User Experience

Design

Multiple devices, ever-growing customer expectations and increasingly complex sales & service journeys are creating new challenges for businesses. Our UX design experts help you navigate the new digital playbook and quickly turn complex functionality into beautifully intuitive, digital designs that delight customers, and grow your business.

WE HELP YOU

  • Grow your sales by inspiring customers with beautiful, robust, intricately responsive digital designs
  • Gain competitive advantage by evolving the right design quickly via our proven, rapid ‘test & learn’ approach
  • Drive customer satisfaction by embracing digital design thinking in your products & services
  • Embed UX design skills in your team

OUR APPROACH

By blending compelling creative visuals with pragmatic UX design thinking, we can help you create something truly special – an efficient, integrated design with intuitive interactions across every digital touchpoint. Our iterative, research-driven ‘test & learn’ process mitigates risk and delivers tangible results you can action quickly.

Newt’s agile user experience design services include:

  • Rapid prototyping
  • Responsive web design
  • User interface design
  • Interaction design
  • User centred design
  • Experience design
  • Creative design
  • Digital design

“Newt landed quickly, bringing highly skilled and passionate resources with deep industry knowledge.”

CHARLOTTE FAIRBAIRN
HEAD OF DIGITAL, MY-WARDROBE.COM

THE NEWT DIFFERENCE

Usability and usefulness are the linchpins of any successful digital product and service. Our team of UX experts understand the trends and standards of modern interface design and work with you to find the best solution for your needs. Every design we create is tested in detail – both internally and with customers – to ensure it meets the highest standards in quality, efficiency, usability and accessibility. And because we don’t believe in heavy paper deliverables, we deliver innovative user-centred and engaging designs in a fraction of the time.

OUR UX DESIGN WORK

It’s not rocket science, it’s smart design

Helping Tesco Drivers Deliver to You

Fashion, Flows and Mobile First

OUR UX THINKING

How to beat the challenges facing Chief Customer Officers – Part 3

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But who is my customer?

How to beat the challenges facing Chief Customer Officers – Part 3 of 3

Key insights into the best ways to cultivate a customer-centric culture.

BY
AMANDA SALTER

Strategy Director

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In the first two articles in the series we looked at the challenge of who ‘owns’ the customer and how to manage diverse departments. Here we continue to look at the challenges facing CCOs.

The question of ‘Who is my customer?’ is particularly challenging for B to B to C organisations. Should you focus on your direct customer – i.e. the business you’re providing services or products for – or the end user?

Our principle is always this – for quicker results, start closer to home before branching out. This means starting with your immediate customers first (i.e. the B to B side of things), and focus on the end user later (i.e. the B to C). This is because it’s always easier to get results when you are on more familiar territory.

As an addition to this we’ve recently seen a welcome shift to include employees and colleagues in the “customer” pool as well. After all, they’re your internal customers and without them on side, your vision will struggle to take off.

But this is also where things can become a little trickier. How do you choose whether to optimise for employees or customers? Is the state of your internal organisation processes and tools the biggest thing that is hindering your overall customer experience? Or will improving your customers’ experience provide better results? If you’re unsure, then it might be best to start with your customers. Here the impact and benefit of any changes will be more visible to everyone, thus helping to build support for the rest of your initiatives.

What you can do:

  •      Make day-to-day improvements

Don’t underestimate the impact of improving life at work for your employees, one department at a time.

Why? You can’t convince your employees to deliver a great customer experience if their own tools, systems, and processes give them a terrible work experience.

  •      Always go for the biggest win first

When you’re faced with a choice of where to prioritise your efforts, always go for the thing that will give you the biggest impact first.  

Why? In the early days of establishing credibility as a business unit, it’s really important to demonstrate results and ROI quickly. You can then build on early success to fund and fuel later initiatives. Simple idea but it still works.

  •      Map your customer journey

Customer journey mapping is a great way to uncover new opportunities.

Why? You can use this technique to focus on your customers (and the end user) to identify gaps in your product or service offering.  

  •      Broaden your horizon

If everything close to home is going ok and you’re looking to spot new opportunities to drive value, then look to your customers’ customers.

Why? Focusing on your end user can help you uncover and address new needs that can expand your service portfolio and yield better results.

That finishes our round up of the key nuggets from Sands’ article, and our take on them. If you’d like to find out more about any of the ideas, please drop us a line at info@newtidea.com

Read more

This recent McKinsey report has some interesting ideas on the importance of building a business case to secure buy in and build momentum: Linking the customer experience to value by Joel Maynes and Alex Rawson, McKinsey & Co 

 

Other articles in this series:

Part 1 - Who owns the customer

Part 2 - How to manage diverse departments

Part 3 - But who is my customer?

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How to design responsibly

Universal design principles and why banks need them – Part 3

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How to design responsibly

Essential lessons from the founder of sustainable design, Victor Papanek.

