Good design comes down to knowing your end users—what they want, how they use your product, where they use it, and what relationships they form with it.
As designers, we can help cultivate relationships between our software and its users to create a great end user experience. Each year, a group of Patriot Software’s designers and developers head to Stir Trek.
The one-day conference is held annually in Columbus, Ohio. Stir Trek focuses on teaching developers the latest in technologies, techniques, and tools.
There are seven to nine different development and design tracks from the morning to the afternoon. Primarily, you find web-based applications for B2B and B2C.
Talking design and Hemingway
Talking design and Hemingway
I’ve been lucky enough to be able to attend two Stir Treks and hear experts from our local area talk. At this year’s event, I was honored to be chosen a speaker. I presented on how to encourage a great user relationship by designing with concise copy.
The topic of my presentation was, “What if Hemingway gave up writing for UXD?” Ernest Hemingway was a very terse writer and usually worked with minimal phrases.
Often, we use Hemingway’s principle in UXD: Don’t use a lot of words when you can use a few—or better, one—to get your point across.
Colorful, flashy designs get a lot of eyes. But, copy is the heavy lifter of most web interfaces. If you strip away all the colors and images, what you’ll find left is text.
Applying Hemingway’s idea of concise copy to web design helps users navigate your interface. Brief language makes it easy to understand the software.
Language as an interface
As a UX developer, I work in the SaaS space at Patriot Software. In SaaS, the period between a user’s first impression and onboarding is crucial. Today, end users don’t just expect good design. They demand it.
Consider this: my little credit union has very basic app. That app is sitting next to another app on my phone, like a large music-streaming site. One app has amazing production values, while the other is bare and basic.
Both are living in my phone, which is a very personal device that I keep in my pocket. I have a relationship with my phone and, through it, a relationship with my apps.
I’m going to judge these products based on how they treat me in each relationship. That relationship is born from how easy the apps are to use and how well they integrate into my life.
If one app is sitting next to the other, I can’t help but hold one to the other’s standard. I do this even if the apps are for different industries.
Is comparing the apps in that way unfair? Maybe. But, it’s the reality apps live in. It’s almost impossible not to draw comparisons between apps that live in the same device.
Devices affect the design
The way users interact with their devices has a profound impact on the web and web apps. Today’s user experience designers aren’t just building a mobile version of a website. They’re also building an intimate relationship with a customer.
Consider that our most common interaction with software was not touch before smartphones. When smartphones became a part of our everyday lives, we started manipulating design through touch. Through direct interactions, we began building deeper connections with our phones.
Now, think about where a user’s phone goes. Your customer puts their phone on the bedside table at night and uses it first thing in the morning. Or, they use it during a lunch break, at the store, or on a noisy subway ride.
Since devices are as mobile as their users, customers form strong relationships with your interface. Your design is not only going to be experienced at the user’s desk in a quiet environment. Instead, the user also interacts with the app in the louder, faster-paced beats of life.
Looking through the end user’s lens
At Patriot Software, we create accounting and payroll software for U.S. small businesses. We spend countless hours in our payroll system. But, our average user only interacts with our product about twice a month for an hour or less.
The amount of time we spend with our product as developers creates a different experience than the standard end user experience. Because we know the product differently, it all comes down to understanding our users.
We know our customers are not payroll experts, so they need an interface that is clear and easy to navigate. We also understand the software helps our customers complete a necessary, but not primary task.
Hemingway’s idea of concise copy comes into play when designing for our users. We want to create an interface where every interaction seems personal, feels intentional, and builds a relationship with the user.
Those are things we want to exude as user experience designers. Those are things we strive for behind the scenes. Our design should show that we care, and that we want to care, about the relationships users form with our product.