Filling Up Empty States

What are empty states? These are spaces on your app or web page which can be empty or blank. Screens or panels where no data or content displays. Why? Your users haven’t entered anything or data can’t be displayed.

empty room with wall wall and plant
Photo by: Darkmoon_Art on Pixabay

You might be familiar with empty states. Some typical scenarios are:

  • When a search returns no results
  • You have downloaded a new app and haven’t entered any data or content
  • An error has occurred
  • When you have deleted all of your data

What can you do? You could leave it empty. Or display information to the user. What kind of information would you put here? You want to use this space to communicate the app’s status. Teach new users how to get started or discover new features.

Communicate status to the user

When you use an app, sometimes you may wonder if it is working. This can occur when you run a search and get no results back. Or an error has occurred.

Silver Sneaker Location Search Error

Teach users how to get started

A blank or empty space can be intimidating to first time users. Use the space to teach your users what to do next, you help them to get started using your BMI Setup Guide

Starter Content

Show your users how to create new content with examples. Use starter content to give them an idea on how to fill the space. If you sharing photos, you may put a couple of photos in to demonstrate how that works.

Todo App with Starter Content

Summary

Don’t leave your users guessing what the app is doing. By using empty states, you help your users to get started using your app quickly. Learn how it works and be confident they can get what they want to do done. Refer to Designing Empty Spaces in Complex Applications to learn more.

Accessibility Resources and Tools for Developers

What is accessibility? It is making your website as usable for as many people as possible. You want to make sure it works on different devices and slow networks. People with changing abilities due to aging, physical issues or situations.

Accessiblity Resources and Tools for Developers
Photo by Sarah Pflug from Burst

To make your website or app usable to as many people as possible, you’ll need to use different accessiblity resources and tools.

Design

Color is one tool that can make or break a design. Choosing the right colors can be hard. Radix Colors helps you to select colors to design beautiful and usable websites and apps.

When you need to check if two colors and the font work well with each, you can use Accessible Colors. Not sure how to choose the right colors? Stephanie Walter has a list of resources, tools and tips on color accessibility.

Many web development teams use style guides or a design system. These tools help to make your website or apps consistent. A11Y Style Guide gives you tips, tools and WCAG guidelines for developing. It includes a pattern library focused on accessibility. You can use their guide as a reference for your own style guide.

Development

You want to build things that people want to use. What do you need to know? You need to understand how people use websites and what you need to know to optimize it. The Accessibility Developer Guide explains what to look for and how to fix it. Many problems can be fixed by looking at how you write HTML.

Testing

As a developer, you need to test your code. You also want to test how use to easy your UI is as well. There are different tools to choose when you test the accessibility of your website or app. Here are a couple to start with:

  • Your keyboard. Many blind users navigate a website using their keyboard. Use the WebAim guide to Keyboard Accessibility.
  • WAVE – a free web accessibility checker
  • Lighthouse – an open source tool for helping you improve the quality of your website.

Where to find more accessiblity resources and tools

Use this short list to learn more about how you can add accessibility to your workflow.

UX for Senior Users

Accessibility helps makes your apps usable to users with different abilities. When you have older users, accessibility matters. You want their user experience with your app to be easy and memorable.

Two seniors using a tablet
Photo by Nicole De Khors from Burst

Many senior users have difficulty using apps and websites. The fonts may be too small, the colors make it hard to read and navigation isn’t obvious. How do you make the UX for older users better?

Make it readable

Start by choosing fonts that are easy to read. Descriptive fonts can be challenging to read. Use them sparingly.

Font sizes are tricky to get right. If you choose a size that is too small, you text becomes too hard to read. Make it too large and users can’t won’t read it as well. What looks good with one font won’t work for another. CSS-Tricks explains how to resize your fonts.

Use color and contrast to help guide your users

Color and contrast can help user perform tasks, keep track of where they are and pick out links from text. Choosing the right colors for you users can be challenging. Some color combinations are difficult for users with vision problems. The Web Accessibility Guidelines v1.0 explains Contrast and Color. Plus, it gives you a sample color palette to choose from.