 

BY
ZOE LESTER

Visual Designer

Victor Papanek was a designer and educator, whose teachings on responsible design have not only stood the test of time – they’ve become more relevant today than ever.

Papanek believed designers have a social responsibility to only create products that are useful and environmentally friendly. By this, he means made from materials that suit the purpose and can be disposed of in a safe, eco-friendly way. The alternative, Papanek points out, are mass-produced, useless products that end up as garbage, cluttering the landscape and potentially polluting the air we breathe. For example, the electric carrot peeler was an unsustainable, short-term fashion item that had a long-term impact on the environment.

Instead of creating next year’s landfill addition, Papanek urges designers to design for real needs. Using lab goggles as an example, Papanek pointed out the flaws in many modern designs. Lab goggles are built from plastic and treated as disposable as they have a weak spot across the bridge of the nose, which breaks under pressure. This provides a clear opportunity to make goggles durable and long lasting. Or, if the intention is for them to remain disposable, they should be made from different, greener materials.

Papanek may have been writing this in the 70s, but it’s a problem that hasn’t been solved. Apple has recently been criticised by Tony Fry for its choice of glass steel for the next iPhone. Fry points out that glass steel is the strongest material ever made and could possibly last for 50,000 years. But it’s being used for a phone with a life expectancy of 3-4 years.

Papanek – and Fry’s – key message is one of sustainability. Designers need to think ahead and apply common sense to avoid the short-sighted decisions that have brought us to the brink of environmental crisis.

“There are professions more harmful than industrial design, but only a few of them. And possibly only one profession is phonier. Advertising design, in persuading people to buy things they don’t need, with money they don’t have, in order to impress others who don’t care…Never before in history have grown men sat down and seriously designed electric hair brushes, rhinestone-covered file boxes, and mink carpeting for bathrooms, and then drawn up elaborate plans to make and sell these gadgets to millions of people.”

Victor Papanek

Top 5 ways to design for sustainability

    1. Look at yourself first
      At the risk of sounding like a self-help book; change does in fact start with the yourself. The point is to understand that as a designer, we are both creator and destructor. By acknowledging this, we can understand that we are also part of the problem and solution.
    2. Continually evolve
      At the end of every project, ask yourself what could you have done if circumstances had been different? This is an important question in order to set better goals and create better solutions next time.
    3. Align your goals with the challenges of the day
      The UN Sustainable development goals are a universal call to action for governments, business and people to make a positive change for the planet. Use these as starting point to prioritise which ones are important to your organisation. Then use this as a framework for your goal setting.
    4. Adopt an Agile approach
      In software development, an Agile approach is used to let teams evolve solutions as they move through projects, taking into account user needs, feedback and risks. Imagine if this could be done across every idea that’s put into the world. It would become easier to choose the right things and do more good in the world.
    5. Learn from nature
      In nature, there is no waste. When life ends, it provides food and nourishment to other animals or the earth itself. In a utopian world, we would be able to apply this principle to products as well as society. Making use of everything, reducing our reliance on landfills, and making the planet a better place for everyone.

This article forms part of Zoe Lester’s MA in Design and Environment at Goldsmiths. To learn more about her methodology and what she’s been up to, email her at zoe@newtidea.com

Fry, Tony (2012) Steel: UnSettling the Iron Planet, October 29, 2012. Available from: https://vimeo.com/53962609

Papanek, Victor (2011) Design for the real world, Thames & Hudson – London

Find out more about universal design principles:

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Universal design principles and why banks need them – Part 2

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The importance of being accessible

Make your website work for all users, and everyone, including your business, will benefit.

 

BY
ZOE LESTER

Visual Designer

Accessibility is not just a legal requirement, it’s an essential part of best practice design. It increases usability, lets more people use your service, helps with mobile web design, and benefits SEO.

But there’s more to it than simply using legible font sizes, linear layouts and the right colours. You might find you need to design in a completely different way, for example some users with motor disabilities may prefer keyboard use only. Other times guidelines might seem contradictory. For example, using bright contrasts is advised for those with low vision, while some users on the autistic spectrum prefer low contrasts.

In other words, there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Instead, take time to understand the challenges facing different users, adapt your designs accordingly, test extensively, and make the best compromises to suit your customers.

To help you do this, check out these handy guidelines from the team at Gov.uk on how to design for different accessibility needs.

