A good story has the power of engaging one and all. Your apps should flow like a good, intuitive and highly engaging story, which has the power to trigger the emotions of the user. How many ever number of times you open the app, it should be like the child’s favourite toy, ready to engage and lightens up the spirit. Triggering this emotion that’s both fiery and childlike requires a complete understanding of the user, and how they interact with the app. Every emotional and behavioural trigger needs to be studied along with their physical interaction abilities to derive a powerful story.
Need to understand user behaviour
The user is at the core of all app designs, and you cannot ignore their needs when designing your solution. The questions like
What are your users looking for?
What goals do they aim to achieve with your app?
How do they aim to achieve these goals?
Need answers before you step into the shoes of the user, and begin designing. The reason being, your apps pave way for the users to take critical decisions, and only when you design in adherence with the user needs, can you make them take these decisions.
What is user-centric design? It is basically a problem solving practice that calls for the problems being faced by the user, and designing the solution that is usable and relevant to them.
How stories power your design?
Let’s take any superhero story. What happens in these stories? An incident occurs that thwarts the regular life. The hero struggles to find a way to restore normalcy. They start preparing, working on their strengths and building the team. The heroes then fight the villain, and win. The things go back to normal, and the situation is resolved.
Just like any good story, your app needs to work on a storyboard model. The incident here would be the problem faced by the users.
The users lives are controlled by these problems, which lead to issues with convenience and comfort. The hero is your app, which will help resolve these issues. You will need to work on the idea strengths and fight the weaknesses in order to develop your hero, and enable it to fight against the problems.
There will be roadblocks, which will cause you to resort to easy solutions but, you need to find innovative ways to remove these roadblocks.
It is important you build on the stories that you have defined to execute the ultimate user experience.
Let’s take coke’s new campaign. Their main aim was to target an ordinary user and make the product appealing to them.
The “Share a Coke” campaign is targeted towards different types of consumers that the users would relate to. For instance, the roomie coke would be shared by roomies across the globe, and will help them connect. It is just connecting with people at the core, helping them get an identity.
Getting to know your users
It is important at this point to get to know your users and their attitude towards apps, and what triggers a particular type of behaviour.
We are used to performing this research to understand the users. This research concentrates mostly on the user needs, goals and expectations, as we have already discussed earlier in this article. This kind of design helps the user perform all the expected tasks, and helps them achieve their goals.
However, it lacks the motivators, which compel them to take a particular action. We know everything related to the action they take but, nothing on what actually triggers the action, which is why your designs are all goal-based and not motivation based.
Going below the surface:
The conscious mind understands the goals and the needs but, it is the subconscious mind that triggers the action. If you are developing the user-centric design, then you need to go to this level. We need to go beyond the cognitive motivation, and understand the emotional and behavioural triggers.
For this, a focused group discussion or even a behavioural analysis study as part of the qualitative analysis would help you. Advertisers have been using this method for a while now. One on one discussions help reveal the emotional aspect in the decision.
When you show the audience two brands of ketchup, they will ideally choose one. You will need to question their decision, and what made them choose a particular brand. This will help you derive the emotional triggers
You will need to ask them how they felt about a particular product, an app button etc. and the emotions they underwent
You will need to understand the barriers that prevented them from taking a particular action. Accessibility is one such barrier that prevents users from completing a process
The social and cultural factors need to be understood while designing for the user’s emotional triggers
Define personas before you get started with the user experience design. You need to associate the design with an actual user, and fix that user type in your mind. This will help you understand whether the feature will really affect them positively, and what will ring in an emotional response from them.
Personas enable the user-centric design to be more defined and expressive.
Start with your basic understanding of the target audience. What do you know about them? What kind of triggers do they respond to? Define their problems, according to your observation.
Now, begin with the actual research, and get the users to validate your build. Define the indicators that will tell tale whether or not a persona from the group will become your app user.
Combine what you know about the users with the validated information to create personas.
Now integrate the personas into your workflow. Be it the design review or the standup meeting, make sure your conversation for the design revolves around the persona, as if they are the real person, and they are going to use the app.
Interaction design for the thumb
When you are planning your interaction design, there are two stages: one is understanding the user’s emotional and physical triggers, and the other their actual gestures and app usage behaviour.
The thumb gestures form the actual interaction or app usage behaviour depicted by the user. It is important that you design the interaction design for the thumb, taking into account every stage of interaction.
The user interface is divided into three types of thumb zones: natural, stretching it a bit, and the hard to reach areas. You need to design for the easy thumb flow, which will make interaction friendly, and the app usable.
When designing for the thumb, you need to ask these questions
How many links are there in my app?
Should I go for a menu mix or should I prompt a single type of navigation?
Should I go for full-screen overlay menus?
Where should the buttons be placed?
Will the buttons be accessible using either thumb?
Will a card pattern suit my interface design better or should I opt for the regular design?
Should I make provision for full screen for my app?
Will the thumb zone be accessible when the users view it in a landscape mode?
You will need to understand the general usage behaviour, and tweak your app’s interface to match these standards. It is important you keep the buttons in the thumb range, so that they can be accessed even when the user holds the phone in the cradle way, and accesses the button with a finger.
Navigation & the golden rules of design
For the perfect interaction design, along with the consistency in fonts and colours, and the branding elements being integrated to the design, you need to be cautious about the navigation design.
Keep the navigation as simple as possible. Work on how the users are used to navigating their ways through the app, and you will be able to build on their learning. Don’t try to incorporate new ways, as that might not work with the user.
Keep it clear and make sure it is visible to the user. The users should be able to navigate intuitively, making their way through the app in a predictable manner.
The navigation views should be consistent with the layout of the app. Make sure you use a single location for the navigation, else it will increase the user’s confusion
The navigation, as mentioned earlier, should be accessible with the thumb. Most of the app interaction occurs via the thumb
Maintain the sizes of the links or the buttons in the navigation. The size should be consistent with the average thumb size, the portion that connects with the application.
When you are designing for user experience, you should ideally consider the user’s needs, and how they would interact with the application. It is important to understand what matters to them, and how they respond to an app element, both consciously and subconsciously, in order to build an engaging application.
Personas are important, as they help you connect with the real target audience, and understand them in a better way. So, know your users, validate your research and plan your interaction design, keeping in mind the golden rules of interface design.
Vishal Virani is a Founder and CEO of Coruscate Solutions, a mobile app development company. He enjoys writing about technology, mobile apps, custom web development and latest industry trends.