UXperts Weigh In: Designs We Love, August Edition
With September around the corner, it’s no surprise our UXperts are eager to share their lessons and learnings from this month’s picks. All four of August’s UXperts including Sophia Prater, Christian Cantrell, Elizabeth Allen, and Mohammed Asaduallah shine light on user experiences that enhance their lives in one way or another. Whether it’s learning a new skill, organizing a business, or just getting to a party on time, they remind us that sometimes the most important parts of a user experience are the parts that go largely unseen.
Sophia Prater, Founder and Lead UXer, Rewired
The premise of EdX.org is to make education accessible. Beyond the world-class library of coursework, this mission is supported by navigation that allows users to intuitively explore new opportunities. EdX accomplishes a wonderfully natural browsing experience — curious users can navigate from subject, to course, to instructor, to school, to another course without ever needing to pick through the hierarchical main navigation. This is one of the primary principles of object-oriented user experience (OOUX): contextual navigation through object relationships. Users can hop from one relevant object to another without needing to return to the persistent navigation each time to reroute. In practice, they are tapping/clicking big, shiny content-modules that have clear edges, not tiny text-only links in a menu.
This journey of exploring well-connected content-objects is what I love about EdX’s site. But the designers went even further, illustrating the nature of objects through the visual design. While browsing courses, for example, we find modules representing courses as well as course series, which are groupings of courses that earn the student a professional certificate. This “series nature” is visually indicated with a stacked effect shadowing the module. We click the course and find all related objects: the courses contained, the instructors, the school associated, and related subjects.
OOUX leverages users’ real-world mental models to establish a tangible digital environment. The interlaced nature of EdX utilizes in web space what we understand about physical space: that things are there, that they are related, and that each object leads to more related objects. For a deep-dive review on the OOUX of EdX (and some areas for improvement), check out this 8-min video walkthrough here.
Christian Cantrell, Senior Experience Development Manager, Adobe XD
Pick: Pocket Casts
I’ve found that the best way to understand how much value you get out of a particular application is to try to switch to one of its competitors. If you find you can make the move easily, then your original app either wasn’t addressing all your needs or the user experience wasn’t optimal (or both). But if the new application feels like an overly starched tuxedo, and the old application feels like a favorite pair of jeans you can’t wait to change into, then you know you had it right the first time.
I try new podcasting applications occasionally, and I always find myself going back to Pocket Casts. The two things I appreciate most about Pocket Casts is that it’s cross-platform (I use both iOS and Android), and it’s extremely powerful. At a time when simple and clean are guiding design principles, sometimes power users get left behind.
That’s not to say that Pocket Casts is complex. It does a good job of progressively disclosing more advanced functionality, which means it works as well for new podcast listeners as it does for those who want more control over their listening experiences.
Pocket Casts was recently purchased by a collective comprised of NPR, WNYC Studios, WBEZ Chicago, and This American Life. If you’re a podcast listener, you almost certainly recognize a few of those call signs and brands. In my opinion, some of the best podcast producers in the world now own the best podcasting application in the world, so I’m looking forward to Pocket Casts getting even better.
Elizabeth Allen, Principal at Brazen (https://brazen.io/)
Cushion helps freelancers and consultants (like me!) keep track of tons of important stuff related to their business. This isn’t a new idea, there are many other products out there that help you track your time and invoice clients. Where Cushion really shines, though, is in helping you do longer-term planning as well — things like forecasting your income for the year and planning your workload from week to week. It has helped me immensely as I work through my first year of full-time consulting.
What I love about the way Cushion is designed is it understands that its users often have a bunch of projects going on simultaneously, and, in order to be successful, they need to be able to understand how the workloads and pay for these projects fit together over time. The interactions for moving through different levels of detail are easy to get the hang of, and being able to color-code your clients and projects means you quickly develop the ability to understand your business better at a glance. I legitimately enjoy tinkering with aspects of my business that I used to find boring.
Mohammed Asaduallah, Senior Product Designer, Tulip, Founder, Women and Color
Whether you’re running late to work or simply trying to get home after a long night out, or running late to work because of your long night out, trying to arrange a pick-up through a ride-sharing app can sometimes feel like playing a game of Tetris. Enter Lyft’s new app.
The app lets me get straight to the point: enter where I’m going (destination) and choose how I plan to get there (service option). It also lets me confirm my pick-up location just in case. This sounds simple, but where they really hit the nail on the head is by bringing all of these actions within the reach of my thumb — take note, Uber. I no longer feel as if I’m being punished for getting an iPhone Plus (#firstworldproblems).
Also, next time you’re in the app, take a look at where the “set on map” is when you search for a destination. It’s carefully placed to be accessible with your thumb. I’ll also give the team at Lyft bonus points for providing recommendations for start locations and auto selecting all existing text in the end text field (if had you selected something previously, but changed your mind).
I recognize some of these details may seem trivial, but when you’re trying to get to a party in time while carrying a 6-pack (okay, you got me, it’s a two-four) in the other hand, you’ll be thankful for how effortless every interaction feels when ordering a ride — if you even notice it at all.