Why creativity and great user experience are inseparable

Good user experience is an oft-ignored aspect of digital marketing. This post talks about how ensuring good UX can boost creatives.

The creative lab of a digital marketing firm somewhere in New York was filled with anxiety and restlessness among the 20-30 employees of a design firm. They focused back and forth between their computer screens and the classy glass discussion room (occupied by 2 people) as if they were watching the Nadal vs Djokovic match again. It was a battle albeit in the form of a hot furious argument between two middle aged men which had been going on for the last 6 hours behind the glass walls. One of them was the Creative Lead of the firm while the other was the User Experience Head. They were taking an antipodal stand on a header design for their client who happened to be an E Commerce firm dealing in leather products.

“What? Are you serious? Why are they fighting hard over an 460 X 60 pixels strip?” a newbie asked.

“Yes, you see you can’t ignore every single pixel if you want to provide a great user interface, so every detail must be considered and discussed about”, replied his colleague.

The Creative Lead had suggested a header which was a skeuomorphic design of leather which he felt would create a powerful and emotional impact on users.

On the other hand the User Experience Expert disagreed with the suggestion as he did not want to experiment. None of the competitors had done it and the new E-commerce website couldn’t afford any more bounced visitors/exit visitors just because of some fancy header.

When the two emerged from the prolonged discussion, they told the employees they would go with two experimental demo pages featuring the leather header and the other with a light gradient for one week of testing and eventually settle with the winner.

A series of usability tests were put forward.

Lab Based Results : A large sample of day-to-day internet users were presented the websites A and B and they were monitored via parallel screen by researchers. Their click-through ratios, mouse direction ratios and time duration were studied and an end result derived.

Heuristic Evaluation:A few website experts or frequent browsers were asked to use the pages and provide their feedback.

Collaborative Inspection : A group of usability experts, creative designers, developers and end users were asked to review the Webpages together with previous results and find an collaborative solution or fix.

The results clearly proved that the fancy leather had to go. The UX and Creative Lead then decided to cool off with a drink, kidding about the ferocious yet healthy argument they had behind the glass doors.

Similar incidents take place every now and then in digital marketing firms ending in constructive solutions. The skeuomorphic design was rejected not out of prejudice against the design but the fact that it was visually distracting for the users.

Recent Research by Paul Bolls associate professor of strategic communication and Researcher at the University of Missouri revealed the real methods of making Brain frendly Web Designs. His research outcome made a few aspects very clear:

  • The brain can only process so much information at a time
  • Too much information can overload it and cancel out understanding
  • Best way to get more brain or user engagement is by proper motivation like simple stories and pictures.
  • The simpler the design, the better the brain gets motivated

This is also the reason why all the big guns go minimal

  • We saw the news websites,NEXT WEB FEED and Mashable show off a flat minimal redesign….
  • The sudden shift by Micrsoft UI to choose METRO STYLE
  • Google with its clean grey shaded apps and web interface
  • Apple motivated by Zen inspired Jobs is rumored to shed off skeuomorphic UI after the departure of Scott Forstall.

There have been many articles written about usability controlling creativity in a person and that even small decisions like choosing between two shades of blue are being tested and so on. It’s generally because at some point a designer has to eventually create a balance between Creativity and analytic fields (UX). Now that UX is termed to be a more scientific approach to web design, creative thinkers feel threatened . But there are many opportunities where a designer can showcase his/her radical creativity such as portfolio websites or customary campaigns for your clients. But when you have a client trusting you deliver a great website expecting a lot of traffic and revenue you can’t put him through experiments.

“Creativity can be admired but cannot be used all the time.”

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