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Custom UI and the End User Experience | Balancing the Scale

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Improve end user experience

 

Have you ever thought about the influence of a custom UI on your end user experience? Web Marketing Group claims that the human brain can process viewing images up to 60,000 times faster than reading text. 60,000 times! If we’re talking the speed limit, 60K times faster than 55 is 3.3 Million MPH. This means that how you see just may be more important than how you read. (And all this time I thought I was lazy because I preferred picture books…turns out I was just being efficient.) Just like when attracting a mate; it’s the initial impression that the aesthetics create and not necessarily how it reads that can, in a heartbeat, decide if there will be a second date (or even a 1st).   In your case, your custom UI can mean a happy customer needing to tell everyone they know about their amazing new end user experience. The same holds true for internal applications used by employees of your business. They may not be buying anything, but they fall under the end user experience involved with consuming your application. If that experience is not fulfilling or even pleasant, the application runs the risk of not being used. If your apps aren’t being used, why should you be kept around? Huh?

 

 

Custom UI and the End User Experience – The Relationship

 

Don’t underestimate the look and feel of your application. Users spend hours upon hours on their computers, laptops, tablets and phones. They are barraged non-stop by visual stimuli that they see over and over again. If your application can stand out from the rest – you may have half the battle already won. “Now wait a minute,” you might say; “How am I supposed to design something that everyone is going to appreciate?”

 

That’s a simple one: Know your target user, what colors and color combinations do they prefer? How tech savvy are they? Do they like simple layouts? Maybe they prefer something complex and challenging to their psyche?

 

Answering these questions, and answering them early, will help you design a custom UI that will greatly impact your end user experience in a positive way.

 

There is some good news, though: finding the answers really isn’t that difficult.

 

As it turns out, most people react to the level of visual attractiveness to produce a sort of Halo Effect. The halo effect causes individuals to attribute better, more desirable traits to an object or individual based on the first impression. That’s right – if your website looks appealing from the beginning, users will find it more usable! You might not have to worry about the nitty-gritty when it comes to drawing the user in. If you can get the surface layer of the custom UI right – the rest will fall into place.

 

end user experience

Photo Courtesy of Bungie
Not that Kind of Halo Effect...

 

For example, take the 5 year old using an online game designed to teach them the alphabet and their digits. If you want to market to those children, you have to grab their interest with big objects and bright contrasting colors. Text should be avoided and replaced with images and by all means, make the buttons big – little hands have trouble using mice and finger pads. Navigating to a large target is much easier for anyone, especially a pre-school novice.

 

Of course, your market most likely won’t be to 5 year olds and their games. Your custom UI is going to be fielded towards a different, more adult oriented crowd. That doesn’t change the necessary mechanics to improve end user experience.

 

 

So, What about MY End Users?

 

For the seasoned professional, they may be using a banking application in the evening. After spending all day on their business computer, this end user is going to either want to get in and out of there quickly or be pleasantly surprised with the presentation given during the transaction.

 

Improving upon, creating and presenting an attractive custom UI is not necessarily as terrible as you might think:

 

  • Eliminate nested menus and give the end user direct access to the utilities/functions that they desire most.
  • Smaller buttons mean more information on a single page and less navigation, but make sure to find a balance between more information and easy navigation (See toddler reference above).
  • Use common and tasteful color combinations.
  • Above all, stick to your branding image so they (and anyone watching them) know exactly where they are and what they are doing.

 

By now you might be thinking, “As long as it gets the job done, who cares what my user interface looks like?” You should care! After all, your potential end users definitely do! There is always more than one site or application that provide the same service that yours does. If users have a choice and they all get the job done, the only deciding factor would be how the end user experience makes them feel.

 

It is important not only to know how to design your Custom UI to improve your end user experience, but also to understand where those end users are coming from.

 

WhiteSpace has an interesting blog post on The Importance of Website Aesthetics and Visual Appeal that directly addresses this factor. The long and short of it: the ‘perfect’ custom UI for your brand is going to vary depending on the type of end user experience your visitors are expecting. There are some guidelines to help you get there, but knowing your audience is key to developing a successful custom UI.

 

 

Additional Things to Think About

 

So why does it matter? Because keeping your end users means keeping your product or service alive. It’s something that people often overlook: end user experience can definitely affect your bottom-line. In today’s digital world, the interaction between user and application is the new defining factor of what makes a good product or service.

 

APM Digest has an entire article on how end user experience can impact your bottom line, and the message is quite clear: “Application users don’t care who or what element in the delivery chain may be causing a performance malfunction…they just want the application to work…” Not only does your custom UI affect how your end user visually interacts with your service, but it also affects them emotionally as well. A poorly constructed custom UI can lead to declining performance, which will ultimately lead to an increasingly poor end user experience.

 

When it boils right down to it: your end user experience is what matters the most to keep your service alive. Keep things in order to make sense for your users and you’ll be well on the way to providing a service that can stand on its own in the continually expanding digital marketplace. Just remember: a pretty custom UI is worthwhile. Pretty sells, and providing an efficient, attractive end user experience will only help your business grow!

 

 

end user experience

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Larry Conroy

Author: Larry Conroy

Larry is a Technical Support/Developer here at PistolStar. With a Master’s Degree in Computer Science, he has worked for Raytheon, and then moved on to other corporations, such as Kronos, Axent, and Applied Microsystems. Over the last ten years Larry has specialized in improving and growing the support process, previously and within PistolStar Inc.

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