Couple working in coffee shop

The Continuing Evolution of Digital Design

Design as a whole has gone through rapid transition since the internet first came around. It’s really easy to look back and laugh at, what used to be, a playground of expression and opportunity for new sales channels without any real guidelines or understanding of users, but it was a different time. Internet speeds were much, much slower. People were still pushing the boundries of what was possible (and still are), but they were also much tighter boundries. So we thought we’d take a look back and see how a couple of the online giants did things back then, how they do it now and how design generally will likely change in the future. We will keep this pretty high level otherwise we may as well release a book.

GOOGLE

Google Beta screenshot

Everyone knows who Google are and what their core service is for now, but do you remember when Google first appeared? Firstly let’s pay attention to the fact there are so many links on the main search page in a bizarre array of turquoise boxes. We couldn’t imagine such noise on the Google homepage now, but back then, remember not many people even knew who they were so this was partly education for new users – some of which would have had very little exposure to the internet before. Clearly they’ve tried hard to further highlight the search bar with an additional grey fill behind the search bar, just in case you didn’t see it. Clearly they still had a playful side back then as they always had the ‘I’m feeling lucky’ button, but realistically it doesn’t add any value other than encouraging people to search and discover more of the internet.

Also note the serif typeface – yes people still use serif fonts now and you can create some beautiful experiences with serif typography, but the selection is much larger now and screen resolutions are significantly better, but back then you didn’t have much choice. Accessibility wasn’t really ‘a mainstream thing’ when Google came about so elements like the contrast between between the link colour and the background wouldn’t have been considered anywhere near to the extent we do today.

When we look back, we should also look at their logo. The emergence of drop shadows, colour and embossing – look at all this cool stuff – let’s use it all. But to recap, as much as we can look back and laugh or cringe, this was all new technology. This was stuff no-one had seen before so it was in some ways, educating the world as to what we can do. And that’s still happening today.

If we look at Google today however, they don’t even need to establish their brand clearly – everyone knows who they are and what they do. In fact, in June 2006 ‘Google’ was added to the Oxford English Dictionary. It’s true – Google it. They don’t even use consistent site branding, instead opting for abstract representations (Google Doodles) of which there are plenty. This is to both further demonstrate their creative muscle and encourage users to actually search for something they may not have considered searching. Other than that however, the page hasn’t actually changed all that much. The search bar is still the hero on the page, but you don’t need to be told what to do anymore – you just do it. Additional links have been down-weighted to the footer and other services hidden in a menu. Developments such as the integration of voice search have made an appearance and now they have user accounts that store huge amounts of data to provide more personalised experiences to users.

Google homepage 2021
Google homepage 2021
Google Doodles
Google 2020

They still have the ‘I’m feeling lucky’ button which I believe is purely for nostalgic reasons. If people come to this page, they’re coming to search for something in particular – they don’t need their hand held in the process. The key difference is the education of how. Users no longer need to be told how to do the basics and the rate of learning is almost second nature too many users. It’s on this basis, that companies will inject more of their own personality and unique experiences in to their sites. Their dominance in the space is evidenced by the fact they don’t even need to show their brand anymore – their Google Doodles have become almost as synonymous as the core logo itself.

AMAZON

The behemoths of online shopping. Love it or hate it, the journey they’ve been on means they can do pretty much anything they like to their site and users will still use it. Much like Google is that dominant force in online search (although Microsoft, Apple and many others are trying to change that), they are the ‘go-to’ marketplace for many online shoppers. They are so dominant, the largest of businesses also sell via their platform due to the sheer number of users visiting their site every day. So let’s see how it’s evolved over time. As before, we’ll focus on the homepage as we could release a series of novels if we went in to too much detail.

The snapshot above is from 1999 and it looks as though the hyperlinks are partying together like it to. What started out as predominantly an online bookshop, has tried desperately hard to highlight they sell other stuff too. Links to music, clothes, software, DVD’s (anyone remember those?) were all on show to entice people into their site, but a clear lack of hierarchy makes it painfully difficult to navigate or understand what to do. Suddenly we are seeing different font weights and sizes which are starting to introduce hierarchy, but structurally it’s all over the place. The times when pages were built with tables were still rife across the internet. But wait – remember users weren’t really familiar with navigation like we are today. We see tabs, burger menus, mega menus and the like – these are second nature to us now, but back then the mainstream may have been just getting used to this. Again – as much as we can look back and cringe, Amazon were also taking the user on an educational journey. Look at all this stuff – you don’t need to leave the house to shop. The whole idea of being able to see physical products on a web page was novel, but the ability to find the products was key. Unlike Google, back then Amazon didn’t really make much of search and it was tucked away in the corner.

The use of gifs, flashes and product images starting to test your 700kbps internet connection but at the time Amazon hadn’t really understood the importance of search as much as Google. And why would they? It wasn’t their primary business, at least it ‘wasn’t’.

Now let’s look at Amazon today.

90s screenshot of Amazon
Amazon 2020

Suddenly Search is clear and prominent right at the top of the page. They realise now that their product catalogue is so large, it would be insane to try and highlight everything to users. People want ‘stuff’, so let’s have them tell us what they’re looking for and we’ll find it. Using the analogy to their origins in books, it’s a bit like asking the librarian if they have a particular novel in. Too much choice needs some assistance. People aren’t patient – they just want to be told how to find what they want in as little time as possible. There are just as many (in fact more) links as there were 10 years ago, but now there are graphics, rich imagery, clean typography and stripped back navigation. But then that brings us to something that Amazon do particularly well – upsell, cross-sell and personalisation. Just to clarify, I’m not a big fan of Amazon. I truly believe if Amazon was created today, it would look and behave completely different. Product names are painfully worded for the search reasons and the gargantuan level of information is daunting and often hard to read. However, they have such an abundance of traffic and data, they have the luxury of running hundreds of experiments at a time, learning more and more about users every second and customising experiences to get users to spend more money faster. Go on to the site now – you’re probably seeing several experiments running at the same time.