Designing for users of screen readers

Do:

  • describe images and provide transcripts for video
  • follow a linear, logical layout
  • structure content using HTML5
  • build for keyboard use only
  • write descriptive links and heading – for example, Contact us

Don’t:

  • only show information in an image or video
  • spread content all over a page
  • rely on text size and placement for structure
  • force mouse or screen use
  • write uninformative links and heading – for example, Click here

designing for screen readers
Designing for users on the autistic spectrum

Do:

  • write in plain English
  • use simple sentences and bullets
  • make buttons descriptive – for example, Attach files
  • build simple and consistent layouts

Don’t:

  • use bright contrasting colours
  • use figures of speech and idioms
  • create a wall of text
  • make buttons vague and unpredictable – for example, Click here
  • build complex and cluttered layoutsDesigning for users on the autistic spectrum

Designing for users with physical or motor disabilities

Do:

  • make large clickable actions
  • give form fields space
  • design for keyboard or speech only use
  • design with mobile and touch screen in mind
  • provide shortcuts

Don’t:

  • demand precision
  • bunch interactions together
  • make dynamic content that requires a lot of mouse movement
  • have short time out windows
  • tire users with lots of typing and scrolling

Designing for users with physical or motor disabilities
Designing for users who are D/deaf or hard of hearing

Do:

  • write in plain English
  • use subtitles or provide transcripts for video
  • use a linear, logical layout
  • break up content with sub-headings, images and videos
  • let users ask for their preferred communication support when booking appointments

Don’t:

  • use complicated words or figures of speech
  • put content in audio or video only
  • make complex layouts and menus
  • make users read long blocks of content
  • don’t make telephone the only means of contact for users

Designing for users who are D/deaf or hard of hearing
Designing for users with dyslexia

Do:

  • use images and diagrams to support text
  • align text to the left and keep a consistent layout
  • consider producing materials in other formats (for example, audio and video)
  • keep content short, clear and simple
  • let users change the contrast between background and text

Don’t:

  • use large blocks of heavy text
  • underline words, use italics or write capitals
  • force users to remember things from previous pages – give reminders and prompts
  • rely on accurate spelling – use autocorrect or provide suggestions
  • put too much information in one place

 

designing for users with dyslexia

The content for the posters came from the accessibility team in Home Office Digital. Led by accessibility leads Emily Ball and James Buller, they are a group of twelve, each specialising on these conditions: blind and visual impairment, dyslexia, autism and ADHD, D/deaf and hard of hearing, mental health and motor disabilities.

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The full range of posters

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Universal design principles and why banks need them – Part 1

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Seven crucial lessons to learn from the new breed of mobile banking services

 

Mobile banking is continually evolving. To keep up, banks need to adapt to new universal design principles that better meet customer needs.

 

BY
ZOE LESTER

Visual Designer

There is no getting away from the fact that mobile is not just the future of banking, it’s the here, now and everything. Since the 2008 financial crisis, a new breed of bank has emerged, starting with Metro bank in 2010. Recently, new players like Monzo are tipping the balance, offering services that are better equipped to respond to customers’ needs. At the flick of a screen, customers can see exactly where their money is going. They feel in control, and this is a powerful thing for both customers and banks.

So how does this new breed of bank do it? Well, firstly Monzo is not bound by the same systems that legacy banks have to deal with, and therefore has much more technological freedom. But fundamentally, they put customers in the driving seat. If a customer doesn’t like their bank, they can just change their app. As a result, banks are often on the back foot, creating bolt ons and struggling to keep up with the market. New banks understand the importance of user experience, so design for their customers’ needs and make mobile banking a priority.

This is not groundbreaking. Mpesa the African mobile money network has been providing customer-centred mobile banking services for over 15 years on low tech phones with high battery life (because Africa has an energy problem). Using only text messaging, they can even serve the 30% of the African population that is not connected to the internet. Therefore bridging long distances, times for banks transfers, political disruption, living in rural areas without banks close by, and demographics – as people of all ages can use it. 40% of Kenya’s GDP flows through this simple system.

The key thing to take away here is that the solution is designed with the market in mind. In recognising this we can draw a connection between customer needs and the application of universal design principles. Monzo creative director, Hugo Cornejo quotes “universal design” as the secret of his team’s success.

Here are our top seven universal design principles for banking services: Cornejo credits the first four as underpinning the way Monzo was designed.

Example of Monzo’s animations

1. The Aesthetic Bias

Aesthetic designs are perceived as:

  • Easier to use
  • More readily accepted
  • Used more frequently
  • Promoting creative thinking and problem solving

Key take-away: The better it looks, the more people will like and use it. 

Example of Affordance for door opening

2. Affordance

Affordance recognises that some objects and environments are better suited to certain functions than others. Basically it gives clues to how something should be used. For example, drawing a 3D button on a computer interface makes it look a physical button, and therefore people are more likely to press it.

Key take-away: The more intuitive your designs, the easier they’ll be to use. 

Example of mistake-proofing

3. Poka-Yoke

A poka-yoke means to mistake-proof your design. It literally stands for avoid (yokeru) mistakes (poka). It lets you prevent, correct, or draw attention to customer errors as they occur. This can be addressed by making actions easy to undo, or by calling out errors through messaging.

