I was hit by a relaunch of web application that I use often because it received a make over and I thought this a good situation to blog about my experience from a UX point of view =).
Yesterday I logged into a web interface of a service that I use very frequently and I was welcomed with a message:” We have launched a new version, take a tour or log in. We have updated the UI but the functionality did not change”.
With mixed feelings I did log in straight since I am brave and was surprised (positively).
The first impression was very good and clean. I thought this update was necessary since the service hadn't published any UI changes for a long time.
But after using the interface for a while I realized some of the common mistakes by doing an UI make over (paint over) have happened again.
Showing less information on the screen is in general a good thing. But it is not only about showing less or adding new, fancy controls, it’s more about what to show at which point of time. Notice I mentioned the factor time here.
What is the important piece of the UI that I want to use at this giving moment?
While the data displayed nicely with more white space I wanted to take action now. I wanted to use the software with the data but the important part was hidden in a drop down menu.
Basically I wanted to perform a certain action on a record and all my action buttons where hidden and I was kind of lost and searching around for help.
This could be a potential loss of a customer.
The former version of that application had a ’90-style-menu where all my actions where right next to me. Didn’t look slick but got the functionality.
So what is design without functionality? Nothing!
Reducing a UI is one of the hardest things to do and you have to be prepared to take bold decisions.
Given I am at this state of the UI (note that I introduced the word state here).
Important: Do not hand over the decision to the end user by presenting every possibility or make it configurable.
Sure, settings are useful and necessary but before you add just another setting remind yourself: you are the expert and you serve the end user what helps him or her to get their job with your software done efficiently.
Like with every decision it’s easier when you have hints and help. So do statistics and rely on them.
Which functionality are your customers using and which not?
Mix this information with your intuition as an expert and you will have perfect results.
When we as developers or UI/UX designers tend to optimize and automate our workflow to get our job done, our job is to do the same thing with our end users and costumers – optimize and automate their workflow.
To sum it up:
I want to close this blog post with a Steve Jobs quote because I think it perfectly fits to this topic.
"Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works" – Steve Jobs
Please comment on how you approach that task when you want to reduce your UI.
I am interested to hear from you.