Heuristic #9: Clarity
Clarity, in interaction design, is when content and microcopy are concise and direct. Users aren’t expected to just know how to interact with something to get what they want. But when users encounter a clear design, they feel empowered.
Calls to action
When calls to action are clear, they stand out. A screen should have only one or two calls to action on it and they should stand out visually as the clear next step from that screen. Buttons that do the same thing should have consistent colors and labels throughout the experience.
Labels on calls to action should tell the user what action they are taking. "Open an account" should take the user through an account opening flow, not simply capture a lead. Buttons that say "Get started" give no information at all about what clicking the button is going to do. Will it open an account? Will it launch a demo? The context of such a button may make that clearer, but the label of the button may be hurting its ability to convert.
Many apps and web sites fall victim to poorly-written content. I recommend working with a content strategist on fixing this problem at a higher level, but here are some tips to make your content feel clearer from a designer’s perspective:
- Break up your long-form text with headlines to make it scannable.
- Keep smaller pieces of text as brief as possible.
- Use lots of white space between chunks of text and images.
- Use bulleted and numbered lists only occasionally.
- Keep lists to under 5 or so items. Longer lists may need some special treatment.
Communicate state and next steps
Users need to know where they are, how they got there, and what the next step is. Some of this is about wayfinding, but to a certain extent, it also has to do with clear labelling and instruction. Many times, simply telling the user what to do next in a way they understand increases conversion rates. This doesn’t mean putting a giant "Next" button on the screen. Spell it out for them, especially if they can also convert offline by, for example, opening an account on the phone or in-person.
Clarity is very important to interaction design. For an experience to perform well, users need to understand whats going on, and that sometimes means explaining it to them concisely.
Next week, I’ll post a detailed look at Heuristic #10: Error Handling from My 10 Heuristics