Design Development

UI design – 10 steps for great user interfaces Pt10-Errors

UI design feature image - errors

Welcome in the last part of UI design series. Previously you learned a lot of things about minimalism and how you can achieve more with less. In this part you are going to explore one area many don’t like to talk about. It is eliminating errors from both, user and designer or developer side. As in all previous parts, you will find six tips and information to help you get through this searching for errors and fixing them before the user will have any chance to spot them as well.

Errors from design perspective

When it comes to errors and their elimination, there are many angles or directions you can approach this subject. These directions depend on the role you are playing in the project. For example, front-end developer will have to deal with errors caused by loading time, invalid code, browser support, not working JavaScript and so on. Designer on the other hand will deal with different types of errors. Some people working on the project with you might consider these issues as trivial, petty or insignificant.

As a designer you have enormous power in your hands. Every user of the final product will communicate with you through the design you will create. You can liken it to reading a book. When you pick some book, either fiction, non-fiction or comics(!) and immerse yourself in the story, you will start to communicate with the author herself. You will share her ideas and thoughts, world view, philosophy and much more.

“Every maker is designer and every designer is maker.”

The same thing applies to design as well. When you think about it, when writer creates a book he is designing the words to make up the whole story. The same is applies to composer creating a melody or designer creating the design. All of these feats should be done with the lowest possibility of errors. Makers should make every detail significant, even the rear side. Remember, every maker is designer and every designer is maker.

No.10: Eliminate errors

First you can, should and probably have to do in order to eliminate the most errors is to understand the user. It is one thing to assume what the user would do and something completely different what he can or will do. Assumptions about user behavior can even make you go opposite direction and work on something that was not broken at first. So, what can you do to eliminate or at least minimize these cases?

“Remember, use the data to understand the user.”

If you want to understand the real user, not hypothetical one, you have to collect, analyze and use data. Also, don’t believe what people will tell you they do or would do. Only through the data you can see what is happening when no one is looking. Decide on what data are crucial, like demographic, engagement, usage, and so on. However, you should always keep a distance and question the data or take another person’s opinion. Remember, use the data to understand the user.

This may seem a bit like a paradox, but part of the process of elimination errors is to allow them. Hold on. What does it mean to allow users make errors? Think back to your childhood when you were learning how to ride a bike, or more recent, to drive a car. The whole process was composed of small trials, errors, adjusting and trying again. After certain time and some falls, you were able to ride a bike. This is in essence how we learn new things.

Remember, allow user errors here and there.”

With user errors there is one problem. People can be incredibly creative. Do you know Darwin’s awards? You cannot take in to count every potential mistake user can make. Covering all errors without closed, controlled environment is impossible. Take a simple form. Two input fields with a button. Placeholders and labels are provided. Still, user can tap wrong letter, miss something or don’t understand the language. No matter how simple the design will be, error can be made. Allow them and make it fun (custom 404, error notifications in forms, etc.). Remember, allow user errors here and there.

When it comes to content, two terms are commonly used. First is legibility and the second is readability. While legibility mostly means accuracy, certainty and clarity and is more related to the content itself, readability is about the form, function and presentation (design) of the content. When you focus on readability, you don’t care whether the content is accurate to the product or if it is transparent and citing all important facts. Content is not in your interest.

“Remember to keep the text (content) readable.”

The text presented in the design is all that matters to you and your job is to make sure the use can read it. Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet. You can read about web typography and use the tips. You can use proper font size, set the leading and line length. However, you will always have to test the result. So, test the text in various resolutions (devices), formats and materials (print). However, while emulators are good, the real device gives different experience. Try to find some device lab in your city and run your tests there. Just remember … Keep the text (content) readable.

When you are working with a team you also need to keep a cohesive and clear documentation. Well, this should apply on situations when it is a one-man show. Comprehensive documentation will allow you to move faster without making unnecessary errors and keep an overview of the project. What’s more, it will make it easier to return to that project in case you will abandon it for a while.

“Remember to create comprehensive documentation.”

This means using some kinds of system for organization, writing down the methodology and implementing it to your workflow. It can also be applied to organizing and naming the assets, layers in Sketch or Photoshop or the style of your code. Creating a more robust style guide is also a good idea. The goal is to allow anyone to handle the design or product without the need to ask you. Remember to create comprehensive documentation.

When an error or errors happen, some times the best is not to look for where and why, but to simply suggest a solution. The procedure is plain and simple. Shut up, listen carefully and when the user will describe the problem think about the way to solve it. The most important thing is to listen while the user speak. Don’t think about anything else. You should focus only on the user, like nobody else is living on the Earth.

“Remember to listen the users and suggest a solution.”

Working with users and providing them with solutions will have a hidden benefit. If you solve their problems, they will more likely become long-term loyal user and customers. They will also be more willing to recommend your products and services to their friends. They might become your evangelists. Let’s not forget to mention you might find errors you were not thinking are possible or exist. Remember to listen the users and suggest a solution.

The last way and one of the most useful is to ask people, not just users, for feedback. You should not be afraid of someone stealing your idea or copying your design. The majority of people are too lazy to turn an idea to reality. Also, they will not want to spend their time and money on uncertain idea. Even if someone will try to steal your idea, if you move fast enough, you will still have an advantage. You are in the middle of the process with somewhat clear goal in mind. They just started.

“Remember, don’t be afraid to ask for feedback.”

One more thing about feedback … Don’t restrict the people you want to ask for feedback. Some possible errors will be more visible to people in one industry while others might overlook them. So, forget about the titles, roles, jobs and ages for a while and take every feedback equally. Keep in mind that every feedback and advice will take you one step closer to the finish line. Remember, don’t be afraid to ask for feedback.

Final words

With this let’s close the tenth(!) part of UI design series and also finish the series in general. The big six for today was understanding the users, allowing users make errors, testing the content for readability, keeping a comprehensive documentation, listening(!) and suggesting a solution and finally asking other people for a feedback. I hope this UI design series will help you create great designs and make amazing products and services. Remember … Every maker is designer and every designer is maker.

What are your thoughts about errors caused by users and design?

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