186. How to Build an Amazing UI/UX Design & Why You’re Overthinking It

20 takeaways from this talk:

00:00:01 UI/UX conferences are full of speakers offering tips and general advice on how to immediately fix your website design. In fact “there are very few known techniques that can accurately and consistently shape a good UI/UX,” and most of them are learned through experimentation.

4 popular trends on website UI/UX design:

00:01:28

Beauty comes second. User interface is what your website looks like; user experience is how your users get from point A to point B. Many websites mimic the most popular websites such as twitter and pinterest, but there are also plenty of successful companies who have ‘terrible’ design.

00:03:01 Users dislike change. Reddit and Craigslist are known for their lack of concern for UI/UX design, and yet remain very popular sites with users. In one felll swoop, Digg completely overhauled their website design, and was so considered by its users to be a really bad idea that users rejected it and many abandoned Digg for Reddit; this is how Reddit became successful, and Digg was forced to completely reset their business and user base.

Ebay’s original website was a very simple layout with a strange yellow background that was a part of their theme. Then one day they yielded to the statistics and trends of the time, cleaned up their image, added more Google-esque white space, and changed that odd yellow theme to white. The result: people complained, especially about removing the yellow background. In response, Ebay returned the background to yellow, and over the span of one year, very slowly and discretely changed that yellow color to white.

00:06:17 Make users feel smart. Anytime your design causes people to feel stupid, lost, or confused, you decrease the chance that person will return to your site.

00:06:55 Familiarity equals speedy learning. As popular sites set trends – such as the minimalist side-bar menu that are quickly understood to be menus and let users feel smart as they navigate your site – other websites are pulled into the trend simply because users become familar with those layouts. Just because a UI element is popular doesn’t mean it is appropriate for your target demographic.

4 steps to building an amazing UI/UX experience:

00:08:27 Narrow your scope and define precisely who you are. The more narrow your business plan, target user, investor pitch, etc., the more you distinguish yourself as unique and avoid the trap of using fancy, popular words that make you appear to be just another ordinary company. Don’t vaguely define your business’ first adopters as young technology enthusiasts in their mid-20s. That isn’t narrow enough.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Recall in Blair Enn’s talk 10 Proclamations to Win New Clients Without Pitching that your branding reputation  and expertise is your only meaningful differentiator; it is how you battle for control with your client concerning your competition and the client’s other alternatives. When you brand yourself as an expert in a narrow focus, then your personality is irrelevant because it’s the depth of your expertise that the client is after. Thing is, once you narrow your focus, this requires changing how you offer the services you offer, because the clients who hire you on your expertise will have very specific marketing and communication challenges that won’t be solved using a generalist offer.

For more information on structuring your communication to define who you are and why people should buy your product, invest in your startup, or refer you to their professional network, read the book The Jelly Effect by Andy Bounds.]

Amazon first got started in the narrow market of selling new books only. It wasn’t until after it had established itself that it became a huge online shopping destination for everything. Likewise Google was only a search engine until it cornered the market and then expanded. Twitter began as an SMS platform only.

It’s unerstood that as your business grows you will open up your target audience to more and more users, but at the beginning narrowing your scope and target audience provides direction for your A/B testing, which helps speed up production and development time as you seek to only meet that one small niche’s needs while arming your marketing department with the insight needed into the target consumer you’re targeting; all of which saves you time and money.

Kill it with just one precise thing, then diversify.

00:16:18 Define personas to further personify your target audience. Don’t just refer to your target user as ‘some group;’ give them a precise name, age, picture, personality, address, income, job, calendar of events in their typical day, etc. The deeper you get into the mind of your target audience, the better you’ll be at meeting their needs.

Storyboard your business model and website to identify consumer journeys your users will likely take, and dead ends in your UX that will prevent your users from converting.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: For more on defining personas, check out the books The Advertising Concept Book: A complete guide to creative ideas, strategies and campaigns by Pete Barry and Copywriting: Successful writing for design, advertising, and marketing by Mark Shaw.

For more on storyboarding, check out:

00:18:31 Now STOP and build! Once you’ve identified and personified your target audience, and then storyboarded your business and website, STOP thinking and analyzing, and start building! Here are some tools to help you:

00:23:02 Analytics and data collection are imperative once your product is live because it shows you who your users really are and what they are really doing. This information allows you to focus on the things that are most important to them and not waste your time fixing useless options nobody uses.

rohan puri on UX/UI design for Harvard University

Ycombinator has developed a very simple template used by most startups that pass through their program:

  1. Company name/logo
  2. Concise ‘what we do’ sentence
  3. Call to action

00:26:47 Simplify. “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex and more violent. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.” – Albert Einstein

Make your product too simple to use, and you risk users using it in a way you didn’t expect and having no way to know exactly what went wrong, and why.
Exposing your users to 4-5 ideas and monitoring how they use your product may give you a clearer direction to take with your product.