Key take-away: Factor customer mistakes into your design and let them quickly fix them as they go.

Example button size and actual target size

4. Fitts Law

Fitts Law is vital when designing for mobile. It states that there is a correlation in the time taken to reach a target depending on distance and size. It is applicable for rapid pointing movements, not moving targets. For designers, this means being acutely aware of where you position things on screen. For example, making controls distant or smaller when they are not needed so they aren’t used at the wrong time.

Key take-away: Bring tools to the forefront when needed, and minimise them when they’re not.

Examples of different forms of iconic representation

5. Iconic representation

Iconic representation reduces performance load, conserves display and control areas, and makes signs and controls more understandable across cultures. There are four types of iconic representation:

  • Similar – consider similar icons when representations are simple and concrete
  • Example – use example icons when representation is more complex
  • Symbolic – consider symbolic icons for well-established and recognised symbols
  • Arbitrary – consider arbitrary when the relationship to the action has to be learned

Generally icons need to be labelled and share a common visual motif for optimal performance.

Example of inclusive signage and alternatives to photo avatars

Do consider that icons like the male and female to signify toilets or photo realistic avatars may exclude and or expose certain people. As vocabulary and understanding expands around these issues, icon designs need to be increasingly neutral in order to signify inclusivity.

Key take-away: Use icons to provide easy-to-understand visual references.

Example of alignment

6. Alignment

Alignment lets you organise your design in a way a person will naturally scan a screen. This makes it easier for them to use the service. Often elements are aligned in rows and columns or along a centre line. When elements are not arranged in row/column format, consider highlighting the alignment paths. Use left or right alignment to create the best alignment cues and consider justified text for complex compositions.

Key take-away: Organise your design elements in a way that makes it easier for customers to navigate your service.   

Example of forms of consistency

7. Consistency

Consider aesthetic and functional consistency in all aspects of design. There are four types of consistency:

  • Aesthetic consistency – use to establish unique identities that can be easily recognised
  • Functional consistency – use to simplify usability and ease learning e.g. the controls of a remote that are now universally recognised
  • Internal consistency – ensure that systems are aligned behind the scenes  e.g. signs within one system like a cycling track
  • External consistency – ensure consistency across external platforms, to the greatest degree possible e.g. emergency signs that are the same across different systems

When common design standards exist, observe them.

Key take-away: Give your customers a consistent experience at each part of their journey, and at every touchpoint.

These seven universal design principles are the building blocks for better, more successful designs. By getting these basics right, you can establish a foundation that lets you create more customer-friendly services that better meet the needs of your users.

Find out more about universal design principles:

  1. Part 2 in the series: Designing for accessibility
  2. Part 3 in the series: How to design responsibly
  3. Learn more about universal design principles
  4. Learn more about Mpesa
  5. Ted talk: You don’t need an app for that
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How to beat the challenges facing Chief Customer Officers – Part 2

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How to manage diverse
departments

How to beat the challenges facing Chief Customer Officers – Part 2 of 3

Key insights into the best ways to cultivate a customer-centric culture.

BY
AMANDA SALTER

Strategy Director

Call_icon_31px_olive_tint07786 657 504

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In the first article in the series we looked at the challenge of who ‘owns’ the customer. Here we continue to look at the challenges facing CCOs.

In large organisations, different departments and people will be responsible for different customer touch-points. As the Chief Customer Officer, your job is to ensure they all follow the same vision. But this isn’t always easy, especially when you factor in internal politics. We suggest looking at how other more modern ‘Chief’ type roles gained traction. For example, how did Chief Digital Officers build authority amongst their peers within traditional non-digital organisations? What lessons can be learned?

What you can do:

  • Clearly communicate your role
    While you’re creating shared responsibility for the customer experience across your organisation, you also need to decide and clearly communicate the part you’ll play. How active or passive do you want to be? Are you the conductor of the orchestra, responsible for directing the overall customer agenda? Or a consultant, advising on the bigger picture but taking a less hands on approach? Or somewhere in between? People need to know where you stand, and where they stand in relation to you, especially if the role is relatively new to your organisation.

Why? People need to buy in to you before they can buy in to your vision.

  • Get the CEO onside
    A bit of no-brainer, but your CEO needs to be your greatest advocate. They need to understand and be genuinely bought in to the importance of your role and your initiatives in the organisation. And they need to visibly and consistently communicate this, especially in the early days. Ideally, you’ll already have the full support of your CEO on the organisational KPIs that you’re intending to measure and put in place to drive customer centredness. This is vital for change to happen.

Why? If the boss isn’t in your corner, why will anyone else be?

  • Build a budget
    Make the case to have your own budget, with authority to disburse it as you see fit.

Why? Budget = power. If you don’t have a budget, you may be seen as less influential.