Now we’re seeing suggested categories and products, bright vibrant offers, gift ideas, seasonal deals – the list goes on. Users know that an image will usually link to the product. We also have user generated content in the form of reviews and own images – day to day these experiences are both used and expected as a way to buy with confidence. This goes even further when you’re logged in to your account. The level of personalisation is immense from browsing history, to order status and suggested products based on your search history. There are flaws in this however – once you’ve bought a product, you don’t need 100 suggestions of the an alternative product that does the same thing.

Amazon 2020
Amazon Desktop
Amazon screenshot on Tablet
Amazon Tablet
Amazon iPhone screenshot

Then we obviously have the abundance of resolutions across mobile, tablet and desktop. Much more considered thought is now put in to how sites are designed. We wrote a piece a while ago about how users buying behaviours have changed as smartphones hit the mainstream. Desktop shopping came down, mobile shopping went up. With the current climate they are now at around 50% in terms of traffic split as more people work from home. It’s common practice now to create a responsive site that optimises the experience of mobile users. In Amazons case, they’ve done this well, but also have their own native app that ensures you can stay logged in all the time. Spending money has never actually been easier and people have built trust in these retail platforms to do that.

But to recap, as much as we can look back and laugh or cringe, this was all new technology. This was stuff no-one had seen before so it was in some ways, educating the world as to what we can do. And that’s still happening today, but expectations are higher than ever and they’ll continue to rise in the future and we can’t wait to see what’s coming next and push the boundries of the possible. The internet used to be a tool for research and very quicky, became a $3.5 trillion tool for commerce by 2019 and is expected to grow year on year.

THE FUTURE

So what about the future? It’s an old reference that’s been used for years, but the UI in Minority Report was a mind blowing example of how people saw the future of digital interfaces. But let’s be real about this – we spend hours in front of screens every day. There’s no way we’re going to spend this time flailing our arms round to move files or design. Having said that, maybe you have arms of steel, but I believe you would get very tired of it very quickly. So it’s more about evolving UI in to more delightful experiences – I’m sure there will be many more iterations of the examples mentioned above. Creating more immersive experiences and taking advantage of newer technologies such as Augmented Reality, AI and new hardware such as Lidar that is now becoming more and more mainstream with consumer hardware brands.

Online will continue to grow – especially in the current climate and if you’re relying on riding it out or copying a competitor, you will be taking a significant risk. Having your own identity. Making your online sales process as painless as possible. Delighting users with the latest and greatest technology. These are all things that will help build your base and increase loyalty, so don’t leave it too late – your competitors are acting now and you should be too.

SO WHAT ABOUT DESIGN?

Design is obviously a very personal area for everyone. We have our likes, we have our dislikes, there are trends and there are bends (I needed a rhyming word, but I’m referring to slight deviations of trends). When we look at the examples above we can see people were still finding their way, but information was still the king of the swing. Now however, with new technologies, faster speeds, better hardware and higher expectations, simply accessing the information is not enough. The overall experience will have a significant impact on users perceptions of your business, so it needs very careful consideration.

One of the classic references is that of the abundance of skeumorphism. This was the art of making user interfaces look like real world objects. A clock looked like a real clock. A dial looked like something you’d see on a console. This came around with the release of the original iPhone and allowed designs to flex some serious creative muscle. Painstakingly crafting highly detailed icons and textures to the finest degree. At the time, it was great – it was beautiful. However this came to an end as users became more familiar with using these digital interfaces. Suddenly there was no real need to visualise so explicitly what a note file was.

Skeumorphic example
Image source dtelepathy.com

Then came the flat design revolution. Flat design came in and it came in with a bang. Big, bold colours in giant blocks. Regimented grid systems, no shadows or gradients. Just big, solid colour. The problem was that this definitely more of a trend. Suddenly everyones site looked the same and compromised on usability. Nothing really stood out and the overall experience is what I would refer to as ‘beige’. Don’t get me wrong, there were a few out there that did it well, but they were few and far between and I’m kind of glad to see this one fading away. 

Even Apple went all-in on flat for a while in what was quite a uncharacteristically poor design choice in their main OS UI. This ultimately ended up in a very frustrating experience where there was a significant lack of visual hierarchy and hidden menus, that ultimately made the software harder to use. This was evident across lots of websites, but I’ve called this OS example out given it was such a big slip up on a large scale.

iOS settings
Image source vandelaydesign.com

As people came to this realisation, the creative minds of Google came along and introduced the world to material design. This basically took flat design, put some hierarchy and tonality around the use of colour, gradients and depth in the form of shadows (hooray). But this wasn’t like the Google shadows of old which were harsh and jarring in the UI – this was softer and easier to comprehend. Suddenly the reintroduction of depth rose from the ashes of flat design (pun intended). This too, became hugely popular and still is, but designers are now tailoring designs and lending styles together to create an identity of their own.

Material design screenshot
Image source design.google

And this brings me on to an emerging trend – neumorphism. I would personally describe this as a hybrid between neomorphism and material design. Inputs and controls are using the realistic gradients and soft shadows of skeumorphism, but with the control of execution of material design. So it’s not exactly like the real thing, but it does look like something tangible you can interact with in a more simplistic way – designed for digital interfaces.

Neumorphic example
Image courtesy of bashooka.com

As of late, a hybrid has been utilised in the latest iOS adding more depth to the UI and bringing a hint of skeumorphism, neumorphism and transparency, which has now been rolled out to their desktop OS. Personally, I like the return of more life-like and 3D elements that have been introduced but there are some parts of the UI that are arguably less accessible than before. This is a new deployment however, so I expect to see this refined and iterated on in updates over the coming months.

Before you run off and start creating everything like this however, I would err on the side of caution. This is still relatively new and it hasn’t really been refined as a style yet. In examples I’ve seen, some controls are so blended in, they suddenly become almost invisible and unusable. So this still has some way to go to be established as a good approach. Yes – we can create these beautiful UI’s and subdued environments, but we must make sure it’s used in the right way with the bold colour use of material design and the softness of neumorphism. I actually see this as an opportunity to further introduce another level of hierarchy and identity in to UI, if done in the right way.