00:37:11 As an entrepreneur analyzing consumer journey’s on your website, ask yourself:

  • What path(s) do you want your users to follow?
  • What path(s) do your users typically follow?
  • How can you modify your UX to redirect users to your chosen path?

As an entrepreneur, you want one thing (money) and your users want one thing (X), so you need to find a way to connect the two.

00:40:33 With user interface, maybe your users don’t read titles, and skip right over them because they find them irrelevant. Maybe you can remove those titles to save space, and instead invest that free space somewhere else in your UI that users do pay attention to.

Some users consider time stamps for blog posts and comments important; other users don’t care at all about how old the information they are browsing is, as long as it is relevant and useful to them.

00:46:00 Uber’s account creation is complex and requires multiple steps:

  1. Download the app
  2. Create an account
  3. Enter credit card information
  4. Confirm identity

So to make this process easier Uber:

  • Offers 20€ off your first ride special offers
  • Creates an algorithm that allows you to take a picture of your credit card and Uber will automatically identify the numbers on it.

00:46:50 To increase user retention (the amount of users who return to your site/app and make it a part of their daily behavior), Quora uses analytics to identify which topics you like, and then teases your curiosity by emailing you relevant questions without the answer, enticing you to click on the question to discover the answer.

00:49:11 Consider leaving your website’s registration page where consumers have to take the steps of inputting their personal information until after your user has already used your product for free and the only way to get final benefit from your product is to either sign-up or purchase. If they’ve already invested time, they’re much more likely to complete the conversion process.

00:50:23 Some apps are so simple that the consumer journey is understood and easy to follow. Other apps such as Pinterest and Facebook have amassed so much information on the screen to browse through that their user’s desired user pathway may be overlooked or avoided, and so subtle popups, step-by-step procedures, and prompts are expertly set into place to nudge users onto the desired pathway, or even to point out new UX updates that have occurred since the last time you logged on.

00:53:00 Video introductions on the homepage are great for hardware products because those types of products tend to be hard to evaluate without being able to touch and use before buying. Software videos done in cartoon telling you the story “This is Bob. Bob has a problem with X and Y and so he…” can be great in explaining things to kids and potential investors, but with software perhaps the best way is to drop the user into the middle of your product and let them experience it for themself.

00:54:57 Adapting to users versus training and modifying user behavior. Again, as an entrepreneur your priority is always, always to make money. Starting your business with the mentality of “I’ll figure out how to make money later on” just isn’t a good answer.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Recall in Oussama Ammar’s talk Managing Your Professional & Private Life that one of the best ways of keeping your storyline realistic, measurable, and positive is to maintain an entrepreneural CV (resume).

For example, many entrepreneurs optimize their company to obtain as much seed funding and Series A investment money as possible, and many entrepreneurs would rather gamble and turn down bad or mediocre offers in the hopes of a better offer. But now consider this from the perspective of the entrepreneural CV: that actually raising the funds and selling your company is an accomplishment that VERY, VERY few entrepreneurs can actually put on their CV; that the great majority of startups fail.

If you were to strategically accept a mediocre investment offer, then you have set yourself apart from all those other entrepreneurs, and this accomplishment will be a permanent fixture on your CV.

If, however, you hold out for a better offer, and that better offer never comes, then you’ll will have nothing to put on your CV other than a failed business attempt.]

00:56:24 When Reddit first started, their first users wanted to up- and down-vote already shared links; and weren’t interested in actually sharing links onto Reddit themselves. So the founders had to do ALL of the posting and arbitrarily move the posts up and down until people started thinking “I want to be on Reddit’s homepage, so I’m going to share content!” It wasn’t until consumers began thinking this that Reddit took off.

Sometimes you have to do everything yourself to give your product momentum until it catches on with others, but don’t forget your goal is to make money.

01:02:31 Whenever you see an unexpected result, you always want to take a step backward rather than modifying that same thing further.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Recall in Deepak Malhotra’s lecture 20 tips to better negotiate your job offer & compensation package that at every stage in a discussion, whenever someone asks you a question or says something ambiguous or that you weren’t expecting, investigate and ask for clarification so you understand the situation. The better you understand the situation, the more wisely you can respond to it.]

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