  • Get a team
    Make sure you have at least a small skilled team to help you towards your agenda. It goes without saying to carefully staff your team with people who “get it” and can evangelise with you.

Why? Headcount = influence. The more people who can spread the word about what you’re trying to achieve, the easier it will be to get support.

  • Start a project
    Create your own initiatives, promote visibility of these, and make it so desirable and exciting that other departments want to participate and feel left out if they don’t.

Why? Projects = visibility. If you don’t own or run any projects, you may be seen as just a “toothless authority”.

  • Set clear requirements
    You need to communicate clearly, specifically and simply exactly what is needed from each department. For example, this could be a re-prioritisation of effort, or contribution of time, resources, or budget towards a project. On top of this, people and departments need to know the benefits they will get out of it.

Why? A single customer experience policy across departments requires great communication, or it will all break down.

This is the second instalment in our three-part series. Look out for the final insight, ‘But who is my customer?’

Other articles in this series:

Part 1 - Who owns the customer

Part 2 - How to manage diverse departments

Part 3 - But who is my customer?

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How to beat the challenges facing Chief Customer Officers – Part 1

By | CX/UX, service-service-design | No Comments

Who owns the customer?

How to beat the challenges facing Chief Customer Officers – Part 1 of 3

Key insights into the best ways to cultivate a customer-centric culture.

BY
AMANDA SALTER

Strategy Director

Call_icon_31px_olive_tint07786 657 504

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In June this year, Paul Sands from Customer Bullseye published an article called Chief Customer Officers: Some Group Therapy, Some Golden Nuggets. In the article, he detailed the pains, challenges and frustrations that 50+ Chief Customer Officers faced on a daily basis. The findings were enlightening. So we’ve explored a few of these nuggets in more detail, adding in our own thoughts and experiences.

Interdepartmental responsibility is a big issue for big businesses. When there’s lots of departments involved, it’s easy to fall into a pattern of passing the buck when there’s a customer issue. Or, you might have a situation where departments are doing their own customer initiatives, and are unwilling to coordinate with pre-existing plans and roadmaps. This happened a lot when digital was first launched. Unfortunately, this lack of collaboration takes its toll, on both the customer and the business.

As Sands highlights, the solution is to create shared ownership around a unified vision for the customer experience across departmental silos.

What you can do:

  • Involve customers in vision-setting working
    In addition to engaging colleagues in vision-setting workshops, aim to get some real customers in the room too.

Why? It prevents disagreements about what people think customers want and need. Instead everyone can hear directly from the customers themselves. Which means you can create a vision based on real needs.

  • Make sure everyone is clear about their role
    When shaping the customer experience vision, make sure it’s very easy for everyone to see “their place” in delivering it. Show each department why their specific role is an important piece of the jigsaw. This needs quite a lot of thinking and visualisation – but it’s worth the effort.

Why? Success depends on everyone pulling together. And you’ll get much better buy in across departments once everyone understands their value and the part they have to play.

  • Recognise current successes
    Publicly recognise the positive things departments and people are already doing. Highlight how they are already playing a crucial part in delivering current successes in customer experience. Let them know that you are aware of and value the benefits of their hard work. And show how you’re building on existing capabilities (if possible) within the vision.

Why? Showing people they are appreciated leads to a happier workforce that will be more emotionally invested in your new vision.

  • Adopt a service design approach
    Service design encapsulates both “front of house” (customer-facing) and “back of house” (business operational) perspectives. It’s the best way to capture and visualise a seamless, practical, actionable vision to define customer experience.

Why? A service design approach promotes a shared understanding and vision by aligning departments and helping you engage the entire business.

This is just the first part in our three-part series. Look out for the rest of the articles.

Other articles in this series:

Part 1 - Who owns the customer

Part 2 - How to manage diverse departments

Part 3 - But who is my customer?

Find out more:
Discover the power of service design to find out more

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How to design better timelines visually

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How to design better

timelines visually

Create easy-to-use, intuitive timelines that will help your business function better.

 

BY
ZOE LESTER

Visual Designer

Timelines have broken out of the social media mould and are now starting to appear everywhere. We’re all used to seeing them as a snapshot of our life, but in business, timelines are being used to display everything from financial information to shopping histories. The great thing about timelines – and the reason for their surge in popularity – is that they’re able to display complex information, simply. But, this requires a lot of work to get right.

Consider a timeline that needs to schedule hundreds of employees with different roles, needs, and work statuses. The timeline needs to be helpful, functional, informative and easy to use for multiple purposes, across different domains and departments. And it needs to serve a business purpose – eg reduce wasted time, enable information sharing, increase customer loyalty etc.

That’s a big ask. Before you start designing, you need to talk to users to establish the multitude of requirements and pinpoint problem areas. Then interpret this research in a way that can be universally understood. Your goal is to create something that people will want to use, that makes their life easier, and enables success.

