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Innovation

How to Succeed at UX Design

UX design is a crucial aspect of building something that matters. Regardless of whether it’s a product, a service, or a system you’re developing, you need to consider how your user interacts with your project, both experientially and visually.

When most of us think of design, we think of making something pretty, but the design is much more than that. As Don Norman, inventor of the term User Experience, puts it:

No product is an island. A product is more than the product. It is a cohesive, integrated set of experiences. Think through all of the stages of a product or service – from initial intentions through final reflections, from first usage to help, service, and maintenance. Make them all work together seamlessly.

– Don Norman

That’s what UX design is all about: How users experience a product, from beginning to end, from highs to lows, from context to context. How pleasing the product looks is only the tip of the iceberg. Beauty needs a sound skeleton to be draped over.

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UX design includes (among others):
  • the experience of acquiring the product
  • the experience of using the product (in different contexts and settings)
  • the experience of encountering a problem with the product

And so much more. The whole journey is part of the UX package. So how do you go about UX designing something awesome? First of all, be mindful of the design process, and second of all, be aware of certain crucial design principles.

UX Design Process

For your design process to be successful, a good strategy to follow is answering these three questions – in that exact order!

  1. WHY: Why do your users need this product? What’s their motivation? What problem will your product solve? The answer to this question should guide everything else you do.
  2. WHAT: What will help users achieve their Why? What kind of functionalities and features will your product need to enable users to do what they desire to do?
  3. HOW: How do these functionalities look in order to make the experience intuitive and accessible for your target user group?

As you can see, UX design doesn’t start with aesthetics, it ends with it. Before you can make something visually pleasing and aiding, you first need to make it functionally pleasing and aiding for your users. Visuals are not going to solve the problems of your users, functionalities are. Visuals will only attract users to your product.

UX Design Principles

When going through the questions above, a couple of principles should guide your answers.

  1. User is King: It’s tempting to design believing yourself to be your typical user. However, that’s rarely the case and such thinking can cause major design mistakes. Never assume you know anything about your target user. Do your research, ask a billion questions, and do even more testing.
  2. Feedback: The best way to guide your users’ experience is by providing them with feedback on their actions – both on their correct and their erroneous ones. Feedback can be sounds, animations, colors, messages, etc. If there is no response to an action, users will not know if they’re on the right track or not. This topic also includes asking users for confirmation before committing to an action, like deleting an element.
  3. Clarity: Less is more, also when it comes to UX. You will want to avoid providing users with too much information and input at once. The clearer the user flow is, the better the experience will be for users. Avoid unnecessary distractions and aim for only providing relevant information, one step at a time.
  4. Familiarity: Whatever you’re designing, be aware that you’re standing on the shoulders of giants. Using the UX design elements from similar products not only makes your job easier, but it also improves the user experience, as it provides a sense of familiarity. Reinventing the wheel is rarely necessary and rarely helpful for the user.
  5. Accessibility: Finally, take disabilities and impairments into account when you’re designing. Users with color blindness, cognitive disorders, only one free hand, dementia, stress, hearing impairment, etc. ideally should all be able to use your product.

None of these principles offer a step-by-step process. What works well always depends on the context and the concrete circumstances of your project. Furthermore, design is both a data-based and an intuitive process. It’s in the sweet-spot between research and imagination that innovative design takes place. So when you dive into this topic be prepared for many trials and errors. It’s part of the journey and part of the fun.

UX Design for Success

Successful UX design might be one of the most direct ways to ensure the success of your project because it’s so closely connected to relevancy, timeliness, and your users. And in the end, it’s your users who are going to decide whether your project will survive or not. So provide them with a WOW experience, and you’ll have good chances of success.

Further Reading

Here are my recommendations for awrrrsome resources about UX design.

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