As a part of the creative team at Zion & Zion, I attended the rigorous, three-week virtual UX conference hosted by the Nielsen Norman Group (NN/g). The conference was originally set to be located in San Francisco, California but was modified to become an international virtual conference due to COVID-19. It was exciting to be learning and working with UX professionals from around the globe.
The conference was divided into 12 four-hour sessions across a three-week period. All 12 sessions were packed with information that provided me with an immense amount of new knowledge and insight into the world of UX. I was excited to share what I learned with my team and start applying it to our work.
To create a networking-friendly environment, NN/g created Slack channels and groups so attendees and leaders could easily communicate with one another. The slack channel is available for use after the conference as well. I was able to meet so many incredible minds through this networking tool as well as within the conference itself.
Every course I attended left me curious and excited to learn more. As the conference ended, and I exited from my zoom meetings one final time, I began to reflect on all that I had learned. Below are a few of my key takeaways.
What Is Everyone Else Doing?
We are taught from a young age to focus on what we are doing not what our peers are doing. This is great advice in most circumstances, but in the world of UX, it just does not make sense. We live in a world where users are on multiple websites a day. If users had to relearn how to use a website every time they wanted to switch tabs, productivity and sales would drop tremendously. When buttons and links aren’t where users expect them to be, they get frustrated and abandon their task at hand—and rightfully so!
Jakob’s Law states: Users spend most of their time on other sites. During one of my sessions, we reviewed a usability test where the user spent 20 minutes trying to find a phone number to call for customer support. This user repeatedly scrolled to the footer of the page hoping that he must have missed the number the first 30 times he looked. This repetitive action occurred because users expect the customer support information to be at the bottom of the page since that is where it is most commonly found on other sites. Navigating through your website should be easy for users, not a challenge.
Another reason to gain insight into what your competitors are doing is simply because your potential customers have. The most common approach when looking for a new service or product is to compare and contrast. If you neglect to see what your competitors are doing, you cannot hope to exceed them.
Attractive Things Appear to Work Better
Chefs have integrated the saying “People eat with their eyes” into their food. UX designers have also included the same concept into their work. People like pretty things, it is as simple as that. The aesthetic-usability effect discusses user’s propensity to perceive visually appealing products as more usable—even if they aren’t actually more efficient. Even though this is true, you shouldn’t rely on aesthetics alone. Good digital design is a balance of usability and design.
When users come to a website hoping to learn a certain piece of information, they assess important areas such as, navigation labeling and grouping, headlines, content, and call-to-actions. After evaluating the available information, the user will then take an action with hopes that it will bring them closer to their goal. The magnitude to which users can anticipate what they’ll find if they pursue a certain route on a website of page is referred to as information scent.
Information that is viewable on the initial load of the page is known as the area above the fold. The area above the fold strongly impacts the information scent. In fact, 57% of browsing time is spent viewing information above the fold. This is an important piece of information that should guide the way you design pages. Users should be able to understand who a company is and what they do without having to manipulate the screen. The majority of the user’s attention is focused to the top of the page, so you should place the most important information at the top. When designing, it is important to keep in mind the different devices and resolutions your customers use.
Another important thing to note is to avoid creating a false floor or an illusion of completeness. This happens when the visible content on the screen appears to be complete, when in fact more information exists outside the viewable area.
Guiding the User
To help guide the user through your site efficiently, you need to understand how people look at a page. Users’ eyes move very quickly because they are scanning for relevant information. By understanding how users scan for information, you can make sure your sites and digital products are created to streamline the scanning process.
Users read in an “F-Pattern,” meaning more time is spent reading at the beginning of lines of text and at the top of the page, than the end of a sentence or bottom of the page. Users quickly skim the text mostly relying on subheadings to help them decide if they want to read the entire section. This is why it is important to establish hierarchy in text-based content; users want the content to be predictable.
When listing items, be constant. Place the same information in the same location for each item and utilize consistent photography.
If you want to use a zigzag layout for your list, make sure the images have strong informational value. Users tend to ignore decorative images. If the first image in the list is lacking any informational value, the user learns to ignore them moving forward. If you are using a zig-zag approach with non-informational images, the user then has to make a mental note each time to go back and forth while reading your content and will most likely ignore the text as well.
The world of UX is full of information, research, and ideas; this article only discusses a minor portion of them. Even though I never left my at-home-office, I felt truly immersed into this conference and learned so many new techniques and ideologies. I am so grateful I was able to attend this conference and meet many other attendees and am excited to share this knowledge with the team at Zion & Zion.