With this is mind, here are ten points that will help you design better real time applications.

Ten steps to timeline success

1. Understand the interconnectivity of timeline and pixels

A timeline user interface (UI) is going to include a lot of elements and may span 24 hours or more. It’s impossible to show this level of information in any detail that is useful to the user, even if you added in zoom functionality. Zooming comes with its own problems as it can be disorientating to move between zoom states, i.e. be zoomed in on one page, then move to another that’s zoomed out.

• We usually work on a five-hour timeframe. This lets us narrow our frame of focus and build UI elements that are easy to read.

• We also use the frame of one pixel per minute. This is helpful when it comes to handing designs over to developers as it reduces any complicated maths in the coding. From here, we are able to plan what space could be used for our timeline and what could be used for a side panel list.

2. Design for the worse case scenario

Spend some time highlighting the worse case scenarios so you can plan solutions in advance. Talk to users, ask questions and dig deeper as they may not always think small details are important. But in reference to a timeline, considerations such as designing for the smallest timeframe may impact typography and layout. Other things to consider are what if times clash, how will this look?

3. Do the “one line challenge”

Set yourself a challenge of reducing key information to one line. Short, succinct details are much easier to read and process, and therefore more useful. Try enforcing a limited word count through the design – for example, in the past we’ve used a 40x60px box to display information. Be creative in how to save space. Use initials rather than full names and, for things like employee codes, cash cards, or car registrations, limit digits to the last three or four. If you need to include more information, add ellipses (…) to show that clicking onto the next layer will display further details.

4. Keep things clean

Clean, clear designs are crucial for timelines. If they are too busy, users can become overwhelmed and be distracted from key information. A white background is an obvious choice. Colours can then be used to highlight features and guide the eye.

5. Make it easy to scan

Visual legibility is crucial. Timelines usually display vast quantities of information, which need to be presented in an easy-to-understand format. This means structuring content intuitively and drip-feeding information in a way that can be quickly interpreted. For example, columns can be used to align text and enable users to jump from one piece of information to the next. When reducing information, it’s important to have clear signposts guiding people to click to view full details.

6. Define a visual hierarchy

Consistency is key. Your design needs to guide people’s eyes to important information. But at the same time, it needs to follow a pattern and colour code that can be easily deciphered. Choose a neutral colour to display everyday and continuous content, and stick to this throughout the design. Use bright colours to draw attention and highlight key content. Keep smaller elements such as dates and time the same size and font on every page. Use opacities to bring forward and set back information.

7. Establish a colour palette

There are no set rules for which colours you use – that’s up to you and what works for your business (though they need to be accessible – see point 9). But you need to stick to whatever palette you choose across every page and element. In one project, we used a restricted traffic light colour palette to apply meaning to different layers of information. The benefit of this is that there is an innate understanding of the semiotics of these colours, making the design more intuitive.

8. Use symbols

Symbols are a great way to represent further levels of information. They can even sit within your colour code and form groups, simplifying data and making information easier to interpret. Symbols can be visual, for example, a van for journeys, or simply the first letter of what you need to represent i.e. ‘L’ for Loading.

9. Help the user with a key

It’s not normally possible to rely solely on universal symbols and icons. Each timeline, and the information it displays, is unique. So, as a designer, you often need to create new, project-specific symbols and icons. To help users understand these, especially in the initial, learning stage, it’s best practice to include a key. As the learning stage is usually quite short it’s best to position your key away from the main interface. Users will soon understand what the symbols means and after a while are likely to ignore the key button completely.

10. Test for colour blindness

Globally, 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women have colour blindness, with reds and greens being commonly misinterpreted. To make your design accessible, it’s important that it doesn’t solely rely on colour coding. Try combining colours with symbols or texts so there’s more than one way to interpret information.

That’s our round up of how to design better timelines. Keeping these points in mind will help you design robust and resilient applications that are a joy to use and help people achieve more.

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Seven steps to more effective design

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Seven steps to

more effective design

Take a look at how our unique approach to problem-solving and UX design can boost your business.

 

BY
ZOE LESTER

Visual Designer

Our best practice design process

1. Comparative research

Comparisons are good. They let us explore how other people have approached challenges, what works, and what doesn’t. Before we start any project, we look at a range of existing designs to similar problems. Then we draw up an initial framework and highlight the things that were missing. We add in the unique needs for the specific project, and include elements we have not seen elsewhere. Finally, we look at the added layer of the visual design and keep that inline with any existing style or brand guidelines.

2. User research

Once we’ve got a sense of the problem, we look at how our design would be implemented and the people that will use it. Talking to users and understanding their needs is crucial – and we go guerrilla style and get out there meeting people. We’ll visit stores, talk to managers and customers and get a real sense of who we designing for.

