July 18, 2016
Fantastic user experience is what separates ok-ish products from the great and highly adopted ones. However, what exactly makes the experience great?
Marc Alringer is a veteran software developer with 25 years of experience under his belt. The president and founder of Seamgen – a web and mobile app development company with a special focus on user-centered digital products – breaks down what exactly goes into crafting superior apps through UX.
Alringer and his team at Seamgen team have worked with a number of Fortune 500 companies including Coca-Cola, Viasat, Samsung, Capital One, Cisco, Mattel and others, along with a bunch of innovative startups that have managed to raise over $200M in capital so far.
Here's what Alringer has to say about user experience and how it can affect the overall success of your app.
Standing out in today’s digital market is complicated. What’s your advice to new product owners interested in targeting a crowded market?
Alringer: “Entering a crowded market is always tough, but there are a few good ways to set your brand apart. Here’s the strategy we’ve been advising:
- Find a segment of the market that is potentially underserved and could be improved upon, and focus on that one thing and do it really well.
- Determine your core user base and market segment through competitive analysis, market research and user interviews with your target market personas.
- A narrow focus on a doing one thing really well can offer huge growth potential to expand outside that initial offering and user base.
- Don’t forget to invest in a marketing strategy. Just because you build a great product, does not mean that people will necessarily find it. Make sure to allocate time and resources for developing a product strategy that goes beyond the initial product launch to the world. Sure, the first one is massively important, but you don’t want your product going flat in the long run either.”
What makes an app really great? What are your fundamental principles of UX design you suggest using?
Alringer: “A great app does one thing really well and then expands on that service as it earns trust and engagement from its users. By knowing its core audience the app is designed to directly address their needs. A great product is stable and fast and executes upon its design with a little bit of extra polish. Attention to small details separates the good products from the great ones.
The fundamental principles we use for UX have a similar philosophy: always design with the end user in mind. Make sure that the experience is easy to digest, clear and concise. Explain things as clearly as possible, with language that’s natural and easy to understand. Earn trust by honestly explaining why we’re accessing certain permissions. Deviate from platform guidelines with purpose, not just because it looks cool. Familiarity between apps and platforms is valuable as it weaves in this intuitive element. Above all, implementation and execution is key – your UX, visual design, and development should exist within a coherent ecosystem. A conceptual solution is only a good as its implementation.”
What are the common mistakes new product owners are guilty of?
Alringer: “One of the most common mistakes we see is trying to do too much with the first version of a product. We’ve seen a number of startups come to us with a kitchen sink of features that go well beyond the core offering of the app that ultimately delay the overall product launch and compromise an initial budget. We saw these mistakes occurring so frequently that we wrote an ebook about how to identify and avoid them: ‘9 Mobile Product Building Mistakes'.
Make sure your product does one thing very well for the target market before tapping into the next opportunities.”
What’s in your UX toolkit?
Alringer: “Our UX team has moved almost entirely to Sketch for wireframing and comps. We’ll even use it for light IA/user flows or Omnigraffle for more complex architecture. Sketch also has a handy app called Mirror that allows us to test mobile layouts on a live device.
We use InVision frequently for client presentations and quick prototypes. Lately, we’ve been using Principle for quick animations and to test and refine interactions and get buy-in from the development team and our clients before specifying them for development. We use Axure for more involved prototypes, usually where some kind of user validation or user testing is required.
We’ve been using a tool called Zeplin for exporting assets and style guides for our development team. It’s super helpful to allow our development team to have full access to all of the comps and exact inline measurements, without having to dig through our Sketch files. It has helped us to refine our asset export process.
To keep everything running smoothly we use Confluence for approvals and documentation of edits and finally we get everything into Jira with detailed acceptance criteria that our development works from to point stories and tackle sprints.
Don’t forget the whiteboard, and lots and lots of sticky notes! “
Any particular UX trends you consider going flat in the next few years?
Alringer: “Hasn’t everything already gone flat :) In all seriousness, I think we’re seeing a slight aversion from the totally flat design that was everywhere just a few years ago, particularly in mobile. I think we’ll see more emphasis on a clear call to action and very subtle depth to offer more obvious cues to the user.”
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