3 Keys to Develop a Faster, More Intuitive User Experience

Kyrie Robinson, User Experience Design Partner at Silicon Valley Product Group, outlines the keys to developing a streamlined user experience that your customers will love.

3 Keys to Develop a Faster, More Intuitive User Experience

After being buried in code for months, developers can sometimes lose sight of how someone unfamiliar with the product will view and understand it. That’s where Kyrie Robinson, a user experience design expert and partner at Silicon Valley Product Group, comes in. She recently stopped by OpenView Labs to discuss why it is so important to design websites and software with the user in mind, and how impactful an intuitive user experience can be on customer satisfaction.
One point Robinson underscored for startups and expansion-stage companies is that if you get UX right the first time, your minimum viable product will be a success when it hits the market, and you can concentrate on adding features instead of having to go back to the drawing board to redesign your entire interface. Here are three keys she revealed to develop a faster, more intuitive user experience that boosts user adoption, satisfaction, and retention.

1) Provide a Clear Umbrella Structure

User Experience Design: Provide a Clear Umbrella Structure
Before you begin tweaking individual elements of your design, start with the basics. Robinson recommends that whatever you design — be it a website, a mobile app, or desktop software — be sure that the interface incorporates an umbrella structure.
Example of a Clear Umbrella Structure“The umbrella structure is the overall structure that lays out what the product can do for you,” Robinson says. In websites, for example, the umbrella structure is typically the navigation bar along the header. Robinson points to the iPhone’s central Phone app to demonstrate the umbrella structure in mobile, explaining that the five icons along the bottom of the screen for contacts, voicemail, and other features tell users right away what the main elements of the phone application are as soon as it loads.
Robinson cautions against overloading the umbrella structure. “The most common mistake I see is people getting [the umbrella structure] wrong with too many options,” she says. If your product is up to ten items in the umbrella, then you should pare it back. Along the same vein, Robinson suggests keeping an eye on how you’re labeling the elements. She recommends sticking to one-word names, so that users can “see at a glance what this does for me.”

2) Think Wormholes

User Experience Design: Nexus Structure
Another user experience aspect that Robinson strongly encourages all software developers to consider is nexus structure.
To demonstrate the appeal of nexus structure, Robinson again turns to the iPhone’s main Phone app. “When you tap on a contact,” she says, you see the “main elements of a contact that you expect,” but below those elements, “there are those other tasks” that include send message, start FaceTime, and add to favorites. If a user taps the send message button, then she is taken directly to the Messages app instead of having to navigate to the home screen, tap Messages, and search for the recipient there.
Nexus structure “is a form of navigation,” Robinson says, “but it separates mediocre design from great design,” since it allows users to “flip from one application to another easily through these wormholes.” Instead of forcing users to navigate the interface a single way, nexus structure lets them think and navigate according to the tasks that they want complete.

3) Focus on Empowering Users to Complete Tasks Faster

“When a user has a good experience,” Robinson says, “one of the first things they say that they liked about it is that it was fast.” Since users “equate fast with easy,” Robinson stresses the importance of making adjustments to your design to speed up user interactions and allow them to finish tasks faster, and she offers six ways to do so.

  1. Make the app work faster: The first and most obvious method, Robinson says, is to simply “make the app work faster.” This approach will “land squarely in the lap of engineering,” as your engineers will need to think of ways to make pages, searches, and results load faster.
  2. Simplify your users’ work flow: Look to pare down the number of screens your users need to view or the number of fields they need to complete in order to complete a given task or submit a form.
  3. Make sure your navigation is intuitive: Ideally, a user should be able to understand it at a glance. Umbrella structure will play a part here, as clear, one-word names for your navigation elements will right away point users in the right direction.
  4. Reduce the amount of text: Too much text impacts “how quickly users look at the screen, understand what they need to do, and get to the next step.” Every word counts, she stresses, so cut any fat you can find, including phrases like ‘please sign in here’ instead of just ‘sign in’ or, as Robinson puts it, “obvious instructions and obvious text.”
  5. Examine your graphics: “Graphics have a lot to do with how people read the page, perceive the page,” as well as “how quickly they can scan the page and understand where they are and what they need to do,” Robinson says. Make sure your graphics are “clean and not distracting,” so that your users “can perceive what the app is fast.”
  6. Optimize your calls to action: Buttons should look clickable with bright, high-contrast colors, she says, and they should be clearly labeled with one-word actions like ‘send’ or ‘submit.’ That way, a user’s eyes go right to your calls to action, and she understands right away what to do.

Additional User Experience Design Resources

Product Design Best PracticesAsk the Experts: Best Practices in Product Design
In conjunction with a workshop OpenView hosted on user experience process and product design, we gathered a panel of four industry experts — who each know a thing or two about designing successful products — to share their insights and expertise by providing best practices for designing products customers will love.
UX-ceptional: 5 User Experience Infographics You Need to See
Now more than ever, top notch user experience isn’t just a competitive advantage, it’s the difference between failure and success. These five infographics will provide you with the tips, info, and questions to ask to set you on the right track.
Watch the full video series of Kyrie Robinson on user experience design below and learn more about how she can help your company by visiting the Silicon Valley Product Group website. 
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What are your tips for developing a more streamlined user experience?

Kyrie Robinson
Kyrie Robinson
VP of User Experience

Kyrie Robinson loves to create world-class user experience and product design for consumer technology products. She has developed and led several successful UX teams at leading Silicon Valley companies. In particular she is well known for her work building and leading the original UX team at TiVo. At SVPG she was a design consultant for many high profile technology companies such as Chegg Chegg, Kno, Gilt, Zinio, LeapFrog, ReadingRainbow, Meebo, MobileIron, and Workiva.
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