Make things easy to click

Older users can have trouble clicking on buttons and links. You want to make the big enough so they can click on them.

Use UI patterns that are easy to remember

Establish a design style that is consistent and easy to use. Use icons, fonts, text, photos and other design patterns to help reduce the learning curve. Include breadcrumbs to help users keep track of where they are.

Learn more about UX for Seniors

5 Tips For Improving Your UX Writing

How can you make your users’ experience better? By using UX Writing, also known as microcopy. It is the small bits of copy that goes unnoticed. When UX Writing is good, it helps guide your users through the user interface of your app or software. They can get things done quickly and easily without frustration or support calls.

5 Tips for Improving UX Writing
Photo by Shopify Partners from Burst

Where do you use it?

You’ll find microcopy everywhere in your interface. Typical uses are:

  • Buttons
  • Headings
  • Success and error messages
  • Form labels
  • Pop-ups
  • Instructions
  • Tooltips
  • Navigation menus

How do you improve your UX Writing?

1. Keep it short and concise

Good UX Writing is short and concise. It helps to guide the user through their task. People scan words when using an app or website. Make it easier for them to understand what is happening.

2. Use simple words

Avoid difficult, technical terms. Use short and simple words. Include action words like save, create or cancel. You want your copy to be clear and easy to understand.

3. Use structural element to make it easier to read

Depending on your copy, you may need to add structural elements to make it stand out. Use a combination of color, icons and bold or italic text for error messages. Headings, numbered or bulleted lists and sidebars for other important information.

4. Edit

No matter what you write, editing makes it better. Edit your copy using a tool like Hemingway Editor to help make it readable and easy to understand.

5. Test

You want to get feedback from people who match your users. Your coworkers may miss things that your users might have trouble with. If they have trouble understanding something, you should rewrite it. Sometimes a different word makes the interface work better.

Find out more about writing good microcopy

How do you reduce website bloat?

Why is my website slow? It is a common question developers, designers, bloggers and even your visitors ask. No website is immune from having speed issues.

How Do You Reduce Website Bloat
Photo by Farzad Nazifi on Unsplash

What causes website bloat?

How you designed and built the site affects its speed. Things like images, videos, CSS and code can impact your site. Even your server can affect how the site performs.

What can you do to speed up your site?

1. Optimize your images

You may be using images created in file formats that aren’t designed for the web. They may be large in file size as well. You can use an optimize tool to shrink the file size down without noticeable loss in quality. When you optimize an image, it loads faster on your site.

2. Get rid of unnecessary images

Check your web server for unused images. Unused images can affect user experience and performance of your site. If you aren’t using these images, delete them off your server. WordPress users can clean up their images using plugins or manually. If you have Windows, you can use Powershell to find and remove used images.

3. Optimize your videos and other files

Large files can slow a web site down. Files like videos or PDFs get quite large. You can optimize them before uploading. For PDFS, you can use Adobe Acrobot Pro’s PDF Optimizer to make them faster for the web. With videos, you can use a video hosting service like Vimeo or YouTube to host your videos. Then, you can embed them on your page.

4. Optimize your CSS

CSS files can get large and unruly after a while. Optimizing and managing them can be a challenge. It can be hard to find unused styles. You can use a tool like Helium CSS to find them. By getting rid of unused styles, you can reduce the size of your CSS.
Some of your styles are used more often than others. Print styles are used when a page is printed. You may want to separate them into their own file. With frequently used CSS, you may want to consider using inline styles instead. Before uploading your CSS, you can use a minifier to reduce the amount of whitespace it uses.

5. Check your code for speed issues

Are you using old code? If you are, you may need to rewrite, refactor or even replace it. Look at older code and decide if you need to keep it. If not, remove it.

6. Review the content of your page.

You may have too many items on your page. Do you have old or outdated content? If so, you can remove them. Review the rest of the items on the page to see if you can remove some content and still achieve the same goals of the page.

Summary

Preventing website bloat can be a full time job. By changing your development process to include optimization. You can prevent it from getting slow.