What Sliced Apples Teach Us About User Experience

Removing Barriers in UX Design

Design

If a child refuses to eat a whole apple, does it mean he or she doesn’t like it?

Your initial answer might be, “Yes, it clearly means the child doesn’t like it.” But what about the alternate possibilities? What if eating an apple whole, for instance, just takes too much perceived effort?

As lazy as that sounds, The Washington Post reports that apple consumption in schools in one study increased 60% when the apples were served sliced. It’s this idea that got me thinking about why this was such a big deal, and I asked myself, “What can this concept teach me about the principles of user experience design and the barriers to consumption?”

David Just, professor of behavioral economics at Cornell puts it this way:

“Even the simplest forms of inconvenience affect consumption.”

And that doesn’t just apply to apples. Doesn’t this concept apply to disorganized blog content, cluttered homepages and jarring navigation layouts? Just’s quote highlights the number one goal I try to achieve on every UX design project: remove inconvenient barriers for users.

Check out some of the common barriers below that disrupt fluid user experiences on websites.

Barrier #1: Confusing Website Architecture

88% of online consumers are less likely to return to a site after a bad experience.

When people visit your site, they expect to find the information they are looking for without any issues. Some of the more common issues we see stem from  where pages are placed and how users can get to them. This may seem like a simple organizational task, but sometimes, there’s more to it than playing a guessing game.

Some Quick Tips on Avoiding Confusing Website Architecture:

  1. Keep it simple. Limit the number of actions your user can take on any given page. Your site should be the journey and the map all in one, with very clear markers for when your user is heading.

  2. Make sure you're on the same page. Website puns aside, make sure that you’re constantly viewing your site design through the eyes of your users. Use clear, plain language and understand where they’re coming from and where they need to go.

  3. Ask yourself, "Can my grandma understand this?” If not, then simplify until the answer is “yes.” (If you're building an application for NASA, this may not explicitly apply, but even in that case, I think it would be a resounding success if we can help Grandma get the Mars Rover activated).

Barrier #2: Non-adaptable Designs

Mobile web and mobile app usage as a whole make up 60% of digital media consumption in the U.S.

I’m sure you don’t need trusty data to notice the changes in people’s on-the-go lives; just ask your trusty gut instead. You’ve probably noticed how the tops of people’s heads have become common sights due to the prevalence of mobile phones.

People are more experienced than ever on mobile, so it’s no wonder that they jump ship if your website doesn't adapt to any screen size. In UX design, research must expand across all screen sizes and should be tailored to short, quick experiences. It's up to you to understand how your content communicates across multiple platforms.

Barrier #3: Content Overload

Good content is something for someone, not everything for everyone.

Your company is not meant for everybody. Ouch. That one might sting a bit. Once you narrowed the amount of content you need and have more tailored, audience-specific content, it’s easier to design a website for a smooth user experience.

Catering your content for your specific audience increases the site satisfaction rate. 62% of people actually feel good about a company that delivers custom content. This means you are actually speaking to your audience.

Focusing content around your niche audience—and your unique voice—will engage the audience to focus on your brand, your message and what they are hoping to find in return.

Much like slicing an apple to make it easier for a child to eat, you need to cater to your user to help them digest the information you’re offering. Organized and tailored content encourages them do this while demanding the least amount of effort. Recognizing and overcoming these UX barriers and always keeping your user in mind will lead to a fluid digital experience with your brand.

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