2014-09-28

Tips to increase the chance of winning Microsoft Imagine Cup User Experience Challenge

First of all I must say that I’m honored to be chosen as one of the judges in Microsoft Imagine Cup UX challenge in 2014. It’s so nice to see the incredible talents of the young generation. I’ve seen really good designs and UX skills from Imagine cup participants which are undoubtedly exceed the expectation of a student.

In this blog post I wish to talk about some common mistakes students are doing in the Imagine cup UX competition and some tips to improve the UX of your application. None of the ideas below represent Microsoft nor does it guarantee you will win the UX competition. But if you apply correctly, there is a good chance that at least your team name will end up in “honorable mentions”.

Why UX is important?

UX plays an important part in any application because it increase the productivity and custom satisfaction while decrease the support, maintenance and training costs.

Tips for designing the diagrams.

1) One of the most common mistake I’ve seen is, usage of incorrect notations. If you use symbols in UML notation, then make sure you are using it correctly. For an example, the diamond symbol denotes a decision/condition, do not use it to display a process.

image

If you don’t know much about UML, then don’t use it. We do not give scores for using a standard notation. Simply use rectangles and arrows. As long as your diagram flow is clear and understandable, it should be fine.

2) Usage of arrow heads must be done carefully. There are bidirectional flows as well as unidirectional flows. Choose which kind of arrow you should use to depict the flow of your application.

Tips for designing the Wireframes

1) Don’t use colors in your wireframes. It’s misleading. It suppose to be a WIRE FRAME. Keep it monochrome as much as possible.

2) Do not use confusing titles/descriptions. Use simple English and make sure your target audience can understand the words/symbols you’ve used in your application.

Tips for designing the Visual Target

1) Check the color compatibility when you add colors to your visual target. Incorrect usage of colors can lead to an unsuccessful project regardless of the functionality. Below is a good example for almost unreadable content due to the poor choice of colors.

example2

Always look at the colors of successful products and think why you like those colors. Try to match your colors similarly.

WebAIM has an Online Color Contrast Checker that you can use for free. You can darken/lighten the foreground/background colors on the spot until it passes.

2) Don’t provide too small buttons. Buttons should have a decent size so it’s easily clickable/touchable.

3) Make sure your application is self-explanatory so you can get rid of instructions on how to use your application.

4) If your application have a search box, do not make users to search for the search box (Don’t put that with other textboxes). Place it in a clearly visible and quickly recognizable place.

5) Make sure you leave enough space in your text box fields so users can enter the relevant information. Adjust the width of the textboxes according to what sort of information are likely going to be entered in it. For an example, do not provide a long textbox where user have to input the first name. On the other hand, do not provide a very small textbox where user have to enter the address!

6) Make the more important content more prominent (Increasing the font size, adjusting the whitespace around the content etc.).

7) Check the alignments of your application layout and positioning of the elements. Remember that visual target should be in production quality. Do not randomly specify sizes for the elements and place it on the screen.

8) If you are using images (such as logos) on your visual target, make sure you do not stretch those. Stretched or badly cropped images are a big no no for an application in shipping stage.

General Tips

1) Do not use texting language. It’s confusing and takes time to read and interpret. Check the spelling mistakes (You can use a spell checker) before submitting the files.

2) Have a uniformity when it comes to colors and fonts. Do not use a wide range of colors, font faces and font sizes unnecessarily. Remember that this fact is not always true. This depends on your target audience and what type of application you are developing. For an example, if it’s a game then you can’t actually keep your color usage to minimum.

I hope the above tips will help you to design your application to industry level and increase the overall UX of your application. As always, we are looking forward to see some awesome ideas from blossoming techies. Smile

Good luck and wish you all the very best for the competition!