5 Tips to Out-UX Your Competitors: The Latest Trends & Best Practices

Julie Branson
Jul 10 · 7 min read

Any designer will tell you that the User Experience (UX) landscape is constantly changing and advancing. Although variations of what we now consider to be UX have been around for a while, the term (and the many skills and elements that accompany it) is still new and continuing to grow. With the rapid advancement of technology, there is no shortage of ways to create new experiences to delight users.

The best thing about UX design is that there is still plenty of uncharted territory — and if you can tap into it early and effectively, your work will stand out from the rest. We’ve talked our team of designers at Crema to learn more about the latest tips to further elevate the user experience. This article will discuss some of those upcoming trends and best practices for stellar UX in 2019.

Tip 1: Take advantage of user research.

User research is a crucial part of aligning your digital experience with what the users want and need. When you begin to design a product, the first and most important thing to keep in mind is always the user. You want to make sure you’re answering any and all questions that may arise while they navigate through the product. The easiest way to see if you’re on the right track is simply to find out from the users themselves.

Methods of UX research:

  • Focus groups
  • Interviews
  • Surveys
  • Field studies
  • Design Sprints
  • Usability testing

For UX, one of the easiest and most effective methods is usability testing. You give users a task to follow, observe how they accomplish it, and identify areas that may cause usability issues or confusion. It’s important to know that this type of testing doesn’t evaluate how the particular user performs — rather how well the product accommodates them. As reported by the Norman Nielsen Group, usability testing can be conducted with as little as 5 people while identifying up to 85% of usability issues.

Even with all the benefits to be reaped from good research, it’s often overlooked. According to DesignAdvisor, only 55% of companies are actively conducting any type of UX testing at all. Just running these types of tests to catch issues early puts you ahead of the game. Furthermore, fixing issues in development can cost up to 10 times as much as it does in design (and even more than that after the product is released).

Tip 2: Anticipate and automate user needs.

Technology is getting smarter all the time, and designers are being faced with a new design hurdle: anticipation and automation. In order to make a more effortless user experience, designers have started making decisions on behalf of the users to predict their wants or needs. These predictions and judgements help to alleviate decision fatigue, which plagues people today due to the endless hours that are spent daily on technology.

As many designers have already figured out, the difficulty with anticipatory and automated design is making sure the software doesn’t make incorrect choices for the user. Once the wrong decision has been made without the user’s consent, the user experience is essentially ruined. To prevent this from happening, intuitive software planning and extensive user-testing is required.

Sarah Doody’s Ted Talk on Anticipatory Design and the Future of Experience is a great reference point to learn more about effective automative design. Here are the three main pointers from her talk about how to strike a good balance between anticipation and automation.

Tips for automative and anticipatory design:

  1. Always let people take back control and easily reverse decisions.
  2. People are skeptical of algorithms. Make curation human. Aim for quality over quantity.
  3. Build trust over time. Create a system of give and take that builds trust with every input and action.

Tip 3: Consider creating new experiences for wearables.

In 2019 you can expect to continue to see an increase in the prominence of wearable technologies such as the Fitbit, Apple Watch or Google Glass. In fact, according to research conducted by Statista, by 2022 the number of connected wearable tech devices is expected to reach over 1.1 billion. For UX designers thinking about entering the space, there are a couple important things to consider in order to create the most enjoyable user experience for wearable tech owners.

  • Think about hardware vs. software: For each wearable tech product, there is both a hardware and software component. Remember the product is actually worn on the physical body — so for hardware, the emphasis should be on comfort, style and fit. Whereas for software, the emphasis should be on value, purpose and function. For this type of tech, think of the difference between hardware and software as wearability vs. usability.
  • Create unique UX for the different categories of wearable tech devices: While fitness trackers used to be the most commonly used wearables on the scene, new categories are continuing to emerge and popularize (such as EEG headbands, smart watches, augmented reality lenses, etc.) With so many new categories, designers need to keep in mind that each category has its own specific purpose or function. Therefore, each category should also have its own unique UX considerations. The needs and expectations of the user for each device will vary, as different products will live on different parts of the physical body. For UX, one size doesn’t fit all.‍

Tip 4: Expand your experience with IoT.

If you haven’t yet heard of the Internet of Things (IoT), now is the time to learn about it. IoT is the network of interconnected devices that can easily gather and share data amongst themselves. This includes anything from smart TVs, security systems, appliances and the many more devices that are continuing to emerge. With the growing number of devices available to your users, it is important to design digital products in a way that provides a seamless experience from one to another.

The biggest hurdle to overcome with IoT is keeping the user interface (UI) consistent across all products with different purposes and functions. Not only does it have to be usable on an individual level, it also has to be usable in correspondence to all of its connected devices and the context in which they are used. Much like wearable technology, there’s a few things to consider when designing for IoT:

  • Hardware: The wide range of hardware plays a big role in how the user will interact with it, from the purpose of it, to who uses it, to where they use it. Some products include sensors, controllers, and more to add to the experience, while others don’t even have a digital interface at all.
  • Connectivity: These devices are used everywhere and even though network connectivity options are too, choosing the right type for each use case is ideal for a seamless experience.
  • Flexibility: Things like third party integrations may be necessary as well, depending on the complexity of the hardware, the purpose it fills and the type of software used. Being flexible is the key to making all working parts come together for the user and that’s what truly sets your product apart.
  • Trust: A lot of data and information is being shared between all these devices so designing in a way that builds a relationship of trust with the users is important so they also continue expand their experience with other connected devices.

The best part about this realm of technology is the growth it will see over the next 5 years. In a report by Statista, the number of connected devices installed and actively in use this year (2019) is reaching 26.66 billion, and it’s projected to see a huge influx by 2025 with an estimated 75.44 billion devices worldwide. Going the extra mile to bridge the gap between certain physical products and creating new experiences with this technology could be the competitive edge you were looking for.

Tip 5: Stop overlooking the opportunity of voice-based UX.

“Just because voice interaction is a relatively new technology doesn’t mean the fundamentals of user-centered design don’t apply.“ -Kathryn Whitenton, Nielsen Norman Group

According to a study by Voicebot.ai, there were more than 66.4 million users of voice-assistants, such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home, at the end of 2018 — and the market has only continued to explode. To keep pace with the trend, designers will need to seriously contemplate how to create outstanding user-friendly voice applications.

Right now, it’s safe to say that there’s great potential for UX on voice-first devices that has not been fully taken advantage of yet. Most smart-speaker owners currently use their device primarily for listening to music and checking the weather — but they’re looking for more diverse options and applications to use. In order to provide exceptional voice-based user experiences, designers should consider adapting their products so that users can interact with them using voice-first devices.

Doing this will give you a strong competitive edge in the design industry. If you’re looking for more information on the basics of how to design voice user interfaces, go check out this article.


*Co-authored by Jocelyn Contreras and Julie Branson

Originally published at https://www.crema.us.

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