UI / UX Design

Our UI Design Framework – 9 Keys of Great Usability

April 12, 2013

UI Innovation

Innovative UI design work leads to solid end-user experiences when creativity can build upon a solid plan.  It’s like a jazz musician improvising on a standard melody to make it soar. In both cases, a strong foundation is essential for innovation where the right brain (creative side) and left brain (logical side) are both engaged. Our framework analyzes both, and measures sites against best practices in order to reinforce strengths and point out weaknesses.

Our UI Design Framework
builds on the following 9 categories:

  1. Content – Does the site deliver value?
  2. Navigation – Can someone go from Point A to Point B?
  3. Creative Design – Do people want to look at your site?
  4. Functionality – Do the site’s features work as intended?
  5. Homepage – Does the page encourage people to stay and explore your site?
  6. User input – Can people enter information without frustration?
  7. Professionalism – How polished is the site’s presentation?
  8. Search – Can people find what they are seeking with search?
  9. Guidance – Does the site give feedback and cues to help navigation?

Fresh Consulting UI Report

Using the Framework to Innovate

Recently we delivered a comprehensive usability assessment for a large enterprise website of a publicly traded company. We evaluated the website using 170 criteria across the 9 categories. Here are a few examples:

  • Navigation – Clickable objects are clearly identified
  • Homepage – Page load time is minimal
  • Creative Design – Images convey meaning, not generic stock photos

For the 30 most significant criteria, we benchmarked industry standards to help with comparisons (data is often not meaningful unless compared). With the scorecard complete, we delivered a clear picture of how to improve the site.

The scorecard can be adjusted depending on the industry or market because every industry, business type, and online experience is unique. For example, functionality critical for an e-commerce site like Amazon may not use the same criteria as a content site like the New York Times.

The Science of UI Design

Most people don’t associate UI design with the logical left brain because the finished product is so connected to the designer and the design aesthetic. But UI work is more scientific and logical than the visuals that layer on top of the wireframes. Science is about systematically building and organizing knowledge, and the best usability draws on the logical left brain as a foundation to organize knowledge and ability. This foundation gives the right brain freedom to create, and it often sparks innovation. In our framework, we use the 9 categories of our UI Framework to assure we aren’t overlooking anything important when it comes to adding value.

Sophisticated Simplicity

Utilizing a comprehensive framework doesn’t mean the interface is going to be complex. Good UI designers apply universal principles of human behavior, but great UI designers innovate through insights into human behavior. For example, Hick’s Law encourages simplicity by asserting that users take longer to decide when faced with more choices. A talented designer anticipates how to minimize perceived choices on a given screen to maximize usability. Our framework helps designers analyze that.

References in Creating Our Framework:

To ensure we weren’t overlooking anything important, we reviewed other frameworks and resources on the topic. It reinforced our conclusion that each framework may need slight customization to be completely relevant to a given industry or business type. See below some of the helpful resources we analyzed:

The User Experience Honeycomb – Semantic Studios
Peter Morville’s 6 facets that lead to UX value.  The site must be useful, desirable, accessible, credible, findable, and usable.

Ten Laws to Design By – 3.7 Designs
An overview of design principles from Hick’s Law to the Pareto Principle to the Golden Ratio

247 Web Usability Guidelines – UserFocus
A framework of 247 guidelines to evaluate web usability

25-point Website Usability Checklist – Usereffect
The group’s method to cover critical elements from Accessibility to Navigation

Guidelines for Web Credibility – Stanford University
10 guidelines to boost your website’s credibility

Richard is a Digital Consultant, UX specialist, Certified Public Accountant, Matchwits Champion, life-long logolept, and capsaicin enthusiast.

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