Top 3 challenges for UX designers

Offering a great digital experience doesn’t come without its challenges. In this article I’ll be talking about struggles you will likely face as a UX designer.

These are the risks of features overload, the need of a design system and designing for accessibility.

#1 The Risks of Features Overload

Checking your balance anywhere anytime, making a transfer in a trice, keeping track of your investments, booking hockey tickets, paying your gas,… those are only a few examples of what you can do nowadays in a banking app.

There are increasingly more use cases in digital banking. This can either benefit the users or become a nightmare both for the users and the UX designers.

A picture of people stressing out behind their computer.

Features overload is actually one of the major UX challenges and it is not confined to the banking sector only.

Starting off with a logical and profitable approach, businesses try to address all possible needs in order to create the perfect app.

But sooner or later they’ll realize that there is no more room for new features. Team start having endless discussions on where to place the new feature, how to name it, how to communicate its purpose to the users and much more.

What’s more, increasing the number of features generates more content for the user to process, more notifications, more nudges. This often provokes more stress and confusion to the user and can result in a bad user experience.

Picture of a complex system

What’s worse is when a business starts diversifying so much that nor its development team nor its users understand the value of the new features, neither their alignment with the company’s vision or core service.

We can cite many mobile applications that disappeared of the market because they had gotten so bloated with features that it resulted in a bad user experience. For example, ICQ used to be the most popular online communication app, reaching more than 100 million users. The excess of features in their tool forced them to release a new simplified version, destroying years of hard work.

How to avoid this trap?

When your product development team starts questioning the alignment of new features with your user’s needs, your company’s vision or core service, you should take a step back and think about your long-term strategy.

Product development teams should dare to say no to unnecessary features. Business managers should try to listen to their users and focus on their fundamental needs.

Also, UX designers should find the relevant moment to display the features as there is no need to display all of them at once.

Use smart information architecture as a strategic approach to classify and display your features. Integrate your users in your site mapping process by doing user research, card sorting workshops and user testing.

Finally, adopt an appropriate UX writing to name and communicate about your features. Make them pertinent, catchy and clear. As users are overloaded with information, your language has to be simple, understandable and human-friendly to provide guidance and clarity.

#2 The Need of a Design System

Another struggle you can easily face as a designer is having to copy-paste elements from old features over and over again to design a new workflow.

This kind of design process is time consuming, inefficient and limits your time allocated to innovation and creativity.

As a design team grows together with its number of products, features and platforms, it becomes crucial to create a design system. This is a collection of reusable graphical elements, design standards and style guides. It improves the design-development workflow by introducing a systematic way to guide and leverage the team’s creations.

Microsoft Design System for Web

The Benefits

  • Designers: It will help them build a proof of concept faster.
  • Team: It will strengthen collaboration among your product development team, increasing its productivity.
  • Developers: It will help them develop faster as design and code are linked.
  • Users: It will give a coherent experience to your users when navigating on either of your apps.

The Barriers

To deliver an efficient design system, however, you’ll need to overcome at least two barriers.

First, to ensure consistency in design you have to make sure all the stakeholders of the product development are on board. They have to be involved in building the design system, so they’ll be more likely to use it.

Secondly, your team needs consistency in naming elements which isn’t easy when you have diverse profiles implied.

Building an efficient design system that will evolve over time isn’t a piece of cake, but it is a real game changer so it’s totally worth allocating efforts to it.

#3 Designing for Accessibility

Web accessibility means that there are no barriers preventing the interaction with or use of, web content, websites and applications, by people with disabilities.

“The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.”

- Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide Web

Barriers can be visual (color blindness), motor (wheelchair-user, broken arm), auditory (hearing difficulties), seizures (especially photosensitive epilepsy) and learning (dyslexia) or situational (driving, noisy environment).

In Belgium, web accessibility for public sector organizations is legally binding and will be controlled by the BOSA as from September 2020. A lot of organizations have now to adhere to WCAG 2.1 (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines), the main international accessibility standards.

I know… still considering web accessibility as a UX challenge in 2020 is a shame when you think accessibility was already in the United Nations agenda in 2006. But as the long-awaited emergence of a Belgian national law is recent, accessibility is still an issue.

The Benefits

Accessibility to common services like communication, banking and transport is essential to offer a better inclusion in society and more autonomy to disabled people.

For businesses, it is a growth opportunity as 15% of the world population has some kind of disability (the world bank, 2019).

Designing a product for accessibility also increases your findability as it positively impacts your site’ search optimization, increasing your website traffic. It offers other advantages like removing legal risks and enhancing brand reputation.

How to start ?

You can start by checking the accessibility of your website using accessibility-testing tools like WAVE. You can also do an accessibility audit to get a more detailed report on all your products.

As for usability, designing for accessibility relies on the user’s needs, behaviors and motivations. That’s why, your first step should be integrating personas with varying abilities in your design process. It will help you fully understand the scope of accessibility issues that concern your product.

Some ability issues and tips

With the aging of the population, more and more users are over 65 years old. This means that an increasing part of the users are more likely to develop a form of disability.

Indeed, people’s ability to cope with new technologies decreases with age as well as their sight. That’s why, the elderly people need guidance and designers have to ensure the readability of their products for them.

For example, some narrow interactive elements can be hard to click on for seniors. It is our job as designers to make sure that the target areas are big enough.

Also, replacing the home button on the iPhone X was tricky for a lot of seniors. How can they know they have to flick up the gesture area to reach the home screen if they aren’t given any guidance?

“Flick up your screen with one finger until you feel a vibration to reach your iPhone X home screen”. (Orange, 2020)
Report about the elderly people on the internet (Axess Lab, 2019)

For people with low vision or colorblindness, the color contrast between background and foreground content should be great enough for them to read the text. It can also be hard for them to understand images or charts and graphs. Integrating legends to illustrate those elements seems like a possible solution.

Tell me, do you think the contrast is high enough in this article? I wanted to do red on yellow as it offers a good contrast to most people with sight disabilities. However, I wasn't able to do it on this platform. Yet there are so many different types of sight disabilities that it is hard to satisfy all of them.

Meeting standards for website structure is really important for people with learning and cognitive disabilities as well as for people using screen readers or another assistive software.

Finally, time constraints to fill an online form can be a real barrier for persons with mental impairments.

Inspiring companies

Microsoft launched various features and products that are enhancing the life of disabled people, ranging from leisure to working tools. They recently launched free eye control video games. They also integrated a translation and dictation feature in their Microsoft office applications.

VRT news provides news streamed live with Flemish sign language, teletext subtitling and audio description (narrator) for series.

Google chrome browser supports screen readers and offers people with low vision full-page zoom. It displays high-contrast colors. It also provides a “search by voice” feature and keyboard shortcuts to people with motor disabilities.

Google Chrome Browser (January 2020)

All in all, building an application or website from scratch that meets the requirements for accessibility doesn’t necessarily need extra features or content. Once the product is developed, it will only bring benefits to the company and the users. With the new regulations in force, UX designers with an accessibility mindset are in high demand. Learning about accessibility standards is a great opportunity to seize if you want to boost your cv.

Closing thoughts

  1. Keep in mind that the more choice you give to a user, the less likely he is to be satisfied with it.
  2. A design system is a game changer that will enhance the productivity, creativity and coherence in your team.
  3. Accessibility is usability for everyone.
  4. Dive into accessibility and it will guarantee you loads of jobs for the coming years.

Hope you enjoyed this article, please feel free to share your experience and feedback.

Louise Van Doosselaere, UX designer @Movify

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