3. Initial sketches

Next we develop initial sketches and integrate the complex needs that were uncovered during the research phases. At this stage, we are able to understand the size of the project and what’s possible in the set timescale. We identify where time could be of most use and which challenges are integral to the functionality of the application or service.

However, at this stage, nothing should be seen as locked down. Sketches are easy to amend, so stay in this stage for as long as possible to encourage collaboration and alignment across your business. Changes are inevitable and beneficial, as they allow projects to develop to their full potential. Sketches provide opportunities to share insights and allow changes to happen fluidly. Once the project is ready to progress, we identify UI elements, and highlight any adaptions that need to happen further down the line.

4. User stories

User stories put requirements into context and help us make judgments about the core challenges to be resolved. They also give us a frame of reference to evaluate our work and make sure we tick all user needs.

5. Iterative process

Weekly client meetings let us show progress, respond to the points discussed the previous week, and make changes if desired. This iterative approach reassures clients that we’re on target and producing something they want, and it reduces project risk.

6. UX and visual design collaboration

Our interactive workflow builds incrementally on the visual design and UX. We initially use hand drawn and whiteboard sketches, as these are quick and easy to develop. From here, we develop initial designs in Sketch, a great platform for designing web applications and sharing assets. Sketch assets can be used to build a rapid Axure prototype, which helps to eliminate ambiguities and improve functionality ahead of the perfected visuals.

7. Outside eyes

We work to tight deadlines, at a rapid pace, so it’s important to get a fresh pair of eyes to sense check our work. This is crucial not just to test ease of use and understanding, but also for proof-reading.

These steps show how we generally run projects. However, every project is different and there may be times some of the steps aren’t relevant, or extra steps are required. The important thing is flexibility and a close working relationship. We will adapt processes to meet our clients’ needs, and liaise closely throughout the design process. This helps to ensure our clients are happy with our work, know what they’re going to receive, and where our time is being spent.

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Five steps to designing complex timeline interactions

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Five steps to designing

complex timeline

interactions

Simplify the intricate with our guide to designing beautiful, intuitive and multifunctional timelines.

 

BY
ALESSIA ROMANO

UX Designer

Since social media exploded into our lives, navigating timelines has become second nature. When a timeline has been done well, we use it without pausing for thought. We don’t need detailed explanations and guides; it’s completely intuitive to our needs. This is testament to the brilliant UX that has gone into creating the timeline. But not all timelines are the same – and there is no set rule on how they should be designed.

Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have spent a lot of resources getting their timelines right, and are constantly updating their designs to factor in new needs and desires. But as timelines go, these examples are fairly basic, focusing on singular entries rather than the continuity of events in time.

Some timelines need to summarise a great number of events and information over varying time periods, ranging from one hour to over a year. For example: digital calendars, personal planning apps, and business, delivery or shift planning programs. The entries in these timelines can belong to different categories, have different states and contain multiple details. They might also require users to take actions, filter or re-organise information in different views, or any other function relevant to the task.

So, what’s the best way to deal with complex timelines? Here are five suggestions based on our experiences.

How to design a complex timeline

1. Find your “pivot”

It might seem obvious, but you need to figure out your main data set – a conceptual pivot around which the corresponding events can be organised. What’s the unit of measurement of your timeline? What’s the set of data your users can use to orient themselves?

With an office planner you might need to list, see and edit your employees’ day schedules. In this example, employees could be your ‘pivot’, and their tasks move the corresponding information.

Example of employees used as “pivot”

2. Show only what’s necessary

Complex timelines usually show numerous events for each screen. Each event can include information like dates, times, places, people, descriptions etc. Displaying it all at once would be overwhelming, so you need to focus on the essential information. In most circumstances, this will be enough for users to understand and differentiate events. If you do need to show more, use progressive disclosure to enable users to easily access secondary information.

An example of a calendar showing essential information. Clicking on single events reveals more information

3. Choose your style

Timelines come in all shapes and representations. There’s no general rule for how they should look.

The style you choose depends on the data you need to show. Your design should provide users with the easiest way to navigate through the content.

For example, if your reference time span is one day and your timeline caters for up to 200 employees per day, it should be organised vertically. In general, vertical scrolling is easier and more familiar than horizontal scrolling.  

Timelines come in a variety of shapes.

4. Differentiate content

Colours are an easy and powerful way to differentiate content, especially when using familiar colour-coding, like green for positive and red for negative. Colour coding can be helpful in distinguishing between different categories e.g. holidays, meetings, project work and/or different states e.g. started, scheduled, completed or cancelled.

However, colour alone is not enough, and not only for accessibility reasons. Using too many colours can become confusing and ambiguous. Always accompany colours with labels, icons, initials or whatever tools you have to make the content clear and easily scannable.

An example of using colours and labels to categorise events.

