Digital

User Interface and its Growing Significance

By: S. Sundararajan, Managing Director, i-exceed Technology Solutions

Today, digital is the way to go and most businesses are developing strategies to tap an increasingly tech savvy customer base. With apps being built for everything from managing finances to booking a house help, most businesses elicit a certain amount of user input with every interaction.

Globalization has seen businesses creating offerings that cater to a wide range of audience from different demographics. But then, how can a business address a customer base that has different interests, tastes, preferences, social conditioning, and much more?

Addressing a customer base is a vital step any business must take to stay ahead of the competition, if not, at least stay in the competition. The increased interest these days in user interaction is simply because of the sheer amount of data it generates. Data is the new oil, and making sense of it is crucial for any business. It is estimated that approximately 6.4GB of data moves across the internet every second. Out of this, a fairly large amount of data is being generated by a user interaction alone. Hence, understanding user interactions means coming up with the right business strategy that can make or break a business.

So what makes a good user interface (UI)? While some might be tempted to add as much functionality as possible, it couldn’t be further away from the truth. A well designed UI must be intuitive and self-explanatory. It should not demand for users to read a user manual because frankly, no one has the time.

Impact in business and brand perception

At a time when the spirit of entrepreneurship is as its peak, there are several businesses in market that are offering the same products or services. A well-designed user interface focuses on the overall user journey across all touch points (mobile, web, tablet, etc.) than on a single touch point. It is therefore essential to maintain a consistent user experience across all devices and interfaces for a satisfactory user journey.

When a user experience is proactive, users get a feeling of being appreciated and give them a reason to feel connected to a brand, product, or service. A well thought of UI can play a huge role in how businesses interact with their customers, vendors, and even their own employees. It reflects how well businesses understand the end-user needs and how far they are willing to go to create a meaningful experience.

One way to look at it would be to start with the branding experience itself. In a broad stroke, there are several components that could influence branding and hence help in promoting brand identity, customer experience, delivery, after service, and follow up. In the event that an expert would like to build a user experience around the brand, it must be understood that the connection is must always be with the brand and not with a single individual or entity. For example, a brand that deals with automotive service must have design elements embedded in their communication that makes it self-explanatory that the brand deals with automotive service. The same principle can be applied to all business alike.

While strategizing customer engagement ideas, the smallest of details and the most subtle of points have incredible effects in touching an emotional nerve of a one-time end-user that could potentially turn into a life-long customer.

Communicating without words

For anybody who has ever had to struggle with an unfamiliar language with even the simplest of daily things, it is understood that life becomes difficult to navigate through and frustrating. In such cases, instead of figuring out how something works, most users simply drop whatever it was they were doing and move on with their lives. If the same thing happened with a business, it would trigger a red flag indicating a sudden change in business strategy.

A more recent trend seen in displays and crowd communication is signage. For a global business, creating interaction strategies in multiple languages becomes a daunting and expensive affair. Today, most devices have a digital screen; be in a smart phone, remote control for music systems, microwaves, and air conditioners, work consoles, and so on. But in most cases, people just figure out how each device works because some icons and logos are simply self-explanatory. Studying iconography and creating intuitive user interfaces helps in easily speaking a language a customer understands with minimal effort. This way, every single detail, every piece of marketing, image, icon, drop shadow, and layout placement plays a key role in routing the user through a well thought of user journey which results in good interaction and good business.

Role of UI experts in today’s market

If a user has to rely solely on text to be guided through websites, messaging, and content, the communication is ineffective. Beginning with a UI design that is universal and language independent will open up any market from a local to a global one. Like the famous phrase – A picture speaks a thousand words. A clear and simple illustration communicates very effectively with a broad audience. A numerical rather than a textual representation of a number is universal. It’s a written concept that precisely communicates value regardless of how the reader pronounces it. Tradition is not quite the same as pattern since tradition never leaves style. One can be urban and contemporary and still communicate effectively to a traditional audience.

A UI expert must understand the mission and vision of a business. They must plan strategies around the different customer touch points, the niche in which they operate (if any), and other nuances that are critical to a successful business.

Challenges in Delivering good UI

The challenge in delivering good UI lies in finding the right technology to enhance the right parts of the user experience. UI designers can’t depend purely on technology as a solution to improve a poor user experience. While assessing technology, all stakeholders over all business functions should be involved in a usability testing process to come up with an extremely refined and intuitive user interface.

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