Man on mobile

Why You Should Be Designing For Mobile And How To Do It

This is a follow-up blog from the latest Webinar done in partnership with SAP, The Evolving Customer and their need for Mobile First Commerce. You can register to watch the webinar as an On-demand recording here to see Lucy present the information along with a demo of SAP’s latest platform, SAP Upscale, that puts Mobile First Commerce at the heart of every interaction and offers an experience, unlike others.


We’ll take a look at why you should be focusing your website designs on a mobile-first approach. What the benefits are of doing this and some practical steps you can implement on your website today.

 

Why focus on mobile

To put it simply most people are accessing your website through their mobile phone. Smartphones were first introduced to the public back in 2007. Since the first iPhone hit the UK shelves there has been a steady increase in people accessing the internet on these devices. The graph below shows this trend in the UK. In October 2019 mobile usage overtook desktop for the first time and despite Covid sending everyone indoors mobile usage is still up on the year before. This trend is even more obvious globally where mobile overtook desktop back in 2016.

The reason for their popularity is that they are so versatile. We’re now able to have a computer with us all the time and can play games, browse the internet and go shopping all while sitting on the bus. It’s estimated that 95% of UK households have a smartphone. Being able to use a smartphone to take high-quality photos and share them instantly with your friends on social media has also made them wildly popular. Instead of carrying around a camera, all you need is your mobile. Smartphones are cheaper and more portable than a desktop so it’s no surprise that fewer people have been accessing the internet through a traditional desktop computer.

 

Other benefits

Since mobile takes up the majority of the market share Google ranks for mobile-friendliness. Since 2017 Google has been using mobile-first indexing this means that Google will look at the mobile version of your website for indexing and ranking. If you want your website to rank highly on Google, and let’s face it who wouldn’t, you need to make sure the mobile version of your site is designed well and meeting Google’s criteria.

Adobe discovered that companies with mobile-optimized sites triple their chances of increasing the mobile conversion rate to 5% or above. It’s a no brainer good mobile design increases conversion.

 

Success story

Sincerely Nude was founded by London based Michelle Asare in 2018. She noticed that she could never find any nude clothing close to her skin tone. This realisation became a frustration. She has always loved fashion and wanted to be part of the change she wanted to see in the world. Sincerely Nude aims to empower women to feel beautiful and sexy in their skin tone no matter what shade or size.

In an interview with Below the fold, Asare explains that having used Instagram as a personal account she began to study how businesses of all sizes used the platform as a marketing tool. From here she launched the clothing brand and eCommerce site and it picked up in just a few days after they launched. Through great product development and a killer Instagram strategy they now have a following of 16,700. Michelle estimates that 70% of her customers are driven by Instagram traffic. Since Instagram is almost exclusively used on the mobile app all of those customers are viewing her website on a mobile. So, it was important for the brand to have a seamless mobile experience. By harnessing the power of social media Michelle was able to drive traffic and sales through her website. A great success story for a business in its first 2 years of operating.

 

Designing for mobile

Now we've looked at why it’s so important to have a great mobile website let’s get to the nitty-gritty of how you can improve your site for mobile. Despite the upward trend for mobile people are slow to change and are still designing for desktop.

 

The old way – Graceful Degradation

Responsive web design has become the norm. Creating designs that can be resized to suit any screen size. This ideology is known as graceful degradation it is where all the details and complexities are added to a website for the desktop. Once you have the complex version of the design the features are stripped away to suit a mobile screen. The problem with this is that often the most important features and content get muddled together. This can result in the most important information and priorities of the website for the user on a mobile device to be lost.

 

The new way – Progressive enhancement

The future is mobile-first. This is because that’s where most people will be accessing your site from so they must get the best possible experience when they do. This is why you should move to the progressive enhancement method where you start with mobile and scale-up. By starting the design process with mobile then upscaling to larger devices it makes sure that the key information is presented to the user.

 

How we interact with mobiles

We interact with mobile devices differently to desktops instead of a mouse and cursor we use our fingers and thumbs. These are larger surface areas so we must increase the size of clickable elements and increased the space between them. As a rule, 30px or 7mm is the minimum height you should be looking at for a button for example. Any bigger than this then you may have to compromise other areas of the design and any increase in size after this has little impact on missed taps. The graph below shows the number of missed taps compared to the target size.

(ux.stackexchange.com)

These touchpoints should be within the parts of the screen that is most accessible known as the ‘Thumb zone’. Particularly if they require additional interactions like swiping. This diagram shows the easiest areas for people to reach. Keep this in mind when thinking of placement of CTA and add to cart buttons.

 

Image Credit (smashingmagazine.com)

 

Mobile-only features

Mobile phones have a great advantage over the desktop because they have a built-in camera. This feature opens up so many opportunities that can’t be recreated on a desktop. That means there's the potential to have a mobile experience that’s even better than desktop.

Search by photo – With this feature users can take a photo on their mobile and upload it straight into a search which will return visually similar product images. The eliminates the need for typing and lets users snap a picture of items they like while they’re out and about.

Card scanning – This is used for capturing card details which is a big pain point for users and can be a big sticking point in the checkout flow. This is a way to alleviate this frustration, instead of having to manually type out 16 digits the camera on the phone can scan the details and enter them automatically.

Augmented Reality – Plenty of big brands are starting to make use of AR to show products in consumers in their real-life environment. For example, with Ikea place, you can see how a table would size in your own kitchen. This isn’t just for large companies either with solutions like Eclipse’s Ares AR solution it’s possible to implement it on your own site.