5. Use animations wisely

Animations can make interfaces look more appealing – but use them wisely, especially for services which are meant to be efficient rather than beautiful. Make sure animations help rather than obstruct your users’ interactions. Use them to highlight changes and important content or save users some work. Keep it simple, and let your users move around as they wish, without being restricted.

Conclusion

The general rule for designing complex timelines and services is less is more. This doesn’t mean hiding important information for the sake of beauty. But it does mean making life easier for people and lightening users’ cognitive load. Showing too much is not only overwhelming but it’s also unproductive. We’re not designed to consciously process too much information at once. While it might be tempting to display as much content as possible and let the user decide, this is not always the best call.

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Get in touch to discuss how we can help your business, service or product. Email us at info@newtidea.com

Image references

Fig 1: Allocate 
Fig 2: Square up
Fig 3: The Evolution of Western Dance Music
Fig 4: Harvest Forecast app
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Get emotional about your design

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Get emotional

about your design

Article 4 of 4: Behavioural Design Series

Use the science of emotions to trigger customer responses and improve your UX design.

 

BY
ALESSIA ROMANO

UX Designer

Emotions. Like them or loathe them. There’s no getting away from the fact that they play a fundamental role in how users perceive their experiences with services and interfaces. Data from IPA compared the outcome of campaigns that relied primarily on emotional appeal vs those that used rational persuasion and information. The results showed that the emotional campaigns performed twice as well, and delivered twice the profit*.

These are not results to be sniffed at. But to successfully tap into people’s emotions, you first need to understand how they work.

By gaining a greater understanding of how emotions work, you can increase the effectiveness of your designs.

The science of emotions

1. Emotions are grounded in rationality

Emotions play a crucial role in how we react to situations. Without them, we wouldn’t run away from danger, behave soberly in serious situations or be protective of vulnerable people. Emotions have the evolutionary advantage of triggering actions we wouldn’t make otherwise. They activate us.

How to apply this to your design:

  • Emotions aren’t the enemy diverting your users in unknown directions. They are an opportunity for you to lead users the way you want them to go. For example, if you’re selling bungee jumping sessions, build excitement from the start. Show the sheer joy of bungee jumping and awaken their sense of adventure. You’re selling a lifestyle, not a jump – so make visitors want to part of the action.
  • Use UI elements like images, videos, text and colours to set the right tone. For example, dark colours for vehicles or minimalist fonts for luxury brands.

2. Emotions are subjective

Behind every emotion there is a personal concern. This means that an event can trigger a certain response in one person and a different or no response in another. Emotions are strictly connected to personal knowledge, beliefs, experience and personality.

How to apply this to your design:

  • Focus on your target audience and don’t expect to have the same impact on everyone.  In the bungee jumping example, some people will never want launch themselves off a bridge, however fun you make it look. That’s fine. Focus on the people your product or service will appeal to.
  • Use images or messages that are highly shared and sharable. Avoid anything that could be perceived as offensive or partial.

3. Emotions are also mostly social

Many emotional states are triggered by social events. Judgements or compliments affect of us. Most of our unspoken social life is regulated by the empathetic ability to understand other people’s emotions and react appropriately.

How to apply this to your design:

  • Empathise with your users. Try to foresee their emotive and motivational states when using your service – and react accordingly. Conveying positive emotions is an obvious choice for attracting and engaging visitors. But other emotions can also trigger responses, for example, awareness campaigns might use imagery and messages to raise feelings of compassion or guilt.
  • Give users emotions that will make them feel socially satisfied.  For example, Luxury brands underline the scarceness and uniqueness of their products to make their customers feel special.

4. Emotions are culturally defined

While basic emotions, like fear or joy, are relatively independent from culture, complex emotions like embarrassment, jealousy or guilt are connected to culture.

For example, being chatty and friendly with strangers might be considered normal in some countries and awkward and inappropriate in others. Laughing in Japan might be interpreted as a sign of confusion. In India, giving a gift with your left hand might be considered offensive. Being late for an appointment might be fine in Italy or Latin America but unacceptable in Germany. Jealousy might be considered very differently in polygamous cultures.

How to apply this to your design:

  • Keep in mind the specific culture you’re designing for, if there is one, and its belief system.
  • If your service is global, adjust content and messages for different countries. For example, Netflix has different programmes for every country.

As with the other cognitive processes covered in the previous articles of the series, emotions can be unpredictable. It’s difficult to know or foresee what customers are going through and what they’re feeling. What we can do is learn more about how emotional states work and the role they play. Then apply that knowledge to design better products.

Find out more:

* Read ‘Powerfully emotional advertising’ by IPA

Watch out for the rest of the articles in this series:

  1. How to use Cognitive Psychology to improve your UX
  2. Four ways memory can influence and improve your Design
  3. Three ways to influence customer decision-making
  4. Get emotional about your design
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