Often the obvious interface is the best interface

Design clear interactions instead of deeply thought-out ones, and users will follow you

Voltaire said: “Le sens commun est fort rare“- common sense is very rare (approx. – in the original and translated into English pun. Word commun (fr.) / common also means “common”)… It may take a lot of experience to understand that a certain decision is sound. Then you will know the right path, and at that moment a certain choice will become reasonable and will not require a long analysis.

When we talk about common sense in product design, what now seems obvious may not have been so obvious to designers when they first started. For a long time, designers have strived to make products as easy to use and navigate as possible. However, in order to highlight the features of their products, it took time for the designers to understand the needs and concerns of their users.

Bottom Navigation Bar = Increased App Usage

Google Product Director Luc Wroblewski endorsed the “obvious always wins” design principle and urged designers to recognize that clear interactions trump deeply thought-out interactions. After analyzing user engagement statistics for apps that switched from the semi-closed hamburger menu navigation to more visible bottom navigation bars, and apps that switched did the reverse, Wroblewski saw a definite trend. “Navigation is a manifestation of the capabilities of an application, and when people cannot see what is possible, they probably won’t know what they can / should do in that application,” he shared in an interview. Increased visibility increases application utilization.

When the project management app Redbooth (formerly called Teambox) switched from the hamburger menu to the bottom navigation bar, average session time increased by 70 percent and the number of active daily users literally increased 65 percent overnight. Functionality that was previously hidden in the hamburger menu is now highlighted for Redbooth users.

Often the obvious interface is the best interface
Before: Redbooth (Teambox) app previously used hamburger menu. After: The app switched to the bottom navigation menu and got a 65% increase in daily active users and a 70% increase in session time

On the other hand, Wroblewski found that making it harder to find common features lowers user engagement. When the (previously) Polar app simplified the navigation design from segmented control menus to drop-down menus to make the design cleaner, user engagement diminished as they no longer saw essential features all the time.

Often the obvious interface is the best interface
Before: The segmented control menu showed three tabs at the top. After: daily user engagement decreased when Polar added a dropdown menu labeled “Top”

Bottom navigation bar and accessibility

Sometimes by making the design more obvious, as a side benefit, we can make it more accessible. In terms of ergonomics, users with large phones or tablets find it easier to touch the bottom navigation bar with one finger than to hold the phone with one hand and tap on the hamburger menu in the upper left with the other. The bottom navigation bar is also important for accessibility reasons. In an email interview, Google Brand Manager Aubrey Lee said that users with muscular dystrophy and other mobility disabilities can’t always reach the top of the screen. “This will be a game changer. For people with disabilities, technology is not just convenience, but often the difference between isolation and independence. The presence of the bottom navigation buttons will make life much easier for many of us. “

“Obvious” icons are not always “universal” icons

The obvious design is not only about the arrangement of the components, but also how easy it is for the user to understand the actions and parameters of the interface. For example, not all users will immediately understand icons and symbols. The $ symbol stands for dollars or money in the United States, Canada and some other countries, but is not a currency symbol around the world.

Anyone who grew up using computers with floppy disks will likely recognize the diskette immediately and know that the diskette icon means Save. However, for those who started using a computer in the 21st century and have never seen a floppy disk, such a save icon might look like a mobile phone SIM card with rectangular and circular holes. These users may not understand the meaning of such an icon.

Often the obvious interface is the best interface
Load, delete, voicemail, speaker, save, and credit card icons are common but can confuse users if they are not accompanied by a text label

To make the design easier to understand at a glance, consider the following two options:

Accompany the icon with text

In a talk “Designing Great Applications for New Internet Users” presented at the Google I / O conference, Garen Checkley and Tracey Lindsay Chan of YouTube Go showed that combining icons and text is important for users. Because it reminds them of possible actions. The Receive button has text and an icon to show what happens when the user clicks on it.

The combination of text and icons also makes your product more accessible. It is easier for people viewing the page to understand what the button means when it has text and an icon on it.

When the Google Translate app merged text and icon for the functions below the main translation window, the use of the handwriting function increased by 25%. Some users thought the features under the main unit were new, even though they’ve been around for years. Without text labels, users did not understand the value of the features and therefore did not use them.

Often the obvious interface is the best interface
Before that: Google Translate only showed icons. After: Google Translate added text for icons and ink usage increased by 25%

Use only text, add text hints and add labels with icons

Upload icons might make sense for those who are used to uploading content to cloud services. However, some users may not understand the concept of up or down arrows when it comes to adding photos from a computer to the cloud.

To make it clear to users of the desktop web version of Google Photos how to search for photos and upload new ones, the Google Photos team replaced the upload icon with a text Upload button and added hints to the search bar. Similar to adding text to an icon in the YouTube Go and Translation apps, the Google Photos team has added Albums, Assistant, and Photos tags to icons.

Often the obvious interface is the best interface
Icons with text labels added to them, icons replaced with text labels, and hints added for search have improved the usability of Google Photos

Copying other interfaces does not guarantee an obvious design

However, this does not mean that the design of another application is the best choice for your product. It might seem easy to copy other apps, especially popular ones, and assume it’s a good design. However, you don’t know how much research is behind a company’s decision to use a particular design pattern or component.

To find the obvious, approach the problem

Without waiting for years of usage data or hiring a researcher, how does a designer know what is obvious or even rational to the user? “The closer you get to a problem, the more you care about solving it,” says Wroblewski. If you are building a product to solve a problem you are experiencing yourself, you probably know the main features of the product and how they solve your problem.

If you are not the target user yourself, then you must observe users, learn and iterate. It doesn’t require huge research and travel costs or large amounts of usage data. This means communicating with potential and existing users and clarifying their problems. Or you can pretend to be a user. Wroblewski recommends Rapid Iterative Testing and Evaluation (RITE). “Every week we take what we’re working on, put it in front of people and watch them try to use it. You should always communicate with your existing and potential client. When a designer says, “I was sitting with this person and saw that he could not do what he wanted, because our design let him down,” it is very realistic, ”he said.

Spend time with users frequently and regularly and your projects will become more relevant, relevant and “obvious”. Only when you understand the problem can you clearly assess what is “obvious” or even “sane” and create easy-to-use designs.

Author: Clark Douglas

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