UX or User Experience
UX or user experience, is a great consideration when creating a website. User experience has been a tactic to improve websites and products since the 1950s (Nielsen). This term was coined by Don Norman, a worker at Apple Computer in 1993.
As technology began to advance and more websites were created, user experience became more popular and necessary in order to run an effective site. This is not a concept only in America, but in other countries as well. Many different countries, including the US, potentially account for foreign site visitors. If this is the case, then they must accommodate in any way they can so that their website is globally accessible.
When looking for the best possible user experience, research is a large part of the process. The Nielsen Norman Group does a great job explaining what steps one can take to find the best mode of data collection to ensure the best user experience.
The most common form of user experience research would be user testing. This can be completed in many different ways depending on what types of data the company/site owner is looking for. There are many types of testing such as moderated, which involves the company observing the participant as they navigate the website and giving their honest feedback. A few other testing options that are less intimidating would include unmoderated testing and recordings. There are many forms of research and this includes the categories of discover, explore, test, and listen.
Looking at the discover option, this allows the site owner/company to find out what their users would potentially need, accommodating them before publishing the site and getting criticism later. This section can include field studies, diary studies, and competitive testing.
Explore is the process of understanding problems and addressing them before it gets too much negative attention (Nielsen). This section could warrant the creation of user personas and prototypes.
Testing is what many people identify when it comes to user experience. As mentioned before, user testing is one of the most effective ways to find out what users find useful and what they need to navigate through a website properly without too much confusion. These tests can be completed moderated or unmoderated, over the phone, or as a recording.
Finally, listening to user surveys as well as what participants have to say through the research process in order to create the best website possible.
When it comes to the overall testing, affordances are a large part of the testing process. Affordances are a feature or property of an object that can be interacted with, such as an “Add to Cart” button on a retailer website (Tubik). Affordances are a great portion of a website and how a user interacts with the site.
When a user or testing participant is looking through the site and in need of completing a specific task, affordances show what the user may be looking for. This includes menus, items, hyperlinks, etc. Anything that is assumed to be interactable is what the website needs. Although, there are problems that websites face when it comes to affordances.
Negative and False Affordances
There are two different types of affordances that aren’t interactive, and these are negative and false affordances. While they both sound bad for a website, only one truly is. In the case of negative affordances, it simply shows the user that they cannot interact with it, such as figure 4 suggests. In this picture, it is shown that bedroom is interactable and all of the other rooms are not. The negative affordance is the lack of interaction with all of the other rooms that are not lit up. While this seems like a negative overall, negative affordances and false affordances are not on the same level.
False affordances are to be avoided at all costs. These can be found in various blogs and sometimes descriptions on websites. They can be found as underlined text that perhaps has a different color for the underline or highlight and it is supposed that it is a hyperlink. This is an example of a false affordance.
Overall, affordances are great for testing and provide a lot of information about what needs to be interacted with on a site and what does not. Although, affordances aren’t always a great thing when it comes to sites/apps and other types of technology.
Affordances can lead users down a vortex. A vortex is when a user begins interacting with a site/app for one reason, but then leads into many unplanned interactions (Nielsen). This is where affordances come in. As mentioned before, affordances are interactions that lead to another page that perhaps a user is looking for.
This becomes a problem when looking at apps and websites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, etc. These sites have an interface that is hyper-interactive, making it almost impossible to stop looking around the site.
In Facebook, there are articles and advertisements that are clickable almost every other post. With Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok, the “like” button is on every post and is interactable, not to mention the endless scrolling feature. Notifications also play a role in this.
This allows users to get sucked into the vortex.
When considering the vortex, users are hurting themselves mentally by focusing what’s on the screen and not what’s going on around them. When developing a site, it’s important to keep the user’s attention, but there is a point in which you are hindering the user. On the site Center for Humane Technology, they have an article discussing principles and how to identify the ways in which culture is changing and how to help along the way.
This includes understanding what humans do with technology and how to make it healthy or giving it in healthy doses. As an ever-growing technological world, we can’t get rid of technology or the internet; instead, focusing on how to make it less of a strain on humans’ lives and mental health.
Insight On How To Approach the Issue
Things that should be considered when in the process of creating a website is the well-being of the user. Whether this shows through their ability to navigate through the site or if they can ask for help if they need to. Also considering whether this will harm them is important to remember as well, as we all need the internet in order to communicate and thrive.