Michael Gaigg: Über UI/UX Design


Top 10 Design Influencers

Posted by Michael Gaigg

Design Influencers

Design Influencers

Designing user interfaces isn't about sexy graphics, shiny buttons or slick navigation (alone).

It's about taking care of the influential factors that make or break the success of a web application or website.

It's a delicate balance of user needs and business requirements, deeply understood and carefully melted into a design that is loved by all stakeholders (the end-user included 😉 )

The sum of all the design influencers are the constraints that will box your design decisions. That's not a limitation, it's liberation!

The Design Influencers are:

User Needs

Whatever it is that you are planning to build, it needs to be useful to somebody and has to solve a real-world problem. This end-user need is the reason of existence, it's the meaning life.


In which context will your users access the site? Is it through mobile devices on the road? Then a shopping cart will be less important than driving directions or store hours and screen elements need to be more prominent.
Do users typically enter your site through search? Then your landing pages need to convey who you are and what you do because users won't have seen your fancy homepage (and probably never will).


Even though cultural difference across the globe become really important if you build an international site, I rather mean business or sociological culture, i.e. if you plan on building an intranet site but the company's culture doesn't encourage to report failure or spending time helping other employees, then a forum probably isn't the right choice to offer.

Business Needs

While your client is ideally well informed about their end-user's needs, they also have to run a business, satisfy stakeholders, fulfill legal mandates etc. And that's when compromising your perfect usability is sometimes necessary and important.


What's the available technology? Very often the vendor or client platform of choice dictates the choice of technology, e.g. a Microsoft shop will prefer .NET and Silverlight (oh, long time I haven't mentioned Silverlight so I mention it again) or Flex.

Market Opportunities

If something isn't viable or possible today that doesn't mean it won't be in a year. So think ahead and design your site accordingly, i.e. extensible, modular, maintainable.
What I've found is that sometimes it's worth including an "upsale" item into your mockups, something that the client hasn't explicitly asked for but may open their eyes and hopefully wallets 😉 Mostly you may defer these items to a later phase but it gives everybody a long-term vision and as a side-effect supports designs that are extensible.


It's been said that anything can be done if you only have enough time and money, but the real world doesn't spin like that. Your design is constrained by a budget - and that's a good thing because it forces you to stay realistic finding the right balance between innovation and familiarity.


If the main sponsor is Esri (my current employer) I better make sure that there is a map on the interface. What sounds like a designer's nightmare is the name of the game.


How long will your design need to stand the test of time? Is it 1 year or 10? A demo doesn't need to be as polished or thought-out as a content-management system that will take over the client's communication platform. It is the classical "let's get it done" versus "let's think about this a last time". I've written a more detailed article about Lifespan as an important Design Decision.


Accessibility is a law and therefore cannot be removed from the equation. Your fancy design elements might just not be (or too expensive to be) compliant with the law. Acquire knowledge about accessibility laws (e.g. section 508 in the US), their implementation specifics and know how that translates into your design.


Highlights of Week 09/2010

Posted by Michael Gaigg


Your typical User – finally captured on Photo

Posted by Michael Gaigg

Your typical user finally captured on photo

Your typical user captured on photo

Keep this picture in mind

After years of research looking for the typical end user I was finally successful. Hidden behind server log statistics, persona definitions, target audience screenings, user testing sessions and best effort anticipations on how the target customer will look like I was able to capture the Santa Claus of web design, the Deep Throat of e-commerce, the Mr. X of usability.

Regardless on how your marketing department defines the target customer or how your user research crafts the persona(s), you should always keep this picture in mind!

Your Users (customers) are:


Users hate to wait. Long loading times, flash intros, videos or audios that start dangling away automatically will drive them nuts. Blinking advertisements and popup windows will only add to their hatred.

Give them a nice and clean interface that outline important customer care words with high information scent. Speed matters!


I dare to imagine how users talk when something goes wrong not to mention the absence of adequate error messages or hints and help to recover.

Avoid sources of error and offer useful hints on how to recover in the case of problems.


Users don't read, they scan. Users don't want to wade through the bun to get to the meat. They are not willing to spend time and effort to sign up for something before they know what it is. They are not willing to pay for something that is free somewhere else.

Give users what they want in a reasonable way.

In a hurry

Users are specialists in judging a site within seconds of arriving there. Is it relevant to their goal? Is there anything else they might find interesting? Last call...

Translate the first impressions into meaningful interactions.

In control

Your users will never tell you that your page sucks and they will never complain that they couldn't find what they were looking for. They will simply leave and never come back!

You better get your top task right 😉

Remember the Grinch

Don't be fooled by the nice users during your user testing sessions, they would hate to hurt your feelings by cussing away about your useless system. They'd rather blame themselves, try to cope and manage the pain and save their mental outbreak for the pub at night.

What are your experiences with the Grinch of web design?