I know that it may seem odd for me to lead with this, but I truly believe that humility is the most valuable quality that a UX Designer can have. This type of work requires extreme levels of collaboration and open-mindedness. Ego has no place here and designs cannot be driven by one’s emotional attachment to an idea. More than anything, I have realized how important this is when working with a team and interacting with users. I have seen some of my most beloved ideas fail when placed in front of actual users. That’s a humbling thing to witness. But perhaps more importantly, it’s exactly what has empowered me to create my most successful designs.
Good ideas can come from anywhere. Flamin’ Hot Cheetos were invented by one of Frito-Lay’s janitors. Everyone, no matter how junior or senior, deserves a seat at the table and a chance to have their ideas heard. Collaboration is a root element of innovation and discovery.
Instinct and intuition aren’t always right. Sometimes, the “less appealing” design actually performs better than it’s “more appealing” counterpart. Other times, technological advancements can introduce an entirely new set of design options. Designers should always be open to different concepts and solutions. Respect and learn from the past. Innovate for the future.
When software is hard to use, don’t make excuses for it. Improve it. Good design is humble.
Design with purpose; solve for the user and the business. Many designers begin by falling in love with a solution. Perhaps they found a new cool CSS animation or an awesome interactive widget that they want to implement. The issue with this methodology is that it essentially removes the user from the equation by neglecting to account for the real problems that the user is facing. It causes us to create solutions for problems that don’t exist. Instead, I begin by falling in love with a problem. I then leverage my UX process to methodically extrapolate a solution. Design is not art and catchy trends have no place in UX. The best designs are invisible; they’re porous. They conform to the user. Not the other way around.
Trends are inherently antagonistic to UX. The best designs are informed by qualitative and quantitative data that accounts for the product’s context and audience. Trends are absent of this information. Design elements should be deliberate and informed; not implemented simply because they are “in”. The only exception to this are elements that have specifically intended aesthetic purposes (which, in a sense, also makes them deliberate).
Good design is invisible. It functions so well that users don’t even notice it, because they’re too busy using it. They’re too busy accomplishing what they set out to accomplish. Bad design is very easy to notice because it’s disruptive and frustrates the user. It makes itself known. Good design doesn’t. Instead, it silently and elegantly performs it’s intended function.
Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.
Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. As a product grows and expands upon it’s functionalities, the designer should strive to maintain a simple and easy-to-use experience, where the user is presented with exactly what they need in order to accomplish their task. Not more and not less. This is a very fine balance. Beyond that, design concepts and changes should always be properly tested and verified before permanent implementation. No single element should make it into the final design based on intuition or merit alone. When a new element is proposed, the designer should put it to the test and ultimately let the users determine the direction of the product.
The brain likes to process that which is easy to process. This is why simple designs have been scientifically proven to perform better than their complex counterparts. Overly complicated designs end up competing with themselves. They frustrate users, forfeit revenue, and erode brand perception.
Concepts should always be verified with users before being placed into the final design, regardless of where they originate from. Even in cases where inspiration is extracted from direct competition, the design should still be verified to ensure that it will function well in the context of the product and it’s audience.
One accurate measurement is worth more than a thousand expert opinions.
The designer should always be seeking to understand the user. Their motivations, frustrations, likes, dislikes. These should all be taken into consideration during the design process. As part of this, the resulting design should also be accessible and scalable, allowing it to accommodate users with disabilities and account for varying languages and cultures. More than anything, it should never be forgotten that there is a human on the other side of the monitor. Anybody that touches the design, including developers and product managers, should spend time working directly with users if possible. This helps to instill a culture of UX within the team and company, where everyone knows the user and everyone is responsible for the experience that they create. This form of empathy and involvement is critical to developing a quality product.
Over 19% of the U.S. population is disabled. That’s more than 60 million people, just in the United States. Simply put, designs must be accessible to users with disabilities. Not only is it the law for certain entities, but it’s also a hallmark of good design. Accessibility shouldn’t be seen merely as a matter of legal compliance, but also as a standard design requirement. In order to achieve this, accessibility practices should be baked into each project from the start and should be carried out as fundamental aspects of every design. This is a very important component of user empathy in UX.
Over 40% of the world’s population has an internet connection. That’s more than 3 billion people. Today more than ever, designs must be flexible and scalable enough to take their companies to the global market. This means that designers must utilize localization, globalization, translation and internationalization to accommodate multiple different languages and cultures. From a very early stage, the designer should consider how copy and other elements will be translated, bearing in mind that some translated text will occupy up to 100% more space than it’s English source. The varying meanings attributed to different numbers, icons, and imagery should also be taken into consideration as the context of the design may change as it’s spread across the globe. When designing for an international audience, these nuances play a large role in the empathy process.