 

Practical solutions you can implement to improve your UX/UI

  • Keep only the most important information. This is probably the most important thing to consider when designing for mobile. Without the luxury of space, you must keep only the most important information that the user needs to complete the journeys on your site.
  • Don’t be afraid of a scroll. It may be tempting to hide away content in carousels and accordions to fit everything nicely into the small screen. In doing this you create more work for the user by increasing the number of actions they need to take to get the information they want, that’s if they find it at all. Instead, make use of vertical scroll people have become accustomed to scrolling to find the information that they want so having it open and accessible by only a scroll away will come naturally to users getting them to where they want to be as quickly as possible.
  • Think about where your site will be accessed. If people are on the bus on a train or out and they may have poor connectivity to the internet. People will still expect a fast-loading time. By focusing on designing/developing for 3G by default you make sure you’re still providing a great experience when connectivity is limited.
  • Make use of mobile devices native UI for example date pickers. These are familiar to people as they use them daily.
  • When there is a form field that requires an input with numbers use the numerical keyboard. This will prevent mistyping and allow people to fill out the form more quickly.
  • Integrate Apple/Google Pay in the checkout. These stop the users having to enter their card and shipping details making the checkout experience seamless and easy for users. They also have the added benefit of additional security and are easy to set up.

 

Final thought

Mobile phones aren’t going anywhere so businesses must adapt to the ever-changing market. I hope you found this article useful and that you have taken away some useful tips for designing for mobile. If you’d like more advice on optimising your mobile experience contact us, we’d be happy to help.

 


2 people looking at phone

How to Conduct a UX Audit

What is a UX Audit?

A UX audit is an analysis to discover how users are interacting with your website, product or app. This is usually done to optimise your site for better conversion or better user experiences. The audit will provide recommendations for tests and improvements that can be made to your site. These suggestions are based on the data and research found through the audit. An audit will help you uncover some of the struggle's users are having on your site so then you can enhance the experience.

 

What is the Benefit of Conducting an Audit?

Great user experience is something that customers are coming to expect from brands. Conducting an audit is the first step in improving those experiences. The value of UX can be seen in the numbers “Forester Research shows that, on average, every dollar invested in UX brings 100 dollars in return.” (Forbes.com 2017) Eclipse clients have experienced this themselves for example, on the first round of the conversion rate optimisation (CRO) programme, HM Post Office reported cost savings of over £250,000 within the first 6 months.

 

What to do Before Starting the Audit

Define business objectives – It’s important to understand the goals of your organisation so you have an aim for your audit’s solutions and outcomes that you can measure against the objectives. Without them, the report is subjective and not measurable. Usually, the goals are around conversion rates and user satisfaction.

Decide on your resource – The amount of time and money you can commit to an audit will have an impact on the output. If you choose to do an audit in two days this will not have as many actionable insights but maybe you need a quick turnaround. Make the decision that is right for your business before you get started.

 

The Audit Processes

Find out who the users are – Define who your users are, their demographic, how they’re getting to your site, and what device they’re using to access it. Platforms like Google and Adobe Analytics can be great for getting this information. Alternatively, your business may have a set of user personas, these will be helpful at this stage. If not, you should look at creating some and this post gives you everything you need to think about when creating them.

Analyse user behaviour – This can be done by using tools to track user's behaviour on your site. You may already have tracking and analytics on your site, or you can set it up at this stage. You should look at heatmaps, mouse flows and screen recordings to see current customer flows to identify any patterns or pain points on the site. This can highlight any pages where you see lots of users exiting the site or getting lost or stuck on a journey.

Collect user feedback on your site – Feedback collected from users can be cross-referenced with the behaviour analysis to back up comments and claims made by users. Many tools can be used to do this, for example, Usabilla and Hotjar.

Review performance of the site – Test the loading speed and check for errors. A slow website can be a disaster for your business with users leaving before getting past the first page. Errors and bugs will cause trust issues and identifying these problems so that they can be fixed is vital to improving your website.

Competitor analysis – Look at industry trends and competitor solutions. Seeing how competitors' websites or products compare to yours gives you an idea of what users expect from your site.

Go through the basics – Check the accessibility, for example, are the colours and font sizes appropriate. Making your website or app accessible will make sure it can be used by as many people as possible.

Analyse page hierarchy – Is it obvious what the user needs to do next. Common problems users have on a website are not being able to find the information they want or not knowing what tasks they need to complete. Spending some time looking at the page hierarchy will help you to spot if this is an issue on your website.

Page Analysis – Look at each page of the website and rate it based on best practice solutions. The main areas to focus on are:

  • Header
  • Footer
  • Search
  • Homepage
  • Product listing page (PLP)
  • Product display page (PDP)
  • Basket
  • Checkout
  • Account
  • Accessibility
  • Performance

Break down these areas further within each section for analysis. For an example of this type of analysis, take a look at our report ‘The state of UX’. It looks at some of the big players in the electronics market and how their sites are stacking up.

Opportunities – Look for other improvement opportunities and usability issues that come up on reviewing the site, make sure you capture these as you go.

Review functions – Look at how well functions such as search and filter work. Is there any room for improvement?

Complete report – Once you’ve collected all the data it’s time to put it into a digestible format. This will highlight the key findings and present hypothesis and solutions to test and implemented on your site.

 

What Next?

Hopefully, you found this useful and you now have a set of hypothesises to test but what’s next? Once you have all these ideas it’s time to create a backlog. You should fix any critical usability first. Then categorising all the issues by the effort required to put them in place and by the impact they will have on the business goals. This will determine their priority.

If you would like some help conducting a UX audit or implementing and coming up with solutions for problems that you have found, we would be happy to help. Get in touch and we can find a solution for your business.


Woman working at laptop

5 Animations To Add To Your UI To Improve Your Users Experience

Wondering what all the fuss about UI animation is? Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of adding animation to your designs and 5 examples of the power of animation.

A little bit of animation can go a long way to improve the user experience on a product or site. These small interactions can help users understand where they are on a page and where the menus, modals and new pages are coming from.

Animations can be used to reward users for completing actions. For example, a ‘like’ button with a playful animation can release dopamine which will make users want to keep interacting with it. In the same way, we like to cross items off a to-do list, a visual representation of completing a task is a great way to let users know they have undertaken an action.

Animation can also add hierarchy to a design. An extreme example would be a shaking CTA button. This will grab peoples attention more than anything else on a page. This can have an appropriate use for example if a user keeps missing a field in a form a small nudge can steer them in the right direction. However, overuse can make a design lose all hierarchy, in the same way, making all text large and bold would. This type of animation should be used sparingly.

