Technology

UX design patterns – what are they and why do they work?

Aleksandra Rajczyk

Whether you realize it or not, you are familiar with UX design patterns – all it takes is using your smartphone on a daily basis. Once you notice them, it becomes clear that all the people in the world work in pretty much the same way. Learn more about common user experience design patterns and how they can improve your app’s performance.

If you’ve ever used a mobile application or scrolled through a website in search of relevant information, you’ve definitely noticed that some of them make you… irritated. The content isn’t presented in a logical order. You can’t see the “show next” button at the bottom of the page. You don’t know where to click to proceed. The navigation doesn’t list the section you wanted to view. You had to go through multiple screens to finally get what you were looking for. Sounds familiar? Now think of how you use your favorite apps. How smooth they work and how you know exactly what to do even though no one provided you with instruction. The latter is a clear indication that the UX designer knew what they were doing. They probably incorporated the right user experience design pattern in the process of creating an app. 

UX design patterns help designers create solutions to common interface problems. These patterns are based on the best practices in design for mobile 

What is User Experience Design?

Before we take a closer look at the UX design patterns, let’s start with what is User Experience Design (UX for short). To cite the definition of the Nielsen Norman Group: “user experience” encompasses all aspects of the end-users interaction with the company, its services, and its products. Therefore, UX refers to any interaction a user has with a product or service. UX design takes into consideration how the user feels, what actions do they take, how they want to accomplish a task. It’s easy to see that the ultimate goal of UX design is to create a pleasant experience for the user, both virtual and physical. A successful UX design helps companies provide better products and services for their customers by understanding their needs and behaviors. 

Why are UX and UX design patterns so important in the development process?

People are creatures of habit. From creating schedules to passing recipes and watching remakes of old movies, we naturally seek patterns based on our previous experiences. It creates a sense of safety and continuity. We’re the same when it comes to the online world. No matter which software you prefer, both iOS UX design patterns and Android UX design patterns were built to help you navigate virtual reality by applying patterns you already know. 

The biggest benefits of UX design patterns are as follows:

  • The shortened time of accomplishing the user’s goal and by extension – higher user satisfaction level. 
  • Reduced cognitive strain – to put it simply, users don’t want to think too much about what they have to do, so the more intuitive the interface is, the better for the company. 
  • Increased sales thanks to the seamless purchase process. 
  • Improved customer engagement levels – that has a direct impact on customers’ loyalty and brand recognition. 
  • More accurate responses to customer feedback. 
  • Lowered customer service costs. 
  • Higher retention rates of apps. 

But companies and customers aren’t the only ones benefiting from UX design patterns. They are important for UX designers as well. For one, they make the job easier by providing workable solutions that can be tweaked and improved according to the vision of the designer. Another perk of UX design patterns is that they provide a common language for designers – a tool especially important in times of social distancing, where misunderstandings over a video call happen more often than anyone would like to admit. Thanks to common UX design patterns, teams can efficiently work together on projects by using widely recognizable terms. 

What are UX Design Patterns?

Since we are creatures of habit, our recurring problems are the same. UX design patterns are solutions to these usability problems. Some of the patterns are so efficient that now they are expected – users respond better to solutions they are familiar with. After all, the design is not about reinventing the wheel but providing the best fix to a problem. 

UX design patterns lead users to interactions they’ve already experienced. Thanks to this, users don’t need to analyze every step to get the most out of the app they’re using. Patterns are like moving from point A to point B in a city we have visited before without needing the map. 

Difference between UX and UI patterns

UX design is still a pretty new branch of design. Because of this, a lot of terminologies have yet to be standardized. However, it has become a norm in UX design for web and mobile apps that the term UI shows up as well.  

UI (User Interface) design patterns are reusable components for solving common problems in user interface design. It’s a more narrow field of UX as it’s focused on the interface, not so much on what the user feels or what the company tries to convey. While UX is focused on the user, UI is more about the product itself. The visual and functional aspects of the app are attached more to the UI than to UX. UX is conceptual while UI is the effect. Still, UX design patterns can be applied to a variety of products and services while UI is limited to the digital world. 

In the design process, UX comes before the UI, but the two are tightly intertwined.  

How to find the right pattern?

Finding the best UX design pattern for your app starts by asking the right questions. After all, patterns are solutions to common problems.

When choosing design patterns fo your app:

  1. Name the problem that has to be addressed.
  2. Find benchmarks to see how similar apps or websites deal with this problem. 
  3. Go through each pattern, analyze it, and see for yourself how it works. 
  4. Conduct usability testing to see if others experience the pattern in the same way you do.

These 4 steps will help you create a smooth, universal user experience.

What are some common UX patterns?

Common UX design patterns can be applied to mobile and web applications. They are applicable to most interfaces thanks to their widely recognized functionality. 

Navigation 

Patterns that bring users effortless exploration thanks to inside controls. The most familiar pattern of this type is menu navigation.

Hierarchy 

Patterns that establish a visual hierarchy. Users can see which sections are the priority. 

Data Input & Output 

Patterns that deal with how users submit input to the site or app and how the site/app responds to the feedback.

Content Structuring 

Patterns that organize content so that users can confidently browse the site or app. 

Incentivization 

Patterns that push users to perform certain actions. Some of them reward users for completing said actions.

Social Sharing

Patterns that allow, promote, and facilitate the sharing of your site on social media platforms.

These are the most common UX design patterns, but that doesn’t mean they have to be a simple copy-paste solution. They can be further customized to bring your app’s potential to the fullest. Don’t hesitate to change something in the pattern if you feel your users are going to benefit from it; UX design patterns should be treated as a useful roadmap, not an end-all, be-all tool for designing products and services.

What are dark UX patterns? 

This is a slightly controversial topic in UX design but has to be talked about nonetheless. Dark UX design patterns refer to the kind of patterns that have an element of trickery to them. Companies use them to trick users into performing actions said users wouldn’t want to perform otherwise. Sometimes it’s also a technique used to deter users from seeking more information: for example, you can inform users about changes in the terms and conditions, but getting information about what’s actually happening takes more effort than just clicking on a button once. The majority of users will just give up. In borderline cases, dark UX design patterns are used to take advantage of users, like surrendering their personal information. 

Using dark patterns is quite risky. Most users won’t notice them right away but some of them will, especially since more and more of the users become digital-savvy. Once spotted, dark UX design patterns can be detrimental to the company’s reputation. Negative feedback posted online can cast a shadow on the company for years to come. It is up to the company’s officials and UX designers to use dark patterns responsibly. 

Summary

UX design is about creating the best possible experience for users. UX design patterns help designers achieve that. They work because of people who, in general, search for familiarity. In short UX design patterns could be described as fixed solutions for common problems. Following a well-known routine creates intuitive interfaces. The more intuitive the design is, the more successful the app. By limiting the cognitive load for users, the app seems effortless to use. This is crucial for a good rating. Other advantages of using UX design patterns are higher retention rates, increased sales, and better user engagement. However, UX design patterns are also important for UX designers. Thanks to them, they can design the app faster and communicate clearly with other teammates. It makes working on the app more effective for everyone involved. Even if you’re not a designer, you can explore UX design patterns by yourself – all it takes is asking questions and looking for common fixes.

Table of contents

Subscribe for weekly updates


    You may also be interested in...

    Let's bring your project to life

    Request a consultation