Creating Beautiful Apps: Wonderful Web UX #FOWD

imageI’m lucky enough to have been to Disney Land in Florida. I was reluctant at first, but the whole experience was amazing. It was mainly down to the extraordinary care and attention that had been given to the customer experience, from the second you walk into the park until you leave (and it stays with you).

Richard Shepherd, front end lead for talked about how he stumbled across Marty Sklar and his book ‘Mickey’s Ten Commandments’. Marty was The Walt Disney Company’s International Ambassador for Walt Disney Imagineering, the part of Disney which designs and constructs the Disney theme parks and resorts across the world.

Mickey’s Ten  Commandments are the bible of great customer service  – and Richard noticed for this bible you could translate this as ‘great user experience’ on the web. Here’s how:

1. Know your audience


2. Wear your guest’s shoes

Don’t forget the importance of emotional, human factor in designing your app. We have an innate need to connect with other humans but, paradoxically, often shy away from human contact. However Facebook allows us to share emotional experiences and connect online in a way we feel is safe. Why create emotional connections through web apps? We have an emotional memory for events that are either very good – or very bad. If we can create emotional experiences for users they’ll remember them and even form a connection with them. We can do this by humanising our apps (‘I made this!’). Make people smile! Put you app in context – like the Pocket app (‘When you find something you want to view later, put it in Pocket’). Rdio does the same thing, putting the app in the centre of their customer’s world, visually and by using direct language. If you look at the simplehoney travel site it takes the user on a journey, putting users in holiday mode as soon as they start interacting. The UX creates an emotional connection and primes the user to buy. Tactics like sequencing (chunking down the steps a user needs to make) remove the barriers to purchase.

3. Organise the flow of people and ideas

What’s your story? What does your app represent? If you don’t give your app a personality then your users will give you one – and you probably won’t like it. How do you get personality into your app? Take a leaf out of Wufoo’s book – the language used and overall experience makes users aspire to be someone who uses it regularly. It proves you can maintain professionalism and still have a personality. So does Check out Aaron Walter’s templates for design personas – they’re a great way to start.

4. Create a weenie

Richard made sure he clarified what a weenie is – apparently it’s a visual landmark to let customers know where they are. So now you know.

5. Communicate with visual literacy

Apps should be beautiful. Of course they should … but why? Don Norman, co-founder and principle of the User Experience/Usability consulting firm, the Nielsen Norman group, said ‘Attractive things work better…’ We can understand this in the context of depth versus breadth processing. Depth first is when you’re anxious, laser focussed – when we’re stressed we focus deeply on one problem, to the detriment of everything else. In contrast, breadth first is a hit of dopamine – your app is making people laugh, it’s helping them make connections, to remember your app and ultimately find it easy to use.

6. Avoid overload and create turn-ons

Let customers choose what they want, when they want it. Delighters (turn-ons) are the fun parts. They put people in a positive state and create or reinforce personality. At they decided to personalise their email subscription page – with a fun element. The email features a member of staff’s picture. If a customer de-selects subscriptions she starts to put her coat on. It a surprisingly simple tactic that really works – people don’t want to see her put her coat on so stop unsubscribing. On the Kickstarter site you’ll find a pair of scissors at the bottom of the page. They serve no real purpose, but if you click on them they cut the bottom of the page off. It’s just fun! And the one we’ve all done, MailChimp – type ‘boredom’ into the search bar and a game of Asteroids takes over the page. But only if you’re signed in Winking smile

7. Tell one story at a time

If you overload your users it can backfire and you may become a victim of what Barry Schwartz termed ‘The paradox of choice’. We want choice – but only so much, otherwise we get paralysed by too many decisions, even worrying about choosing the wrong option. The Flickr menu presents users with no less than 57 choices. Compare that with Skyscanner that gives users only 10 options to choose from. The trick is to set smart defaults and reduce the number of options your user has.

8. Avoid contradictions and maintain your identity

Go beyond the browser and think about the whole experience from the minute the user enters your site or accesses your app to when they get the product/service they ordered. Order something from Mr Porter and you’ll get your clothes delivered in a beautiful white box encased in tissue paper. Wufoo send hand-written notes to subscribers thanking then for their business. Both of these companies take their online personality into the real world to provide a deeply personal customer service.

9. For every ounce of treatment, provide a ton of fun

Give your customers something – reward them for using your app or website. Take Codecademy as an example – they reward users with a badge for doing something right. And you can share it.

10. Keep it up!

Ask your users for feedback and measure the impact of what you’re doing. UX serves the business – it’s not part of the process, it is the process.

So why is great UX important? It allows us to have an emotional experience online. It makes users like and recommend your app. One final thought from Richard: aim for excellence! Take ‘like’ and turn it into love.


Published by Sara Allison

Sara is the editor of Ubelly - when not heads down scouring Ubelly articles for typos (and not always catching them), she's scouting for new writing talent. Give her a shout @SaraAllison if you've got something to say about development/design and want to be heard.

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