There can be drawbacks of animating your UI for example it can slow down the experience of an app of a site. It’s important to constantly question why you’re adding animation, is it improving the users’ ability to perform a task or is the animation getting in their way? There is a temptation to add animation for aesthetic purposes but functionality should always be the most important part of the design.

That being said here are 5 examples of animation you can add to your site to improve the UI:

 

1. Submit button

 


(https://dribbble.com/shots/1426764-Submit-Button)

 

Why it works

It gives users feedback that they have taken an action. This fun animation is satisfying and clear.

 

2. Expanding cards

 

Why it works

This is a great example of giving users context of where they are on an app/site because the animation expands it reinforces the idea that they are still on the original page but viewing more detail of the content. It also allows for more information to be displayed and only surfaced when a user is interested in it.

 

3. Loading screen

 

Why it works

A loading screen like this reassures users that content is loading and that the site is working as expected it’s just taking a little while to get the information. The animation can also be a distraction that keeps the user entertained while they wait.

 

4. Slide-out menu

 

Why it works

Similarly to the expanding cards slide-out menus show the user where the element comes from, where it’s going to and where it is housed.  It makes it clear to the user that there is a layering of content and indicates that they can get back to the previous page by closing the menu.

The animation does all of this in a matter of seconds.

 

5. Toggle Button

 

Why are works

This change of state in the toggle indicates that something has changed from one option to another. Having the animation of the button sliding much like a physical switch makes it clear that the relationship between the two states. Without this animation, it’s not as obvious that you have moved from one option to another.

 

Summary

Hopefully, this gave you some inspiration for ways to add meaningful animation into your next project. Remember your animations shouldn’t get in the way of or slow down the user from performing their task. If you’d like some help animating your next project get in touch and we’d be happy to assist.


Moon image

How User Personas Can Get You To The Moon

In this article, we’ll look at how creating a user personas can be beneficial when designing the UI for a rocket. We’ll take a dive into what this persona would look like. Then how we can apply this persona to inform the design of the UI onboard the rocket.

 

The User Persona

User personas are profiles that capture the most important data from a user base. This data is then used to outline the archetypes of your common users. These are usually one-page documents. They are used as a reference point to remind you who your users are and give you a way to communicate this to others. They help you to understand who you're designing for. Giving you an insight into what the behaviour and thought process of that user is.

User personas are beneficial because they are a way of empathising with the people who use the software. They put the user at the centre of the design process. If you are always looking through the eyes of the user you’re more likely to create a solution that works for them. In a previous article we've covered how to create a persona in more detail, but we've covered some of the important points here to.

 

Creating a User Persona

We started by segmenting and creating hypotheses about our different types of users. There are users with two different roles onboard the spaceship. One user is the pilot who will need the essential information to fly the rocket. The other user is the co-pilot who would need secondary monitoring information. These two roles need separating as they have big differences. Within these roles, we can begin to create more nuanced profiles. 

Take a look at the persona below to find out more about our user.

Applying the User Persona to Design

Now we have the persona we can start applying this to our designs. We can take into account the pain points of our user Tim Peake. We can see he has restricted movement and wears gloves. This could influence the design of the UI. We would want to make sure that the screen size isn’t too large so that Tim can reach it all. There shouldn't be any complex gestures in the UI that would be hard to execute with limited movement. This should be worked into the design by using larger touchpoints. 

 


Crew Demo-2 Mission | Official SpaceX Photos | Flickr

 

Tim is a family man and although no stranger to risk he would inevitably be thinking of his family when undertaking a dangerous mission. Images of his family could be made available to him on the software to give him comfort when there are no tasks that require his attention.

There are times when Tim will experience an expected communication outage and long periods flying through space with nothing to do. The UI could include an entertainment system with access to exploration documentaries and motorsports.

Tim assigns a lot of values to tech and is intelligent. The UI should reflect this by being feature-rich as he will be able to cope with an added level of complexity if it enhances the abilities of the rocket. 

He is living his life long dream flying the rocket to the moon. When Tim is performing some of the more complex tasks like launching and landing the rocket he will be feeling an intense pressure to get it right. Simple and easy to use UI will release some of this pressure. As Tim has a background in flying helicopters and aeroplanes, having UI that is already familiar to him will put him at ease and shorten the learning curve. Using skeuomorphism design which emulates familiar objects/control to increase familiarity and will provide comfort to Tim. This can be incorporated into the designs, for example, using an interface for the speedometer that is similar to an analogue version that Tim would be used to seeing in other vehicles.

 


Crew Dragon Interior | Official SpaceX Photos | Flickr

 

Conclusion

User personas are a great tool to guide your design decisions. They can be used whenever there is a need for a user to interact with software, even when that is intergalactic. There’s also no such thing as ‘done’ when it comes to the personas. You should revisit, review and update them regularly as economic and social climate changes users' online behaviours.

Hopefully, you’ve found this useful and feel inspired to create your own, but drop us a line if you’d like a little help – we’d love to talk to you.


Man on mobile phone

From Gimmick, To Practical

Over the years we’ve seen several attempts to utilise built-in sensors to hardware to improve the user experience, but this hasn’t often been particularly useful – more of a gimmick. In some instances, there are examples with Smart TVs where hand gestures were tried and occasionally it made sense – you’re sitting several feet away from the screen and you’ve lost your remote down the side of the sofa.

For example, you could take simple actions things like swiping across the screen to change channels one at a time, but realistically how many people do that? There are hundreds (thousands even) of channels and the ones you want to watch are rarely next to each other, so unless you want a 20-minute workout to find your channel, you’re best off just finding the remote!

We then come on to smaller devices such as phones and tablets. Companies have delved into this space before and there are apps available that make gesture controls available, but I still wonder how useful these are. The likes of contactless gestures for example feel somewhat limited in usefulness when the device is in your hand. As a result, I thought I’d look more closely at how you can better utilise built-in sensors and settings of modern hardware to provide a better, more practical user experience in a GUI.

