17 August, 2017

Icon Hollow vs. Solid

In UI design, what scenario should hollow icons and solid icons be applied to? Some believe that the hollow icons are visually more complex than the solid icons, while the solid icons are in fact more recognizable.

The opinions of designers on this topic varies. Some designers think that the hollow icons is made by lines, as a result of which, they are more difficult to recognize. However, they gives users a feeling of ease and exquisiteness. Others deem that the recognizability has nothing to do with this topic, but depends on the shape, color and other factors of the icon.

1. The function of icons.

First, this topic focuses on a specific type of icons: functional icon. Let’s take a look at the basic functions of this type of icons.
Functional icons are common in life, usually seen in the airport, stations, hotels, shopping malls and other large public places, providing guidance to people, as shown below:

In UI design, icons are one of the most common elements. The use of the icon originated in the Macintosh 1.0, even in the earlier Xerox graphical interface began. They are often given functions like action, description and so on.

Since the release of the smart phone system so far, the style of graphical interface has completed the transformation from the material design to the flat design evolution. With the introduction of ios7, almost all of the icons in Apps are becoming more and more flat and slim. The reason of it is that the over-eye-catching icons usually reduce the readability of the contents.

In general, the most basic function of the icons is to convey the information quickly.

In today's design work, the matching of icons and texts has reached a point of obsession. In fact, it is enough to express some abstract concepts with text. Putting an icon aside actually helps nothing about making users build connections between the icon and its function.

Nevertheless, icons are still relatively important. The function of icons is far more than“telling users the meaning at the first sight”. In addition, there are also many important features like immediate locating, content layer distinguishing and interface rhythm increasing.

Take a prototype example on Mockplus for example, if you just see the icons without the texts, the meaning of them is quite obscure. However, the functions of icons are more than that. The icons in the prototype is solid. The icons and the text together form a unity, in which the icons plays a role of alignment. If you remove the icons, the information in the list will be indistinguishable and there will be a visual confusion. Users will face more difficulty when focusing on the options on a line.

2. Are solid icons more recognizable?

Given that you were summoned by the call of nature and rushed into the big mall to find the rest room. Solid icons or hollow icons? Which can be recognized more quickly?

Solid icons are indeed more recognizable in the perspective of visual attraction. The following picture shows the influence of the elements that are attractive to the human eye (sorted from left to right):

Hollow icons attract the eye by their shapes while the solid ones do the same by their color. As a result, hollow icons are more difficult to recognize.
As early as the iOS7 system was introduced, there have been some discussion about this topic. Curt Arledge, an experienced designer who graduated from Viget, wrote an APP specifically, and did 1260 recognition tests for solid and hollow icons [1], look at the test results:
The results found that the difference of the speed of recognizing these two types of icons is just 0.1 seconds.
In the first group, the solid icons won. These icons are derived from life, the icons kept their original meanings. The recognition speed depends on how much the color and shape attract the eyes. So the solid icons are easier to recognize.

It is worth noting that the three hollow icons are more recognizable in the second group.
These three icons are abstracted from subjects in real life, among which the speech bubble does not exists at all. Designers create this icon in the graphical interface and endow it with a meaning; The forms of garbage bin and keys are various in life, so the icons of them are abstract summaries of them. In this case, the shape of the icons allows users to quickly identify the meaning of the icons, while the colors has become a factor of interference.

So, for icons expressing the same meaning of the original subjects, solid icons are more recognizable. For icons that endowed with abstract meanings, hollow icons are better.

21 July, 2017

A List of User Experience Goals That UX Designers Should Set

User experience design plays an important role in product design process. But what is good user experience on earth? Is there any criterion? The following 5 user experience goals, listed in a logical order, may help you to find the right direction of user experience design ASAP and make you an excellent UX designer.

Goal 1: “I got what I need”

To give users what they need is the first goal of user experience design. Before using a product, people are mostly concerned about “whether it is useful?” “Will this product solve my problems?” So a product should meet the functional demands of users first (not only those existed demands, but also potential ones). Doing user research is a good way to find out users’ demands, but objectively, it’s hard to measure users’ needs precisely, even if it was huge company which has advanced user survey technologies.

