When designing User Experience (UX), there are a number of heuristics UX-ers need to consider. Design and UI always feature as high priority and you see many websites with cool looking features, from parallax scrolling, full bleed images, and subtle animations, wide image shots etc. Sure, these all play a big part in the overall experience, but sometimes, users just want to be able to complete a task as quickly as possible. A key UX principle, which unfortunately is sometimes overlooked, is efficiency.
I recall the time when I was working for Bloomberg, who is in the business of providing financial data to banks. The software had comprehensive and accurate data, but it was not without competition. I believe one of the main reasons they led the market was their user experience. Now, you’d be surprised I say this when you actually see the software. The terminal interface resembled a fancy version of the command prompt. Below is a screenshot of their email writing platform. You’d be forgiven for thinking this was taken in 1995, but it was actually still their messaging platform until I left in 2009.
I always wondered why they never ‘upgraded’ their interface - and that's when I got another important lesson in UX.
A trader once told me that he loved the Bloomberg terminal because he can write important messages and find critical data extremely fast. He doesn’t need fancy UI or distracting features. To write an email to Rashid for example, all he has to do is type MSG RASHID <ENTER> in the command line and the compose message window would pop up.
Another feature of the terminal that I loved, as well as the traders, was the fact that a mouse was never needed. The picture above shows all functions of the software pre-fixed with a number and open bracket. All users needed to do to avail the function was key the number and press enter. They saved milliseconds for every task by not reaching for the mouse every time. For an investment bank, each second saved could be worth millions.
I always thought Bloomberg may be stuck in old times, but they actually kept it as simple as possible on purpose because that’s what their users wanted — efficiency.
I have recently seen this type of efficiency principle applied in new websites and apps, as more and more UXers find that efficiency is key. I reminisced on my time at Bloomberg when I came across Typeform for example. The gif below shows a multiple choice field on their form — you simply just type the letter next to the multiple choice and boom! No mouse required. I’m sure one of the main reasons for the growth and popularity of Typeform is ease of use for both the users and the form creators.
If you look at some of the popular websites, you’ll appreciate their focus on efficiency. Amazon’s one-click checkout or Uber’s suggested destinations are all features that users love — it saves them a lot of time for repetitive tasks. Other examples include food delivery apps remembering your last order so you can place it very quickly. Or even software, Mac OS, for example, gives the users the freedom to create their custom keyboard and shortcut commands to make life easier.
Whilst efficiency is key in UX, it also depends on the application. If your website or app is aiming to inspire people or encourage them to browse products for example, then it may take a back seat. Automotive, fashion and holiday websites are great examples of this, where it is important for the business to up-sell and cross-sell. However, if you are working on a transactional website, then efficiency is definitely an important part.
In today’s world of distractions and impatience, we should help users complete their tasks as efficiently as possible. They’ll love you for it.
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