Paying our taxes or registering to vote used to be things we only accomplished in the physical world. You had to interact with a building, another human being, and physical money. Time is taking us into a digital age, in which we can accomplish the same goals by interacting with a screen alone. Online experiences are often time-saving and cost efficient but may easily turn into negative experiences if the design is not usable.
Design is essential in creating the tools humans use to accomplish their goals. According to The 10 Principles of Effective Web Design by Vitaly Friedman, “Usability and utility affect the success or failure of a website.” If the thing we are making is not usable, the goal cannot be accomplished. If the utility is flawed, the experience may become negative. In which case, the goal is accomplished, but the process was unenjoyable.
Let’s say I’m having a steak for dinner. If I’m trying to eat my steak with a plastic fork, I might have a negative experience. The fork might break, resulting in hunger and frustration. To improve my experience, I can switch to using a metal fork, a fork design that might greatly improve my experience and help me accomplish my goal.
Contrarily, if my goal is to eat a bowl of chow mein with a plastic fork, the fork will have stayed in perfect condition, I will have finished eating, become full, and accomplished my goal.
In this case, the fork design must function to accomplish the goal of the eater. The same goes for UX Design.
If my goal is to go online to file my taxes and my web page is flooded with ads and links and a lot of copy, I might have a negative experience. The ads might distract me and the copy might cause me to get frustrated because it takes too much time to read.
On the flip side, if my goal is to look up a music video, my web page might be flooded with ads, links, and unwanted copy, but I will have easily found and watched the video, accomplishing my goal.
The web design must function to accomplish the goal of the user.
If the goal is complex, users need a cleaner more organized system in which to operate.
If the goal is simple, users do not mind a bit of clutter.
More and more we are understanding this concept and using design to improve user experiences in ways that help users accomplish their goals.