 

Utilising the Proximity Sensors

Proximity sensors are commonly used in devices now for actions such as sleep/wake of the device, making the screen inactive when you put it to your ear. This is to avoid accidental input when on the phone when on a call. However, how could this technology be better used to enhance the user experience?

Well, let’s just start by clarifying I’m not going to talk about swipeable carousels or contactless scrolling. One of the challenges on these smaller devices is balancing the hierarchy of information, providing clear CTAs and ergonomics.

In the world of e-commerce, for example, one of the core things any business wants you to do is add to the basket and checkout easily. However, throw in your upsells/cross-sells and special offers and the list goes on, and it’s easy to dilute the visibility of your key CTA. As a result, if you could make use of the proximity sensor so that the closer your finger was to the screen, you could resize elements (such as the ‘buy’ CTA) to draw attention to them and make it easier for a user to checkout.

The other practical use was in reference to ergonomics. There are typically some hard-to-reach areas which also happen to be common positioning for functions such as the menu and search.

Companies have experimented before in this space by having the ability to pull the top of the browser down closer to the main touch area, based on a combination of taps. The alternative approach to this however is to sense the proximity to the top of the screen and bring the functions in the top corners closer to avoid the user having to adjust their grip to reach.

 

 

The same thing applies to exit intent. Many websites utilise exit intent capture forms based on the positioning of the cursor on a desktop computer but utilising a similar function with the proximity to the ‘back’ button, for example, could serve a similar purpose.

While I’m talking about this, I should stress I’m not saying you would put all of these into one UI. After all, it would be easy to over-complicate the experience and ultimately make your site more confusing, but all could be relevant considerations based on your user stories.

With all this talk of using proximity sensors, however, you start to wonder how you could utilise some of these actions on a desktop too. One simple example would be increasing GUI elements such as CTAs based on the proximity of the cursor. This would provide more fluid awareness of UI elements than that of rollover states.

 

Ambient light sensors

Another sensor built-in to devices is the ambient light sensor. The purpose of this is to adjust the brightness and tone of the screen based on environmental lighting. This reduces glare and eyestrain of the user for a smoother experience. But what if you could read that lighting sensor and actually adjust the UI itself? Some simple CSS work would allow you to optimise your GUI and actually highlight elements in a much clearer way based on the intensity of the ambient lighting.

 

Dark mode

Dark mode is popular with many people now for the same reasons highlighted above regarding eye strain and glare. The other reason, however, is that people just think it looks cool. So, if you could identify a device was in dark mode, it may be worth creating a dark mode for your website. This would provide a seamless transition between OS and website and provide a more consistent experience for those users, encouraging them to spend longer on your site.

 

Camera

Before I get into this last one, I should call out this one is just a bit of fun – there are all sorts of question marks around security and performance, but what if you could use the camera to understand the user’s emotion whilst on your site? You could adjust the UI and tone of voice based on a user’s expression. Maybe you pick up frustration or confusion and you can proactively offer help on-screen. We use facial expression analysis with our biometric lab, but being able to present information, help or UI changes based on a user’s expression would give another level of hyper-personalisation.

 

As technology gets better and expectations rise, we’re always looking for new ways to improve the user experience. Where constant innovation is important for all of us and sometimes it’s just about a bit of fun, we should also look to see how these innovations can be put to more practical use.


Group of people looking at view

How To Create A User Persona

User personas are a great tool to improve designs and communicate design decisions. Let’s take a look at what user personas are, why they are useful, and how to create your own. 

 

The user persona

User personas are profiles that capture the most important data from a user base. This data is then used to outline the archetypes of your common users. These are usually one-page documents. They are used as a reference point to remind you who your users are and give you a way to communicate this to others. They help you to understand who you're designing for. Giving you an insight into what the behaviour and thought process of that user is. Explaining why users take certain actions in your product, and what they're hoping to do when they use it. 

People across the business in different roles should use user personas. Stakeholders, senior managers, and product owners can all use personas. They can use them when analyzing the software for new features or prioritizing bug fixes. Designers, copywriters, and developers can all use user personas too. They use them to find the best approach and solution that fits the needs of the user.

 

Why user personas are useful

User personas are beneficial because they are a way of empathising with the people who use the software. They put the user at the centre of the design process. If you are always looking through the eyes of the user you’re more likely to create a solution that works for them. 

They are specific and this gives you clarity about who to design for and who to prioritise. You are thus able to meet the needs of groups of users with similar characteristics. As opposed to creating generalised solutions that don’t fit exactly with any users’ needs.

Designers often fall into the trap of designing for themselves. Having a user persona holds you accountable for your design decisions. If they aren’t in the best interest of your user persona then they may not be the best solution. You can also use them to communicate and justify those decisions to stakeholders and clients.

Another benefit of creating personas is that they anthropomorphise data. Adding human characteristics and behaviour to data it makes it easier to understand and remember. It’s great having a ton of useful data but if no one ever references or uses it then it’s worthless. A concise digestible format that doesn’t include unnecessary information, will help you get the most out of your personas.

 

Creating a user persona

Begin by segmenting and creating hypotheses about the different types of users. You must separate your users by the different roles they have. Let's take the example of project management software. This would have users with two different roles. One user is the admin that would be creating tasks and reporting on the project. The other user is the employee who would be using the tool as a reference and to track time. These two roles need separating as they have big differences. Within these roles, you can begin to create more nuanced profiles. Through a combination of analytics and research, you can validate these hypotheses or disprove them. Both are equally illuminating.

Take a look at our example of an admin persona for a project management tool:

Do your research

User research is critical to understanding the experience of users. There are many different ways in which you can collect and present feedback. Likely, you're already getting a lot of feedback if you have a product that's up and running. 

Interviews and observation are the most common research methods. Both of these research methods are qualitative. They need analysis that looks for patterns and commonalities between users.

At this stage, it is critical to learn about the motivation of your users—what problems are they looking to solve when they come to your site? Different personas will have different reasons to use your site. You can start by developing hypotheses about what drives each user to engage. 

