The Importance Of Good UX

on in Design and UX
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I know, I know, I say UX and everybody looks at me like it's some kind of STI or something. UX stands for User Experience and so incredibly important to web and app design these days. When users come to your website or downloads your app, they are looking for something that is a) easy to use, b) beautiful and c) easy to use! The user experience starts before a user has even selected your app, so you have to ensure everything from your marketing to the end use works well and gives people a reason to keep using it.

Take a look at the top apps in the iOS App store, specifically the ones that have been in the top 100 apps since their release. Obviously, not ones that were JUST released as they don't have any historical significance, but look at the all time top sellers and see what they have in common. You're going to find a lot of really good interface design that promotes quick and simple user adoption. Would you spend 4 hours a day playing Angry Birds if it was complicated to launch your little bird? Of course not. Bad interface and usability leads to a bad user experience.

I recently got a new alarm system that connects to my smartphone by use of an Alarm.com iOS app and web interface. While the web interface has it's own set of issues from a UX and usability standpoint, I want to speak specifically about the iOS app right now (They also have An Android app, which I assume is very similar). I mean no disrespect to whoever programmed this app, but you can tell that nobody with UI/UX experience was involved in the development. Programmers are GREAT and making apps functional and feature rich, but they are terrible (In my experience) with creating a good user experience.

Home Panel - StatusArming TabHistoryThe Alarm.com app is a prime example of this. While a tabbed interface can promote an excellent user experience, such is not the case here. If you take a look at the screenshots here, you can see that they waste a LOT of space, and break up everything into seperate pages. This causes a user to have to switch between multiple tabs everytime they open the app to get all the information. In less than 10 minutes, I put together the included sketch mock-up showing a MUCH better interface for usability.

I took all the information and functions that users are going to want as soon as they launch the app right on the main page. You have your status immediatly available with the ability to arm/disarm the alarm quickly along with an overview of the most recent history as soon as you enter the app. The settings and refresh buttons have been moved to the top bar that had lots of extra space available for these, and I removed the 'Powered by Alarm.com' text at the bottom. Yes, the App is called Alarm.com, we know who made it, you don't need to waste valuable real estate to tell us again. Users hate when you jam your brand down their throats.

a1sx2_Thumbnail1_new-interface.jpgI kept the tabs at the bottom using Icons to identify what is available. Now, this tab bar will change depending on what services you have with your alarm. I have a thermostat connected to mine, so that tab is displaying, I also presented a Lock icon for those who have their door locks connected as well (you bet they can do that!). The tab bar can easily accept more tabs as features are added and could be made to scroll with a flick or a small arrow button on the end if required. You could also make settings that allow users to change the order if they choose for their most used options.

Having worked with programmers of all kinds over the past decade, I have a very good idea of what is possible and the complexity involved of creating this layout. It wouldn't be overly difficult to achieve what my mock-up offers, and I'm positive many users would agree that it makes the app much more user friendly all around. Of course, the app could use some more features too, but that's not for this post.

My point is this, if you want people to continue to use your app, give you high ratings in the app stores and reduce your app support costs, spend the time and money required to provide a great UI/UX right from the start. Your users will thank you!

Kray Mitchell hails from Calgary, Alberta, and is an educator at heart. Through speaking, workshops, consulting and training, he aims to assist people with understanding the technology that affects their day to day lives.
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