Myriad Mobile’s design team has recently been reading The UI Audit by Jane Portman. Portman’s years of experience as a UI/UX consultant created the foundation for the ebook. Our Lead UX/UI Designer, Alison, was inspired by Portman’s research and wrote a three-part blog series about how Myriad approaches UX/UI with clients. Happy Reading!
Part Three of Three: Design, Good Taste, Rules, and Owning the Long Run
This is part three of our blog series Your Product and You, written for you, the product owner. We’ve just covered validation, research, refinement, sheep, good enough, and focus. Now that your software is on its baby legs ready to take on the internet, let’s take on design.
Rule Number 7: ‘Design’
So, like, what is art?
We won’t get into that. But be assured that we’ve spent time geeking out over it. Instead I’d like to broaden your perspective of what the word ‘design’ might entail.
I like to think of design as planned problem solving. When someone comes to me, whether it be my mother who wants an outdoor kitchen or a client needing to digitize a loyalty program, and says ‘I want it to be like this, and this, or this, or I don’t know!’ Designers step in.
We take your pain points, your mood boards, your wish list, your boss’ wish list, and we make it something cohesive.
The word ‘design’ should call to mind thoughtful problem solving. Design does not just mean ‘the pretty’. There is a whole cake underneath that frosting my friends. Be aware when talking about ‘design’. Sometimes we are referencing specific types of design like visual design, but the conversation is often times much broader than that, encompassing maps and whiteboarding and wireframes.
“I love when design solves my problems!” – Jed, Lead iOS Engineer, Myriad Mobile
Rule Number 8: Have good taste
Now we’re talking about visual design. Software design is a relatively new and young industry that changes overnight. And software design differs from other design professions because it can be changed and built upon, unlike a building or a poster for example. Because of this, software design is much more affected by trends than other design fields.
As the owner you will need to make decisions concerning the visual feel of your software. This is your face to the users after all, so your reputation depends on it. Being dated in design can kill you, and there is no such thing as ‘classic’ in software design. You have to be up on the trends. So take some time to familiarize yourself with them.
The best inspiration on the web currently is in Behance and Dribble. Spend some time searching and perusing UI Design within either of these platforms. Be aware however, what you’ll find will be awfully beautiful and terribly impractical.
As Jane Portman says:
“…keep in mind that many of the comps are beautiful but woefully poor when it comes to usability. So treat these design resources as haute-couture fashion shows, featuring unwearable designs on super-skinny models. Fashion shows exist for one big reason: they set the trends and give inspiration to us, mere mortals.“
I won’t leave you hanging in the Bosch land of beauty and unpracticality (I am from the Midwest afterall). Become informed of the haute-couture, but with an extra dollop of reality.
Rule Number 9: Use the existing rules
When you open an app, what can you expect to find? What do those three bars in the upper left mean? Why do I know to swipe? One of the main principles in software is intuitivity. It is the designer’s job that the user should know or be able to discover what to do with little to no active thinking.
Have you ever seen a toddler run Youtube? They pretty much all can. I have heard many exclaim of their baby ‘what a smart toddler!’ But the reality is that the designer created such an intuitive interface that even a two year old can figure it out.
Let’s take a peek at the path that mobile has journeyed to intuitivity.
The beginning of app design was fraught with the overwhelming task of onboarding users into a small box that can do many many things. These boxes don’t come with instruction manuals either, often times they are the instruction manual. And so designers took cues from things that we are already familiar with. Calendars turn the page to a new month, contact lists were marked by large alphabets. Designers replicated real world behaviors and visual styles into apps, also called skeuomorphic design.
Over time users become more and more comfortable with their devices, and new paradigms evolve. I no longer need a calendar with leather binding, yellow pages with rips at the top, and a big red circle around the day. A simple box with a darker color will suffice nicely.
It is imperative then that UX/UI designers follow these best practices that others have forged.
The rules most applicable to mobile are platform rules, market rules, and industry rules.
Platform rules: Mobile is ruled by two huge giants: Apple and Google. (We will gently ignore Windows for the time being due to limited market share.) iOS and Android have systems preloaded with their own apps, and other apps available for download on the Apple and Google Play stores. They want their users to be able to navigate through their own software and the apps that others publish. Hone your understanding of their platforms by visiting Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines and Material Design for Android.
Market rules: I don’t spend the majority of my phone time in clock, or calendar, or contacts, or in other standard platform apps. The majority of my phone time are in what I like to refer to as market apps: Facebook, Pinterest, Duolingo, 48, etc. The time spent there is ‘educational’ (my husband certainly doesn’t think so). But I’m learning the behaviors of these apps, and will be able to pick up other apps that behave and navigate similarly.
These apps also have hordes of people refining their product, so you can trust in their user experience expertise. Keep in mind however, that these are the creme de le creme of softwares; just because Facebook does it doesn’t mean it’s cheap or easy. Fun fact: Facebook spends a projected $30 million a month on hosting. (http://thenextweb.com/dd/2013/12/02/much-cost-build-worlds-hottest-startups/#gref)
Industry rules: Use the language, icons, motions, and imagery of the industry your software is reaching.
The big idea with rules: don’t recreate the wheel. Your standout marketability is in your solution to pain points, not UI. Simple does it, folks.
Rule Number 10: Own the long run
I’ve thrown out a lot of words like iterations, refinement, and feedback. I shall repeat.
Iterate. Refine. Get feedback. Repeat to infinity.
Roll up your shirtsleeves for version 1, 2, 7, 15, 21, etc. (You get the picture.) Create a backlog of features and a product roadmap.
Bring in fresh eyes from professionals (read: us) who will look at your software holistically and ask pressing questions that internal teams don’t want to dredge up. Own the long run.
The best software is the one that’s never done.
Read Part I here.
Read Part II here.