AMSTERDAM — Sept. 10, 2010 — From desktop applications, to websites, to cell phones and most recently to tablets. In the past decade the world of computing (and subsequently the wider world itself) has undergone a fundamental paradigm shift. However, I believe we are still in the early stages of what is called the pervasive computing revolution – where computer interaction becomes an ever more frequent part of our daily lives and increasingly takes forms other than traditional desktop or notebook computers.
Kalem Fletcher, director, UI Centric
As a result of this revolution, people are exposed to computer user interfaces of one type or another many times during the course of a day. Human-computer interaction is becoming increasingly intertwined in our lifestyles.
Consumers Have Choices
This pervasive computing revolution brings options and a new dimension to the market. Today, consumers are more frequently making purchasing decisions based not on what something does but how it is done and how it integrates with their life — both at work and at home. With functionality becoming ever more ubiquitous, the user experience is becoming the new battleground for the hearts and minds of users and customers.
Your UI Is Also the Storefront to Your Application
My experience in user testing suggests an important principle: often, a consumer’s entire perception of an application’s functionality and features depends on the quality of its user interface design.
The most obvious evidence for this is in the small-form-factor device market, such as MP3 players and cell phones, where functionality is more or less comparable. Consumers make purchasing decisions based on the look and feel of these devices (both hardware and software). This principle is also visible in the website and enterprise application markets, where users tend to migrate to user experiences that they perceive to satisfy their functional needs even when often there are competing products in the marketplace that may have equal or better functionality.
This means that a quality user interface is now essential to the commercial success of any application, device or any other computer interface.
So what are the main factors of a successful user experience?
Excite and Engage Your Customers
To stand out in an ever more crowded and fickle marketplace I believe application vendors must do more than simply compete on features, and present more than just a “pretty” UI.
Today’s users expect a user interface that is both beautiful and engaging. The UI must anticipate and adapt to their needs. It must be simple and intuitive to use. Above all it must invite the user to explore and discover the features available in the application so that the unique selling points and reasons to purchase or stay can be made immediately apparent to the user.
Building UIs in this way requires a paradigm shift from the old ways of having software developers responsible for everything following the functional specifications.
Today, using modern UI tools such as Microsoft Expression Blend, information architects and graphic designers can take charge of the user experience in ways that were not possible before. Graphic designers can design not only the look of an application, but also its feel by meticulously designing the transitions and animations essential to an engaging user experience, without the need for a developer. Information architects can design the entire user journey of an application in a matter of hours rather than days.
Kalem Fletcher is a director of
, a world-leading user interface design company with offices in London, New York and Mexico. UI Centric has delivered advanced user experiences for some of the world’s most innovative brands such as Panasonic, Microsoft, Pfizer, BT and Telmex.