by Matthew C
A business’s website can show a lot about the company, and is often the first impression of the company to its potential consumers. In our current world of cutthroat competition between businesses trying to market similar products, a first impression can mean the difference between acquiring a new customer and a failed customer. One way companies have been trying to improve their first impression, it through the user interface of their website. A website is worthless in the business world if it is not easily accessible to its target audience and even somewhat outside of it. So how are businesses today one upping their competitors in terms of website functionality? Well, they have a wide variety of options, ranging from functionality to aesthetics. However, companies are trying to improve both of these aspects through the advancement of the user interface.
The user interface of a business website can dictate whether or not the consumer buys a product from your site or leaves and never comes back. According to Janco Jovanovic, there are a few key processes you should go through to ensure you have a successful website/user interface. To begin with, one should start with identifying the audience of the website or application(Jovanovic, 2010). This is important because many times you have to sacrifice functionality for aesthetics or ease of use, depending on who you are designing the interface for. For example, programmers at a development company would likely want an application that can fulfill many of their needs all at once. They would rather have increased functionality and features than a pretty picture. A customer to a retail shop would likely want the exact opposite when visiting the retail shop’s website. The next step involve sketching the desired outcome of the user interface, going into as much detail as possible including text box sizes, colors, and placement of widgets. Sketching allows for easy brainstorming and is a phenomenal tool because they are so easy to create and so easy to dispose of. The last two steps involve prototyping and testing that prototype. Prototyping involves creating an actual mock up of the website and continuously tweak it until the desired outcome. During this process, developers have to look for bugs, test how much stress the website can take relative to its predicted use, and make other small tweaks as they see fit.
In addition to web sites, many businesses, if not all, have some sort of web application to their company’s name. Web applications are dynamic, interactive systems that help a business perform critical tasks such as measuring productivity. Web applications can directly influence how well a business is ran from a financial and organizational standpoint. They are usually far more difficult for the user to use in that the application is only meant to be used the employees of the business, therefore not needing it to be overly user friendly. These systems are very important to a company’s well being, which means if the application fails, the whole company will suffer. In addition to that, many web applications are often made with only the company in mind, meaning that an alternative is usually non existent. A company’s web application must be able to perform its needed tasks from the get go, because as time goes on, the harder it will become to switch away from it.
As far as user interface goes for consumer products, it doesn’t get much simpler than the already released Windows 8. It’s aesthetically pleasing, easy to use, and has all the functionalities you can ask of it. So how can one innovate beyond that which is already “complete”? Many businesses have already started to incorporate the use of first person user interface, in the form of things like map applications. There has been a huge widespread of location detection technology through the advancement in cell towers and GPS(Edwards, 2010). If you couple this with a digital compass, it becomes pretty simple to not only know your exact location, but which direction you’re facing as well. With this technology, applications like Google maps can point you in the direction you are searching for and you’ll exactly what to look for on your way there.These applications go beyond that of simple directions by mirroring our perspective onto a device so we can better understand the physical space that surrounds us. It may not seem like a lot on paper, but a first person user interface allows us to “augment our surroundings with relevant information”.
In addition to navigation, first person user interfaces also allow us to directly interact with objects around us. Applications like Yelp incorporate the use of both location detection technology and user interaction to show you popular businesses around that fit your given criteria. The addition of first person user interfaces to already popular applications gives the user exactly what information they are looking for, in a surprisingly small amount of steps.
The user interface is what allows us to function the applications all over the world. Website and web applications can range from very simple to very complicated depending on the designated user. User interfaces have grown tremendously technology wise over the years, and it can only go up from now. Who knows, maybe we’ll see 3-d user interfaces in the near future.