5 UX design principles for communications platforms

Perhaps the most important goal for any UX design is clarity. A user logs in or adds something to their cart without thinking too much about how they’re doing it. They just get the job done be it on your app or your intranet.

The following five principles are based on getting stuff done simply, quickly and clearly because of good UX design.

What goes where and why — Structure

If you don’t understand your content — what it says, where it lives, how to find it — your users won’t either.

Before you can begin to think about UX design, grab your content and shake some logic into it. You’ve got to lay it all out and put it back together in an order that makes life easy for users.

Use speech cards, post-it notes, Google Sheets, mind maps, whatever you prefer; and figure out how to best organise your existing content and predict where future content will go.

To get you started, here’s Toby Ward and his intranetblog.com, with some sample intranet architectures: Intranet information architecture: don’t reinvent the wheel.

Keep in mind the titles, labels and copy users will expect to see and search for too. If you do this, you’re taking a big first step towards good UX design. You’ve got everything you want, now put it together.

Where you put what and when — Details

Especially important when you start to break down the purpose of each page on your platform.

Think about each stage in a user’s journey, whether they’re navigating somewhere or completing a task. Figure out what needs to be shown and at what point.

Decide the weight of the headline, the length of a summary, where the tags go, related links and share icons… whether this content is fair game for comments, or if it’s locked down and read-only.

For consistency’s sake use templates, so if there are multiple publishers on your platform, the UX design is automatic and they can’t go rogue. This, significantly, establishes familiarity which is an essential part of clarity.
Every element and component should justifiably be there, that justification being the users need it to be there. Collect the data, do the user testing and stakeholder interviews, and then design, just as Paul Boag advises in his blog: Why Intranet design is so bad and how to fix it.

How long is it and does it scan — Interactions

We’re not going to get into the quality of content here. How well written something is or how evocative an image might be. No, we’re assuming that’s done.

What we want to do is set the boundaries for that content to work as best as it can.

Get your grid patterns and layouts right and users will effortlessly absorb your information. Flowing down the screen with a focus and concentration that’s all (well, 70% at least) down to your UX design skills.

  • Line length: Think about line length, are lines longer than 14 words. They shouldn’t be.
  • Font size: Think about font size, is any of your text less than 12 pt. It shouldn’t be.
  • Headings: Think about headings, are there consistent subheadings. There should be!

Also…make sure it’s obvious that a link and a download are different. These are the small details that make a big difference on a subconscious level. And in 2020, they’re just expected.

For instance, think about examples of outstanding UX design you interact with every day. Strive for that, be minimalistic and tidy.

What goes where again and again and again — Standardisation

In 1996, Bill Gates predicted that content would be king. He was right. Although in today’s internet of everything, where content is blasted out everywhere every millisecond, for UX design to work well… consistency is king.

When users rely on your communications platform to do their jobs, they want to be two steps in front of every click and tap. They should ‘get’ your design without too many trial and error experiences and soon just know how it works.

Standardisation is multi-layered, but for brevity and your concentration span, we’ll focus on the consistent placement of information.

If your sub navigation is always on the left in a three column grid, don’t move it to the bottom right of a four column grid in another page. If your downloads are at the bottom of a page, don’t move them to the top for the sake of mixing things up.

Because here lies the problem: if UX design is not standardised it competes within and against itself. Sounds messy, it is. Don’t do it.

Make your communications platform a clear and obvious space because everything’s consistent and in the right place.

Where everyone can go, without a problem — Accessibility

You cannot achieve good UX design if you have not considered all of your users.

From the visually impaired to the physically disabled, accessibility standards include the elderly and people with slow internet connections too.

The key here is usability.

To have factored into your UX design what works for everyone. Are links clearly links? Is an image necessary and if it is, does it have alt text? What happens if a user tabs through the screen; does the content hierarchy make sense?

This topic is just too big to cover here and do it justice, so here’s the link you need (and we subscribe to) for WC3’s ‘Accessibility principles’.

Good UX design = clear communications.

We hope you found our brief tips useful. And clear.

If you have any questions about the advice or topics we’ve mentioned, please get in touch with us.

As a consulting team, we work with enterprises across the world. It’s our job to ensure their professionals can connect with the information they need to get work done each day.

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