Silicon Valley is synonymous with tech innovation and evolution—from the mythical HP garage to the remarkable Apple and Google campuses. It begs the question: what is it about Silicon Valley that drives such forward-thinking success?

Companies are turning to user experience design to revolutionize product value, customer happiness, and technology advancement. They are developing tomorrow’s products by applying remarkable focus on every second of the end user experience.

Whether it’s a business software solution for the enterprise, or a consumer product like the iPhone, users adopt these innovations because product functionality is just as important as usability. So, how do the experts in Silicon Valley define the rules for user experience?

1) Simplify the Complex

Since the dawn of the Internet age, there has been a seismic usability shift any time a new search engine appears. Historically, while most companies went for the ‘kitchen sink’ approach with a dense portal of information, Google found success through simplicity: a simple search field underneath their logo.

Today, the less-is-more approach has trickled down to virtually all aspects of user interfaces, whether it’s a mobile app or website, and something that we always keep in mind here at Bynder. In most cases, complexity, density, and all the bells and whistles end up creating clutter rather than adding value and power—so simplify, simplify, simplify.

Don’t make your users think, click, and hunt more than they have to. Identify their end goal and focus on how to best get them there. There’s a reason why some of the most effective user interfaces tend to have the least amount of buttons.

2) Manuals are for dinosaurs

No one enjoys reading a manual. That’s a time-tested axiom, and while that’s pretty true across just about anything, it especially applies to software. The video game industry began shifting about a decade ago, relieving instructional manuals and instead focusing the first moments of gameplay on gradual in-game tutorials. That user experience translates to just about any application—whether it’s tutorial videos or pop-up guides, intuitive interaction has trumped the old and cold book of instructions.

Why not make the initial experience with your product fun? Personalize the experience or even gamify it with achievement badges or user scores for completing tasks as a way to boost the ‘stickiness’ of your product.

Sure, online support and PDF manuals are still great resources when you’re stuck, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone who sits down and reads a manual from Page 1.

By making the user experience interactive and contextually appropriate, you’ll find that learning curves and adoption rates will quickly accelerate.

3) User experience is not user interface design

During the mid-2000s, flash-based websites were all the rage for developers. With Flash, you could make all sorts of interactive animations and icons, but overly zealous designers got a little too ambitious. In those cases, the pretty designs looked great but users got lost while trying to find the right buttons and links—and if you couldn’t figure that out, the whole purpose of the website was defeated.

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Fortunately, user experience design has moved past that and more towards focusing on intuitive interactions. It’s a good lesson to draw from when looking at any UX—the top priority, beyond aesthetics and traffic generation, is to give users an immediate sense of “I know how this works.”

Studies have shown that online attention spans typically last less than ten seconds. If those ten seconds provide a frustrating experience, your click-through rate will drop off considerably. When designing any user interface, put yourself in the mindset of the user and make sure to focus on the functional elements and don’t get too crazy with over-designing.

4) User experience is more than just usability

So you’ve got a clean design with an intuitive menu and strong branding. What next? There’s one final layer on UX and that’s the element of human response. Are you getting the interactive reaction you want, be that click-through, purchase, or something else? There are different ways to gauge this.

If your site/app has analytics, you can see where your call to action is statistically strong and weak. You may discover patterns and habits that spell out where a call to action is adopted quicker or at a more sustained level. By constantly gathering feedback from users about the ease-of-use and intuitive design, you can continually optimize their experience and achieve leading advancements in UX.

Talk to your users. Even just a test group of five can substantially increase your knowledge of what is working and what is not. Whether you have your customer support collect info, send out a survey, or host user meetings, it’s extremely important to hear directly from your users.

Remember: the cleanest interface in the world doesn’t do much good if it’s not ultimately delivering the desired response by the end-user.

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