What can UI designers learn from a baby’s face?

In the presence of a cute baby, you would be hard-pressed not to smile even on your worst day. Have you ever wondered what it is about them that melts your heart; ever thought about possibly capturing this cute-factor in your user interfaces?

Cute baby

Spare a moment to really look at the picture of the baby above and then look at this guy:

Patrick Wilson

By now you must have felt the different ways your body responded to the two pictures, even though the two people may be total strangers to you.

So, what is it about the faces of babies that makes us smile, or gives us the yearning to interact with them? Ted White, my lecturer at the time who later became my mentor taught me a valuable lesson in one of his lectures when he said, “you can’t create a user experience, but you can create the situations that can enable the user experience you desire”.

Being a budding user experience designer, that statement shook my world- I had to learn more, I had to know how he came to that idea. Where that journey took me is an article for another day.

Today, Ted’s statement makes a lot of sense and I will share the few characteristics I presume prime total strangers to smile at the sight of babies they don’t know.

# Innocence is captivating

We find new people a little harder to trust, we remain cautious until we have ascertained that they will not hurt us. This kind of feeling is absent with children because we know they won’t hurt us.

Applying this to the interface:

–       Interfaces should take the blame for things going wrong and assure the user that it is safe to engage with them.

–       User interfaces should never seek more effort/information then what is reasonably comfortable for the user. Ever heard somebody say: “what do you want from me?” You’ll rarely hear that said in a pleasant tone.

# Small is cute

Being less harmful, babies are also small and thus appear more vulnerable and therefore people are somewhat drawn to protecting them. This draws you closer.

Applying this to the interface:

–       As little, yet as much as necessary. This is the mantra of minimalist designers. Minimalism can be understood as a design philosophy where the simplest and fewest elements and content are used to create the maximum desired effect. And so were babies created; as such our interfaces should have no obstacles between the user and the experience we are laying the foundations for.

# Babies’ guards are low

Babies are forever handing out olive branches; as long as you don’t present a threat to them- a baby will accept you and acknowledge you in kind.

Olive Branch

 

Applying this to the interface:

–       There is a never-ending debate in the usability circles/forums regarding “intuitive” interfaces, one side arguing that nothing is intuitive and the other camp surprisingly arguing that a nipple is the only intuitive interface and that everything else is learned thereafter. Being aware of this debate (regardless of your camp) is important because UI designers need to be aware of the learned things that users already know so that we could make use of interface metaphors to reduce the learning curve of the user interface, in effect lowering our guard.

# Strong emotions are contagious

Babies cry and yell in joy at the top of their lungs, they share all their emotions indiscriminately.

Applying this to the interface:

–       Be passionate about your message and remember that a great interface is selfless, does not draw attention to itself and is devoted to serving a specific purpose for the person using it.

–       Find the right tone of voice for your interface and stick with it. Among other contributing factors to choosing your tone, the most notable is determined by how you want to be remembered. It is about crafting the personality to go with the look.

What other things have you found in your world that light up your soul? Share them with me on Twitter @uxtshepo and we can draw more parallel UX discussions.

Make love, art and live free

Tshepo Lehutjo

 

Content strategy vs information architecture

Hey, I saw a discussion on an UX forum about the difference between information architecture and content strategy. The discussion confused me, what do you think?

I hadn’t really thought about it. But my natural knowledge-sharing instincts woke up, before I knew it, I said ‘No problem, I’ll do a session and write a post on it.’

Since then I’ve realised even though I’ve been responsible for content strategy and information architecture over the years and I have a thorough understanding; it’s not necessarily easy to explain.

The short answer

Both content strategy and information architecture deals with how users interact with information in a digital space. But the focus is different.

Content strategy focuses on the delivery, governance and planning content creation.

The term, information architecture, is used in multiple fields, which makes it hard to give a short definition. But essentially it deals with the design of an information space and to ensure that users can easily find what they’re looking for.

Content strategy

Strategy: a plan of action designed to achieve a vision. It’s about gaining a position of advantage over competitors. (Or the best way to advance to a specific goal.)

  • Content strategy concerns itself with the entire editorial content development process.
  • Content analysis: roughly describing metadata, taxonomy and search engine optimisation
  • Content planning: defining content requirements across the system
  • Ensure content is readable, understandable and also findable, shareable and actionable
  • Content strategy is continual; it runs through planning, design, implementation, launch and carries on as an operational task as long as the product is used.
  • Involves an editorial process, with different professionals having responsibility and sign-off for deliverables.

Information architecture

Information architecture involves itself with the organizing and labeling in information products to support findability and usability. It looks at search and navigation systems

  • Enables users to complete tasks by providing choices
  • Show enough information to let users access areas of interest
  • Accommodate future growth in content and functionality
  • Information architecture aims to provide a good experience to all users
    • Ensures that different user types, goals and requirements are accommodated
    • That includes what the majority of users are interested in Allow successful user journeys for fringe user types
  • Access points: ensure users can access the product from different starting points and complete their tasks
  • In addition to business requirements, site goals, user requirements and user journeys: information architecture has input from different strategies.
    • The information architect has to ensure that the requirements from content strategy, marketing and business are also met.
  • Information architecture doesn’t follow a specific process but uses various mechanisms and tasks – depending on the requirements of the system – to arrive at a solution

United we stand

For me, the point is, let’s keep pushing user experience design to incorporate areas of expertise, any and all fields, that is necessary to have kick-ass digital products.

That’s how we’ll continue to create meaningful digital experiences.

“User experience is a focus, a thread that runs through all of our disciplines, and which no discipline owns or controls”.

– The UXsters

Further reading

How content strategy fits into the user experience – Nick Finck

Content Strategy and UX: A Mordern Love Story – Kristina Halvorson