information and they’ll no doubt bounce to another site.
3. Reinvent design elements at your peril
You want to stand out from your competitors. So, to do this, you might redesign the tried-and-trusted user interface (UI) used elsewhere in your industry to appear edgy and capture customer interest.
And yet these common design elements – like those ‘ancient’ underwater cables – are used time and again because they’re proven to work. Creativity isn’t off-limits but must be balanced with usability if the end-user experience is to reap rewards for your business.
4. Launch your digital product slowly
The oceanic cables that send data to your smartphone or television were developed in carefully staged phases. Even then the technology wasn’t fit for purpose – some last-minute improvisation being needed to connect the cables together.
When launching a digital product you must continually review and refine based on user feedback and testing outcomes until you’re confident it’s fit for purpose. Even then it’s better to soft launch a beta version and limit participants before releasing it to the world.
5. Never stop iterating
Good user experience is about constantly reviewing a digital product to ensure it’s good enough – and, if it isn’t, adapting it to meet the changing needs of your audience. You may even decide to conduct some multivariant testing to see which version performs strongest.
The first underwater cables took 17 hours to transmit a telegram to Queen Victoria. Now they can transfer terabytes of data across the world in seconds – because the technology has been continually assessed and improved in line with the changing needs and behaviours of modern society.
Always challenge the status quo…
Underwater cables have worked well enough so far. But will they be good enough tomorrow? If emerging technology is anything to go by, space will soon provide the solutions we need to game, stream, and chat in the form of satellite internet – which can achieve download speeds of up to 200 Mb/s.
In summary, simple solutions simply work best
From ideation through to rollout and beyond, user experience should be about simplicity. Your customers live fast-paced lives and have limited concentration spans – which means your job is to get them from A-Z as quickly (and painlessly) as possible.
Bloated word counts, complex user interfaces, and poorly labelled buttons will alienate your audience and cause them to disengage from the process entirely. Think and build as if you’re a user and your digital products are more likely to strike the right notes with your target audience.
And never forget that what works today might not work tomorrow.