Personalization, or more specifically, personalized UIs, is one of those hot design trends. It’s certainly not a new design concept, but it fits in with the way users navigate content in 2017, like the last piece of a jigsaw.
UI Design is a balancing act. Designers want to use effective and established design techniques, but they also need to help their brands stand out from the competition by creating something fresh, which can be difficult when designers are relying on tried-and-true techniques.
While there is no cookie-cutter for exceptional design, modern user interface designers simply must find ways to leverage design techniques that are not only known to be highly effective, but impress the user as well.
And the solution to this is not a visual trend that’ll be out of fashion before next week, the solution is to design personalized UIs and user experiences that are specifically tailored to an individual user.
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So What Exactly is Personalization Then?
When I say personalization I’m talking tailored/curated content, remembering the user’s name, and using a conversational tone of voice (to name a few examples).
Personalization helps to deliver relevant content to the user ⏤ it helps “cut the crap” so to speak. When users begin to see content that isn’t appealing to them, or doesn’t apply to them, they start to lose interest.
And that user is then lost.
Let’s take a look at how empathy helps us design user interfaces that "speak" to the user in an engaging, more humanlike way, or design experiences that utilise backend code to deliver relevant content behind the scenes.
How Empathy Breeds Better UX
You might be quite surprised to know that Atticus Finch’s advice to Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird matters in UX/UI design as much as it matters in everyday life:
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” ~ Atticus Finch.
Being empathetic is about more than simply imagining what would make the user experience better, it requires you to spend time thinking about what it would be like to be the user, to actually use the interface you’re designing.
Empathy requires knowing your audience; your demographic. Envision yourself clicking their mouse and tapping their keyboard buttons ⏤ when you do this, you’ll experience their problems, and then you can begin to come up with intuitive solutions to the issues they’re/you’re facing.
Just like we use empathy to improve usability and accessibility, we can use empathy to create personalized UIs that boost user-happiness and user-engagement.
Let’s take a look at how.
Remember the User’s Name
First year of high-school.
“Hi Stephen!” 👋
She remembered my name.
I don’t think I was that interested in her at first. We had only met once, on the first day of high-school, but she remembered my name. Relationships are built on loyalty, trust and mutual interests, but it was this little nugget of effort that initiated the friendship.
Why? Because we made a personal connection.
Computers are not humans, we all know that, but if you have the user’s data at hand, why not use it to your full advantage? Remembering little things about the user makes them feel special, and ultimately results in boosted happiness and an increased level of engagement.
Speak to the User in a Conversational Tone
“Mr. Brown, what would you like to do today?”
People will respond to this for 3 reasons.
Firstly, the tone of voice makes the UI sound like a human starting a conversation. Secondly, the best way to receive a response is to ask a question. Thirdly, the statement suggests that the user needs to take action, and that action needs to be a choice. It’s not only friendly and engaging, but it’s instructional and helpful for the user.
Personalized UIs and Content Powered by Data
As mentioned earlier, when users begin to see too much content that isn’t relevant or interesting to them, they’ll hit the back button faster than lightening.
We live in a world where online content is so accessible there’s simply too much to choose from, and since there are only 24 hours in a day, users need to be picky with what they choose to spend their valuable time on.
If an interface is primarily driven by content, designers need to be utilising certain types of data to deliver content that users want to read. These types of data are:
- Feel free to suggest more in the comments!
Most of the time this information isn’t freely available, however, many big brands (especially social networks) tend to collect these types of data during their onboarding experience in an effort to deliver relevant advertising, suggested content, or content for further reading.
Personalization is about tailoring content to individuals based on needs and interests ⏤ ultimately, it’s the experience that you deliver that makes or breaks a design, not the trendy colour that you’ve chosen or the fancy off-canvas navigation that you’ve implemented. Personalization is one of the major ways that we can offer exceptional UX, not only in 2017, but also for the many years to come.