In the begin days of the Internet, it was enough to offer functionality on your website. Or even to just have a website. The innovation and WOW factor lied in the fact that you actually had an online presence. Times have changed, with fierce online competition it is imperative that digital applications are easy to understand and intuitive to use. Unfortunately, many digital interfaces have been designed around functions and not around the needs of their users.
Users are human first
User is a very generic label and what most of us tend to forget is that all users are human first. We, humans, have evolved to thrive in a natural environment. The way our perception works, our memory and our cognition is shaped by millions of years of evolution. You cannot expect that humans will be able to intuitively interact with a digital application if it does not fit within these natural constraints.
First: support the human
How can you design an interface in such a way that it supports the human? I have coined the term Digital Ergonomics for this. Digital ergonomics brings together the fields of cognitive ergonomics (human factors) and UX/UI design. It is the foundation of a good user experience.
We humans have limitations and strengths. Limitations in perception, memory, decision making and control. These are generic, and well researched. The main questions you need to answer are: can you perceive it, do you understand what it is, and do you know how to act? For example: you see a flashing light on a console. You perceive the light, but do you know what it means? (Incoming call? Error? The reactor is on fire?) And once you know what it means, do you know what you need to do? Press the flashing button? Pull a switch somewhere else? Exit the building screaming?
Next: support the user
So you need to keep those things in mind first when designing the user experience. Then progress to designing for the context of use. For example: when designing in the context of e-commerce the user is the customer, and has goals and needs that context (e.g. buy a ticket online). If you have gotten your human foundation right, you have already designed that task in such a way that it is easy to perceive, to understand and to operate. You can then look at the business goals (e.g. higher conversion) in conjunction with customer needs and proceed from there.
Digital ergonomics lies at the foundation of a good user experience. Start with the human experience in mind, then look at the context of use and design for that specific experience. Get the basics right and build your user experience on this foundation. Because we are all human first.
Your users will thank you for it. And you will be rewarded with more conversion, loyalty, cost reduction and customer satisfaction.
Interested in learning more about Digital Ergonomics? I have developed the training “Awareness Digital Ergonomics”. In this training, (at the Dutch Capgemini Academy), you will learn the 4 principles of the Digital Ergonomics framework and how to apply these to a practical case.