For example, Facebook at the beginning didn’t take “making friends with strangers (say, a friend’s friend)” seriously as they believed that people only have curiosities on their surroundings; social network is essentially “a game among acquaintances”. However the data show that most of users like to expand their circles by adding strangers as their friends. Now social platform also contributes a lot to companies and brands who want more influence online. They put money and energy on operating an official page to promote their products. All of these are unexpected demands for the early designers. Thus, collecting users’ feedback constantly and make use of data or other materials to follow your users’ activities is also a key to meet users’ demands. If UX designers don’t give users what they want, the users will give a shit.

Goal 2: “Don’t make me think”

“Will I get what I want in a most simple, direct and quick way?” It would be better if you “Don’t make me think”.

The top-download games in app store are always those like “Don't Tap the White Tile”, which people can play without brains. This shows the laziness nature of human beings. But laziness is also an important drive of technology development. As a UX designer, we have no reason to go against it unless we want to make products that are “anti-human”.

How to design to give users what they want in the easiest way? First UX designers should be a mastery of the user stories & scenario of products. Which are important things that users pay much attention to? Which are secondary? How to simplify the operations by taking advantage of users’ habits? As to user interface, whether the flat design method should be adopted to enable users to get most information at the first sight. Besides, the usability of products also depends on the design tools you choose. A complicated-to-use prototype/wireframe tool is a bad design itself, so how can we make good UI or product prototype with it?

Goal 3: “I really enjoy using it”

Many products have similar functions, which can all meet the users’ needs to some extent. But only few of them are favored by users, why? As a music lover, I go to a concert at least once a month. Among these concerts of any scale, there are some which thrilled me from start to finish. It seems that the design of a music concert has nothing to do with product design, but as I have been immerging in design circle for many years I gradually found that an exciting concert is just like a product offering good user experience, both of them give you the right thing at the right time.

At an evening dinner, the starter is always delicate but of low volume. Gradually, under the influence of some spirits, the main course was served, at this moment the light is warmest and the atmosphere is the best. The ending part is usually made easy. This is a very good example to explain that “UX Designers should have a sense of rhythm (of product)”. When designing video player software, how many “ss” should the “black screen” last to draw the users’ attention, but never make them feel impatient? Why some social platforms only allow its users to access more functions after a period of time? Those are all questions that user experience designers should concern about.

Goal 4: Habit is a second nature

“Whether the product is attractive enough for me to use it for a long term?”, and even “becomes part of my life” and “makes me addicted to it”.

In the article “UX/UI Designer Skills Valued by Facebook” I mentioned that one important reason that Facebook became a huge social platform with over 200 million users is that FB knows the mental & psychological needs of users: people win others’ attention on Facebook, which they didn’t get in real life. “Helping people to build a strong connection with external world; enabling them to follow and be followed, these are what a social platform was born for.” A functionally powerful product will no doubt be favored by people. But a product which forms a new habit has immeasurable potential. Electric light, mobile phones, new transportations; Wechat, Whatsapp, these are all among the latter.

Goal 5: Make users your promoters

“Whether the product is good enough to motivate me to become one of its promoters?”

If a designer set the above 4 user experience goals when designing a product, he would be an excellent designer. The last goal, as far as I can see, is the inherent property of an excellent design: to mobilize its users. As we all know, users are the best spokesmen of your products. Companies may seek help from all kinds of resources to promote their products: KOL, famous blogger, web celebrities. However, none of them is as powerful as users. You may ask: why does product promotion has something to do with designers? If UX designers can build a relationship between the users and potential users, for example, put a “sharing on Twitter” button on the right place, there might be more people will join in (this is a method of most basic level). For another example, users need to cooperate with others when using the product (like game products). In short, to mobilize your users and make them your promoters is also an important user experience goals that good UX designers should set.

20 July, 2017

4 Common UX Challenges and How to Find Them

User Experience design is all about getting people to use our products. We’re not so much concerned with people buying our products, that’s sales and marketing’s focus, we’re concerned with the way that people adopt our products into their lives. We want to create lasting relationships that create brand loyalty, repeat business and word-of-mouth referrals and recommendations.

