User Experience

Effective Onboarding, Design Ecosystems and Why Design Thinking Still Matters

Below are some of my takeaways from An Event Apart (Seattle)— a conference for UX, content design, code and more. You can learn about this event through videosarticles, and resources.

Effective Onboarding

Luke Wroblewski share several data backed examples of how mobile apps can make the onboarding process more effective.

Before — Vevo App

One example was the Vevo App, which got rid of the initial onboarding screens resulting in +10% logins and +6% increase in completed signups. User research showed that most people didn’t read their value props and wanted to skip the initial set of screens. They found success in educating contextually later on in the app rather than super-imposing their onboarding content right at the start.

After — Vevo App

Here’s the key points:

  • Educate contextually
  • Remove all friction that distracts the user from experiencing product value
  • Get to product value asap — but not faster
  • Ruthlessly edit distractions from product value

Example: Google Maps got rid of initial onboarding screens but still asks for location as that’s the minimal amount of information necessary to get you to discover the main value prop of Maps.

He shared a lot of mobile stats and trends to emphasize the importance of understanding real usage and behavior to guide design priorities. He mentioned how the web is about getting an audience, mobile is about keeping your users highly engaged. Meaning it’s easier to attract more users on the web, but native app users spend 20x more time on mobile.

If we understand what the extremes are, the middle will take care of itself.
— Dan Formosa

Design Ecosystems

Beth Dean shared about how every product is a part of a larger ecosystem. If there’s no such thing as design without intent, we should aim to make good, intentional decisions by making the best behaviors the easiest and most rewarding.

One negative example is how autonomous cars and ride sharing have short term benefits for individuals (getting them from point A →point B) but offset costs to communities by not reducing overall traffic congestion or safety.

Rush hour in Copenhagen

One positive example is how Copenhagen became the world’s most livable city. Through investing in better public transportation and making the cycling experience safer and more convenient, it reduced the total number of cars on the road →less air pollution/less car accidents/reduced commute time →better quality of life for the entire city.

Trustworthy Brand Voice

Margot Bloomstein shared the importance of content writing that sets up the reader for success and allows them to make informed decisions.

  1. Voice — use an active voice; be consistent in how visual and verbal language is used
  2. Volume — cut the jargon, focus on key points of information

3. Vulnerability — revisiting previous content (through updates), prototyping in public, hosting other perspectives

People who are not confidence in what they’re getting either won’t buy or won’t be happy with what they get. So its important for them to be the decision maker, not us.
— Julie Govan, Crutchfield

Why Design Thinking and Design Systems Matter

Una Kravets shared why design thinking is necessary (even when it feels tedious). Loss of design thinking can lead to a mindset of “solutioning” too early, which results in development churn.

As everyone on team is responsible for product (regardless of job title), design thinking and design systems help the team have a common language to speak about product experience which helps bring alignment to the process.

GE Healthcare changed the diagnostic imaging experience for kids

Dan Mall shared how design systems give designers greater efficiency and consistency while freeing up time to do strategic/creative thinking. Good design systems are focused and should be specific to a company.

Slow vs. Fast Design

Jeffrey Zeldman compared “fast design” (customer service design, most of what we do on the web (e-commerce, flight service, insurance) with “slow design” (experiences that are content heavy and require a higher bar for comprehension like news sites, blogs). Most of what we do on the web is “fast design” — for people trying to get things done.

He explained how “slow design” patterns work best for experiences where content design is critical.

Bad content design happens when we design for conversion rather than absorption and legibility.

No one wins with bad content design (bad readability/ads for users →more ad blockers →fewer people seeing ads, which means little to no revenue).

How do you improve “slow design”?

  • Type hierarchy — use big, legible type
  • Visual contrast — minimal background to focus on content; whitespace
  • Art direction — use supporting design elements to tell your story; set an authoritative tone that matches the content you deliver

Less But Better

Rams by Gary Hustwit

During the conference, there was a screening of Rams by Gary Hustwit showcasing Dieter Rams, a world renown designer (see 10 principles for good design). Rams’ design philosophy of “Less But Better” emphasized functionality and reliable products that do their job then fade back.

He observed that digitization now is becoming more and more a part of our life and this diminished our ability to experience things, which can result in the sense of being “ruled” by our digital world. He warned against rapid obsolescence and challenged the creative community to reconsider what they are contributing to the world through design.

Learn more

Things I learned from IXDA
User onboarding UX teardowns