Every year, articles appear in the blogosphere touting new UX trends or technologies. Some trends have merit and value. Here at The Nerdery we love to constantly push boundaries. However, sometimes when companies implement a trend, they put the cart before the horse. No matter what tactics you choose to employ, it’s always best to start with defining the problem you need to solve for the opportunity at hand.
Many of these trends appear engaging and beautiful on the surface. Designers and stakeholders may have the best of intentions when implementing the latest trends. However, blindly implementing trends can also fail miserably without a sound strategy.
Here are examples of trends or tactics that may have their downsides:
Parallax scrolling is a technique used where background imagery moves at a slower speed than images in the foreground, creating the illusion of depth. It can be very successful in the right situations and when implemented well.
User Experience Design considerations:
• If users need to find content quickly, scrolling through large volumes of content may deter impatient users. The Crate and Barrel parallax site requires users spend about 15 seconds browsing Christmas tree ornaments.
• If there is a large volume of content, it may be difficult to find hidden content and it may be difficult to search the site.
• If users are unsavvy, they may also be confused by the moving parts and animation.
• Content may take longer to load, if developed on one page.
• Depending on the way it’s built, parallax sites may limit search engine optimization.
• Parallax sites add a level of complexity for responsive design.
When Parallax works:
Parallax sites can be effective if you are providing users with linear experiences like stories or walking through a process. It’s also important to include sticky navigation to allow users to skip ahead to topics of greater interest, if applicable.
I love games and appreciate how they can be used to engage users. However, Gamification is not as simple as slapping on badges, leaderboards, points and “gamifying” your website with rewards. Some big brands have failed using gamification and companies continue to waste money while providing poorer user experiences.
Audiences and customers vary in their contexts, motivations, interests and desires. People are complex. Without user research and a sound strategy, you may be designing a product that users will not find valuable or impactful.
Oftentimes, games are built with the goal to increase user engagement. But engagement can be achieved in a variety of ways. Games are just a means to an end. We must first justify the means.
Think about the Harry Potter books. There are no badges, leaderboards, nor even pictures, yet children and adults spend countless hours of engaged reading. It’s due to the story, relatable characters, themes and other content that conjures emotions. Engagement can come in many forms.
It’s critical to understand what drives people. What are the things they need to learn and do? How are they motivated? What drives their behaviors? After a thorough discovery process we can better determine if a gamified system is actually the best tactic to achieve your goals.
Strategy Before Tactics
In general, any tactic without a sound strategy has a greater potential to fail. It doesn’t matter if it’s mega menus, blogs, social media tools, or infographics – it’s best to begin a project with a discovery process and user research to help align business goals with user goals.
At The Nerdery, we create strategies that help identify and prioritize business goals and user goals. Our discovery process may include workshops, stakeholder interviews, analytics evaluation, user research, surveys, contextual inquiry, personas, and many other methods to create a laser-focused strategy for your business or organization.
Design for People First
It’s certainly important to understand what new technologies and trends are being implemented. However, instead of designing with the tactics and technology first, we should first consider the people and their motivations and goals. Ultimately, we are designing for people—people who happen to use technology. If we begin with a solid foundation and target goals, we have a higher likelihood of achieving those goals.