Delightful when met and dangerous when missed, we each bring a set of unspoken expectations to every interaction in life.
Delightful when met and dangerous when missed, we each bring a set of unspoken expectations to every interaction in life. Many times we are unaware of even our own expectations. Nonetheless, as designers, we must learn to consider the expectations of our users from the very beginning.
The two critical expectations can each be best expressed as in a single word: “what” and “how”.
What does the user expect when they visit the screen/page you’re designing? What problem are they trying to solve? What pain point are they trying to relieve?
Perhaps a father needs to purchase a jacket for his child. Or a CTO needs to identify which consulting firm she’ll select to audit her organization’s IT security. Or a teenager wants to connect with friends and be entertained.
Whether we need a warm coat, a multi-million dollar consulting engagement, or friendship and entertainment, we all bring these goals to every interaction.
As designers, our job is fundamentally about understanding who our users are and what they need. We must always keep this in mind as we design for our target audience.
Give your users what they need.
How does the user expect the mobile app, ecommerce website, or online dating platform to work?
This expectation is often easy to fulfill by simply considering and remaining consistent with the other experiences our users have on a daily basis.
As designers, we must be aware of existing conventions. Following the same tried and true layout for a content-driven marketing site may not be exciting. That’s ok. Your users probably aren’t visiting your site for excitement; they have a problem to solve and they clicked your link in the Google search results expecting to find a solution.
Give your users a consistent and predictable experience so they can find what they need.
Study and imitate the information flow of similar designs.
The flow of information, known as the information architecture (IA), for any digital product can be thought of as the map to how screens and pages are interconnected.
Every screen and page needs to be designed with the information architecture in mind. Where does this page fit into the user’s mental model of how this site is logically arranged?
Google has search results broken down by type: All, Images, Books, Video, etc…
Amazon has categories of products with secondary menus to guide customers into account management and order tracking.
The Big Picture
When considering an entire website or mobile app, the IA will define:
- What pages/screens link to one another
- How the user navigates (typically through header and/or footer elements)
Once we have our inter-page flows designed, we need to consider the hierarchy of information within each individual page:
- What’s the logical order of information (typically we start with the high-level and progressively expose the user to the details)
The information architecture is our blueprint. Take the time to map this out, even if it's just a sketch on a napkin, to define your design's context.
The User’s Goal
In the context of expectations, each and every user that visits your website or opens your mobile app expects to find something. As designers our job is to enable them to quickly determine:
- Does this screen/page have what they need?
- What is required of the user to produce the desired outcome?
Remember, our users rarely open our software because they want to focus on the software itself. They have a goal to accomplish. Our job is to empower them.
The Business’s Goal
Your users aren’t the only ones with goals. Whether you’re the founder of an early stage startup wearing many hats, or a senior UX practitioner at a Fortune 500, there are business goals which must also be accomodated. Those goals are almost always revenue-related.
In an ideal business, your customers’ goals align with the value provided by your product to generate revenue for the business.
Reality is rarely this simple and there are often tradeoffs to be made. As designers, we get to constantly juggle the interplay between the goals of our customers to maximize the value they receive from our products and the business’s goals of maximizing the revenue generated.
The Call to Action
Expectations, when met for our target audience, culminate in the user arriving at the Call to Action. This is often a free trial, newsletter signup, or other low risk and high intent action that will give us the opportunity to begin (or perhaps continue) an ongoing dialogue with the potential customer and build a relationship with them.
As designers our goal here is to bring the user to this call to action after answering their most immediate question:
Will this solve my problem?