There are four areas of user perception that can encourage or discourage adoption of our products. Let’s take a look at each of them and how we might be able to examine them in our UX research:

Perception of Value

In order for customers to adopt a product; they need to see the value in that product. Products can deliver positive impacts but if they’re not seen to deliver positive impacts; the perception of value is low or non-existent.

It’s also possible to produce products without such an impact that customer’s perceive to have value anyway. The entire homeopathic health industry relies on this to generate billions in revenue each year. Sugar pills are sugar pills and their benefits are pure placebo (there are much cheaper ways to buy sugar than through a homeopathic practitioner) but customers of homeopaths perceive a benefit and thus keep buying that sugar at incredibly inflated prices.

We begin examining the perception of value with the product’s value proposition. If the value cannot be clearly articulated in house – it seems unlikely that it’s going to be easy for a user to articulate the value. We can test that by seeing if, after reviewing our marketing material or website, the potential user can articular the value.

Then we need to examine two other perceptions – the first is the question of utility; “Is this product useful to you?” but we should also remember that people buy plenty of things that aren’t useful so much as they are enjoyable (think computer games or novelty products) and we should ask; “Is this product fun to use?” too.

Level of Certainty

We move on from perception of value to the level of certainty that our product delivers on its perceived value. Is it as fun or as useful as it appears to be at first glance? More importantly do customers believe that you can deliver on that perceived value before they even touch the product?

New technologies can often find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place. Driverless cars, which are currently in development, may sound fantastic but the true test of their staying power will be – do people trust cars to drive them from A to B in a safe and reliable manner?

If the level of certainty when responding to that question is low… there’s a major mountain to climb to convince people to become users in the first place. A lack of user confidence in the product is going to be a huge barrier to their adopting that product.

For driverless cars that certainty may come from the power of the brands developing them – people tend to trust names like Google because they see them as capable of delivering technologically advanced solutions, they might be less trusting if the driverless car came from a brand new startup with no track record in the market.

You can measure the level of certainty by asking your users what they think the chances of a successful product are, or what problems they anticipate with a product.

Is the Product Accessible?

Accessibility is a measure of two separate components. The first is convenience, how convenient is the product to use? Why are bicycles so unpopular for short journeys – when it’s clear they’re so easy to use for this purpose? Well, there’s the weather, the lack of bicycle parking in many places, the behaviour of other drivers, the likelihood of theft, etc. it turns out that while bicycles have usability in spades – they often lack convenience.

The second component is usability and that’s something that most UX designers will be intimately familiar with. Usability is a part of UX rather than the whole of it but we all know that if a product is hard to use – adoption is hard to win.

It’s important to examine both convenience and usability during testing and to measure them as early as possible. An inaccessible product won’t find it easy to keep users in the long-term.

Does the Product Engender Trust?

Users are concerned for their safety, their privacy, their financial security, etc. If your product raises concerns – you need to work out how to address these with your users in order to get them to adopt the product. You cannot ignore the need for users to trust a service, you need to bridge the gap.

For example, internet banking still has large amounts of resistance, despite its convenience because in many places – people aren’t convinced of the security aspects of the system. They may not have their own computers at home and working in an internet cafĂ© can leave someone quite apprehensive about accessing their financial accounts.

Or imagine that you want to use geo-locations in a mobile application. Will you users be OK with you sharing that data with others? If not, how can you ensure that data is held securely without impinging on functionality?

There are many ways that a user may not trust a product and the UX researcher’s job is to work out where these pain points lay.

You may also want to ensure that you under-promise and over-deliver in your marketing materials rather than vice-versa. There’s no quicker way to kill someone’s trust than to promise something that seems “too good to be true”.  Again you can test marketing collateral with users before you put it out in the wider world.


Ensuring that users adopt our products for long-term use is part of designing a great user experience. The four areas discussed above are critical for this. Fortunately, they’re all things we can examine in our research and resolve before we go to market – as long as we’re looking for them in the first place.