 

Your research should focus on the following aspects of the user experience: 

Bio: What does this person do? Are they always rushing around with lots of things on their mind? Are they worried? Planning an adventure? 

Motivation: What drives your user to interact with your product? What are they hoping to get out of it? Why are they using your product instead of a competitor’s - or nothing at all? 

Pain points: What are the challenges users are facing? Is your product helping them solve these or aggravating them? Are there any obstacles they have to face when using your product? 

Mental models: How does your user conceive the problem that your product addresses? What concepts and connections come naturally to them, and what do they need teaching? 

Personality traits: Is this user more of an introvert or extrovert? Are they an influencer or a follower? Are they loyal to brands or are they more fickle and drawn towards other features or lowest cost? 

Internet usage: Internet usage is an indication of online behaviour. Are they a regular online shopper? Do they mainly browse at home or during lunch breaks? Are they particularly active on social media? 

Brands: Are these users used to dealing with high-end premium brands or value brands? Or is it a mixture of both? Be specific to the actual brands this user buys from to understand their brand relationship. 

 

What to look out for

There are some risks associated with user personas. They are usually from not following the user research process correctly or thoroughly enough. One of the main areas where people tend to go wrong is by using too much second-hand information. This could be from stakeholders within the business or stereotyping. In these cases, research and data are not informing the personas.  This type of information runs the risk of missing out on actually user insights. You may be attributing characteristics to your users that aren’t accurate. Using these inaccurate personas when developing the product will mean you won’t meet the needs of your actual users. 

 

Conclusion

User personas are a great tool to guide your design decisions. They can be used to inform other models such as user journey maps, usability reviews and user stories. The entire business should make use of the personas. This will help to create the best possible experience for your users. The key to successful user personas is good quality research. There are risks to creating personas. You can mitigate these risks by following the correct research processes. 

There’s also no such thing as ‘done’ when it comes to the personas. You should revisit, review and update them regularly as economic and social climate changes users' online behaviours.

Hopefully, you’ve found this useful and feel inspired to create your own, but drop us a line if you’d like a little help – we’d love to talk to you.


The Good And Bad of Microcopy

The Good And Bad of Microcopy

Microcopy is text on a website or interface that helps to guide the user in their journey. This is the text you see on buttons, forms, tooltips and labels. Microcopy must be clear and easy to understand, no industry jargon. It should provide context and let the user know what actions they are taking. It’s not about persuading and selling so differs from traditional copywriting. 

In this article, we’ll look at some good and bad examples of microcopy used across some familiar brands websites.

Let’s take a look at some examples of great microcopy:

Hello Fresh

On their homepage, Hello Fresh has multiple CTA’s that all go to the same page. By changing the copy on these they capture users who are at different stages of the purchasing process. They can be broadly split into two categories, one where users are still in the research stage so less committal CTAs like ‘see our menus’ and ‘learn more’ will appeal to them. The other CTA ‘get started’  captures those users who are ready to purchase.

Expedia

The microcopy in the search field speaks directly to the user with simple language. It also offers suggestions for the type of thing that they can search for. This will help to guide the user and get them to the information they want to find quickly.

 

Evans Cycles

Evans cycles have added reassurance messaging to their checkout CTA. It is concise and is a great addition considering the high-value purchase a user is about to make. Informing the users of the security at this stage will help to relieve any anxiety they may have over their online purchase.

 

 

invision

This handy tooltip from invision lets the user know what exactly will happen when they choose to get a public share link. The link is copied to the clipboard, the word ‘clipboard’ could be considered technical language but considering the users of this product, there is an assumed level of technical understanding. Users are then reminded of this with positive messaging once they have selected this option.

 

 

Typeform

Typeform has created clarity between the two actions, log in and sign up so there is less chance of users selecting the wrong option. This will get users to where they want to be for the first time creating a smooth journey.

 


When signing up and choosing a password microcopy aids the user by defining the password requirements. Explaining what they need from a user upfront avoids users becoming frustrated by not knowing what action they need to take.

 

 

Now we’ve covered what you should be doing let’s see what mistakes we should avoid making:

Amazon

The text in this search field is ambiguous so it’s not clear what the user should input into the field. This may lead to users not finding the information they are looking for.

 

 

Blackboard

In this registration form, the supporting text in the fields is cumbersome. It doesn’t give the user any more information it just adds to the cognitive load by adding to what the user has to read.

The field ‘Registering as’ is ambiguous and has no supporting information. Supporting microcopy would be useful here to let the user know exactly what is meant by this unfamiliar field.

 

Montblanc 

On Montblanc’s website, they use overly complex language. This may be a deliberate choice to support the brands’ image. While this is valid for marketing when considering the user experience clarity is more important than persuasion at this stage.

 



 

As with most things in life microcopy can be used for good and bad. Let’s take a look at a dark UX pattern that utilises microcopy.

 

Treatwell

In the booking process on Treatwell users are asked about marketing preferences. One of these options check the box if you don’t want to receive marketing updates and the other is check this box if you do want to receive updates. This deliberately confusing language is likely to confuse users into opting into at least one of the updates. While this may serve the business goal it may not be serving the users goal. Whether this is good or bad UX writing I will leave for you to decide.

 

 

In Conclusion

Good UX writing vastly improves the user experience, it builds trust and in many cases increases conversion and engagement. So there’s no better time to review the copy on your website or product to delight your users.


What is the Difference between Qualitative and Quantitative Data?

When it comes to analysing the data, there are two types to look into – qualitative and quantitive data. When researching user habits on digital platforms, understanding the difference between the two can really help you get the most out of your data no matter how convoluted.

Quantitive

Quantitive data is the data that is statistical, well structured and defined making it great for data analysis. It is usually gathered from surveys and experiments that yield statistical data. Being so structured and close-ended, you can draw well backed up facts and patterns from the data. Quantitive data will tell you how many people viewed your site, how long they stayed on a page, your bounce rates, page clicks and anything that can be analysed with numbers.

Heatmaps and click maps provide a great visual on how your users are using your website. If you’re tracking eye-movements as we do at Eclipse, you can see how long users looked at a certain section of the site, and what parts of the sites got the most activity and attention. With this data, red indicating high attention areas, you can make decisions on how to structure webpages to make key points of interest more click-worthy.

