The Most Critical Elements of User Experience

A few weeks ago, we discussed the first of five crucial elements involved in creating user experienced-focused design pieces: strategy. Strategy helps you answer crucial questions about your product’s goals, your target audience, and your ideas before spending hours of directionless work on the project. Simply because it informs the other steps in this process, strategy is an essential element that NEEDS to be completed before any word is written—period.

As a quick reminder, the remaining four elements include:

  • Scope, which determines the product’s features and functions.
  • Structure, or how the product responds to the user’s actions.
  • Skeleton, or how the structure of the webpage will be laid out.
  • Surface, which is the user interface (colors, typography, images, etc.).

Let’s review how to accomplish the remaining four steps in the user experience design process.

Scope

Once the strategy for the product has been well established, you can begin to scope the rest of the project. Scoping involves dividing the project into smaller tasks that need to be completed in order for it to be realized; this helps you communicate exactly how much work needs to be done and helps you avoid any other unexpected tasks from popping up later.

Two main parts of the scope include functional specifications—like feature sets and technology to be utilized—and content requirements, such as headers, descriptions, images, videos, and data. From there, you’ll have a better sense of what you’re building (as well as why you’re building it, thanks to strategy!).

Structure

Scope is given structure when you define how the product responds to the user’s actions. In other words, you want to be conscious of how you want users to interact with the project and how the project’s navigation will flow.

For example, if you are building a website, you’ll want to consider how the user will get around each page—how will the navigation of the website be laid out? Horizontally or vertically? Will different sections need subpages? And so on. Ideally, the navigation should be as clear and easy to traverse as possible. It can be tempting to add many subpages with the hopes of explaining as much as you can, but brevity is best.

Skeleton

Next, the skeleton defines how the webpage will be laid out based on the decisions you made in the structure. Even in a design that does not emphasize user experience, this step still involves making sketches and wireframes.

The skeleton determines how the content for the project is presented and how users are going to interact with it (e.g., a slideshow, paragraphs, etc.). In this case, you’ll want to consider the following web design best practices:

  • Avoid information overload—present enough that users will understand what you’re saying.
  • Instead of (or in addition to) content, use images. It’s a cliche for a reason: a picture nowadays is literally worth a thousand words.
  • Utilize white space to guide the user down the page.
  • Make sure the page is easy to interact with; don’t make it a chore for users to understand what you’re communicating.

Surface

Lastly, the surface, or the tangible user interface, includes the basics of design that you’re used to—colors, typography, images, etc. User experience design arms you with valuable data and insights that help you choose these remaining elements so you don’t design a piece blindly.

While you certainly want the final product to look good, the emphasis needs to be on the user’s experience. If not, your user will find another website or product that respects their needs.

Contact us today for more information about user experience design.

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