What it does not tell you, is why the users may have paid more attention to a certain page, and this is where qualitative data comes in handy.

Qualitative

Qualitative data is the ‘why’ behind user behaviours and their motivations. It is not based on the numbers or statistics and is the data usually investigated for creating open-ended conversations. Qualitative data is great for putting yourself in the user’s shoes and finding out information like why they decided to abandon checkout or what made them give a lot of attention to one part of the site. These insights can make sense of the quantitative data we have, for example, we may know that users were not interacting with a CTA and now we know that is because it wasn’t obvious to see that the CTA was something on the page that could have been interacted with. With this data, we can now make decisions to make the CTA more actionable.

Qualitative data can be gathered by asking questions and conversing with the users as they are going through the experiment – something that is made really easy for Eclipse with our completely mobile biometric UX lab 😉 ;). This yields more honest and authentic responses from the users as they are having a human to human conversation and you can query them as they are using the site. With our UX lab, we are also able to track emotional responses and see body language from users going through a website journey, allowing us to get really in-depth data.

When collecting data, understanding qualitative and quantitive data is key. Understanding the psychological motivations of user journeys and being able to back up that data with statistics is a huge benefit to doing any kind of data analysis.


What is a user journey map?

The size of the map can vary greatly depending on the number of steps, the subject (e-commerce, SaaS, service etc) and the complexity of the interaction. However, the outcome pays huge dividends in producing better informed solutions and avoiding retrospective design and engineering.

Mapping out a customer’s experience encourages you to consider every aspect of a persona in terms of emotions, thought process and intentions and is just one of the many tools to inform User-Centred-Design. Analysing the map will provide a deeper understanding of pain points and allow you to better understand the reasons for declining performance or other KPIs.

A carefully considered user journey map helps you identify and understand reasons for declining satisfaction scores or business objectives. Focus is put directly on the users actual experience and provides a comparable view vs the intended experience.

COMPONENTS OF A JOURNEY MAP?


PERSONA GOALS

This is a profile that represents a part of your user base which informs the data within the user journey. Each persona will have different considerations, thoughts and interactions and will steer the user journey and is written as a user story. A user story is deliberately succinct and is provided as a single sentence along the lines of “As a [persona], I want to [goal], so that [benefit].

A carefully considered user journey map helps you identify and understand reasons for declining satisfaction scores or business objectives. 

METRICS

This is a profile that represents a part of your user base which informs the data within the user journey. Each persona will have different considerations, thoughts and interactions and will steer the user journey.

EXPERIENCE

The experience section highlights each stage of the journey, along with the positive and negative feelings that persona has throughout each stage. This provides a high level indication of pain points where there may be opportunity. This can help better inform what the user wants or expects to see at that moment in time, as well as the tonality on how things should be communicated.

MORE DATA

We also apply another level of data from analytics, screen recordings and any other tools that may be in place, that you often don’t find in many other user journey maps. This data may could be anything from conversion rates to time on the screen. Where data such as percentages can provide an idea of aggregated behaviour, duration indicates a level of interest, distraction or confusion at that stage.

Cross referencing this with the other data in the user journey map provides another level of clarity of the issues and (this is an important one), the opportunities in their experience. It’s one thing to identify an issue, it’s another to solve it (we’re pretty good at that too).

Aggregated data of persona using all available data sources.

MOTIVATIONS

Motivations are based around the drivers for that persona. A personas motivations can differ quite dramatically and may be based around their character traits. For example (in its most simplistic form), a persona who is particularly busy and impatient and who may be travelling whilst going through the journey, will be motivated by speed and spending as little time as possible. Whereas, a persona who is casually browsing in their free time is more likely open to spending more time and learning more in the process.

There are multiple scenarios and personas for every product or service, which is what makes these journeys so important. In almost all cases, one size most certainly does not fit all. The fluctuation of these motivations as they go through the process will often rise and fall at each stage of the journey.

Motivation fluctuations at each stage.

USER CONSIDERATIONS

This highlights the considerations a user makes, also based on their persona. This will include aspects such as their character traits, marital status or financial circumstances.

For example, making a major purchase will vary from someone on low income vs someone on high income, therefore this persona would be spending far more time thinking about the financial element. This helps inform your design strategy to design an experience that helps the decision making process of that persona.

Potential blockers to conversion.

OPPORTUNITIES

Opportunities are insights gained from mapping. They will help inform your design decisions to optimise the user experience. When you take all this information at each stage, you are able to understand the best way to deliver the right information, at the right time, to the right people. There may be upsell or cross-sell opportunities depending on where they are in the buying process, or maybe at this particular stage of the journey they have no interest in cross-sell and you can identify ways of helping them through the process.

Wherever the user is in the journey, this provides focus on the opportunities at each stage and make design decisions to capitalise on them.

Potential to change in favour of KPI.

WHY USE A JOURNEY MAP?


Mapping out a customer’s experience encourages you to consider every aspect of a persona in terms of emotions, thought process and intentions and is just one of the many tools to inform User-Centred-Design. Analysing the map will provide a deeper understanding of pain points and allow you to better understand the reasons for declining performance or other KPIs.

A carefully considered user journey map helps you identify and understand reasons for declining satisfaction scores or business objectives. Focus is put directly on the users actual experience and provides a comparable view vs the intended experience.

CONCLUSION


Utilising user journey maps in this way allows focus on each stage of the journey and is just one of the many tools in the UX toolkit, but one that is very important. User journey mapping can be a complex process. As highlighted above, adding any additional data and research, you can access to each persona and journey will more provide a platform for more concise decisions and design better solutions.

There’s also no such thing as ‘done’ when it comes to the personas and journey maps either. These should be revisited, reviewed and updated regularly as economic and social climate changes users online behaviours.

The map above is just one simple example a quick overview of what they contain. Hopefully you’ve found this useful and feel inspired to create your own, but drop us a line if you’d like a little help – we’d love to talk to you.